Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Potato Potah-toe. Sorta.....

Pa Lungan church
There's one thing about fireside stories when you're out hiking. Even more so at the edge of the Malaysian border at the Kelabit highlands. Nestled amid the oldest forest in the world, stories abound by the folk that live there and who make a living mining the forests for food and supplies. Occasionally they take greenhorn tourists like me into the jungles to spend the night/s or trek through to neighboring villages.

While in Pa Lungan last week we were chatting with some hunters and guides who were recalling local legends and encounters with the 'invisible' people from the jungle,  especially one spirit in particular known by the local name of Pun Tumid (tumid meaning heel - the man spirit has inverted heels) or in most other stories as the Guardians or Tree Spirits or just some things older than the earth itself.

The primary forest can fuck with your mind if you've allowed it to be the devil's playground(your mind,not the forests (-_-).    Pictured here is Lasong my guide from Ba Kalalan from my last trek from Ba Kalalan to Bario about 18 months ago.
Hunters and guides all have stories of beings or spirits that sometimes will step out of the shadows to assert some  influence if you've wandered into their territory, inadvertently taken a piss at their home, brought fresh meat into the forests, walking in the forests during that time of the lady month or in the Kelabit Highlands, drying your wet towel or clothes over an open fire.

In the very staunch Christian communities of the Kelabit Highlands this was an amusing quote from Steven, one of the hunters after a disturbing incident a few months ago where a Belgian tourist staying in the jungle was harassed a little by something out there..  (Langkau if you're reading this let me know if i'm right or it was Petrus).

"There're things in the jungle that we know exists because we've had encounters with them. As Christians we're not supposed to believe in them. Our pastors says that and sometimes our headman also reminds us. We dont want to believe in them because we're Christians but someone forgot to tell the people in the jungle that we're Christians!!!" , followed by chuckling from all at the table.

I don't claim to understand the inner workings of this world. Religion is a funny old thing and faith is as much where you create your own miracles with prayers that power up your own efforts. But sometimes there're things i can't explain. I've seen one or two things in the jungle although the last one was not intimidating. It was quite enchanting actually but thats a story for another day.

I leave this post with the memory of warm chuckles around a table in a warm long house in the village of Pa Lungan. The chickens outside scurry about looking for the last snack of the day while the sun sets behind evening mists rising up from the forested mountains. Somewhere out there, near damp bark, century old trees, soft earth, moss, just beyond that cold mountain stream, Pun Tumid sits quietly, loin clothed and pale, waiting for some idiot to disrespect his forest.


langkau said...

hahaha...can't remember who said what about the Belgian tourist.

Chindiana said...

musta been the whisky! haha...