Saturday, March 17, 2012

Letters From Matt #7: Borneo: Blowdarts and Biosphere

Letters From Matt are letters from my brother, Matt, from various of his domestic and international travels. The letters span decades, and I share them on Living Rootless at intervals, in no particular order.

January 18, 1991

Dear Family,

My trip to Borneo was fantastic. I took 200 pictures (all slides). Most of them turned out great.

I found the people to be very hospitable. I hiked into the jungle far away from any roads. An airplane had dropped me off 150 kilometers from the state highway (mostly dirt). A Penan family that lived a nomadic life of subsistence in the forest fed me wild pig that they shot with poison darts and a blowpipe. I spent two days with them speaking no English but learning a little of the Penan language. I tasted many different fruits from the jungle and learned of many different medicines that the Penan produce from plants and animals. The Penan love to dance and are very friendly.

I would like to go back and visit them some time in the future but I’m afraid they may not have a future, for the loggers are supposed to arrive in that area in the next two years. The meat, the fruit, the medicines and the dancing, smiling people who have lived there forever will disappear.

There is an effort afoot to make the area I visited into a United Nations Biosphere Reserve. A fancy version of a park that requires a treaty. Of course, the native people would still live there and tourists would be welcome. Only the loggers would be somewhat restricted.

One of the people I met gave me a blowpipe with darts as a gift. I also have acquired several baskets and samples of native medicine that I would like to show people when I get home.

Now I’m safely back in Japan and am looking forward to my next trip which will be in April. I’m thinking about Thailand or possibly Indonesia. 

Tell everyone I said hi.


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