Suitably equipped then, in rubber shoes and with our lifejackets all fastened and secure, we boarded the long-tailed boat and headed up river.
The water was indeed fast flowing and at times, the little outboard motor struggled but we kept going, our experienced boatman knowing the river well enough to avoid the really tricky bits.
I’m pleased to say the rain had stopped by now but that didn’t mean we weren’t getting wet!
But it was warm and we were enjoying the ride. What harm did a little water do anyone?
Unlike the boats we rode on in Myanmar, though, these were rather less stable. We needed to sit right down in the bottom and the slightest wiggle from any or us would make the thing wobble. It brought back memories of rowing in a four at college, though the plank of wood we each got to sit on wasn’t quite as comfortable as the seat in a four. Still, so far, the bottom was (relatively) dry, and sitting cross legged for a short time was ok with me.
Soon, we spotted activity up ahead. The National Park is a popular place with visitors mostly coming from Australia and mainland China and we weren’t the only group moving around in small boats today.
We scrambled out, looking for the jetty or the bank to step onto – but there wasn’t one. OK, so that’s why we needed the rubber shoes? Quickly rolling up trouser legs or, in some cases, just not caring about getting wet, we waded in.
At least we could take off our lifejackets, which made it a little more comfortable and we’d been given plastic bags for our cameras, too. So, time to concentrate, to focus on where I was stepping and make my way to a dry(ish) bit and take a photo. The rocks and boulders in the picture are typical of the terrain along the riverbank. Walking was tricky, especially in unfamiliar shoes which were now squelching and full of water, but with a little care and a deep breath, it wasn’t so difficult.
At this point, we turned left and began to walk up the riverbed. I couldn’t take many photographs because I was worried about slipping on one of those large boulders and falling in. But from time to time, I stopped, carefully took my camera from the plastic bag and took a quick snap. Most of the time, the water was no more than six or eight inches deep, flowing quite fast and clear enough to be able to see where to place our feet. But at times it was rather deeper – at least, knee deep – and in these places it was more tricky, because the water was muddy and concealed the odd tree root or similar hazard.
Along the way, the sun came out, bringing a bit of sparkle to the occasion. We were rather enjoying this and I was trying very hard to look up and to notice things rather than spending the whole time focusing on where I was putting my feet!
Our goal lie just a little way ahead. There, in the middle of the jungle was a lovely waterfall. Some just dived right in there to the deep water pool, enjoying a cool, refreshing dip. Those of us who didn’t quite fancy the idea of spending the return journey sitting in a puddle of wet clothes simply stood and savoured the moment.
Making our way back to the boats was rather easier; after all, we were seasoned river walkers now and were a little more familiar with the hazards.
We scrambled back into the boats and sped back downstream. Fast flowing rivers make one half of the journey easy, at least.
We were soon back at the centre and on dry land again.
We put our shoes to dry and washed off our feet before a delicious local lunch.
I thought the map might be helpful in working out where we’d been but I’ll need to do a little work on that one later!
On the way home, we stopped at a longhouse, owned my members of the tribe which used to be headhunters. They were playing a traditional song of welcome which I’ll try to recreate next time I get out all my pots and pans at home and have a wooden spoon to hand.
Mother and son danced.
The neighbours looked on.
Granny played the drum.
It was incredibly hot in here and once the welcome song was over, Zul explained how these people live. This is actually four homes – which was obvious once he’d pointed it out, and four families live side by side in this stilted house in the middle of nowhere.
Though, amusingly, one of the group was taking pictures of us on her tablet! Perhaps they are not quite as cut off from the world as we might think?
Anyway, it was an interesting diversion and we had all dried out a little more in the heat!
Back then, to the jetty for the speedboat ride back to Bandar Seri Begawan.
Feeling thankful we hadn’t needed the emergency call button.
For most of the way, there was the quiet sound of the afternoon nap until we reached the suburbs of the city.
With a jolt, Zul, who had been sitting fast asleep next to my hero, woke up and sprung to his feet. We weren’t due back till 5 and so we had an hour or more to have a look around the city. Did we want to see the Sultan’s Palace and other places?
Of course we did!