Melpa landmarks and stories

“Every river has its own story, every river has its own story.”

Michael Ondaatje (1943 – present); famous Sri Lankan-born Canadian author and poet. He is known for his unique writing style, which blends poetry and prose, often blurring the boundaries between genres.

in In the previous article, I talked about the cemetery located in Melpa Basin, a tributary of the Kurian River in Saratok District.

This time, I would like to take readers on a journey through the watershed, starting from downstream landmarks and deep into the river.

I covered all the important landforms and landmarks that are important to my family and relatives.

Begin your boat trip at the estuary, located about 500 meters below the improved Kurian Bridge along the Pan Borneo Highway, about 192 kilometers from Kuching.

There is a small river called Sungai Entiri on the left side about 1km from the river mouth.

This is the current location of Sarkra Palm Oil Mill (SAPOM), which was previously owned by my family.

However, before Sarkula, in the early 19th century, there was a longhouse at the mouth of the river owned by the famous Temenggong Tanduk.

Tanduk was known for his wealth and arrogance. Unfortunately, his longhouse is attacked by a Simangan military commander, catching Tanduk by surprise despite warnings from Entingi, a resident of the same longhouse.

As a result, Tanduk was unprepared for the attack and lost his life. Entingi, who was suffering from the skin disease ringworm, managed to escape with his wife Tanduk and several of their children.

The place was then named Senuan Ala, meaning “grave of the defeated”, a name that has remained to this day.

A later attempt by late Saratok MP Datuk Seri Peter Tingom had plans to build a chalet at the site to attract picnickers.

However, these completed chalets are now abandoned structures. More than 10 years ago, I remember visiting an empty chalet when I went fishing at Sarukla Pond.

Leaving this location, you will encounter the Kedap tributary on your left. Immediately there is a small tributary on the right.

This is where my great-uncle Gerampan Saat, nicknamed Pintu Batu Nanga Igan (Nanga Igan Lock Door), Indu Ditem Bal Tenga Malam (Woman Widowed in the Midnight), This is where he shot and killed the crocodile.

The crocodile lived with his wife (his father’s cousin) in a nearby hovel and was discovered eating chickens.

It was believed that two large crocodiles were searching for the culprit in the Merpa River, but they managed to evade capture and survive to old age.

As you continue your journey, you will pass near Lubuk Kerk (Kerk Pool), famous for its large carp population, but which may now be infested with crocodiles. In 1973, during the July floods, a boat sank into this pool, but fortunately there were no casualties.

This pool was once a popular spot for net fishing (jarray fishing), but has fallen out of favor in recent years after divers hunting for fish witnessed red eyes believed to belong to crocodiles.

About 600 meters further from this pool is a suspension bridge that connects my longhouse community to a farm and orchard.

The bridge was recently renovated. Not far from the bridge is a bathing area used by the residents of my longhouse in Kedap.

However, it is now rarely used as water is supplied to each household individually by the Public Works Department (JKR).

In 2012, two brothers were entertaining two visitors at a chicken barbecue on a Sunday afternoon when an alligator crawled toward the scene. Ta.

They quickly noticed the unwelcome visitor and fled the scene, leaving the crawling crocodile empty-handed.

As you proceed from the Kedap waterfront, you will come across the dark and eerie looking Lubuk Tedung (Cobra Pool). Every time I pass near this pool, I never dare to put my hand in the water.

However, my younger brother John has no fear and considers this his favorite fishing spot.

Previously, I used to fish for large white single-striped carp known as Ikan Tungal in this pool.

Just above Lubuk Tedun, on the left, is the Burui cemetery. This cemetery is the largest indigenous cemetery for both non-Christians and Christians.

However, these days most Christians choose to bury their deceased in the Nanga Assam cemetery upstream of the river.

Opposite this burial ground, on the roadside of the Pan Borneo Highway, is a rubber plantation.The last time I pounded rubber was in November 1974, accompanied by a wealthy woman from Sibu.

Continuing our journey upstream, we reach a pool called Lubuk Jelapa. My semi-disabled cousin Buma is a good swimmer and once saved the life of a schoolmate who fell into this pool.

The incident occurred when students were playing near the water’s edge during a school picnic.

Bouma noticed his friend struggling in the depths of the pool and immediately jumped in to rescue him.

Both boys were safely brought to shore, and Booma was hailed as a hero by his classmates.

Continuing further upstream, you reach Nanga Assam, a small village on the right side of the river. The village is known for its rubber plantations and is also home to the Assam Methodist Church.

The cemetery mentioned earlier is located here and is the final resting place for many Christians living in the Melpa Basin area.

As you travel, you will pass several small rivers and ponds, each with its own story and meaning.

However, for this trip we will end our boat trip upstream on the Melpa River. There the river becomes narrower and navigation becomes more difficult.

I hope you enjoy exploring the various landmarks, pools, and stories that are important to my family and relatives as we conclude our journey through the Melpa Basin.

These stories showcase the rich history and experiences of the people who have lived along the river for generations.

Melpa Basin is more than just a geographical location. It is a tapestry of memory, tradition, and resilience of the people who call this home.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of The New Sarawak Tribune.

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