Tag Archives: Borneo

Camp Leakey and The Tanjung Puting National Park.

Chug chug chug, I’m on a very, very slow boat, or klotok, on a very muddy river (the Kumai) in Central Kalimantan, Borneo and you know, it’s just about perfect. We headed out of the port at Kumai and even after a few chugs we saw Fresh Water dolphins and a couple of Monitor Lizards. A little bit further and we turned off into a tributary, slow moving and very muddy, the entrance to the Tanjung Puting National Park. The mud is caused by illegal mining, mining for coal, zircon, gold and the rainforest is completely decimated. There is nothing left after the illegal logging was done and its now all palm oil and rubber plantations. No jungle sounds, no, birds, no butterflies, none of the usual whistling and hooting, no odd screeches. Even so it is still rather exotic, river, Borneo, klotok, I’m excited.

    Two hours of slow progress into the interior there was evidence perhaps that the illegal logging had been stopped or at least  paused, there are trees, tall trees, stretching way, way away. Straight away there were two bands of Proboscis monkeys swinging along the riverbank, two large males, both with multiple wives. Finally I snapped a photo of a male, longer nose than the females, bigger too, plus I learned something new, with so many wives they are always erm ‘ready’!  I laughed again and again, they leapt from branch to branch, high up and sometimes fell, plummeting down only to reach out casually with a hairy arm to save themselves. Why did I laugh? Just pure joy I suppose. On up the river and the sounds are back, whistles, hoots and that high pitched buzzing that you only hear here, in the jungle. 

   We stopped at a Ranger Station to watch the Orangutans be given their evening feed. Just a short fifteen minute treck through the trees and to a roped off area where there were, people. A number of people deep in the forest but where had they come from. Seems they had a big, group klotok, twelve I think, all Aussies, with an Orangutan expert in tow . The lenses on the cameras were something to behold, carried by youths who handed them over with the click of the fingers, the noise of the high speed shutters, irritating. Yes we saw Orangutans, quite a few in fact and it was fantastic. Before this chapter closes here is something. I casually mentioned to the guide that I wondered why they were called Orangutans, I got the look, the stupid tourist look. Orang in Malay means people, Utan means forest, therefore ‘people of the forest’ or Orangutan. That ends the four different spelling options. It’s a Malay word that we have somehow kept. Good for the Malays, good for us.

    We have parked for the night, beside the river, tied to a fallen tree. It’s pitch dark and I can’t see a thing. My bed is a mattress on the deck with a mozzie net. I’ll sleep well.

    Well I didn’t, not really. Too many crashes, growls, grunts and splashes kept waking me up but finally it was dawn at around five so I got up. We spent the day on the river, heading down another tributary where the water changed color dramatically, from the muddy brown of the mining detritus to the almost black of forest vegetation.  Tall trees either side and us, puttering along on the klotok which is basically a small houseboat, primitive but utilitarian. There was a stop at a feeding station and like yesterday there where suddenly people where there had been none before. I met a Scottish couple, from Och on the Black Isle. No, I didn’t mention how appropriate was its name. He was from Lewis with the broad lilt of the Western Isles, she, Michelle was from Inverness but had been in Edinburgh for years and years. We had a nice chat, trashing the new tram (actually now its open it is quite good) and lamenting that Central Kalimantan is dry etc etc. A couple from Denver and another from LA, plus miscellaneous Spaniards. It seems that during the High Season here, June and July, the majority of the 60 or so klotoks available for rent in Kumai are taken by the Spanish and no one can tell me why. Anyone? (L?) Bit of a long way from Spain I’d have thought. Oops, I’ve wandered off, sorry. There were no Orangutans to be seen at the feeding station and we all trudged back to the river through an area reduced by slash and burn, just ferns grew. At the jetty on the river and at the Ranger station, two guys and a desk outside a hut, there were clouds of black butterflies, nowhere else, just where there were humans. Odd.

    To Camp Leakey then and when we pulled into the shore there was a Mom and baby just sitting on the fence, all nonchalant, as if greeting us. An unrelated male was fast asleep in the gazebo on the jetty. It was quite a miracle, but I think I have said enough about the Orangs though haven’t I? The river though, and the rainforest where, for me, the stars of the day. At one point I tried reading a book but couldn’t, I kept looking up and out, seeing the legend that is this green and verdant living thing. It can’t last, it really can’t and what kind of a tragedy that is and will be. One of the crew on the boat used to be an illegal logger and I got a few stories, via translation, that I found depressing. One cubic measure (20 centimeters) of the Iron Wood tree sells for $75.00, an Iron Wood sapling grows one foot every ten years, the loggers  bribe the authorities so well that they build railways in the forest to ship the logs out. The local farmers are similarly destructive, slashing and burning vast areas for just one season’s crop, then they move on. I don’t have Internet access here but isn’t it well known that an area of the forest the size of a football field is destroyed every second? I told the guys on the boat, ‘enjoy it while its here’. 

    Ok, rant over, no more tree hugging tonight,  Birkenstocks back in the closet, pinko liberal flag furled, I’m going to have a beer and celebrate night number two on the edge of the Heart of Borneo.  

Sometimes the trees seemed full of wildlife.

Sometimes the trees seemed full of wildlife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The muddy river and the Rainforest.

The muddy river and the Rainforest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The black river and the rainforest.

The black river and the rainforest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The black river meets the muddy river.

The black river meets the muddy river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not sure how this one got uploaded! I hope its ok.

Not sure how this one got uploaded! I hope its ok.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A male. What a handsome fella.

A male. What a handsome fella.

 

 

 

 

 

 

She is kind of cute too.

She is kind of cute too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A closer look.

A closer look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grubs up!

Grubs up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the dinner table.

Around the dinner table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adoring and adorable.

Adoring and adorable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even more adoring and adorable.

Even more adoring and adorable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don't know what to say.

I don’t know what to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is one of the dozens of bird hotels (swifts) in Kumai where the birds build their nests for Bird Nest Soup. Interesting I thought.

This is one of the dozens of bird hotels (swifts) in Kumai where the birds build their nests for Bird Nest Soup. Interesting I thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I resolved before leaving that not only would I ‘live blog’ my trip but I would also take lots of photos. I did, but I have so many pictures that sorting the highlights has been difficult. I may do some more sorting and post more. I haven’t even looked at my phone yet! The photos on it I mean.

 

 

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First Borneo Days.

All Sunday afternoon activities have come to a sudden halt, the heavens have opened, its pouring with rain and everyone has either gone home or is sheltering in a restaurant. That’s the problem here in Kota Kinabalu, there is constantly so much to do, and everyone is out doing it, whether it be eating or snacking at the endless cafes and restaurants, shopping at the many, many markets, admiring the view over the South China Sea or just hanging out, the choices are endless. Hence, a rather long interval since the last blog entry, sorry.

I have done some of the required touristy things, which as a newcomer I suppose I must do and the first was a ride on the North Borneo Railway. Left behind by the British it runs down the coast for about thirty miles and is powered by a steam locomotive built in England in the 1950s. Breakfast was provided on arrival in one of the original refurbished railway carriages and was served by people in contemporary dress, sure a bit corny, but not too tacky. Chuffing through the jungle was a good introduction to Borneo, the World’s third largest island, and only motivated me to go explore some more. I got to ride in the cab for a little while, no nanny state here! We reached the end of the line, the locomotive spun round on a turntable, re connected, and off we went again. Lunch, served in Tiffin cans, again a bit corny but wildly practical. A Tiffin can is a kind of lunch box, but much more exotic and in widespread use, here, there and all over India, especially. Other passengers included Brits, obviously, Germans, French, a Hungarian lady and two Americans, one from Detroit even and that was just my carriage. OK it was a train ride and I really like trains but it was just a little bit over the top, just a little, though you would have to be an arch cynic to decry it.

There is a splendid lady, Nora, who runs the reception desk at my hotel, always full of ideas and places to go. Next then was an Orangutan rehabilitation center. (note: orang-utan, orangutang or orang-utang) Set in the grounds of the very, very up market Shangri La Hotel about forty five minutes out of town it was a bit of an expensive taxi ride there and back and as an introduction to the wildlife wonders of Borneo it worked. Of course I got totally lost amongst the lavishness of the hotel, gazing around rather overwhelmed at the opulence and had to return to reception for a map, no, there were no signposts. There was a patriotic video to start things off, highlights included the fact that ten percent of the world’s orchids are to be found on the local mountain ( Mt Kinabalu) and that there is more bio diversity to be found in one square mile of the Borneo rain forest than in all of North America and Europe combined. All right then. Off on a steep path into the rain forest until we came to a wooden deck, three levels, with a small platform about twenty feet away. The excitement built as we observed branches moving high in the canopy and then, there they were, two young male Orangs not twenty feet away. Cameras whirred and clicked, iPads blocked the view (again), children cried, not sure why, some just stood and gazed, I know I did because, not being a pushy kind, I was relegated to the back. The Orangs ate and interest dwindled, people sauntered away and I could finally take a photo or two.

It wasn’t the greatest experience but a great intro and tomorrow I am off to a wildlife reserve about six hours on the bus away. I’ll let you know how it goes.

You are never far from the sea in KK and wandering around it flashes into view at the end of the street from time to time. Next then was to get out on to the water. I took a boat ride to one of the many islands lying off shore. You know me, on a speed boat bouncing over the waves, the light shimmering on the water, the view changing constantly, the colors, the wind, yep, heaven. It was just the six of us on the island, there was diving, canoeing, snorkeling etc available but I was content just to sit on the sand and look around. It was fairly hot but interestingly because of the position, five degrees north of the equator I could feel myself burning after a few minutes despite a liberal slathering of sunscreen and spent considerable time in the shade.

Talking of geography, I watched the sunset one evening and realized after it had set that forty-five minutes later that same sun rose, in Seattle. Mind boggling.

Train. In Borneo.

Train. In Borneo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiffin cans.

Tiffin cans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chuffing along.

Chuffing along.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pith helmet. The works.

Pith helmet. The works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orangutans.

Orangutans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More of same.

More of same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meal time.

Meal time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again.

Again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the table.

At the table.