|Instead of heading East right away (as our plan is to ride across Sarawak in the direction of Brunei) we first decided to head West. Our first stop was a small town of Bau. We were going to spend some time with a local we met on our flight over from KLIA - Andrew. The name itself, means 'smelly' (Bau, not Andrew), and came about from a massacre long ago that left bodies to rot in the river (too many to bury). The town does not smell. It is quite beautiful actually, and very small (everyone knows your business - small). After a fire in the 70s, which ate up an entire block of original shophouses, new concrete shophouses were build and original businesses re-established in the same locations.
We were treated to a very nice Bidayuh dinner at Andrew's family home (including a lovely chicken cooked in rice wine and ginger, and jungle fern salad cooked in a garlic sauce). We also got to try some Tuak (a local Bidayuh rice wine) - pineapple flavour, in the spirit of Gawai Dayak (an annual Harvest Festival happening all over Sarawak in June). Andrew took us to Kampung Opar to see the last original Baruk (a Bidayuh community building) where traditional Gawai Dayak ceremonies still take place annually. We walked through the village followed by a group of local kids on bikes. They all knew every plant, tree and fruit that grows around there - and, were keen to share their knowledge with us. At some point we were passed by a truck full of Indonesian women returning from a day's work at the farms. We were greeted by many beautiful smiles as they passed by. We experienced great calmness and stillness in the village, a beautifully slow pace of life that we are now slowly getting used to.
We also got to see an incredible elevated cave called the Fairy Cave. The main chamber is quite impressive, and it leads to a trail which passes through more chambers and eventually ends at the top of the mountain. For many generations the chamber has been used as a shrine by the local Chinese community, many of whom offer incence and other goods to various anthropomorphic cave formations.