Back to the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak here:
“If you get lost in the jungle, you must find clean water from the bamboo,” our guide, Sylvester, tells us.
Bamboo is a grass, one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, with some species reaching 30 meters in height. Some of the tallest, widest bamboos in the Borneo jungle are flush with sweet, clean water. Sylvester takes us to a clump of bamboo towering over us. He hacks off a stalk and water gushes from the bottom. The plant grows in segments, and each segment holds several gulps of liquid. He cuts a hole into the stalk, then inserts a hollow, narrow stem from another plant. Voila! A bamboo drinking vessel complete with straw.
Clean water is everywhere in these jungles, Sylvester tells us, it’s important to know where to find it. Several vines behave in similar ways: Slice them open and water will flow. It’s pure, Sylvester says; this water has never been exposed.
We fill our plastic bottles with water from the bamboo, and it sustains us into the next day. A bit grassy in flavor, but fresh and most welcome when the bottled water runs low and another two hours of trail remains ahead.