November 3, 2009

4 jam jalan air+ 1jam jalan darat baru sampai ke bandar terdekat.

cerita ini telah di ctrl c + crtl v daripada Sunday Times, 11 November 2009.

sebab kalau tunggu cerita dari aku, pergh memang xdapek la. 7 hari 6 malam kat sana, 1001 cerita, sampai tak terkata, tak tercerita. Jadi aku tepek kat sini, cerita dari bos aku.. ni dari kaca mata beliau. lenkali aku tepek cerita dari kaca mata aku lak.

This village badly needs a road
By : Ahmad A.talib.

LOCATED deep in the rainforest of Pahang is a village called Kg Bukit Mat Daling. It's deep in Taman Negara, a four-hour boat ride from Kuala Tahan, the entry point to the national park.

Legend has it that the village got its name from a pioneer by that name. No clear history is documented but village folk say Mat Daling was one of a handful of people who established the village many years ago.

I took a quick drive to Kuala Tahan and proceeded to Kg Bukit Mat Daling. You take the east coast highway and exit at Jerantut to get to Kuala Tahan. You can also take a three-hour boat ride from Kuala Tembeling to Kuala Tahan, a smooth ride that lets you enjoy the lush greenery.

More often that not, passengers would doze off listening to the drone of the 30-horsepower engine of the longboat, which can take 10 to 16 passengers. On reaching Kuala Tahan, a quick teh tarik and roti canai at Pak Anjang's floating restaurant is essential to give you sustenance for the four-hour boat ride to Kg Bukit Mat Daling.

In the dry season between April and August, the boat ride can stretch to six hours. At times, passengers will have to alight from the boat and help the boatmen push the boat through shallow waters.

No, there's no discount for helping to push the boat. Fares vary, but chartering the boat one-way from Kuala Tahan to Kg Bukit Mat Daling can come up to RM400.
The villagers of Kg Bukit Mat Daling seeing off the Yayasan Salam Malaysia volunteers after their work camp

I visited the kampung to join volunteers of Yayasan Salam Malaysia for their work camp. These volunteers, including 10 from Sarawak, stayed with foster families as part of their training to embrace the community whom they are supposed to serve as and when the need arises.

Kg Bukit Mat Daling offers many valuable lessons and perspectives. The biggest lesson is not to take everything for granted. The kampung has a population of slightly more than 500 people, mostly primary school-children and their parents. There are not that many teenagers. They have migrated to towns such as Jerantut, Temerloh and Kuantan looking for jobs. Almost no one returns to the kampung when they find a better life elsewhere.

The kampung's primary school boasts only 81 pupils. For their secondary education, the pupils are sent to residential schools in Kuala Tahan.

Is the boat ride the only way to reach the kampung? Well, not quite. If you can stand the muddy tracks in the jungle, then you are more than welcome to use it. When it rains, stretches of the track become impassable, even by hardy all-terrain 4X4 vehicles. Tok Empat (village headman) Wan Maba Wan Zakaria kept telling us the story of the heavy-duty lorry that got stuck in one of the muddy stretches and blocked the "road" for weeks.

In Kuala Lumpur, we often condemn all and sundry for a three-hour traffic jam caused by a downpour or a road accident. City folk face mere hours of inconvenience but can you imagine the problems the people of Kg Bukit Mat Daling face when their "road" gets jammed?

The school is the centre of the universe for the Kg Bukit Mat Daling folk. Most, if not all activities, are carried out in the school compound, which helps to bring the school and the community closer together.

Roslina Mosman, a teacher posted to the school earlier this year, confessed that teaching in such an extremely remote location could be very trying and challenging.

"I cried for a few days," confessed Roslina, a Yayasan Salam volunteer.

"Then I gathered my thoughts and I am now very involved in school activities.

"I give free tuition in the afternoon, counsel parents on their children's education and get to know the kampung folk better."

Roslina, who is from Johor, said her training as a Salam volunteer helped.

"I'll stay through my posting here and will encourage the children to study hard and convince the parents that education is very important for their children's future."

The kampung is rich in fruit trees. There's durian, dokong, rambutan, mangosteen, coconut and mata kucing (longan). There's plenty of the renowned Tualang honey, a name derived from the tualang tree, which is a favourite of the bees. Come fruit season, one might think that the kampung folks are happy with their bountiful harvest.

Alas, this is not the case. There's simply no way they can market the fruits.

Tok Empat explained: "We can hardly sell a kilogramme of durian for more than 20 sen. Who would want to take it to Jerantut, the nearest town, which is more than four hours by boat?

"We tried taking it by road, or rather the jungle track. The track is so bumpy that by the time our dokong arrives in Jerantut, the fruits are mostly spoilt.

"How much can we take by boat, which is also used to ferry passengers? Twenty kilogrammes at the most. And you know how expensive the boat ride can be."

But the people of Kg Bukit Mat Daling, who tap rubber or do odd jobs, are not one to moan their lot. Perhaps they just don't complain to any Mat, Ah Chong or Arumugam.

Life may be hard but the people of Kg Bukit Mat Daling are most grateful for the amenities they have been enjoying for the past 10 years. The Tok Empat said the villagers were thankful for their new school, the government-run Klinik Desa (rural clinic) and 24-hour electricity supply.

The shops and houses I visited in the kampung display the picture of the sultan and sultanah of Pahang. They have such affection for the Pahang royal family. And why not.

Tok Empat explained: "Many years ago, His Royal Highness visited us. He managed to persuade a villager to donate a portion of his land near the school for the government clinic.

"In return, the sultan funded the villager's trip to Mecca for the haj. We are very grateful to our sultan."

I suggest that our wakil rakyat, including ministers, make a quiet trip to the interior of our country to see for themselves the difficult conditions some of the voting population face daily. Don't go with a big entourage of officers and hangers-on. Just take along a security officer and a hardy secretary. And don't forget an idiot-proof camera. Spending a couple of days with the kampung folk, I am sure, will be very enlightening.

Perhaps, these wakil rakyat will understand that there is a need for a proper road to be constructed to Kg Bukit Mat Daling (and in the process several other kampung along the way).

I'm very confident these loyal kampung folk will be eternally grateful.
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