travel thoughts and experiences
Malaysia – you would think of beaches, surfing, sunny weather, diving, lush jungles of Borneo, and such vacation goodies. Me, I think of a very remote place, way off the beaten trek, cut out of civilization by a net of river canals, being only accessible by a two hours boat drive from city in Malaysian part of Borneo, or a ferry. A place travelers probably only get to go pulling the resourceful strings of Couchsurfing, being otherwise unknown and uninteresting. I was lucky enough to pull the right one and got to know Kelvin, local doctor of medicine in clinic. Actually, I was double lucky as by the time I have visited the place he went off for a visit to clinics on remote islands. He did not have to ask me twice whether I wanted to tag along.
Right upon my arrival, I realized this was not the usual traveling experience. It took a long drive from Sibu to the ferry point, even though we were in a hurry. Supposedly, there is just one ferry in operation, and it is not a new one. Should you miss it, you’d need to wait couple of hours until it comes back. That makes it a very inconvenient place to live in, I thought. Kelvin’s concerns were a bit more profound, though. As he pointed out, the “inconvenience” could turn out to be lethal, as some patients might need a quick transfer to the better-equipped hospital in Sibu. Having that in mind, the ten minutes we had to wait seemed like hours.
After crossing the canal I only remember a long straight snake of the road having a dozing effect on my sleepy mind. I recall Kelvin mentioning frequent floods they get in the area and the fact there is not much to do in the city. After his description and the actual journey, I was quite surprised and happy to have Internet and some electricity at my disposal.
Not for long, though. Just a couple of days after my arrival, a storm came; big time thunder and lightning you rarely get to see in Europe. I woke up to a squeaking sound of the wooden house I stayed in, giving me goose skin over the thought of it falling apart. The consequences: no power and water for couple of days. Solution: taking a shower in the power-generated hospital, watching local series together with personnel having night shift. I was lucky to get the privileged hospital access, unlike the local people who might only get there under less fortunate circumstances, I thought.
Later on, visiting the flooded places around, I saw people not caring for the weather conditions much, actually enjoying the newly created watery playground. “However harmless it seems this time, it does get worse.” I could only imagine what Kelvin meant by “worse”. Local football field with the goal half buried in sand and tree trunks scattered around as fallen players was a true testament of it anyway.
Stormy weather passed by as quick as it came, leaving nothing but the memory behind, in Daro, that is. The villages on nearby islands had a different story to tell. Being more exposed to the weather conditions, the floods prevailed there for couple of days leaving knee-deep mud behind for crabs to squat in, cutting clinics off easy access for weeks. We got lucky; the floods were only ankle-heavy this time.
After sleeping over at a clinic on, I was invited for a hunt. Hunt for a storm and virgin beach, even though they called it “birds”. Yeah! It was a bumpy ride in a small boat, with a shotgun the reason of bringing I could not comprehend. We barely escaped the lightning, not so much the waves soaking us bare. What a swim!
It was almost dark by the time we got back, the clinic being still full of people waiting for an advice of the doctor who does not come often enough. It is just the interns taking care of the villagers, having the doctors from Daro coming over only now and then. Watching Kelvin giving advice to the patients I understood the reason for giving up the city life and coming to serve the higher purpose. The people need and appreciate the help, even though often times needed rather mentally than physically.
The third day was no less busy. Having not much to do but watch the doctors do their job, I ventured forth to check the islands. It did not take more than an hour to get to the end of planked path, all the rest being flooded. I saw was a ghost village; just a few elders watching me pass by, one of them inviting me in for a beer and a few words of complaint over the youngsters abandoning the place due to lack activities, education and other so-called necessities of modern era. The elders themselves have to leave the village during the wet season, having not enough drinking water supply. Thinking of the sad conditions the village people often live in after moving into the cities I could not but salute with silent agreement. It was a retired police official talking, his shop being seldom visited by the few inhabitants who chose to prevail.
We are building a religion of city life while the village one being left behind with only the elders present to tell us the story of their youth. I wonder how long will it take till we realize there is neither glamor nor fame waiting for us in the cities, rather sad and zombie-like fragments of life with barely enough time to dream.
The doctors’ shift came to an end and we were on our way back to Daro, enriched with the knowledge and travel experience I will not easily forget.
random photography by Pete Rosos
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