first tasted life across the Kalimantan border about 23 years ago. One of the first crossings as at the Lubok Antu check point, when I cross into Nanga Badau by motor-cycle (together with the former deputy President of the Majlis Adat Istiadat Nicholas Bawin, an Iban from Batang Ai).

by James A. Ritchie 

We went all the way up past Lanjak, and Ukit Ukit where we met the "Bupati" of Putussibau Semagat Frans Jacobus Layang (an Embaloh dayak chief born in Sarawak). Here we witnessed a "Gawai Buling".

I also adopted one of the oldest longhouses in the area paying RM1,000 to the Ketua Rumah Panjang. Sadly, the very tall and traditional longhouse was dismantled and a new one was built in his place.

I remember that we rode three persons on an "Ojek"--no brakes, no number plates. To cross one of the rivers we had to carry the "speda motor" into a sampan and were were rowed across the river.

Later in 1996 (18 years ago) together with Pak Jacobus I helped organise the first section (Sarawak) of the "Trans Borneo Safari"--the first time Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei, Semenanjung Malaysia and other international countries "circumnavigated" the whole island of Borneo (5,000 km) which took three weeks to complete.

The Automobile Association of Indonesia played a major role in charting out the Kalimantan off stretch of the journey.  All four "Pak Gubernur" of Kalbar, Kalteng, Kalsel and Kaltim were involved in hosting traditional welcomes. It was the grandest off-road event in the region.

I wrote the text of the book entitled: "Mystical Borneo--Through the Eyes of the Historic Silverstone Trans-Borneo Expedition" (1997). There were five legs of he Safari--Sabah, East Kalimantan (Kaltim), South Kalimantan (Kalsel), Central Kalimantan (Kalteng), West Kalimantan (Kalbar) and Sarawak.

The leader of the Sarawak team was retired police officer ASP Wilfred Gomez Malong,  an Iban lawyer who was my classmate in Kuching who is also a "hero" having won the Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) award for fighting the communist terrorists in 1973.

Other times I went across the border was at Ba Kelalan--to Long Midang. Many times across the Tebedu and Biawak check-points---- to Entikong, Sontas, Balaikarangan, Ngabang, Sosok, Darit, Mandor, Singkawang, Nyarumkop, Seluas, Bengkayang, Jagoi Babang, Tayan, Aruk Sajingan (and wrote about the visit of Pak Gubernur of KALBAR Drs Cornelis), Sanggau Ledo, Sanggang Kapuas, Sintang and many other places.

I even attended a wedding ceremony accompanying the Governor of Sarawak the late Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce. I wrote a book about his life, as the first bumiputra Masters Graduate from Scotland, his fight against the Dutch to attain Independence for Indonesia, in the Kalimantan jungles during "Konfrantasi", and his life  as Governor.

I visited many "Keraton" and interview many Indonesian "heroes" of the second world war.

Sometime in the early 2000s traveled by road and boat with Tun Zaidi's son Norman to look for the "Makam" (Royal Mausoleum) of a relative of the Sultan of Brunei at Telok Melanau (not the Telok Melano of Sematan, Sarawak). I climb a "black mountain" and had a beautiful view of the Straits of Java.

One of the most interesting journey to Kalimantan was by Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) Cessna piloted by an American missionary. I was accompanied by Gembala Yohanis Sakai, S. Th., a Lun Dayeh from Kerayan (adjacent to Bario)  now living  at Samarinda and running one of the biggest Bible Colleges-- Yayasan Pintu Indonesia. He has published his biography in 2010--"Semangat Yang Tidak Pernah Pudar".

I flew from Kuching to KK and then Tawau. From there I went by MAS to Tarakan. We landed on a football field at Batu Puteh, six hour by "ojek" to Teluk Sumbang to visit the "Punan Basap" (purportedly Punan who live in caves and ate  meat raw!!!). Here I met the friendliest "Bugis" of Sulawesi!!

I even chartered a big shipping vessel when a young Lun Dayeh girl came down will malaria and sen her and parents to a clinic! They could not afford to pay for the trip and as a humanitarian gesture, I paid for the expenses!

Of course attending many Dewan Adat Dayak (DAD) meeting in pontianak I met so many people from Pak Thaddeus to Pak Ojong of Bengkayang! Pak Totok! And many others at the Rumah Betang!!!

There are many other journeys, like the time I almost stepped on a Black Cobra in the Ulu Putussibau area and when I had to use a stick to keep away domesticate pigs when I was defecating (berak) in the jungle! Maksudnya apabila saya buang air besar, datanglah banyak babi.

Mereka berebut mau makan "najis" saya. So, macan lakonan jenaka, saya terpaksa menghunus kayu panjang, supaya mereka tidak serang saya dan mungkin gigit "burung pipit" saya! Hehehehdehehe!!


p.s. Nama Kelabit saya "Belaan Aran"---Orang yang bawa berita dan menyebar di-seluroh kawasan!!!