National Geographic : 1956 May
736 Penan Duet: Atop a Grassy Hill, Wild Men of Borneo Pipe Plaintive Music The nomads play keluris, made from gourds and lengths of hollow bamboo. Far from primitive, these wind instruments contain vibrating reeds. The wandering Penans probably made neither the keluris nor the sword of the man at right, but bought them from settled tribes. The author describes a chance jungle meeting with Penans as a high point of her adventures in Sarawak (page 735). awaited our approach, a little party of shyly smiling jungle folk. Strong and well built and far from primi tive in appearance, these nomads yet seemed to belong more to the wilds than to the haunts of men. An air of stillness surrounded them, as well it might, for they are adept at creeping silently upon a deer at a jungle pool or a monkey asleep in the bush. They carried long polished wooden rods. I realized that these were the famous blow guns with which they hunted. Round quivers at their sides held poisoned darts for these fantastic weapons. "They can hit a shilling at 30 feet," said Alastair admiringly, measuring with his eye the width of a small ravine separating us from the Penans. "Quiet shooting, too. Pfft! The animal runs a little way, the poison takes hold, and there's the family dinner." At the time of the last census in 1947 it was estimated that there were fewer than 2,000 Penans in the country. They drift un obtrusively into the towns with beautiful black-and-white mats they have woven, trade them for salt, tobacco, and cloth, then melt back into the depths of the jungle (page 723). Some of our Muruts who had lived in the Limbang recognized the Penans as old friends. Quiet greetings were exchanged. We strug gled across the ravine to see the jungle dwellers' rude hut and meet their wives and children. Soon we were on our way again. The Penan men said they would go with us to a point where a stream crossed the trail. They moved beside us, laughing and chatting with the Muruts. We came to the stream, and I turned to say goodbye to our new friends. They had van ished. Only the Muruts splashed through the roistering brook.