Pleasant surprise at Fort Lio Mato as villagers work together to keep it in shape (Travelogue Day 3)

(From left) Colin, Tingang, and Emilie pose for a photo outside of Fort Lio Mato.

By D’Drift Team

BARAM: Mar 24: Fort Lio Mato isn’t what we expected after having to go through the eerie experience of visiting Fort Long Akah in the remote jungles of Long San yesterday.

The fort is located in a quaint village called Kampung Lio Mato, where it gets its namesake.

Once we entered the village, it was as if we had been transported into a Hollywood movie set in a quiet and peaceful town.

Enduring another bull and rollercoaster ride from Long San to Fort Lio Mato

After having breakfast at our homestay for the night, Wedgwood Inn, and exchanging well wishes with its manager Edward Erang, we left Long San at around 8.30am and continued D’Drift Team’s journey to hunt for Fort Lio Mato.

To get to the fort, one needs to pass by plenty of villages, such as Long San/Long Akah, Long Selatong and Tanjung Tepalit, Long Selaan, Long Semiyang, and Long Tungan.

A faded signboard shows the way to the surrounding villages and Fort Lio Mato.

A view to admire after exiting Long San, just after a few minutes drive, was Sungai Baram, where we had to slowly go through a dilapidated-looking bridge.

The bridge which spans Sungai Baram.

Not only that, there were also several dilapidated-looking bridges up ahead. We had to again endure an aggressive four-hour bull ride combined with the length of a never-ending rollercoaster on uneven tracks.

The logging roads, like yesterday’s, were extremely uneven, but we noticed the road to Fort Lio Mato had more large dents, potholes, and bigger and sharper rocks scattered all over some parts of the road.

We were praying that we wouldn’t have to go through another tyre-puncture incident as we were stranded halfway for an hour yesterday during our journey to Long San.

After being in the car for more than three hours, we finally saw the signboard that points to Kampung Lio Mato and Fort Lio Mato.

The village is pretty hidden, located deep inside the remote jungle of Sarawak, where we had to go through another 3km journey to reach Kampung Lio Mato.

Kampung Lio Mato, where it’s quiet and residents are welcoming

At around 11am, we finally reached Kampung Lio Mato and decided to approach some residents outside a building, to ask for directions to Fort Lio Mato.

They happily pointed out the direction and one of the residents, who goes by the name Colin Tingang, 40, decided to guide us there on his motorbike.

A few building landmarks of Kampung Lio Mato that we noticed as we made our way to the fort were the Lio Mato church, Lio Mato health clinic, and Lio Mato kindergarten.

Fort Lio Mato, ancient but well-maintained

The two-storey Fort Lio Mato somehow resembles Fort Long Akah, except that it looks well-maintained, unlike Fort Long Akah, which is in a state of disrepair.

Colin told us that his relatives have been looking after the fort, making sure the historical landmark of the village does not fall into ruin.

He then decided to notify his relatives, Tingang Gelung, 50, and Emilie Apoi, 49, a senior couple, about our interests to view the fort’s interior as its main door was locked.

After unlocking the door, Tingang, Emilie, and Colin gladly showed us around inside and shared some parts of Fort Lio Mato’s history with us.

“According to my memory, the fort was used as a place to prevent enemies entering from the Indonesian border.

“It was also used as a trading centre where the locals conducted barter trade of their jungle produce with traders appointed by the government,” Tingang said.

He also mentioned that there is a jail cell located underneath the staircase to hold those who break into the fort and cause problems, which was once guarded by an assistant who has since passed away.

“Sometimes kids will break into the fort so I had to nail the doors shut here,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Emilie told us she uses the fort as a place to rear birds, where their feces can be used as organic fertilizer.

Fort Lio Mato is still relatively well-maintained.

Friendly conversations and warm meals from gracious hosts

The senior couple welcomed us into their home for a chat and lunch following our visit to Fort Lio Mato.

We sat down with their family and was introduced to one of their relatives by the name Ungau Njau, 70, who shared with us interesting fables of the village.

After lunch, we then thanked them for hosting us in their home and left Kampung Lio Matu around 2pm to continue on our journey to Miri, to visit Fort Hose in Baram. — DayakDaily