A trip into the interior of North Borneo during the Hari Gawai celebrations.
We headed up the river to a small river town called Kapit (with a new travelbuddy Norah I had met in Kuching) to see the Gawai celebrations, a kind of christmas for the Iban tribes up the Rejang river, it celebrates the end of the harvest season and all the family returns to the ancestral longhouse for this. It took us one day of fast boats up the river to reach Kapit, and luckily we found somebody who invited us to celebrate with them at their long house (Rumah Tuan), we did an hour drive from town to their longboat in their truck and 2 hours further up the river in a longboat. The river is so full of detritus from the logging businesses along it that it takes a guy on the bow to scout for drifting logs and giving directions to the father of the family who was handling the outboard motor.
Boats were completely packed with poeple and suplies for teh celebration
The younger guys of the family were already digging into to the crates of Guiness by that time (the favourite beer here as it contains 8% in Malaysia), having an early start at Gawai. At a tricky bend the longboat hit the shallows and sent everybody flying, but it was just a small accident :-P.
Yet again it's not like you end up in a longhouse made of logs, full of headhunters and skulls dangling from the ceiling, most places have their own generators and a lot of the younger people have jobs in the petrol business or the electrical company. Although the longhouses are more modern now it's still teh same concept: all teh extended family live in houses next to each other with a shared porch, which makes up the long house. Most of the Iban converted recently to christianity (most of them say out of convenience, as you can eat pork and drink) but a large part of the animistic Gawai ritual still remains.
Almost sat on one of those boxes...
Every family prepares an offering (1 for every male living in the house) to ensure good luck and prosperity for the family. The offering is done by another male for each of the guys living in that particular house, and being a guest I was dragged to the rows of little plates where you had to compose the big plate with rice, spices and eggs. It was easy enough to learn so ended up doing 3 of them (earning 1 Ringit each in the proces) and blessing the family with a feather drenched in chickenblood across their hand and swinging the chicken over the family while wishing all the best for them :). The offerings are put on top of bamboo poles outside the house. And of course the whole night was drenched in 'tuak', home made rice wine which gave me a huge headache while I was still drunk :D.
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