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Updates from the Last Chance to Paint team

Day 3 – Person of The Forest

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

Today was hugely fun and hugely busy!

This morning started with a boat ride, our final destination set as Clear Water Cave. En route we took an unexpected detour, a walk through Batu Bungan, the Penan village. The reason for our detour was due to low water level in the river meaning our boat was struggling to get through without running a ground. To make life easier, we hopped out and walked, as the boat and boatman navigated the shallow water without our added weight.

Whilst walking, Robin pointed out a tree growing a fruit called Rambutan. The fruit were red with soft spikes. One of the Penan tribe quickly climbed the tree to pick some, we opened them up to discover an egg like white fruit. We all had a try, and to our delight and relief they were delicious! Slightly slimy and soft in texture with a sweet flavour.

After this discovery, we were allowed back on our boat and continued our journey up river to the Clearwater cave system which is the 8th largest cave system in the world, at 220km.

We disembarked the boat on a jetty and found that not only was the cave entrance not at river level, but that we had to climb 200 steps to get to it, no mean feat in the humidity and heat of the jungle!

The reward when we reached the top was definitely worth the climb. The cave entrance was beautiful, covered in foliage, and we were able to look down right into the vast limestone cavern. Having taken in this wonderful sight we set of down the well trodden path into the cave.

We saw stalactites and stalagmites, and where the two had joined over millions of years, we saw columns. The river running through the cave was fast flowing, crystal clear and beautiful and once we looked up to see the sky and jungle where a sink hole had formed. The whole experience was mesmerising!

Caves in Borneo are made from Limestone which gets eroded over many years by water when it becomes acidic from picking up minerals from the soil. This process creates the huge open spaces and tunnels which can go on for 100’s of Miles. However, it wasn’t just Limestone that we saw in the cave today. Sandstone had been carried down by the river from 10km away, perhaps during a flash flood or when the river was much higher millions of years ago, and has settled near the very top of the cave.

Our time in Clearwater cave was made perfect by the swim we had after our visit inside. At the foot of the cliff, where the cave is situated, is a deep clear water pool. The water comes from the river inside the cave and bubbles up through the ground to create the pool, and the river which carries on down through Mulu. The swim was glorious and cooled us all off after walking back down the 200 steps!

After a quick packed lunch, we then set off back down the river to our next destination, Long Iman.

Long Iman is the other settled Penan tribe village. The main residence for the locals in this village is a Long House. This traditionally wasn’t were Penan would live, however now, they’re adapted to this way of life. A longhouse, made of wood, contains many homes, all next door to each other. What makes it so special is the communal space they have just outside their front doors. It’s like a row of terraces houses with a communal veranda/porch area.

Before leaving, to show appreciation, I purchased a nose flute, to practice for next time. Then just before leaving they presented each of us with a beaded necklace. This was a beautiful gesture which was really touching.

We then set off back to camp where we bid our boatmen farewell and thanked them for such good navigating. John then set up for painting, and is painting our experience of Clearwater cave and swimming in the Clearwater pool.

Let’s hope tomorrow brings as much excitement!

Martha-Lilly x

PS: Don’t forget to send us your questions. We love answering them!


Some answers of questions for John:

What is your favourite painting?

My favourite painting is by Van Gough, “Starry night”

Where do you like to paint the most?

I like to paint in tropical gardens around Cornwall in particular I love painting the gardens on the island of Tresco.

What inspires your painting?

My life, my family and the world around me.

How can you draw faces?

I personally struggle drawing faces but I would look at the shape of the face (long, thing, fat) and draw that as an oval. Put a vertical line down the centre of the oval and than a horizontal line through the middle of the oval. The persons eyes should be on that horizontal line. The mouth is about halfway between the eyes and the chin. Self portraits are a really good way to learn. Look in the mirror and draw yourself!

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