SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BORNEO AND BALI
We are sitting somewhere in the middle of Indonesia “patiently” awaiting our flight to Jakarta and then finally, hopefully, back to Bali. Deeter is sitting next to me and after he google maps our location we discover we are in Semarang, who knew this was where we would end up today:) The day started out well enough, we slept in til 4 am-which for us has been late since we are still adjusting to the time change, had a lazy morning and then decided to go for a little morning walk. We had just gotten back to Pangkalan Bun last night after jungle trekking and showered, ate and promptly fell asleep, so we wanted to check out what this little town was all about. We quickly learned the hard way that streets don’t run straight in Pangkalan Bun and our “little” morning walk turned into a drenching hike through all different parts of town.
We did discover that people are incredibly kind and enamored with us, as I’m pretty certain very few gringos go traipsing about there. People were quick to great us with a smile and a wave and very excited to try their English out on us. While we were excited to try out our new Indonesian on them. The kids at schools-or whatever they were-thought we were the most amazing thing since sliced bread and would come running almost out into the street to way and yell, “Hello!” Then they would just stare-we were convinced they thought Deeter was Vin Diesel, Vin Deeter to me now. We walked through a church, by a Mosque, by a Christian and Muslim cemetary-all beautiful and very different than home. Overall it turned out to be a great stroll through town.
We then decided to head to the airport-and I use that term loosely-early and found out our flight we bought and paid for weeks ago actually doesn’t really exist…long story short we have a new flight that the airline won’t pay for since they were only responsible for getting us partway…but we get back to Bali tonight which is the most important thing since we leave on the phinisi to head to Komodo tomorrow.
We got our bag and met up with Herman, our guide for the next three days. Herman is a 27 year old male who is from Kumai a town at the bay of the where we would start our journey. He speaks relatively good english. We learned he was from Kumai, he had completed high school at the age of 17 and from there went to Jakarta to work in a tire factory for five years before returning home and starting work on the kelotok boats (named for the sound the motor makes). He was very proud that he had made it all the way to assistant captain. He was incredibly kind and patient. He taught us so much about the culture and language and he was eager to learn more from us. We climbed aboard our kelotok, theKunang Kunang, the firefly. It is a boat that is approximately 25 feet, made out of ironwood. There were two decks, the upper being mostly reserved for us and had a table and chairs for eating, two mats for sleeping, a hammock and two comfy chairs at the front so we could watch as we cruised along.
The rest of our crew was made up of Achil-the most amazing cook-I can’t believe the food she made in the littlest kitchen on earth, Ahim, our captain and Achil’s husband, and Bono our assistant who bascially did whatever was asked of him. They were so helpful and kind, laughing with us as we stumbled along our trip.
We started at a wide bay and then narrowed to the Sekonyar river. The fauna was beautiful, so lush and green. The river left little to be desired in the cleanliness realm, especially considering what went into the toilet went into the river, so we were extra careful not to fall in:)
We cruised along for hours and every once in a while would come across another kelotok, but mostly just enjoyed the scenery. About four in the afternoon, Herman pointed out some probiscus monkeys feeding in the trees. We pulled up alongside and watched for about an hour as a family of probiscus monkeys fed and played meters from us. It was incredible. They are an amazing animal, with a terribly unfortunate looking nose, but playful and fun to sit back and watch National Geographic style.
We then docked for the night at the first ranger station in the park with a group of other kelotoks. Achil whipped up some more fish, yellow tofu curry, fresh veggies, rice and I’m not sure what other deliciousness, but we downed it almost immediately. The crew then went to work putting together our sleeping area with consisted of the two mats wrapped under two mosquito nets and tarps on the edge of the boat. We climbed in and went to sleep. We did wake up early and Bono thought someone else was on the boat because he said his “guests” couldn’t be up that eaerly, but we couldn’t help it so we got to explore the area a little by ourselves.
After the best pancake with some kind of fruit in it and eggs from Achil, we were on our way. We stopped to tour a small village along the way and got to see a school, Vin Deeter was pretty popular with the kids there too:) We were back on the boat and heading to Camp Leaky-known for its rescue of orangutan orphans and releasing them back into the wild. We stopped at the visitors center and then trekked to the feeding station. We watched as the staff laid out bananas. We watched a gibbon sneak onto the platform and sneak away with bananas a couple times before the big fellas showed up. A mom and baby and a large male would do a dance where they would not share the feeding platform simultaneously but everyone got their share. We were probably 20-25 feet away from these huge animals.
After the hike back to the kelotok, we noted Mario, a large,young male orangutan on the other side of our kelotok on the shore picking up leftover snacks. He was about six feet away and we got to watch him eat and fish out food from the river, it was basically our own private showing. Once we were able to finagle our way out of a huge Indonesian kelotok traffic jam we were headed back down river. It was incredible to watch all the kelotuk workers work together to get boats out when they needed because they were seriously jammed in there.
We stopped for the night at station 2 with no one else and then Deeter went on a night trek with Herman, I opted out of the spider and bug viewing and stayed aboard. We at more food and repeated our mosquito net ritual from the night before. The stars were out again and Herman liked to joke that we were staying at a 1,000 star hotel and he wasn’t lying:) When we woke for breakfast, Atlas, a large 3 year old male orangatan was witting on the edge of the river eating his breakfast too. We ate with Atlas and then watched as he walked back and forth along the dock and came within five feet of us.
We thought about showering while on board, but then thought better after looking at the “clean” brown water they had set out for us to use as a shower.
We then went for a trek and headed back downriver back to Kumai and into town. And that leads us back to where we started, some random town in Indonesia, awaiting our flight so we can make it to the Al Iikali tomorrow and start our sailing adventure aboard a pirate ship, island hopping to Komodo. You can follow the facebook page-it’s Indonesian Island Sail.
So far an incredible adventure, can’t wait to share pictures and more stories. The people are incredibly kind and the food is amazing. Vin Deeter does keep hitting his head on pretty much everything, but I think in time we will both learn to duck a little more frequently:) We love you all and miss hearing your voices and can’t wait to see what the next day brings:)