15 October 2011. Its been a four days dry spell, and we were hoping that it would remain so ,at least for today and tomorrow. Today, because we had planned to bamboo raft down the Langat River and tomorrow because we have guests coming for some horse riding.
We arrived at the embarking point at about 9.30 a.m. Waiting for us was Tok Batin Andak and Ramli, his fellow villager. Tok Batin Andak, we shall call him Andak from now on, is the Headman (Chieftain) of the aboriginal tribe of Temuan. We were pleasantly surprised and greatly honored that the Headman himself had decided to be the guide and steerman for this expedition. Waiting for us were two bamboo rafts anchored to the river bank.
The raft was of a seemingly simple, yet durable design, if you know how to make them. That looks can be deceiving is all too clear in this case. Made entirely out of materials from the jungle it measures about 30 feet in length, composed of 9 stems of bamboo of about 6 inches in diameter each. This gives it a width of about 4.5 feet which, with the length of about 30 feet makes for great stability. Cross spars are from "tempinis" branches, which though small in diameter are durable yet flexible. The bamboo stems are lashed to the cross spars with the outer bark of "nyilang" rattan. This particular rattan is preferred again for durability and flexibility. See, the key, it seems to making a good bamboo raft is to make sure it is durable yet flexible. As it manouvers the rocky river bed the raft must be able to take bending and stretching stresses imposed on it. Make the raft too rigid by using ropes, wires or even round rattan for example, the bending and stretching will simply snap the wires, the rope or round rattan and you will end up swimming the rest of the journey. Guiding poles (2 of them) are also made of tempinis stems. Again their durability will ensure that they do not snap when caught under rocks or boulders. Their small diameter also means easier handling. So we now know how to make rafts, let's go make them. Good luck.
It was quite an experience sitting on these rafts. After the initial trepidation we found that it was more stable than a regular boat. Initially too we were contented to squat on our haunches, but Andak, with a mixture of amusement and disgust on his face politely told us that position will ensure we will have no problem using the squatting toilet for the next few weeks. Still wondering what he meant, we decided its best to sit properly on the raft and wet our royal bottoms. Early into the voyage we hit shallow water. That involved some heaving and shoving.
Soon though, the journey went into deeper waters and we had a great time viewing the landscape from the water level. Whilst we stay quite near to the river, because the river meanders as it makes its way downstream, there are many areas which are almost entirely foreign to us. Difficult to imagine that this is just 40 minutes from Kuala Lumpur.
After about 40 minutes we came to Lubuk Anggun. This is where Sungai Congkak joins Sungai Langat. Time for a short break and inspect the rafts. Whilst Andak and Ramli inspect the raft the passengers took the opportunity for a quick dip in the cool waters.
After about another hour we reached our destination, grinning ear to ear fully satisfied with the experience. We bid goodbye to Andak and Ramli with promises to meet again, soon. So what about the bloody orchid?.. What orchid? We just wanted an excuse to have fun.