By Timothy Kiyiu
On the 18th of April, Sunday, the Malaysian Nature Society organised a hike to Bukit (Hill) Serumbu, Mount Siniawan to visit the ruins of James Brooke's summer home. Many times I have driven with my parents on the old road to Bau, passing the Siniawan Bazaar on our right and admiring the mountain range on our left. I did realize that the name of the mountain is Bukit Serumbu and that it is a historical site. How many of us know that James Brooke had his summerhouse on it?The hike was led by two Bidayuh guides. The name of the youngest guide is Stephen. The older guide whose name I unfortunately cannot remember is a very fit man in his 70's. Including the guides there were 18 people hiking. The email sent by MNS said: difficult trek, only for "fit hikers" so my mum and I wondered how tough it would be! The trek started at Kampong (Village) Peninjau, a picturesque Bidayuh village.
our destination (red circle), 1100 feet high up Bukit Serambu. we start trekking at 9am. this mountain is a single mass of porphyry rock (igneous rock).
It was a steep hike through the thick forest. Unfortunately, we did not see special birds though the members of the birding group might have spotted them ... I was more interested in spotting a couple of beautiful spiders. There were massive Tapang trees. One measured thirty to forty hands around. After 2 hours of climbing we reach the ruins of the bungalow.
this is all that is left, a remain of the house pole... the bungalow was burnt down accidentaly by the locals during a field clearing for planting. 2 other similar poles are now kept in Sarawak Museum.
All that was left of James Brooke's summer home was a pole measuring a massive 3 feet! The house was burnt down in 2004 when carelessly lit fires from further down the mountain reached the spot leaving only two pillars. One of the two pillars was taken for display in a museum.
Not far away from the ruins is a cave made of a gigantic rock lying over boulders and being halfway planted into the ground. It was welcoming cool after the hike. Near the cave was a stream going downhill. This is where James Brooke used to bath. We spent about an hour at this historical site and I wondered how James Brooke spent his days up there?
It took us only 1 1/2 hour to go down in pouring rain along a very slippery path.
The trip was really exciting and fun. I hope this site can be restored and made more known. It is a lesson for me as well as I learned to appreciate our "hidden" Malaysian heritage sites.
-Timothy Kiyui, is a Form 3 student at St. Thomas School, Kuching.