By D’Drift Team
MIRI, July 8: Time really flew by so fast without our realising that today was the last day of our D’Drift adventure.
Recalling the journey from June 29 after being flagged off by Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, the team had a few reservations about whether we could accomplish the three major destinations which we had planned out.
But somehow, our plans unfolded smoothly every single day.
The Silabur Caves in Serian was our first destination. Gray clouds were gliding slowly across Serian town as we arrived, signalling the prospect of rain which could have presented some serious challenges to our trek through the rainforest to get to the caves.
The weather was kind to us, however, and the entire trekking journey which took about four hours to and from the Silabur Caves was easy and smooth sailing.
We were amazed by the majestic beauty and huge expansion of the cave which is an absolute must-see for any visitor.
Later that night, we met up with Department of Veterinary Service (DVS) Sarawak director Dr Adrian Susin Ambud and his son Alvin where they explained enthusiastically about the potential of Silabur Caves as an ecotourism product with its ages old bird’s nest industry.
After a good night’s sleep in Serian, we headed for Sibu the next day via Simunjan, taking the coastal highway. Had it not been for the unexpectedly long wait at Batang Saribas ferry point, we would have had more time to explore Pusa Town and reached Sibu much earlier.
On the third day (July 1) before leaving the Swan City for Bintulu, we headed out to savour the local delicacies of Dian Mian Hu, egg cakes and kong pia at the small alley of Blacksmith Street.
The journey along Sibu-Bintulu road was bearable and comfortable on the Isuzu D-Max 1.9L Blue Power, which we had nicknamed as ‘Blue Stallion’, except for the stretches after Selangau which was pretty appalling and dangerous with major construction ongoing along the Pan Borneo Highway.
We diverted to Tatau town to get some local stories where we met a Sabahan lady who imported a wide varieties of anchovies to sell in the local market at a very reasonable price.
At Bintulu, we checked into a hotel nearby the famous deep-fried chicken feet from Spring Garden Cafe, thinking to grab some while we were there, but to our disappointment, the coffeeshop was closed.
On the fourth day (July 2), the team split up to cover Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s official function at the methanol plant project in Tanjung Kidurong and another team headed to Lusong Laku waterfall which was a grueling six-hour journey.
The next day, we met with the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to the People’s Republic of China and Bintulu member of Parliament (MP) Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing to catch up with his vision to develop Bintulu into a city.
From his perspective, Bintulu has all the ingredients necessary to become a city but he would rather see the town progress naturally into city status and not be rushed into it considering the economic following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Leaving Bintulu for Miri, the drive along the coastal highway was quite smooth except for the bumpiness, sort of like wave ripples, in some parts of the two-and-a-half hour’s journey.
Upon reaching Miri late at night, we had a quick dinner before retiring as we looked forward to fly to Limbang for the Mount Buda Caves expedition.
Limbang is a peculiar town, especially during Movement Control Order (MCO), as it had truly become an island on its own as it could only be reached by plane as Brunei has not opened its borders to visitors to pass through.
As such, we had to leave our faithful Blue Stallion behind in Miri for a good rest after travelling over 1,000 kilometres and filling our tanks only twice. That speaks volume of the Blue Stallion’s fuel efficiency!
In Limbang, we met with some prominent figures namely the new Laku Development Sdn Bhd (Laku) chairman Datuk Nelson Balang Rining and Batu Danau assemblyman Paulus Palu Gumbang who was so enthusiastic to join our trip to Mount Buda Caves despite his busy schedule.
Reaching Mount Buda (which means “White Mountain” in the Lun Bawang language) Caves was no stroll in the park.
The trail was not tough but having stayed at home for the last three months throughout MCO, it was physically and mentally demanding having to push ourselves to trek for hours. But with one step and one breath at a time, trekking in the company of new friends, the adventure was enjoyable that even a slip, a fall on the butt and leech bites weren’t a pain, but became funny instances in our journey.
Deep in the jungle, we were disconnected from the rest of the world for about two days. But we enjoyed the fresh air of the rainforest and nature’s symphony while laughing away as we chit-chatting over simple but delicious food cooked in bamboo.
Reflection on the 10-day trip
Firstly, we observed that the three areas that we had visited were indeed ‘unpolished gems’ that needed sustainable development and promotion to ensure that the locals could benefit from the wonderful attractions that could be turned into world-class destinations.
Definitely, the Silabur Caves, Lusong Laku waterfall and Mount Buda Caves deserve full attention from the relevant authorities, especially the state and federal Ministries of Tourism, Arts and Culture to promote these wonders of nature to the global arena.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that these three tourism products along with other established attractions and destinations could propel Sarawak into a developed state by 2030 as the tourism sector has been identified as one of the major economic thrusts by the State government to help achieve the 2030 vision.
Most importantly, it must be pointed out that a seamless road system connecting every nook and cranny of Sarawak as well as establishing all necessary infrastructure and facilities, especially within the tourism attractions so as to provide the much needed accessibility, are crucial for this sector and local communities to thrive.
In all the three places which we visited, the infrastructure including roads and bridges as well as other lodging facilities were seriously lacking and in need of urgent attention.
Fulfilling this basic criteria is fundamental to boost the tourism industry in Sarawak because a road trip across the state while making stops at the many towns and cities along the way can be an epic and enjoyable adventure to enjoy not only the vast greenery but also nature, culture, heritage and hospitality that Sarawak has to offer.
All in all, this trip had been a great but exhausting adventure and quite stressful as we were always rushing to get from one destination to another and at the same time, having to produce our news and stories every single day on the road without fail.—DayakDaily