On the orangutan island

Trip Start Jul 30, 2007
Trip End Aug 16, 2007

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

We arrive to Pangkalan Bun, in the island of Borneo, after a short flight over the Java sea.During this flight, we meet a couple from Santa Fe (New Mexico), Kathy and Steven. We talk a bit, but I am tired and I fall asleep. This airport is still smaller than the previous one. The same room is for embarking, disembarking, check-in... Here we meet our guide in Borneo, Andreas. He speaks English, but very basically, so we guess the communication will not be easy. We take our luggage and we are driven to Kumai in a nice car (with air conditioned, God thanks). We start noticing differences between Jakarta and Borneo (more or less like Hell vs. Heaven). Here there is almost no traffic, lots of green vegetation, and very few people. After a short drive, about 20 minutes, we get to Kumai, a typical little town with wooden houses and very narrow streets between them, with many children playing on the streets and staring at the new arrived occidentals as if we were coming from another planet. Our guide leads us into one of the narrowest streets I have ever seen, sunlight hardly could enter there, there is litter everywhere, and just for a moment, we feel afraid of where we have gone to. We arrive at the end of this "street" and we are in a wooden bridge over Kumai river, which is very, very wide. We meet our tripulation: Captain Dimas, and the chef. When we see our boat, we look at each other thinking exactly the same: "Do we really have to board THIS?". If we should have known that our next four days on THAT, were going to be the best of our lives ever....
I'll tell you: "THIS" is a KLOTOK, a typical river boat from Borneo, where basically all the transfers must be done over the water, because the jungle is so dense that there are no roads. Th klotok is a 8 metres long-2 meters wide boat, with an open-air toilet, no shower as far as we can see, and 2 levels. On top is where our "room" is, so we are going to sleep in open air(oh,oh). The downstair level is where the guide and tripulation are sleeping, cooking....
We ride the boat, and we start our Borneo adventure!! The boat follows Kumai river until getting to the Sekonyer river branch, which we follow for 2-3 hours (We lost the sense of time, staring at wilderness). Andreas explains that the natural reserve is on just one of the sides of the Sekonyer, the other side is wild. While sailing, the chef serves our first meal on board. Of course, there is no table, no chairs... but it does not matter: the food is just WONDERFUL. We never could imagine that young boy should cook such delicious plates. If he had a real kitchen, fridges... what could he do?!?!? We start eating and, on the wild side of the river, I see the first orangutan!!! It's a male, but he scares and gets hidden immediately, but I caught him with a photo. GREAT. Andread congratulates us, it is not easy to see orangutans so soon and on the wild side. This is starting OK.

During our journey to Camp Leakey, the Orangutan research center founded by Dr. Biruté Galdikas, we meet another klotok with another couple,the ones we met on our flight Semarang-Pangkalan bun, taking photos everywhere. As our guide and theirs are friends, both klotoks start a competition to see who is the next to see orangutans. We are the first again, we see an orangutan nest at the top of a tree, but we want to cheat the others, so we start pointing and looking to the opposite side of the river. The other klotok starts searching for the inexistent orangutan: 1-0. First laughs between the other couple, their guide and our klotok.

Night falls over Sekonyer, at 18:00, and darkness is absolute. We cannot light our lamp because there are miriads of moskitos, and we don't want to be eaten(at least at the beginnig of our journey). Andreas gives us a candle which is burning and there is something which smells bad for moskitos, because they go away.
After having supper (another fantastic meal), we get into the jungle in absolute darkness, with our guides and Steven & Kathy. It is really amazing. We are walking around for more than one hour, and we can see lots of incredible things: find tiny spiders from meters away, with the help of our lamps, fluorescent mushrooms, lots of unknown sounds, animals and plants. We feel like Tarzan & Jane.
Returning to our boats, we keep talking for some time with the americans. They are incredible, they can explain stories from around the world, because they seem to have been everywhere, and we feel like little children listening to them. Finally, we go to sleep, becausse as I said, it has been a long day, and tomorrow it will be also.
Our room has been prepared with all the possible commodities: a courtain to avoid moskitos and other possible guests, and some mattress to sleep on (or try it). GOOD NIGHT
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