Thomas was his name and he was half Chinese and Dyak.
His wife sold beads down at the riverside.
I told him about my trip over the river to the James Brooke Fort.
As the crow flies it was only 300 meters to the new bridge from the Fort. It changes colors in the evening. Next to it is the parliament house that looks like a king’s crown. At night, it glows a regal gold, reflecting itself off the inky blackness of the Sarawak.
The suspense bridge sways. Modelled on a bamboo footbridge, it’s three hundred meters of coiling concrete, pylons, platforms and concrete bases. It’s a weird earthquake simulated sensation having tonnes of concrete underneath your feet swaying. It’s riding the rapids above the river.
I’ll make it to the new bridge, no sweat, I think.
While walking up to the Fort, I passed a dilapidated building on the left and roaming jungle on the right. The sign to the James Brooke Fort was on the ground. I guess I took the wrong turn. The Malay guy was friendly enough so I didn’t see any reason to leg it back to the pier.
The area was isolated. I even filmed it, waiting to be mugged. The perils, I thought, just to see a lousy fort.
Most of the tourists arrived on the foot bridge. How was I to know?
Forty minutes later, after going through semi swampland, through gardens, across boggy wastelands with treacherous gold mine shafts, I eventually made it to the other side of the river with a good dose of heatstroke.
‘Not only heat stroke dangerous,’ says Thomas, ‘but there are still large crocodiles in the Sarawak and they use the swampland to lay their eggs.’
Thomas, a big guy, put out his grisly arms to show the girth of the Sarawak crocodiles.
‘Then you got the locals, many drunks and druggie types who would love nothing better than to run into a dumb tourist roaming the isolated kampongs alone. ‘
I was doubly lucky, said Thomas’s wife.
The security guard also told me that rabid dogs also roam the jungles on the other side of the river.
I was triply lucky.
‘I’d never go on that side,’ said the wife. She pointed to the footbridge that stopped short of the parliament house, about 100 meters short of the new bridge.
I guess I was really lucky.
I told the cashier at the Fort that I knew my way.
Are you sure, she asked?
I wasn’t sure. I was cursing and cussing and trying to pull down traffic.
Herman eventually picked me up at the top of Jalan Astana on his motorbike and drove me down to the bridge. He saved me a good kilometer walk on a stinking hot shadeless road.
I even took a selfie with my savior who didn’t want any cash for the ride. I had to know his name. It just didn’t seem right to leave him without knowing his name.
He gave me much needed hope. Most of it had been swallowed up by dehydration and heat stroke
I even managed to find my way onto the grounds of the largest building in Kuching, a government building. I was getting close, I told Thomas.
‘You are lucky Herman didn’t rob you,’ said Thomas.
It was one of those days that luck was on my side. On reflecting on my outing, even I think I was lucky.
I hit Mc Donalds and order a strawberry Sundae and two apple pies, resolved that when I get back to my hotel room, to write it up.
The girls were happy to see me. One of the staff cleared my table while I was inside ordering the second pie.
‘Oh he’s a new guy,’ said Siti, the hot lady behind counter one who wears green contact lenses.
He’s actually studying Communications at Swinburne Universtiy in Australia. Is there any hope for Malaysia? I ask Siti.
Not much has changed at my local. They just made me a new Sundae, no questions asked.
It’s a full moon outside.
It’s an auspicious date for calling an election.
Even the crocodiles are stirring in the Sarawak.