Recharge your spirit with a leisurely cruise downriver on a bamboo raft

One of Valentine Ritong's crew expertly navigate a series of mini rapids downriver.

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By Nancy Nais

PADAWAN, Oct 17: Are you looking for a change of scenery after being stuck at home for what feels like an eternity due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Do you miss being surrounded by fresh air, the sounds of nature and a lush jungle environment?


For those who love adventuring in nature, but for various reasons have been unable to indulge in it, the inactivity can feel like a weight on their shoulders.

As the Covid-19 situation in Sarawak gradually improves and with more outdoor activities now allowed, it may be the right time to consider taking an overnight or day trip to Peraya Homestay for a short getaway.

The homestay can be a gentle re-introduction (or even orientation for newcomers to nature adventures) to the pleasures of getting away from the stressful urban life with a ‘river cruise’ via bamboo rafting and a authentic kampung lunch cooked from scratch by the river.

Peraya Homestay is located in a small quaint Bidayuh village along Jalan Padawan.

Thanks to the Sarawak Tourism Board who made it possible through its Sia Sitok Sarawak 2.0 programme, Dayak Daily recently had the opportunity to experience Bidayuh hospitality and enjoy a range of activities including jungle trekking to a waterfall and visiting the head house were villagers keep skulls acquired during the headhunting era.

The Bidayuh or Land Dayak is the second largest Dayak tribe in Sarawak and they are famous for their knowledge and use of bamboo, which they utilise for a wide range of uses, from building materials to water pipes and cooking.

Traditionally, the Bidayuh lived in longhouses but today most villages comprise individual houses.

In the past the Bidayuh would also use traditional bamboo rafts to navigate down the smaller rivers in the Bidayuh heartland in the Padawan region.

Peraya Homestay is located in a small quaint Bidayuh village along Jalan Padawan, some 50 kilometres from Kuching.

It consists of a small longhouse made of wood and bamboo, with a mountain-sourced jungle stream flowing past the homestay.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by our host Valentine Ritong who is also known as Val, and his family with piping hot coffee, tea and cakes all waiting for us.

Some of them were already preparing ‘mise en place’(meat, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, sauces, pre-cooked items and other components), as well as bamboo and firewood for the barbecue fire which they will use to cook our dinner while we visitors settled into our respective rooms.

Peraya Homestay is located in a small quaint Bidayuh village along Jalan Padawan

Visitors will be pleased to know that pillows and mattresses covered with clean, freshly laundered sheets are available in each room, together with a fan, mosquito screens on the windows and electricity sockets to charge your electronic devices.

Shared showers and a toilet block are located just next to the main accommodation building.

After settling in, I took a shower which out of necessity was as fast as I could because the water was so cold.

The cold water collected from the mountain can be a shock to those used to hot h showers, but it proved refreshing especially after sweating in the heat all day.

Later as I relaxed in the ‘ruai’ outside my room, I had a good chat with Val and his family while I enjoy my third cuppa coffee.

According to Val, his homestay was built back in 2014.

Prior to that, he was working for a travel agent and enjoyed guiding visitors. From there, came the idea of building a homestay in his village.

“I started creating tourism activities because I could see the potential this village can offer. With our beautiful serene clear river just next door and abundance of bamboo trees, wouldn’t water rafting be adventurous?

“Imagine this, halfway through the rafting, we’ll stop by the river bank and cook local Dayak food for you, all from scratch,” Val said.

How about a pitstop halfway through a rafting adventure to savour lunch by the riverbank?

Apart from that, he also offers other activities such as camping, jungle trekking through their farm land and to waterfalls, and jungle survival and cooking lessons.

Our evening was well spent over a delightful dinner consisting of local Bidayuh cuisine followed by more chats, getting to know our hosts, their culture and traditions, with the rejuvenating smells and sounds of the jungle lingering around us.

After a lip-smacking breakfast the next day, we were ready to engage in the next adventure by getting back to basics pillow bamboo rafting.

Val drove us to another village upriver where his crew were already busy preparing the giant bamboo stems which they had to manually tie them together with bamboo strips and rope.

The making of bamboo rafts, each measuring about 1.5 metres wide and 7 metres long.
Completed bamboo rafts, each measuring about 1.5 metres wide and 7 metres long, made under an hour by villagers from Kampung Peraya

It may look rustic, but these rafts are functional and tough.

The crew prepared three bamboo rafts, each measuring about 1.5 metres wide and 7 metres long.

Take note, when rafting, water will splash through the gaps so do expect to get wet and dress for it.

After a short safety briefing by Val, we boarded the rafts and making our way down the rainforest-lined river.

During the journey, Val regaled us with the secrets and history of river, while he and his crew expertly navigated a series of small rapids as we proceeded downriver.

For visitors who wish to, they can also help guide the raft along the river.

A leisure adventure down the river as we take in the picturesque landscape around us.

It was a leisure adventure down the river as we took in the picturesque natural landscape around us.

Midway through the journey, we made a stop at a river bank where we were told that it was time to prepare lunch.

It amazed me at how the crew moved fast, efficiently and expertly executing their tasks as each of them knew what they needed to do: from wrapping rice grains with leaves; chopping the chicken to smaller pieces and mixing them with tapioca leaves and salt; to cleaning fresh fish and collecting fresh vegetables straight from the jungle. All the food was cooked in bamboo.

Another team was tasked with searching for firewood and getting the fire started. Within a short time after landing, the food in bamboo was already on the fire together with grilled chicken and ears of sweet corn.

Lunch by the river was freshly cooked bamboo chicken, grilled chicken, fish and corn.
Authentic Bidayuh dishes cooked from scratch by the river.

Despite the simplicity, the food which was prepared with fresh local ingredients was superb and delicious. Cooking in bamboo over an open fire imparts a subtle, unique taste to the food.

After lunch, we took a dip in the river for about half-an-hour before we continued our journey downstream, heading back to our base at Peraya Homestay.

Indeed, traditional bamboo rafting was an excellent experience and unique in itself because not only we learn how to stay afloat on the bamboo raft but also cooking lunch in bamboo by the river bank.

As Sarawak is now under Phase 3 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) and tourism activities are open once again, visitors can take a short break from the bustling cities and check out Peraya Homestay.

Bookings can be made through Sia Sitok page https://sarawak.travel/EXPLORE-ALL/ or contact Val at 019 8785013 (mobile), valritong@yahoo.com (email) or visit www.perayahomestay.com.

Valentine Ritong’s crew and camp visitors resting by the riverbank during their bamboo rafting adventure in Kampung Peraya, Padawan.

— DayakDaily