An Adventure in Bario

In January 2018, I joined a familiarization trip organized by Volvo Trucks Malaysia to Bario, Sarawak. This trip was organized in conjunction with an official handover event to mark the completion of both the fire-fighting system and five eco-shelters at Bario Asal Lembaa longhouse settlement. Volvo Trucks funds and builds fire-fighting system for Bario Asal Lembaa longhouse settlement and eco-shelters along the 25-km distance Bario ancestral jungle trail.

The event was attended and launched by Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt, Ambassador of Sweden to Malaysia; Mats Nilsson, Managing Director, Volvo Malaysia; and K.K Laju Balang @ Aren Lemulun, Headman of Bario Asal Lembaa. It was also attended by representatives from Sarawak Tourism.
The event was attended and launched by Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt, Ambassador of Sweden to Malaysia; Mats Nilsson, Managing Director, Volvo Malaysia; and K.K Laju Balang @ Aren Lemulun, Headman of Bario Asal Lembaa. It was also attended by representatives from Sarawak Tourism.

The Season Gift programme is part of Volvo Group’s corporate social responsibility efforts which is carried out globally to help support local country social causes. The objective is to help create prosperity for the communities where Volvo Trucks operates.

Malaysia was one of the countries that were selected, with Bario chosen as the recipient of the Volvo Trucks-funded RM500,000 Season Gift contribution for improving the lives of the Kelabit community. The Bario project commenced in mid-2017 and was completed in December 2017.

Barrio is made up of a vast highland plateau which lies over 1,000 meters above sea level in the north-eastern corner of Sarawak and is home to a number of small local indigenous villages. Surrounded by mountains, cultural sites, agricultural landscape and tropical rainforest, Bario is undeniably one of the most beautiful rural locations in Malaysia which deserves conservation and protection.

The indigenous community that has been living in Bario for more than 4,000 years are known as Kelabit, where today they are faced with challenges such as modernization and deforestation with a focus now towards sustainability. Over the years, about 65% of the younger population have migrated out due to the lack of facilities and jobs in Bario. Today, it is estimated that just slightly more than 1,000 Kelabit people are still living in Bario.

Under the Economic Transformation Programme, the Government aims to establish Bario as the world-class hub destination for Agrobiodiversity and to obtain UNESCO World Heritage site status.


 

My adventures in Bario

Batang Baram (Baram River)
Batang Baram (Baram River)

This black water river is part of Batang Baram (Baram River), Malaysia’s second longest river that originates from Kelabit Highlands and flows all the way 400 km into South China Sea through Miri. Baram River is home to many Orang Ulu tribes, including the Kayan, the Kenyah, the Berawan, and the shy and semi-nomadic Penan. Most part of the river is highly inaccessible but along this fascinating river are the famous Gunung Mulu National Park and the lesser-known Loagan Bunut National Park.

 

Garden of Eden Valley, Mulu
Garden of Eden Valley, Mulu

This is an aerial shot of the Garden of Eden Valley, an enclosed valley with the majestic Mount Mulu in the background (cannot be seen in this photo). To get to this valley, a hiker needs to go through a 2-km long Deer Cave, which was known as the largest cave passage in the world until the discovery of Son Doong cave in Vietnam.

This formation is part of Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site characterized by amazing caves and karst formations in a mountainous equatorial rainforest setting. A walk to this valley may cost you an estimated of RM120 per person. You can fly with MASWings from Miri to Mulu to get to this valley.

 

Bario Waterfall
Bario Waterfall

We had an exhilarating hike into the Kelabit Highland rainforest to trek to one of the eco-shelters along the 25-km ancestral trail. About 6-hour hike through the challenging terrains, knee-deep muds and blood-thirsty leeches; we were blessed to appreciate this enchanting deep forest waterfall that is located about 40 minutes before eco-shelter No 2. This river is part of the important tributaries that form the great Batang Baram (Baram River) and also the source of water for the village of Bario Asal.

According to research, the river is of good quality with a high level of dissolved oxygen and a low amount of suspended solids. May be this is the reason why the rice, the fruits, and the food (and the maggie soup) taste a lot better here in Bario!