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Hashing in the Ex-Headhunters Trails of Borneo


From hard-core to newbie Hashers, adventure-seekers the world over will never forget the mysterious Hash trails of the steaming Sarawak, Borneo jungle, where fierce headhunters once roamed hundreds of years ago on the world’s third largest island.

When speaking of Borneo, the first ideas that spring to mind are the long houses, ancient rainforests, magnificent culture and adventure, and of course headhunters.

The story of the Dayak headhunters has been romanticized since the mid-1800s, when the swashbuckling White Rajah James Brookes declared a bid for total dominion over the warring tribes of Sarawak, bringing peace to its shores for the first time.

Up until the 80’s, the terrifying bogeyman of the Headhunter was still the tourism mascot that put Sarawak on the world map. I am glad that in more recent years, the authorities felt it appropriate to change this image to the ‘Land of the Hornbills’.

This exotic image of bloodthirsty savages has stuck nearly 160 years after the last bastion of the headhunters was razed to the ground and the practice of headhunting officially outlawed. Today, Sarawak is an emerging metropolitan where old world meets new.

A Trail You Have Been Waiting For Your Whole Life….“Jungle Adventure meets Hash” The trails in Borneo are astounding. They cover the original routes of the headhunters, before the advent of the present-day roads and bridges.  You will come across a myriad of villages belonging to local ethnic groups, and a sample of some of the most breath taking mountain views in Asia. Besides the views, the trail will lead you through energy sapping, unforgiving terrain crisscrossing hills and plains and crossing a couple of rivers via the efficiently designed bamboo bridges spanning 60 to 70 meters across. In some areas, you get to cross the river on a suspension bridge.  It may sound unfathomable but I assure you all routes are well designed for all to have fun. All you need to do is choose the trail that suits your liking and abilities.

                                                                       

The trail choices are as diverse as the sea and the desert. They range from steep green covered mountain slopes (where you can slog your way through), to the more leisurely well-defined trails crisscrossing orchards interspace by secondary or primary jungle and following sparkling clear freshwater streams depending on the weather. Very often the trail will transverse through the territory of the indigenous villagers, where bamboo bridges are a common sight. You may still be able to run across the river using the bamboo bridges, thanks to the engineering skill of the traditional bridge builders who have passed down their skills from generation to generation, though I have to admit it is a dying tradition with the advent of new roads. Sadly this beautiful sight will soon be seen only on post cards, so it is best to grab the opportunity to see it now while you still can.

 

The Where, What, and Who of Borneo

Borneo, the world’s third largest Island, is partly owned by three different nations: Malaysia, Indonesia and the Sultanate of Brunei and there lies Sarawak, Malaysia’s biggest state. 

Sarawak’s ­land­ area ­of ­124,450 ­sq. ­km­ makes ­it ­almost­ as­ large ­as ­Peninsular Malaysia, Greece or England ­and slightly­ larger ­than ­North ­Korea­ or ­New ­Mexico.  It ­is ­located­ immediately ­north ­of ­the­ Equator ­between ­­0°­50° ­and­ 5° north ­and ­109°­36’­and ­115°­40’­east.­  It ­stretches­ some ­800 km. ­along ­the ­north west ­coast ­of­ Borneo, and ­is ­separated ­from ­Peninsular ­Malaysia ­by­ the­ South­ China­ Sea - a ­distance ­of­ over ­600 ­km.­  It ­borders ­the­ State­ of­ Sabah ­to ­the ­northeast, ­the­ Sultanate ­of ­Brunei (forming­ a ­double­ enclave),­ and­ Kalimantan,­  Indonesia to ­the­ south­ and ­east.

The population of Sarawak ­is ­comprises anywhere between 27­ and ­40 ­ethnic ­and ­sub-ethnic­ groups­, the ­largest ­being the Iban­, together with the ­Bidayuh; who are collectively identified as Dayaks. The Chinese and Malays reside in the town and coastal areas. Another group is the Orang Ulu ethnic tribes.  Practitioners of Headhunting in the past, the Dayak and Orang Ulu communities typically reside in the interior regions of the State.  Kuching (a Malay word for cat, therefore the capital city is literally a “Cat City”) the capital city of Sarawak, gives off a feeling that it is a multi-cultural place with a huge retro feel.  True to its name, Kuching boasts a fine Cat Museum, perhaps the only one of its kind in the region. Speaking of museums, the Sarawak Museum is reputed to have one of the finest collection of exhibits and artifacts that are world renowned, while the Islamic Museum is located a short walk away.

 

The other retro icons are The Square tower at the Kuching Waterfront, one of many fortifications built by James Brooke and Fort Margherita, named after the second White Rajah Charles Brooke’s wife. Fort Margherita has since been converted into a police Museum where you can still see skulls, relics of the Headhunting days.  An old Chinese temple also stands at the waterfront of Kuching. Sarawak has a sizeable Chinese population, the earliest being the Hakka Chinese goldminers who arrived in Sarawak in the early 1800s.

With all this history, you can by now imagine how blazing through old Headhunters trails would be a huge adventure for Hashers who dare to try out Kuching.

If you have travelled around much of the world of Hashing, you know that Kuching rocks, and must never be missed by those who love a zesty, fearless life.  The Kuching City Hashers (KCH) welcome everyone from around the globe. Kuching City Hashers, along with Sarawak Convention Bureau - which represents the expertise of the Sarawak’s State Government) is bidding to host the Inter Hash 2018.

The Kuching City Hashers (KCH) is a ramshackle collection of mainly local residents from all walks of life; successful businessmen, artisans, mechanics, retired civil servants, corporate executives, avid drinkers and gamblers, millionaires and the travelling expatriate.  All members share an adventurous spirit of liberation. Kuching City Hashers started 29 years ago in 1988 and has clocked up vast experience in organizing Hash Runs. KCH successfully organized the 2005 PAN  ASIA  HASH for 2,000 hashers and more recently the 25th Anniversary Run in 2013, which was attended by over 1,000 hashers not only from Malaysia but neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and Thailand.

 

Sarawak is blessed with some of the most scenic and picturesque hashing countryside in the Asia Pacific region. Besides the scenic beauty of its thousands of species of Flora and Fauna, Sarawak is also known for its melting pot of various ethnic cultures. The city offers much variety in entertainment outlets and accommodations; from 5 star luxury hotels to “cheap and chic” budget motels.  The street food is fabulously tasty and cheap – less than USD1 per serving - and maintains a very high standard of cleanliness. Kuching City itself is well known for its cleanliness – which has been recognized twice by the United Nations - and was recently conferred the title of “City of Unity” by the Malaysian Government. It is easy to get carried away by the food and the tendency to over eat is always a possibility if one is consciously watching their diet, but not to worry, you have plenty of opportunities to burn away the excess calories with the runs that will be organized by Kuching City Hashers. (Just like the food, the hashes are really difficult to resist.)

There are plenty of cheap beers ranging from famous local brands, Tiger beer to that of exotic imported brands, so much so that a European friend of mine lamented to me that it would be crazy not to drink to your heart’s content while you are in Kuching.  The people are so friendly that soon after the conversation has begun, it feels like the whole group are old friends.

Conversations with the locals are made easy due to the fact that English is widely spoken. In terms of connectivity, Kuching International Airport serves Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia, Malindo Air, Rayani Air, Mas Wings and a host of other airlines making it one of the busiest airports in Malaysia. Hashing on the land where Headhunters once roamed will be unforgettably exciting.  Mixing history and culture with the socially inclined hasher, fueled with plenty of beers brewed in the pristine jungle of Sarawak, and spiced up by the unique ambience of Kuching city, Hashing in Kuching promises an unforgettable experience of a lifetime. The capable management team of KCH will assure a better hashing time.

Come 2nd Asia Pacific Hash 2018, BORNEO awaits you with beating drums.

Author:

Kuching City Hash Committee

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