IT is past midnight and my mind is still very much alert, despite the warm milk I had downed earlier.
My mind suddenly trailed back to a few weeks ago before the whole home quarantine thing came about.
Into my second week of being in Kuching, I started complaining to a colleague how uneventful and mundane life in Kuching had turned out for me so far.
I had left Penang in October last year, having spent five months in Dalat, Sarawak so actually Kuching was not so bad compared to the sleepy town of Dalat. However I could not help making comparisons between Kuching and Penang as both to me are major cities in Malaysia. Deep down, I knew I missed Penang.
My colleague, a local Kuching guy told me to stop underestimating Kuching or to be exact, Sarawak.
He promised me that there was much more to Sarawak than just shopping malls, The Waterfront or its watering holes here.
He asked if I was up for some adventure outside of Kuching, about an hour’s drive away. I readily agreed, wanting to be proven wrong.
So the next day I found myself, Nas, our TVS videographer along with a few of his avid hiker friends scaling some mountain in Kampung Sibakar, Padawan. The drive there itself was enough to change my mind. It was cool and breezy as we drove up the winding and steep roads leading up to the foothills, with breathtaking views of mountains looming ahead.
The air was fresh and crisp as we made our ascend towards the top, with lush greenery and paddy lining the slopes. The drive there itself was almost enough to impress me as we were driving towards the sunrise.
I was yet to be impressed as I’ve actually scaled a few mountains in certain parts of the world before including Nepal, Slovenia, Romania, Croatia and Indonesia.
But then, as I went on the treacherous terrain, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity of some of its features and landscapes with those I’ve seen overseas. Nice, I thought to myself. What next?
As the group stopped to take some photos and selfies, I had to admit I was impressed by the majestic yet serene view of the whole panorama before my eyes.
Ok, I’m beginning to like what Sarawak has to offer so far. Maybe I was too quick to judge. After about two hours of treading through muddy terrains, narrow trails and trying to keep a balancing act of tip-toeing through rickety bamboo bridges, we finally reached the top amidst the sounds of cascading waterfalls. Nas kept telling me that there was a surprise in store for me upon reaching. I could somehow tell what it was.
As I’d been expecting, ahead of me was the most beautiful waterfall, reminiscent of the one I’ve been to in Croatia and Cebu in The Philippines! Wow! OK, I thought, if this was what Sarawak has to offer then I should stop complaining!
I made friends with our guide, Catherine, who insisted I called her Kak Cat. Kak Cat is my age, a local Bidayuh from Kampung Sibakar who had lost her promoter job at a shopping mall in Kuching due to the Covid-19 pandemic so she turned to guiding to make a living.
She shared with me how she missed the city life and having a stable job with stable income.
“But don’t you enjoy what you do now? You don’t have to travel so far and be away from your family,” I said.
Kak Cat told me that while she also loved guiding, as she is a local from her Kampung, hiking up and down each day, guiding hikers and tourists is just like walking around in her own backyard.
Not bad, her stamina for a 40-year-old mother of two teenagers, I thought to myself.
I was complaining to her how boring my life in Kuching was and she kept telling me how she missed Kuching, jokingly asking me if I wanted to trade places with her!
I was chatting with her while all my friends were enjoying their dip in the aquamarine pool of the waterfalls. She told me to follow her uphill where there was “magic ” waiting for me.
So I trudged along, all the while clinging on to her while climbing up some slippery boulders.. and lo and behold, a spectacular “private pool” lay before my eyes! It was a secluded spot and there was not even a single soul in the “private pool” which was actually a mini enclave of a waterfall.
“Go on, jump in and enjoy!” said Kak Cat to which I did.
The water was freezing cold yet so refreshing. Suddenly all my “disappointment” got washed away.
I got up from the pool and took in the surroundings.
Suddenly I noticed we were not alone anymore. Local kampung kids had joined us, fearlessly jumping off the cliffs into the waterfalls below amid cheerful laughter and gleeful cheers from their peers.
Even their pet dogs had joined in the fun, bravely swimming through the current.
Nas came up to me and asked: “So how do you like Sarawak now?”
Yeah, Nas, I have a feeling I will stay on here for a while to discover more..