National Geographic : 1956 May
723 Morrison, Pix Shy Penans, Sarawak's Jungle Nomads, Trade for Beads in the Home of a Kenyah Chief Penans avoid settled places except on market days. Then they drift in to trade wild resins and woven mats for the things they do not make, such as beads, cloth, swords, and salt (page 736). They seem at ease only in the deep jungle, where they live on wild sago and small game killed with blowpipes (page 735). This woman's expression tells the chief, watching from his armchair, that he is about to close a deal. The birds build on the ceilings, using a salivary excretion for building material. Har vesting the nests takes daring. The collectors build rickety galleries of bamboo, rattan, and wood; they clamber up these to reach even the highest and farthest spots. A storm beset us on the return passage to Bintulu, and we put into a small river for shelter. Looking seaward, we were impressed to see an old Chinese launch going steadily on through the gale. "That's not superior seamanship," scoffed the Government man. "The captain never turns his launch in a seaway for fear she'll capsize. He just keeps on." When later we sought passage out of Bin tulu, we found to our horror that this same Chinese launch was the only craft available! Already it held a party of Dyaks who had been working in the Seria oilfield of Brunei. The boat was overloaded, for the Dyaks all had treasures they were taking home to their families-Malay blouses and sarongs, silver belts, bottles of cheap scents, European shirts, shorts, and hats. That night we were packed like sardines on the hatch. One of the Dyaks would not stop talking and several times tried to pull the pillow from under my head. Sarawak Has No Railway But these journeys, though official, were great fun and always interesting. The coun try has no railway and few roads or airfields. Fleets of Chinese launches call at larger river and coastal ports, but their captains keep no schedules. Away from the big rivers one goes afoot or by canoe. The ubiquitous outboard is not always in fallible. It cannot negotiate shallow rapids; so the boatmen get out and push. Its pro peller shear pins break when the water is clogged with floating debris. In such places the men take to the paddles.