I'd been talking to other ELFs and it's the same feeling all around: the blues. We've just hit our mid year point and those of us in Indonesia had a big mid year meeting in Jakarta mid January (see the "in Jakarta post). I've been back in Banjarmasin now for over a week now with no classes to teach until March. I'm missing everything and everyone inducing a lack of motivation despite some interesting projects that are currently demanding my attention. Probably the most interesting project on my plate is I am collaborating on developing and appearing on an ongoing radio show designed for improving English. It's been a lot of work but I think it will be rewarding, I hope to blog in more detail soon as it kicks off. I also have something pretty cool to look forward to: I'm going to North Sulawesi next week to present at a conference and then a small group of us (including two good ELF friends) will head up to Bunaken, one of the best places for scuba diving in Indo. Ahh, cheering up a little just thinking about it.
But, I am back-'blogged' right now with my updates and I've received a few emails hinting that I am letting readers down… Sorry about that. People tend to mention politely that they enjoy reading it when I haven't posted in a while… I got the hint. (Did I mention I've also been compiling grades and more importantly reading trashy romance novels over the past week and a half? I'm busy!) So to appease the dedicated followers, the next long bit you will read will be more about my trip with Jacques through Indo. (Sigh… because he's STILL back in the U.S. and will be the rest of the time I'm here) This will hopefully boost my morale as I reminisce with photos to jog my memory of the details of our adventures. I put up two photo links from our separate cameras.
TANJUNG PUTTING National Park
Tanjung Putting National Park is located in Central Kalimantan. Looking at a map of Borneo, it's not very far from where I'm staying… but once again, travel in Kalimantan isn't very easy. The best way to get to Tanjung putting is to fly from one of 3 airports on Java. Since we were leaving from Bali during a busy travel season, Christmas, New Years, Islamic New Year, our travel to Tanjung putting had an extra leg of 'adventure.' We ended up flying from Bali to Jogjakarta on Java where a driver gathered us up and we were then driven to the airport in Semarang, about 2 hours away. Even though it took more time, it allowed us to see more of Java that we wouldn't otherwise see. The sky was very clear that day and we saw Mt. Merapi, an active volcano with wisps of smoke. I think we got a decent photo of it.
From Semarang, we hopped on a small plane that took us up to Pangkalan Bun in Central Kalimantan. Here, our guide, Pardi, met us at the airport, helped us carry our heaps of bags to a car and then we drove to Kumai where we got on a large Klotok boat run by the crew from the Eco Lodge where we were going to stay.
The boat ride took about 2 hours from Kumai and was quite an amazing experience. It was getting to be the late afternoon now and we were told that there would be proboscis monkeys along the way as well as a possibility to site crocodiles. We never saw the crocodiles but there were plenty of the long nosed proboscis monkeys high in the trees settling down for the evening. The dominant male monkeys basically start a harem with females and unless challenged buy another equally large nosed monkey, he sits pretty fat and happy with all his mates.
Our Eco Lodge package was for 3 nights. We had two full days of going around to the various Camp Leki feeding stations where we could see the orangutan up close. I can't tell you how unbelievable it was to be there. I still don't think it fully sank in. We saw some wild orangutan along the way; one was just hanging out at the mouth of one of the water ways we motored up towards the camp. We followed the rangers, who had back packs full of bananas, up to the feeding stations where many orangutans were already waiting… guess they knew what time it was. At one feeding time, one orangutan even came all the way to the ranger station to "collect" the rangers or to make sure nobody forgot it was banana time.
The largest male of the group eats first. He allows the females with their babies to come too but all the other smaller males hang from the trees waiting for the big guy to leave. It really is a show of dominance and territory. We saw a smaller male come down and steal from one of the females, including from her mouth! It looked like he was giving her a kiss but, no, taking already chewed banana. Even if the dominant male has eaten, he still hangs out on the platform, guarding his treasure. In one instance when the dominant male grew tired of just hanging out on the platform for 10 minutes we saw him take a handful, foot full and mouthful of unpeeled bananas, more than his fair share for sure, and proceed to climb the trees to the top. On the way up, the load was a bit much for him to handle and a few bunches of bananas came raining down for the others to grab, or for the wild boar roaming around below the platform to gather up.
The 3rd night we were there, we were taken to see the fireflies twinkling in the palm trees along the river. They can fill a tree like Christmas lights and was a beautiful and relaxing sight.
The trip was amazing and I'm not doing it justice, I know. But going there was not without its heartache too. Knowing that deforestation is taking the habitat away from all these creatures and seeing the devastation right in front of you makes you wonder how much longer will it be? Going up the river, the right side is the park and full of jungle, the left side is fair game. There are still palms flanking the river banks but through breaks of the trees you can see clear open land that wasn't once so open. This is also something you can see quite clearly from the air. Additionally the Sekonyer River is muddied and polluted from the mining practices. Inlets of other small rivers show you what it was before, a stained water from the natural foliage and palm tannins, looks like a tea, but with the poor mining practices, it is suggested not to bathe in this muddy water as it's full of toxic run off, mercury and who knows what. With little to no regulation and no enforcement of environmental laws if there are any, it continues to be this way.
On the last day, we were pretty tired and ready to go on to the next leg. Jacques was feeling pretty remote being out there... I've been feeling this way for 5 months now. Next in our plan was to come to Banjarmasin and the easiest way was to take a plan down to Jakarta, change planes and fly back up to Borneo. This plan, mind you, was faster than driving for over 14 hours and really didn't cost a large amount. Once in Banjarmasin I was able to show him where I'd been living, he met my colleagues here and we presented a workshop on course planning together. It was a short visit and doesn't really warrant much in the ol' blog. Our next interesting adventure was to go to Jogjakarta… but I'll let you read about that later.