Archive for the “Indonesia” Category
Our friend Patrick was asked to write up an article for the Royal Brunei Yacht Club magazine about his and Elizabeth’s experiences on Sail Indonesia. (They participated in 2007 and we did it in 2008.) I enjoyed reading it and Patrick said I could share it with all of you and our web site. I just wish I had better photos to go with it. I’ve written about Elizabeth and Patrick many times recently: we like them very much and truly enjoy their company and conversation.
Elizabeth and Patrick
(This is not a great photo, but it’s the only one I have of the two of them together as they watched Doramac entering the Penang boat yard.)
(And I don’t have a better photo of Labarque either)
TWO MONTHS IN INDONESIA
In 1990 we bought Labarque in Turkey. Although she was then 24 years old and had recently suffered a hard life in the charter business, we thought she had potential as an ocean cruising yacht. Of very heavy displacement, with a long-keeled steel hull, big fixed propeller, ketch rig, wheelhouse and teak decks, she’ll never win a race. But she’s proven a safe and comfortable home and we’ve now sailed her just over 100,000 miles.
From Turkey we delivered Labarque to England via the French Canals. Following a daunting refit, we at last set off for Vancouver in 1993. After an extended stay in Canada, we sailed for New Zealand in 1996, returning to Vancouver in 1998. From 1999-2001 we again sailed to New Zealand and back to Vancouver. In 2002-3 we did a one-year excursion to Alaska via Hawaii. We set off yet again for New Zealand in 2004, this time continuing westwards to Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The following is an account of our adventures as part of the 2007 Sail Indonesia Rally from Darwin to Singapore.
Our four day voyage from Darwin was plagued with calms and very light winds and we had to motor for some 40 hours just to keep up with the tail end of the Rally fleet. In contrast, the final approach to Kupang, West Timor, was enlivened by a strong, contrary sea breeze. The crew of a heavy schooner called for help on the radio because their engine had broken and they could make little progress under sail. We towed them under power for the last few miles into the anchorage. Labarque is certainly not a high-performance sailing machine, but she’s a terrific tugboat. The Rally is not supposed to be a race, but there’s still a competitive element. Many yachts arrived a day or more ahead of us, some crews announcing that they’d sailed all the way. But some of those yachts were subsequently refuelled with suspiciously large volumes of diesel. We smelt a rat, but were perhaps just jealous.
We’d just left Darwin when we heard that Indonesian Customs and Excise had unexpectedly started to demand a (theoretically refundable) cash bond equivalent to 5% of a visiting yacht’s assessed value. We therefore made swift and sudden plans to avoid Indonesia entirely. But then we were assured that Rally yachts were exempted from the new rules. Cash bonds were demanded from other visiting yachts, all of which scattered rather than pay up. The bonds were then scrapped for a fortnight, before being mysteriously re-introduced at a 50% rate. One yacht caught by the new rules cunningly elected to join the Rally (for the standard AUS $450) after which officialdom left them alone. Still later, the regulations changed yet again and we’ve since been told that now a refundable duty is (sometimes) demanded of between a fifth and a half of the yacht’s value (accounts differ). We doubt that there will ever be any takers.
While Customs was doing its utmost to repel foreign yachts, across the corridors of power the Ministry of Tourism was struggling to attract visitors to what it calls “tourism objects”. (We politely objected to the phrase and suggested they substitute “attractions” or “destinations” instead.) The Ministry would obviously like the world to forget about the Indonesian army’s controversial interventions into East Timor. But the Indonesian army is not a shy and retiring organization. The gateposts of a downtown barracks in Kupang are decorated with a pair of enormous concrete grenades, realistically painted and complete with pins. Many governments still recommend that their nationals stay away from Indonesia and West Timor in particular. So how could the region be promoted as a safe and interesting tourism object for foreign visitors?
One conclusion was apparently to pull out all the stops (but fortunately not the pins) for the participants of the Sail Indonesia Rally. We were to be guinea pigs for an embryonic tourist industry and ambassadors to spread the word. As guinea-pig ambassadors, we can report that there are a lot of interesting things to see. The highlights were a Gala Dinner with the Governor, followed by a Cultural Show (including a rather good pop singer from Jakarta, memorable in kinky boots) plus two 15 hour bus trips to the mountains and the last Animist village in West Timor. A Police escort with wailing sirens preceded the convoy of 10 buses; four ambulances followed in case of accident or illness. The main road from Kupang was in good repair, doubtless because it was the supply route for the fighting in East Timor. But the side roads were awful. We gently suggested to our hosts that although their current batch of guinea-pigs were well used to long hours of mild discomfort at little more than walking pace, others might find this sort of endurance sightseeing a bit exhausting. But for us it was a magical experience. The villages through which we passed had clearly seen nothing like it, except perhaps when the buses were full of soldiers. At every stop a little toilet block had been freshly built for our convenience, supplied by a water tanker. And at every stop the honoured guests were individually presented with beautiful hand-woven scarves (ikats).
Kupang is where Captain Bligh first came ashore after being ejected from HMS Bounty in 1787. These days the city is a noisy, dusty, chaotic muddle, but none the worse for that. There are so few tourists that it’s impossible to walk a city street without constant greetings of “Hello Mister! Hello Missus!, Where you from? England? David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United!” There was no doubting the enthusiasm. Small motorcycles and bemos (pronounced “bee-moes”) choke the roads. Bemos are small usually Suzuki vans, individually named and elaborately painted. The windscreens of many are decorated with such a profusion of opaque transfers, furry toy animals and convex shaving mirrors that the driver has to peer through a narrow slot. On most bemos the horn has been modified to sound like a machine gun. All bemo drivers sound their horns continuously to advertise their presence to other road users, to drum up custom from pedestrians and to pretend they are shooting down the bemo in front. No road rules are apparent, except for a vague tendency to drive on the left. Fortunately, everything happens so slowly that serious accidents are less common than might be expected. But one Rally participant hired a motorcycle, crashed through the windscreen of a bemo and broke his pelvis. An air ambulance flew him back to Darwin.
Thoroughly Kupanged, we sailed for Kalabahi, the capital of Alor. The island’s bemo drivers had evidently completed bemoantic training in Kupang as the little town rang to the sound of simulated machine-gun fire. The main event was the Alor Expo, an annual festival of music, weaving and traditional dance, combined with serious efforts to promote the island to foreign investors. Tourists seemed rare and the local population genuinely pleased to see us. This was less the case in Lembata, the next scheduled island on our way west. From a scruffy anchorage near Lewoleba it took us three rough and dusty hours by open-sided truck to get to Lamalera on the south coast. Here, brave madmen still kill whales and dolphins with primitive harpoons hurled from canoes. Japanese film crews have descended on the place, presumably to stir up some positive spin on whaling. But the Japanese have worn out their welcome and ours. For us this village was the only unfriendly place in Indonesia. The truck seemed even dustier on the way home.
After sluicing off Lamalera, we sailed away to Maumere on Flores Island. Maumere was almost completely flattened by an earthquake in 1992, but by 2007 the city had been at least partially rebuilt. To mark the 62nd Anniversary of Independence on the 17th August 1945 (when the occupying Japanese threw in the towel, although the Dutch didn’t reluctantly follow suit until 1949) there were formal celebrations to which Rally participants were invited. In the presence of scores of dignitaries, expertly drilled paramilitaries in white uniforms (actually high-school children in disguise) spent 90 (interminable) minutes raising the red and white national flag that had originally been created by ripping off the blue stripe from the flag of the Dutch colonists. Noisy and slightly erratic American-style drum majorettes accompanied the performance. They seemed bizarrely out of place but gorgeous in their day-glo suits, Napoleonic hats, fluffy pom-poms and decidedly kinky boots. Sensing our bewilderment, our guide suggested that we hurriedly move on to his nearby village for an Independence Day party. Here the events included a canoe race, sack races for the young, pea/spoon races for the younger and a tug-of-war (known locally as a ‘string-pull’). With the village string-pull champions decided, the visiting boat-people were challenged. To universal astonishment, we won two string-pulls in a row, helped by arms that had spent the last few weeks working winches. But our Ladies’ team was soundly defeated and so an honourable draw declared. The highlight of the celebrations was a competition to climb three 10 metre vertical poles at the top of which were a selection of prizes. But the poles were heavily greased. The victorious visiting string-pull team was politely offered the chance to try first, but sensibly we declined. In pursuit of the prizes, squads of increasingly filthy young men formed teetering pyramids and slowly inched upwards until invariably a component failed and the team collapsed into a heap. But after about half an hour, enough of the grease on one of the poles was transferred onto the assailants and the heights were triumphantly reached.
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation, but the island of Flores is four-fifths Catholic. Improvising brilliantly, the local Regent suggested that Rally yachts anchor off the village of Maurole to help celebrate the ordination of five new Catholic priests at the local church. It took some convincing to persuade the Rally organisers that such a tiny village could provide facilities and diversions for up to 124 yachts, but in the event Maurole (and the Regent) succeeded triumphantly. Catholicism in Flores seems much jollier than the Irish version. The new priests were led in by dancing girls and their surplices featured traditional woven designs made by their families. One parishioner explained: “We’re all completely Catholic, of course. But most of us completely believe in the old ways too”. Tours were later laid on to other nearby villages. One is locally famous for making arak (an expertly-distilled palm liquor), another for a sweet brown sugar made from palm sap using "extinct tools" - which we interpreted as meaning traditional methods. On another day, we tried our hand at teaching geography, mathematics and English at two nearby primary schools and then went on to two more villages. At each our welcome was almost overwhelming. We also took a tour to the coloured crater lakes of Kelimutu, passing a magnificent valley of terraced rice paddies on the way. The terraces took centuries to build and must be resilient to have survived the periodic earthquakes that shake Flores.
From Maurole we sailed 260 miles to Makassar, the capital of Sulawesi. The local Bugis people are traditional seafarers (and allegedly recently-retired pirates) whom are apparently thought brash and aggressive by other Indonesians. They are also credited with inventing a hair oil which stained furniture and thus led directly to the development of lace antimacassars. Makassar is now a humming and sophisticated metropolis. Only twelve Rally yachts made the trip, but the city was too busy to notice. The national Jet-Ski championships were (loudly) underway and the last stage of the Indonesian Car Rally was held nearby. Transport was easy, as there were hundreds of bemos (locally called pete-petes) and thousands of pedal-powered tricycle rickshaws (becaks) cluttering the pavements and swerving slowly amongst the traffic. Becak passengers sit up front and act as primitive air-bags in the event of a head-on collision. Undaunted, we took a becak to visit an enormous air-conditioned shopping mall where Manchester United credit cards were heavily promoted. Meanwhile, just a mile away, the fishing harbour was the authentic, teeming, cheerful, reeking shambles we’d been expecting. Few sounds are more evocative than the explosive bark of twin un-silenced diesels in a Bugis fishing boat. With our ears still ringing, we set off south in search of a dragon.
The Komodo dragon is the world’s largest lizard. For us the official tours are prohibitively expensive and so we decided to cheat. We sailed to Komodo first, but saw only a wild pig snuffling in the sand. So we moved on to Rinca Island, close by to the east. And there, parading with dignity along the beach like a digital extra from Lord of the Rings, was an enormous dragon. I must have been at least three metres long from nose to tail. The crew of one yacht on the Rally returned from an official tour on Rinca to find their aluminium dinghy heavily occupied by a dozing dragon. They had to wait politely for a considerable time before it woke up and sleepily moved on. In similar circumstances our inflatable dinghy would have been torn to shreds. Counting ourselves lucky, we ticked the box marked ‘Dragons’ and sailed for Bali.
For the first time the 2007 Rally stopped on the north shore of Bali at Lovina, a long way from the surfing beaches and nightclubs of Kuta in the south. A terrific show of Balinese dancing was presented on the beach, with a backdrop of some 120 anchored yachts. Later we hired a car to explore the local sights, including a rather beautiful Hindu temple near the centre of the island. But our time in Indonesia was fast running out.
At considerable expense we’d purchased Labarque a three month Indonesian Yacht Cruising Permit in Darwin, but we could only stay for two months on ’social visas’ that cost AUS$60 each. Applicants for a social visa need an approved ‘sponsor’ to vouch for them. The Rally organisers acted as our sponsor and so that particular hurdle was easy. But after eight days in Bali our 60 days were up and rather than pay for two new 60-day social visas (of which we could only use 30 days because Labarque’s non-renewable Cruising Permit would then expire) we decided to move on. At the latest we had to leave on the Monday, so the previous Thursday we’d handed in our passports, expecting them back the next day.
We hate it when officials take away our passports. Of all the 34 countries we’ve visited aboard Labarque, only the Cape Verde Islands (in 1993) and Indonesia have insisted. Friday came and went, and of course little happens at the weekend. Nothing happened on Monday either and it wasn’t until the Wednesday morning that our passports reappeared. By then there had been another development. Friends on another yacht had just suffered a broken gearbox. We suggested that they sail with us so that we could escort (and when necessary tow) them to Singapore for repairs. Then there were yet further complications. The Indonesian Immigration Service pointed out that we’d over-stayed our visas and were therefore liable to fines totalling 800,000 Rupiah (AUS$125). “But hang on” we said. “We couldn’t leave on Monday because you had our passports.” “The reason for the over-stay is irrelevant” they said. Although 800,000 Rupiah is not a huge amount of money, we were determined to make them work for it. By the Wednesday afternoon, “frank, bordering on direct” discussions had been going for six hours when at last they relented (stamping our passports for the previous Sunday) and we were cleared to depart.
Thus it wasn’t until the Thursday that we finally set off in Labarque with our friend’s Invictus IV (swiftly renamed La Barge) in tow. Two months earlier we’d towed one yacht into Indonesia and now we were towing another one out. When the wind blew (albeit feebly) we cast off La Barge to sail in company, although Invictus IV had to be heavily reefed to travel sufficiently slowly. This was further proof (as if proof were needed) that Labarque is a dismal sailing machine, especially in light airs. But after 146 hours of ponderous sailing, 65 hours of towing and a total of 960 miles, we’d together crossed the (shockingly busy) Singapore Straits and arrived at Raffles Marina in Singapore. Invictus IV now has a new engine and is well on her way back home to America.
In 2008 we sailed north to Penang and Langkawi before heading for Sarawak, Sabah, and of course the warm welcome always offered by the Royal Brunei Yacht Club. This year we explored Phuket in Thailand before returning to our favourite destinations in Borneo. We expect to be hovering around these parts for a while yet.
Patrick Southall & Elizabeth Fowler
No Comments »
My greatest memory of the ceremony was Izzy’s giggles that still make me laugh when I think about it. Luckily I had just enough self control not to lose it and laugh hysterically since I was one of the honored guests at, taking part in; and paying a stiff fee for the ceremony at the time. The ceremony itself was quite lovely and not at all a deserving of laughter. It was my inept performance, especially dancing as a bird that was quite funny compared to the graceful ways of the local women. Randal, Izzy and Ogong didn’t do so much better, but there were three of them and actually, few of the Dayak men were as graceful as the women.
The first part of the ceremony required Randal and me to sit in the seat of honor and have a tiny folded leaf held with twine tied around our wrist. Then rice kernels were sprinkled in our hair (getting them out was a challenge!) and we were offered rice wine to drink. A little wine goes a long way with me so I was reluctant to drink my whole cup. Luckily it wasn’t such a big cup. Randal, being male thus more important, drank his wine from the horn of a water buffalo.
The different items used in the ceremony. Rice that was sprinkled on us and the folded leaf bracelet that was tied around our wrist. When mine became untied the next day, Dinson had to be the one to retie it, not Randal of Izzy. I forget what the other stuff was. I think they might tap you with the small paddle. Izzy wasn’t with us to translate or explain and during his ceremony he couldn’t explain it to us either. Since I am only now having time to review all of this, it’s too late to ask Izzy or Ogong. I looked at it and immediately thought of the Passover “Seder Plate” that holds all of the symbols of the Passover story.
Randal had a cloth covering put on his head and we both had a green scarf draped on us. I think this is where the rice is being sprinkled onto us. In the second photo you can see the rice in my hair. We are sitting in the long house and all of the villagers are there in the back ground. The village elders lead the ceremony. Izzy is taking the photo.
Dinson is clapping his hands and everyone is saying the Dayak word for “chug.” I’m trying not to drink it all and also to tune out Izzy’s giggles. And I’m a bit jealous that I got the green plastic cup and Randal got the water buffalo horn. Photo by Izzy
Then comes the dancing……..
Now we’re preparing to take part in the bird dance. The four dancers touch fingers also. There are red plastic cups of rice wine in the center for us to drink. If I had drunk some perhaps I would have been more graceful and flowing.
At this point Izzy is roaring with laughter and I’m looking at Randal who actually thinks he looks like a bird dancing and I can barely hold it together. I think this must be the first time in Dayak village history that anyone has danced in socks!
Randal’s outfit consists of the Dayak head covering and scarf around his neck, his stiff pointed collar Tana Toraja souvenir shirt, a Dayak sarong size large and his polyester socks. Don’t ask me what I think I’m doing other than trying to tune out Izzy’s hysterics! A very stiff bird imitation? I was trying to watch the woman dancing across from me and not watch Randal.
Next up, Izzy and Ogong.
Izzy in blue and Ogong in white. As males, they both drank from the horn.
I can’t tell you how Izzy danced. I was too busy taking photos and trying not to laugh again. But neither Izzy nor Ogong declined the offer of more rice wine so their dancing had to be looser than mine!
Ogong danced like a strobe light was on him. It was quite fascinating. No, I hadn’t had
This is what it is all supposed to look like when you know what you are doing; like a graceful bird. The hornbill is a very important symbol to this Dayak village. All the dancers wore the same sarong and green scarf. It was left behind on the floor for the next set of dancers to wear.
These looked like iron pots with removable lids. Each made its own note. I tried to play “Do A Deer” but couldn’t get the correct sounds for “re a drop of golden sun,” so I gave up. It was a lovely hollow sound when hit with the short stick. Each generation learns from watching.
These kids were playing while we waited for the ceremony to begin and the men smoked the cigarettes that our fee had supplied. Luckily they smoked by the door so Randal and I didn’t have to deal with the smell. Unfortunately that is something the young learn from the old too. Most of the men smoke but not the women.
There was also sort of a bongo drum
More still to come……
1 Comment »
Randal and I went off to an overnight stay at a Dayak Village a half day’s journey from our anchorage on the Kumai River. Originally we were to go by speed boat which would have taken about 4 hours. Luckily that couldn’t be arranged and we were driven overland to a stop about 30 minutes from the village. From there we took a very noisy speed boat down the river to the Dayak Village. Our overland journey in a very sturdy SUV was very very bumpy over dirt packed roads through miles and miles of palm oil plantations. We guessed that the roads were built by the plantations to meet their own needs. I don’t know what the locals did before that; maybe there was a narrow path. But places along the way were very rutted and it was amazing we didn’t get stuck in some very deep muck. Our driver did an excellent job. He would stop when I wanted to take photos or when I had to pee down behind some palm oil trees. The driver was a friend of Izzy’s, our guide from the Orangutan adventure. Randal and I paid for the transportation and the fees to visit the Dayak village, but not for Izzy’s time as he had planned to go to the village looking at wood sculpture made there. (Unfortunately for us all, the sculpture was in the home of a villager who was away so we could not see it.)
Izzy had intended to get our traveling gasoline on our way through Pangkalan Bun. But the lines at the pump were so long it would have taken at least an hour to get fuel. Instead we drove into the next small town and bought gas from a roadside stand.
This was a smooth part of the road. But it went on for miles and miles and all looked the same to me. We bounced most of the way and it was tiring trying to keep yourself in place on the car seat. We would come to a fork in the “path” and our driver knew exactly where to go. His name sounded like Ogong to me. He didn’t speak English, but he always seemed to know what to do and what was happening. You’ll see photos of him taking part in the Dayak ceremony. We saw lots of people traveling these dirt roads on motorcycles, either their own or a motorcycle taxi. Occasionally, there were small groupings of buildings or wood houses so people lived or worked out in this area.
Gasoline is sold by the liter bottle. These little stands buy up the fuel and then resell it at a higher price. Randal and I didn’t pay the additional cost, but someone’s profit from our car rental went down. When you don’t buy fuel at the “pump” you can never be sure of the quality of the fuel. In this case it wasn’t our problem since it wasn’t our car. But we actually bought diesel fuel in Makassar that was delivered to the boat in huge plastic containers so it took lots of trips. Arif, our “Makassar friend” had organized and made a bit of profit from it. We also bought dinghy gasoline in Lovina Beach the same way. So far so good.
You can see what I meant by the road went on forever and the miles of palm oil plantations where there used to be rain forest. Those neat rows are palm oil trees. Palm oil trees have large clusters of kernels that made me think of corn kernels, but bigger, maybe the size of two peach pits and red brown in color. Palm oil should be an ok idea except that companies are chopping down rain forest to plant them.
This was a huge logging area that we passed. I wanted to get out and take photos, but Izzy, Ogong, and Randal thought it wouldn’t be appreciated so we just slowed and aimed out the car window. This also had been rain forest.
Finally after 4 hours of bumpy road and 30 minutes of noisy speedboat we arrived at the small Dayak Village.
The Dayak longhouse where we spent our evening.
Built in 1889, the grandfather of the current owner bought the house and now his son’s family lives there. Like many homes in the area it is built on stilts to prevent damage from the river flooding. It keeps crawling things away too and there is storage underneath. That’s where stuff goes when it leaves the squat toilet; a hole in the sandy ground beneath the house. We certainly didn’t smell anything. I’m probably telling you more about toilets around the world than you want to know. But they are essential, and something we have to deal with in each country we visit, each city, each village and each overnight lodging. It gets to be pretty important.
The name of the village is Bakunsu and it is one of the oldest Dayak villages in the area within driving distance from Kumai. Apparently when the whites got to the area they asked about the local people and were told, “they were the people who live up the river”; because, they were the people who lived up the river. So they were called Dayak which translates to people who live up the river. Or so the story goes….The interior of the longhouse was basically empty, clean and dark. This longhouse was the largest house in the village and is owned by a man named Dinson, one of the village school teachers and slight wheeler dealer. His home was always the one to host the visitors and collect the fees, a percentage of which were shared with the village. Because of this Dinson had installed an indoor toilet so guests wouldn’t have to go outside and use the traditional “Johnny house” that we saw all along the river. There was no shower or tub or sink. So for that one night I used an extra handkerchief as a wash cloth and used water bottle water for face and teeth. So in the space of a week we had gone from our lovely, mostly reliable DoraMac bathroom and shower to our Klotok with its open air combined toilet/shower to just a squat toilet and our water bottles. I didn’t mind but Randal just couldn’t get into the spirit of it all. I know I keep referring back to Agnes Keith’s Land Below the Wind, but for me it was a way to experience a bit of what I had read. Agnes went down the river to bathe and pee with armed guards to keep away crocodiles. She and her husband and then husband and son camped or stayed nights in a longhouse, all under much more primitive conditions though they also had guides and drivers who did all of the work and cooking. So our travels were giving me a way to see a bit of her life. Coincidentally in my Adventure Divas book, Holly Morris is also in Borneo, visits an orangutan rehab center and then spends a night in a longhouse taking part in the welcoming ceremony. So I was quite forewarned. Randal hadn’t a clue. But during the welcoming ceremony he did get into the spirit of the thing….the rice wine may have helped. You’ll see later.
The back of the longhouse looking toward the front door. There were some hanging bulbs that were lighted later in the evening powered by Dinson’s generator. That is Dinson in the photo. At night Izzy and Dinson’s wife would prepare our mattresses like we had on the klotok and cover it with a mosquito net tent. It was pretty comfortable and mosquitoes didn’t really seem a problem indoors. Maybe all of the cigarette smoke from the welcome celebration participants chased them away. Shoes are not worn in the house so the floors stay clean but were worn smooth.
“Stairs” down from the porch. “Stairs” from the porch into the longhouse.
I had no problem going up, but coming down to the porch from the house, I had no rail to hold on to so had to just sit on the house floor and sort of lower myself down to the porch.
Looking off the porch to the “front yard.” Those small building shelter graves. I saw them and they were similar to the dead bodies in Tana Toraja. It looks as if they are mummified and just placed into decorated wooden caskets or just wrappings. They are kept above ground. The blue and yellow
monument is the burial site of the last village head hunter. I’m not sure if he is in it, underneath it, which would be odd to me since all of the other bodies were above ground, or it’s just a monument. He died in the late 1950s I believe. Heads of dead enemy had lots of power so if you could capture one and bury it near your home you would have that energy and power. When parents wanted to scare their kids into staying close to home, they would threaten them with capture by the head hunter. Izzy’s parents warned him since child heads were prized the most. Both Izzy and Dinson both gave us that bit of information. In the Dayak village, if head hunters were in the vicinity, children would hide in the house and the adults would stand guard poking the blow gun through a small window of the longhouse. No head hunter could get up the “stairs” past the watchers with the blow gun. If he did evade the poison darts, the spear attached to the end of the blowgun would get him. The Dutch and British made head hunting a crime and it is pretty much unheard of now. And, no, we didn’t see any hanging around the village. Of course, we didn’t ask to see one either.
Our host, Dinson, with his blow gun. We weren’t allowed to see the darts or the poison they are dipped into. It would have destroyed their magic. The blowgun is used for hunting now.
The spear at the end of the long blowgun.
Dinson, Ogong and Izzy holding the blowgun. You can see how long it was and pretty heavy to hold steady and aim and blow. And taking a huge leap from the ancient to the modern, you can see a satellite dish in the background. Randal said he saw wires from it just hanging unattached to the house. Since they aren’t cheap and Dinson has to generate his own electricity, Randal wondered if the dishes were subsidized at one time or why there were so many dishes in a village that was lacking in so many basic services, like any kind of indoor plumbing. Rainwater was collected for the water used by the family and people bathed down at the river.
No Comments »
Park Ranger putting out food on a feeding station
Wild bearded pig. These pigs have been known to eat baby orangutans! Yuck. Randal guessed that this one weighed 300 lbs!! It had a funny looking pink snout that stuck out at the end of its nose.
The park rangers were really comfortable with the orangutans and the gibbons. The proboscis monkeys don’t come to visit. When the orangutans came near any of us, everyone moved very quickly out of the way. One funny episode; one orangutan in a tree top over a group of us started bombing everyone with poop and pee! Amazingly no one got hit with the poop, but one man’s hat got peed on. It actually was quite funny. We’re not sure if it was a planned attack or a funny coincidence.
Three gibbons came down to interact with us. The ranger said they were brothers. I fed one a piece of orange the ranger had. Even more than the orangutans, the gibbons look like stuffed toys.
No Comments »
Arrived safely at Nongsa Point Marina (01′11.793N 104′05.830E) in North Batam, Indonesia at 11:48 AM today October 21st after a 3 1/2 hour trip from last nights anchorage. We got just a taste of the South side of the Singapore strait as we arrived at the marina. We have to cross it to get to Sebana Cove Marina when we leave here and I hear and believe there is a ship utilizing the strait every twelve minutes. Should be a hair raising experience.
We are firmly attached to the dock and the aircons are running for the first time since we left KK on August 13th. The boat next to me was taking on fuel in plastic containers and I asked him how much it was, 14,000 Rupia per liter he replied. That’s $1.50 US or $5.70 per gallon. Most cruisers on the rally paid about 6,500 Rupia or 70 cents per liter for it. 14,000 Rupia seems a little high to me but Ruth and I just paid $21.50 for a small lunch which would have fed us for days in the places we have been over the last couple of months.
Nongsa Point Marina is really nice looking and apparently brand new. The floating pontoons are all brand new and some of the dock cleats haven’t been bolted in place yet. The marina building is usable but still under construction. The down side is the ride into town to get provisions is 45 minutes.
No Comments »
Email access has hit a new all time low. No boat access and I can’t seem to attach any word documents to this internet cafe computer. I have written up several about our time in Kumai learning about the orangutans, the rain forest and the modern day Dayak people. Hopefully I will be able to send them before then end of the month when we will be at a marina in Malaysia near Singapore. No details here, sorry.
My Red Sox are in a scary place but I haven’t given up hope! Go Sox!
Belitung is a lovely little island. People are welcoming, friendly and try to be helpful. Randal and I did a school visit with our new friend Hairmardi who teaches English and is also the vice-principal, We visited his home and met his wife and children. They came to visit our boat.
Have to run to catch the bus back for the 40 minute ride to our anchorage.
ps Thanks for the Birthday Greetings. I had to go up on stage at a Sail Indonesia event and have everyone sing for me! Hairmardi’s students sang for me to so they would have to use their English
No Comments »
Klotok Klotok Klotok Klotok. The small boat gets its name from the sound of the motor. Or so they say. Ours came to collect us about 8:30 am and off we went down the Kumai to the Sekonyer to the Simpang Kanan River to see the Tanjung Putting National Park, home to the Orangutan Conservation Area and Camp Leakey. It was a chance to lean back, relax and let everyone else do the driving, cooking, etc. A real treat. Along the way we kept watch for crocodile, hornbill, kingfisher, cuckoo, orangutan, proboscis monkeys, gibbons and macaques. And though we’re not sure if we saw a small crocodile, we did see everything else during our three day trip.
There are 3 tour services in Kumai offering tours to the National Park. All are quite similar. But Randal and I had come across a web site of 2007 Sail Indonesia participants who raved about the tour book through Adi and their guide Izzy. The write up mentioned the second couple on the klotok, Tom and Rhina whom we had met in Kota Kinabalu. Randal and I opted for the same tour operator and were lucky enough to get Izzy for our guide. Izzy now lives in Bali but was home in Kumai for the week and was looking for a tour to lead. We had also read that Tom had requested some lawn chairs for the klotok to sit on rather than the benches at the bow or mats on the deck. We asked for them also, though most of the time I opted for the bench since it was out on the bow and was designed like a chaise and I could stretch out my legs and lean back and see everything.
Benches and chairs. We did have 2 chairs though only one is up front for this photo. The crew was “below stairs” and would pop up through the opening you see behind the chair. Most of the time it was covered with a piece of deck and then a small table where we ate. The side shades were up most of the time except when it rained which luckily it did for only brief showers.
One end of the boat was bow; the other a combined toilet and shower. Amazingly the toilet paper never got wet. We showered with river water and it was really refreshing after treks through the jungle to see the orangutans.
Shower room at the back of the klotok.
Below the slats is the river. But you still had to “flush” the toilet with the pot of water you ladled from the big bucket of water. The river water was clear and clean and someone was always pouring water onto the toilet or floor for some reason including taking a shower, so the little room was quite clean. There was a hand held shower head and some generator that forced the water up the hose and out the shower head. Our captain just bravely jumped briefly into the river, very briefly: others just poured buckets of water over themselves. The men often strip down to their undies and then hang them to dry.
Just outside the room was a bit of space and then the upper deck that you can see. The white topped cooker is resting on the lower deck. Between the shower room and the top deck was a bit of space the cook used to wash dishes. Just inside on the lower deck was her cooking area
We were always hungry for meals and always full half way through but managed to eat most of what they gave us. Rice, noodles, corn fritters, fried shrimp or fish or chicken, some kind of meat in some kind of sauce and a fruit dessert. We brought our own beer and club soda and they provided water or coke and tea and coffee. I was always being served tea and there were mid morning snacks and afternoon snacks. Randal and I were served our meal and everyone disappeared while we ate.
No Comments »
Bringing out our sleeping mattresses. During the day there were “napping pad” but at night we had thick mattresses. And the crew did all of the work. This young man who was so sweet and courteous was named A An. I think that’s correct. I would try to help and he would smile and wave me away.
Randal in our mosquito net tent. We went to sleep when it got dark and got up when it got light. We pretty much do that most of the time. But we had only candle light on the boat so it wasn’t comfortable to read; and we were tired! During the night you would hear the proboscis monkeys sounding like cars with bad starters when something disturbed them. There were too many to count or keep track of nesting in the trees along the shore. Sometimes we would hear splashes too. The first night we actually were a bit chilly so huddled under my sarong/shawl/blanket. The next night we had blankets and I wore a long sleeve ancient Red Sox shirt so was very cozy and slept well.
The first night we were tied up with just one boat near us back a way along the river. The next night it was like a camp ground with too many boats tied together and sleeping and rising schedules didn’t always match. Randal and I fell asleep easily and were up with the light so had no problem. I think our crew was sorry we were such early risers, but were very accommodating to our schedule. They rose when we did and fed us when we wanted to eat. Our boat is bottom left next to shore. It was amazing how they maneuvered when one boat wanted to leave since all boats came and went as the guests chose. There was a set schedule at Camp Leakey; a 2 pm feeding daily. Other than that we could be where we wanted on the river and could leave one stop to move to another as we chose.
Our captain. He was very really smiled often and he and the crew worked well together. He maneuvered into the best spots to see the proboscis monkeys or feed an orangutan that was close by the river. His father owned our boat and at least one other. On our way back along the river to go home we handed off a mattress to a boat going to the park. Izzy told us it was also our captain’s father’s boat.
Izzy and then crew from other boats, and Jeanette from Mary Vrogan and me. Everyone was supposed to turn around so to get a back rub, but they all got up and left Jeanette and me sitting there. We all laughed
Izzy is weaving me an ankle bracelet from a fiddle head fern stem. It is quite lovely.
Next email more photos of the park primates and wild pig and after that an email about our trip to the Dayak village.
No Comments »
Tuesday, October 7, 2008 Kumai River, Kalimantan, Indonesia, Borneo
Visit to Camp Leakey to see the orangutans
I only know that after 3 days “observing” the orangutan, there were several of them I wanted to know much better. I wanted to know what they would do without 10 or 20 of us watching them. But that takes years and we only had days. I did make “contact” with 3 of them; one I fed bananas, one I gave a bottle of water and one, Samson, grabbed my camera strap and he and I definitely made very close eye contact!
Randal and I took a 3 day klotok boat trip up the Simpang Kanan River to Tanjung Putting National Park home to Camp Leakey established in 1971 by Dr. Birute’ Galdikas founder of the Orangutan Foundation International and her husband Rod Brindamour. Leakey is Louis Leakey. Galdikas, Jane Godell, and Diane Fossey were all given their start by Louis Leakey and are known as Leakey’s Angeles.” I read about her in Adventure Divas by Holly Morris who in Chapter 2 goes to the rehabilitation center started by Galdikas in Sarawak, Malaysia Borneo not far from where we were in Kota Kinabalu and very near Agnes Keith’s home where she wrote Land Below the Wind
A klotok just like ours. At night you could watch the proboscis monkeys put on a show and yell at each other. Sounded like your car does when the starter has gone bad. Lots of river noises, quite wonderful.
We had the top level and the captain, his helper and the cook had the lower level. Our guide Izzy was with us along the way and when we needed his help, otherwise he ate and slept with the crew. Our trip up the river was luxurious compared those of Agnes Keith in the late 1930s and again in the early 1950s. Randal and I could just sit on big padded plastic lawn chairs and were served tea and snacks along the way. There was a tiny room at the back with a toilet and shower of river water. We slept on soft futon like mattresses with mosquito netting and were waited on by Izzy, the cook, and the smiling young helper. Agnes Keith had to go all day after a breakfast just of strong cups of coffee, go into the jungle to pee, and bathe in the river with a guard looking out for crocodiles. She hated and loved it. Randal and I truly enjoyed our time on the klotok. It is called a klotok because that’s the sound the motor makes…klotok, klotok, klotok. I have millions of photos of that too. While we were away a boat minder stayed on the locked boat. He slept in the cockpit and got rained on! We were asked to leave snacks though he was brought his main mid-day meal by Adi. I left a huge basket of snacks and water and I guess he liked it because everything was gone; cookies, brownies, chips, candy, canned fruit and Safari Park cans of typhoon rescue food, tuna adobo and mackerel. All gone. Shortly before our klotok came to Doramac to collect us for the trip, our boat minder was dropped off by Adi. He had nothing with him. No book, no rain gear, nothing. I worried that he would get wet, bored, but at least not hungry. I put out a big umbrella for him because of our leaky cockpit cover. But when we returned he gave us a big smile. Guess he really did like the snacks. I don’t know what other people leave. I’ll have to ask.
Crazy, wonderful Cousin Izzy! We had asked Adi who arranges tours to have Izzy as our guide based on a rave review of both Adi and Izzy by our friends Tom and Rhinea that we met in Kota Kinabalu. They had taken the trip as part of Sail Indonesia in 2007. Izzy now lives in Bali but was luckily home this week partly because he wanted to possibly import some native Dayak carvings to Bali. When we returned from seeing the orangutans Randal, Izzy and I organized our own trip to see the Dayak village. Izzy left for Bali the day after our Dayak trip. Very fun and kind young man. We had to keep walking across planks to get onto boats, get through the forest swamp, and onto the speed boat landing going and coming from the Dayak village. Izzy held my hand and kept me from falling into the river or swamp muck.
Izzy Iskandar www.orangutanexperience.com is his web site.
As we were going along the river we noticed an orangutan in a tree near the edge of the river. Orangutans don’t swim. When they want to cross the river, they find something to float across on like a log. I can’t believe they couldn’t learn, but there are crocodiles in the river and perhaps they have learned not to swim. Our boat came to a stop and the orangutan came close enough for us to hand him bananas.
They are so careful and delicate as they take the small piece of banana from your hand. But if you ever tried to take it back!!! We were told never to have a tug of war with an orangutan. So the fact that I still have my camera is maybe pretty lucky and possibly thanks to Issy’s snack cake.
Depending on whom you read our DNA makeup is 95 or 98% identical with the orangutan.
We’re the skull on the left, orangutan’s on the right.
In the Conservation Area Education Center we saw an introductory video in which Julia Roberts appears at the end on behalf of the plight of the orangutans. We first see her sitting near an orangutan that quite suddenly jumps onto her. Rangers untangle them. Roberts says she burst into tears not from fear, but from the joy of having that amazing contact with the orangutan. That was how I felt when Samson grabbed my camera strap. I was only afraid that I would lose my camera; not that the orangutan would hurt me. And when we stared each other in the eye, I think that I knew Samson would understand that he had to let go of the strap. I knew he would trade for something he didn’t really want for something he did want and I did have my water bottle to give him. Our tour guide, Izzy was standing right next to me telling me to be calm and I was because you can’t physically fight an orangutan. Izzy gave Sampson a “snack cake” and Samson let go of my camera and Izzy and I slowly walked away. We hadn’t meant to get so close to Samson, but it was a narrow walk way and we had to pass by. Had I lost my camera, I might have felt differently. But since it ended well, it was just an amazing encounter. I know that I must have looked astonished; I certainly felt that way. But Samson looked much more mischievous than mean or threatening. And I definitely trusted Izzy to make sure I didn’t lose my camera. We actually saw the “Julia Roberts” video after my encounter so I knew exactly what she meant about her “orangutan encounter.” Joy at the interaction though it’s hard to explain why; maybe because you are just so close. Before and after that I had always kept my distance; they are very strong! But we’d had to pass by Samson and he wanted some contact too.
Samson had an empty burlap bag on his head to keep off the sun! You can see him holding the camera replacement snack cake in his right hand.
This orangutan loved to eat soap. Izzy knew her from his days working at the Center. She liked to lather up with soap and then eat the lather. The baby liked it too. She would take the bar and rub in on her arm, make lots of lather and then eat it. Dr. Galdakis said it wouldn’t harm her so it was ok. She came down the walk to where our klotok was tied and the boat’s bar of soap was sacrificed to make her happy. The babies are so adorable. Even more so than the macaques. Sadly it is their cuteness and playfulness that causes them to be poached from the jungle and sold in the illegal wild animal markets. The Leakey center helps rehabilitate them and return to the park wilderness.
I don’t know why the water shows up as blue. It was black and clean and made mirror reflections of the foliage along the bank. We are anchored on the Kumai River. We turned off down the Sekonyer River which is brown with gold mine mercury pollution. The Park area is along the Simpang Kanan River which is a beautiful black.
You can see the line where the rivers meet. The brown polluted river, some of it is also mud, reflects nothing. The clean black river, actually the color of red tea, reflects the foliage beautifully.
Like a mirror reflection.
The babies just hang on and go everywhere with their mom till they are about 6 and she has another baby. By then they are expected to be strong enough and know enough not to need her. This was the cutest little orang. They are on the feeding station to get bananas and milk. The little one picked up the bucket and held it over his head to get every drop.
Another mom and baby. I have so many millions of photos
Our overnight trip to the Dayak Village was a learning experience about the destruction of the rain forest. We drove overland through miles of palm oil tree plantations. All used to be rain forest and home to the orangutans. But when you are poor the present seems more important than the future and companies can convince locals to cut down the rain forest and plant palm oil trees. But that story is for another email.
No Comments »
October 7th 9:40 am Kumai River, Kalimantan, Indonesia, Borneo 02′ 44.566 S 111′ 43.917 E
Just finished three loads of laundry and shrinking 500 photos. And I deleted a bunch so you can imagine how many I took. The overwhelming theme of our 2 adventures combined is the destruction of the rain forest. The orangutan conservation area is one small part that is being saved. The orangutans we saw live in their jungle, but it’s hard to believe that they haven’t been changed by their contact with humans. It is like seeing them in a huge zoo. The proboscis monkeys won’t interact with humans. The gibbons did somewhat and the macaques also. But when you get close to an orangutan, you feel the frustration of not being able to communicate. Depending whom you read we share 95 or 98 % DNA with the orangutans so maybe they just are attracted to their human cousins. I will start working on my real emails.
We also went to see a native Dayak village. It was a 3 hour bumpy ride through what once was rain forest and is now palm oil tree plantations as far as the eye can see. ( And a 20 minute speed boat ride at the end.) Also, small parts of the forest are burned down so rice fields can be planted. The people in the Davak village chop down and burn the forest to plant rice. They have to eat. In this area of Borneo you can work for the logging companies and chop down the forest. Or you can work for the gold mines and pollute the rivers with mercury. The people in the Dayak village are poor but like everywhere, the kids seem happy and playful. The old men seem happy. The women work hard and the wife of our host never smiled. The kids go to the small local school. They are in the process of building a library with government money. Our host is a teacher there. He went to the local teacher training university in Pangkalan Bun. We saw his 10 year old daughter reading and he said she was very smart. Izzy, our orangutan guide and our Dayak guide translated between us and the villagers who spoke no English. Randal and I hosted (paid for) the traditional ceremony held in our host’s longhouse the evening we were there. It is how the village makes money. It was interesting, not too long, and Randal and I even took part as we danced the bird dance. Randal was draped in a giant sarong and I looked more like a scare crow to scare away the birds with my arms stiffly out to the sides instead of gracefully floating in the symbolic breeze. I was ok until I heard Izzy’s infectious giggles. Then I almost lost it. Thankfully it was only almost. Well they had made us drink a glass a rice wine in an early part of the ceremony during which they sprinkled rice in our hair and tied a traditional folded leaf bracelet to our wrist. The whole experience was a mix of the ancient, recent past, and modern since they had a satellite dish and a cell phone, a generator for the night time electricity and a squat toilet installed for when guests come as well as a head hunter buried not far from their house. Yes a real head hunter from their village so he still had his head. Our host showed us his blow gun but not the magic arrows. The blow gun was to protect the children from the head hunters who prized the heads of children. Pretty much a thing of the past.
No Comments »