Apr 27, 2012

Sungai Semadang’s Magical Allure, Sarawak

Tales of fantastical creatures add to Sungai Semadang’s allure.
A thundering sound that sounded like boulders rolling down a mountain, startled Ahip Naii.
Rushing to a ledge overlooking Sungai Semadang, the Danu village headman could not believe what he saw.
“The dragon. I saw the dragon that our ancestors used to speak off. It had the head of a crocodile but the body of a serpent.
“And it was swimming upriver causing torrential waves,” said the 68-year-old in a mix of Bidayuh and Bahasa Malaysia.
He said, up till then, he thought the dragon was just a folklore spun by the older generation but what he saw with his own eyes last year, had made him a believer.
Sungai Semadang
The start of an educational journey.
“All this while, there had been doubts for if we don’t see it, we won’t believe it exists. But that does not mean I don’t respect the ancient beliefs,” he said.
Legend tells of a lake in the centre of Danu village, where villagers believed was inhabited by a dragon, protecting the people and the surrounding area.
The mystical creature and the villagers depended on each other to exists.
When someone fell ill, the elders would recite traditional chants in ancient Bidayuh to “call back” the strength of the sick, and the dragon would be at hand to aid in this. The dragon, in return, drew its strength from the villagers each time the latter paid homage to it.
The village elders performed a ceremony similar to the Iban’s “miring” by slaughtering a chicken and presenting seven dishes of rice, two of which would be of the glutinous variety. This spread was known as the “nasi hantu” or “rice for the ghosts”.
However as time passed and with the influence of Christianity, the people living here started to do away with such rites. What was once strongly held to be true is now dismissed as folklore.
Ahip said the elders had cautioned the younger generation not to displease the dragon lest it would unleash its wrath in the form of a treacherous flood.
Sungai Semadang, Sarawak
Suspension bridges are a common sight as they link villages together.
“I now believe this had happened when the area was struck by major floods in 2004. The river rose more than 30ft and villages along it were inundated.
“Last year, we didn’t take chances and performed a rite for the dragon, and it was because of that, we managed to escape the flood,” he said.
The villagers believe that Ahip was part of a selected few who was “allowed” to see the dragon and lived to tell the tale.
“I guess it (dragon) wanted to be heard again,” he said.
Ahip’s story was just one out of the many that surrounds the beautiful Sungai Semadang.
The legends — whether one choose to believe them or not — all the more give the river its identity.
It is also the source from which the iconic Sungai Sarawak flows and is known for river activities particularly kayaking.
The river’s tranquility with surrounding lush greenery makes it an ideal recreational spot.
Its depth on a fine day is manageable and it bypasses all the villages, which gives one a sense of comfort that should trouble strike, help is still within reach.
Villagers in the vicinity take to water like fishes — they know every nook and cranny of the river like the back of their hands.
The river’s wide and spacious feature makes it easy to manouvre on. All one needs is a good sense of direction coupled with upper body strength to paddle.
There is also a certain sense of freedom one gets when paddling along Sungai Semadang.
It is easy to get lost in the moment and for a split second, the river becomes all yours to savour. At every turn of the meander, the scenery changes.
The first turn may present a flowering canopy complemented by several shades of green, while the next turn will have you admiring a beautiful limestone formation with hundreds of swiftlets flying overhead.
Even the vast variety of bamboos that stands proudly at the river’s bank, provides an aesthetically pleasing design to the place.
It is a river that has much to offer for all.
Sungai Semadang, Sarawak
The traditional dishes made from forest produce cooked in bamboo offer tourists a native experience like no other.
One can paddle smoothly and just enjoy nature at its best or go off track and explore the additional hidden treasures of adventures in the nearby forest.
There is the waterfall for a refreshing dip and also a 15-minute walk to a hot spring. For those who enjoy ““spelunking”, a half-hour walk will lead to a three-tier cave that is said to be a masterpiece of its own.
All you need to know is where to berth your canoes.
There is also something magical about how the hue of colours changes along the river at different times of the day.
The affects add prominence to the river and its surrounding landscape. At some parts, erosion carved out cove-like formation on the rocky edges of the banks providing sanctuary to boatmen during a storm.
Annah Rais village headman Dominic Yon said the river was the main artery of the city and back in the 50s, villagers used it as their main mode of transportation.
“In those days, we make our own boats from timber. We didn’t have chainsaws at that time. All was done with an axe.
“We would halve the log and start chiselling the boat into shape with a machete. The process is a long one,” he said.
Dominic, 73, said back then, he and his fellow villagers would set sail at 7am, only to reach the city’s berthing terminal in Batu Kitang, Bau at 4pm.
There, they could stay for a week up to half-a-month depending on the river’s tide before returning home.
“Whenever there’s a flood, we don’t tempt fate because the river has a temper.
But then again, come summer it gets even worse because water can reach ankle deep so its impossible to travel,” he said.
Dominic said the river was also safe from crocodiles although at one time, there were quite a few of the reptiles swimming around.
But these crocodiles would not harm the locals in the area, he added. Legend has it that their ancestors had once come to the rescue of an old crocodile — known to be the patriach for its kind — which had its jaw pierced by a sharp object, leaving the old crocodile groaning in pain.
Unable to eat, the old creature grew weaker by the day when a villager came across it.
Feeling sorry for the reptile, he pulled out the sharp object. In return, the old crocodile promised that no villager in the area would be harmed by its kind.
“Its all about living in harmony with nature. You respect nature and nature respects you,” said Dominic.
Judging from what these elders have to say, indeed there is so much more to explore in Sungai Semedang.
All you need is to have an open mind, a zest for life—and a can of insect repellant to keep those annoying sandflies away. 

Categories: ,


Post a Comment

Copyright © JommJalan | Powered by Blogger