Cycle The Headhunter’s Heartland

Follow the trail of the White Rajahs in the bygone era in their conquest to suppress the rebellious Headhunters, cycle into the Iban Heartland of authentic long houses, interior waterways and rustic forts. This trip runs from Kuching to Aiman Batang Ai Resort and Retreat.

Explore on two-wheels into the heartland of the legendary Dayaks, once feared headhunters of Borneo. Navigate the remote interior riverways and ride the outback country lanes to travel among the Dayak people.

Discover how their history intertwined with 100 years dynasty of English’s White Rajahs, in the 1840’s , by visiting the historical forts built by the White Rajahs to defend against the warring headhunters and learn their fascinating legacy.

Along the trail, stay in unique Dayak longhouses to enjoy the hospitality of the tribal hosts and indulge in authentic cuisines prepared from nature’s freshest ingredients. This one week trip is an amazing experience to live among the proud natives of Borneo — an epic cycling holiday for the heart and soul.

Your Trail

DAY 1        Arrive at Kuching, Cycle the Heritage Trail (12 km)

Arrive in the capital of Sarawak, the charming old town of Kuching. The group will meet with the tour leader in the late afternoon for a briefing on the tour, a chance to try out the bikes, and then we head off straightaway onto the heritage trail of the White Rajah. Enjoy a welcomed sunset dinner at the bank of the romantic Sarawak River.

Basaga Hotel / The Marian        Meals: D

Cycle into history on this heritage tour of Kuching, the capital of Sarawak. Explore the Main Bazaar of the picturesque Old Town, and stop at the Square Tower, at the ‘stone jetty’. In the early days of the Brooke Rajah, this Fort and a nearby Court House were the full extent of government buildings. Cross the River in the traditional fashion, in a ‘sampan’ ferry deftly steered with oars, to visit Fort Margherita, built by Charles Brooke in 1879 and named after his bride. The Fort’s cannons were trained on the river, both a traffic route and possible source of an enemy attack. As it happens, the brick-built edifice has never been shot at in anger. After substantial renovations it is now a Museum of Brooke memorabilia.

DAY 2         Long Boat to Banting

After breakfast we start our journey into the Borneo interior. Visit two lively market bazaars along the way before reaching the outpost town of Pantu. We take a traditional long boat ride into a remote longhouses of Banting, accessible only by boat on crocodile infested river. Explore the local community with your local host and enjoy spontaneous ‘longhouse hospitality’ at its best, sharing simple traditional cuisine on the floor and dossing down under a mosquito net at night.

Banting Longhouse        Meals: BLD

We make our first stop at Serian market, a great place to find every kind of fruit imaginable.  Next stop, trading bazaar Lachau and a village-style lunch.The riverine adventure starts at Pantu, in shallow-draft longboats all the way to the Iban villages of Banting. Banting is an old rallying point of the Ibans who use the fertile lowlands for padi farming.  The rocky hill by the river was a primitive fort; in times of danger the villagers found refuge here. The early Christian missionaries recognized the importance of the vantage point and crowned it with St.Paul’s Church which, improved and renovated many times, has stood here since 1859.  Enjoy the simple longhouse welcome – never mind what time visitors turn up, refreshments will be offered. Once you’ve been shown your quarters you’re welcome to-stroll around the village, climb the hill to inspect the church, ask someone to explain the mysterious rock formations near the river, maybe drop in at the school, see people produce artistic handicrafts like mat-making and weaving, or wander off to the rice fields and vegetable gardens.  The river here is famous for its prawns — unfortunately, crocodiles like the tasty crustaceans quite as much as we humans do.  Swimming in the river is NOT recommended!

Cycle the Iban Heartlands longhouse ride by

DAY 3        Cycle to Fort Alice (51 km)

After a short boat transfer to a tiding outpost of Lingga, we cycle along the majestic Batang Lupar River, bypassing longhouse villages, farms and paddy fields. If we are lucky, we can see the natural phenomenon of tidal bore roar pass us during our ride. We will reach the old town of Sri-Aman to visit the newly restored Fort Alice to discover how battles were fought during the warring era.

Seri Simanggang Hotel        Meals: BLD

You’ll set off by longboat for the Lingga bazaar, center of the lower Batang Lupar where you’ll taste a coffee shop breakfast. In James Brooke’s time, the township was ruled by two feisty Malay women of the aristocratic class who didn’t shirk from donning male attire and joining their followers in warfare if the occasion demanded it! You’ll enjoy an easy ride along the banks of the great river. A few hills in the distance enliven the landscape; make a couple of detours to have a look at particularly interesting longhouses. You’ll cycle into the capital of the Batang Lupar, Sri Aman (formerly known as Simanggang) in time for lunch. You can’t miss Fort Alice (1864) perched on a riverside hillock, commanding a good view of the river from where trouble might be expected to come in the old days… and it frequently did. Like all forts, Alice served for defense and security, as administrative headquarters, and as a prison – ‘lifers’ were usually incarcerated in Fort Alice.

Cycle the Iban Heartlands longboat transfer (1)

DAY 4        Cycle (32 km) and Boat to Skrang River

After a short river crossing, we continue another day of pleasant ride upriver to another old fort, Fort Lily at Betong. Along the way, meet a war hero with medals from the Queen of England and discovery some old skulls still hanging inside an old longhouse. After a visit to Fort Lily, get into another long boat up the Skrang River famous for its feared warrior. The old chief will entertain you with old tales and maybe a little rice wine at Nanga Murat longhouse.

Nanga Murat Longhouse         Meals: BLD

After breakfast, you’ll cross the river and cycle overland to the next main township, Betong, on the Layar River. You may get a chance to pay your respects to,a now very veteran warrior who was awarded the George Cross by King George VI; he lives in quiet retirement near his hometown Sri Aman. After a good stint of pedaling, you’ve deserved a good coffee-shop lunch in Betong! Visit Fort Lily (1855), built to fortify this ‘outstation’. Lily has seen considerable action in the turbulent times when Iban chief Rentap challenged the Rajah; some of the cannon used in the skirmishes are preserved in the Betong District Office. Your journey continues by car until you reach Pais jetty on the Skrang River; here you board longboats to proceed in time-honoured Sarawak fashion. Remember, the rivers were our highways until not so very long ago! You’ll disembark at Nanga Murat longhouse to meet the old chief. The villagers have recently moved into a new longhouse; don’t forget to visit the old one for comparison! Old or new, longhouse hospitality is from the heart, but the facilities tend to be fairly simple; be prepared to eat seated on the floor, and sleep on a mattress under a mosquito net.

DAY 5        Cycle (51 km) and Boat to Aiman Batang Ai Resort and Retreat

After a short land transfer, we take a pleasant ride passing through many more longhouse villages and small farms. We reach the Batang Ai Lake for a scenic boat ride into a longhouse style resort for a well deserved relaxation.

Aiman Batang Ai Resort and Retreat        Meals: BLD

Today you really do travel up country! After a short trip in the van you’ll cycle away from the trunk road, southwards, towards the Kalimantan border. Numerous longhouses along the trail makes the point: this is the Iban heartland. You’ll make a side excursion up the Lemanak River; where the terrain gets hilly.-Pedal and pedal until you can literally go no further, and you’ll reach a man-made lake snuggled among the hills. This lake supplies hydro-electricity to most of Kuching and West Sarawak. You’ll embark on a lake craft that looks roughly like the ‘African Queen’ to cross the Hydro Lake to the Aiman Batang Ai Resort and Retreat’. Yes indeed, the cluster of longhouses bedded against the green slopes is a resort! Spend a leisurely afternoon and evening, recovering from the rigours of the trail.

DAY 6        Rest and Transfer to Kuching

In the morning, you will have the option to relax by the pool, visit a nearby longhouse or a waterfall. After lunch, we take the final land transfer back to civilization. We then enjoy our final meal together and celebrate the tour.

Basaga Hotel / The Marian        Meals: BLD

After a late breakfast, take a dip in the swimming pool, go for a jungle walk, explore a nearby longhouse or visit a waterfall, commune with nature — this is an easy day. After lunch we’ll set off for Kuching. The return journey to Kuching is for relaxing, talking and singing, and re-living the adventure you’ve just enjoyed. Epic Headhunter’s Trail is a trip to remember! Enjoy one last, glorious meal together at the Topspot Food Center in Kuching. It’s where all the good food of Sarawak comes together. The waiters don’t carry white serviettes over their left arm and the ambiance leaves something to be desired, but the food is, seriously, something to write home about!

DAY 7         Tour Concludes in Kuching

Today the tour concludes. For those who are not in a hurry to leave, the wildlife and adventures of Borneo awaits. For more information on these amazing adventures and other destinations to extend your holiday, please ask our team at the time of booking.

Meals: B

Transfer to Kuching airport for a flight home sweet home.

This tour is offered by Paradesa Borneo

 

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  • Longboats at Batang Ai Lake | Cycle the Iban Heartland Sarawak Malaysia Borneo

  • Meet the Iban people | Cycle the Iban Heartland Sarawak Malaysia Borneo

  • Visit historical site of Fort Alice | Cycle the Iban Heartland Sarawak Malaysia Borneo

  • Cycle the Iban Heartland Skulls

  • Cycle the Iban Heartlands longhouse ride by

  • Longboats at Batang Ai Lake | Cycle the Iban Heartland Sarawak Malaysia Borneo
  • Meet the Iban people | Cycle the Iban Heartland Sarawak Malaysia Borneo
  • Visit historical site of Fort Alice | Cycle the Iban Heartland Sarawak Malaysia Borneo
  • Cycle the Iban Heartland Skulls
  • Cycle the Iban Heartlands longhouse ride by
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