Person Of The Forest
14 October 2012 | Kumai, Borneo
Gary & Tara
The island of Bali was our introduction to the "other" side of Indonesia; the side with tourism, action, noise and [TRL: more] pollution. It was also the side of age-old culture. We rented a car and spent a few days driving around the island. We stopped in Ubud and watched the ceremonial Legong dance at the Ubud Palace; it was amazing. The incredible choreography and movements snapped and twitched and played out to a musical rhythm that was almost mesmerizing. As we drove throughout the island, we passed beautiful green rice terraces and numerous temples. It seemed a million miles away from the busy tourist pack streets of Kuta beach, with an endless amount of tourists and hawkers to match. Though, like all things, it was a must to see.
In Bali we met up with our good friend Jeff from Canada while he was touring around Indonesia. It was great to be able to spend a couple of days swapping stories about each others travels and stories from back home also. Jeff has been traveling around Central America, Australia and Indonesia for the last couple of years and has become quite an accomplished surfer along the way. He gave me my first lessons in surfing and I think I may be hooked. Maybe when we get back to Pursuit I'll buy a surfboard?
We left Bali finally and headed for the island of Borneo. Tara and I had started talking about how things may get harder with her progression in her pregnancy, so we asked a friend we met in Australia to join us for the trip to Malaysia. Chris had some sailing experience and was a traveler and the thought of seeing Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia was something he wanted to do, so it worked out well for him. I would like to say that we had a great sail to Borneo, but as we get closer to the equator and the season starts changing from the SW monsoon to the NE monsoon, the winds are getting very light. So, we motored; pretty much the whole way. OK...the whole way; 420 nautical miles. What a drag. But we have to keep moving.
Anyway, we arrived up river in Kumai and were greeted by a cloud of smoke that enveloped the whole river. One of the major industries, besides illegal forestry, is palm oil. Palm oil is a relatively recent industry addition to Indonesia. The burning comes from the need to create vast tracts of cleared agricultural land quickly. The rainforest is logged and then the remainder is set ablaze. This burning causes incredible smog to form over the whole area and spreads many miles offshore. These massive clouds of smoke can even reach as far as Singapore, causing problems with the shipping traffic. Some cruisers have even claimed that they heard foghorns during the day, because visibility was so poor. It was so bad in the morning and evenings before the wind picked up, that we couldn't see the other boats in the anchorage, even though they were only 100 metres away. Horrendous! I cannot even imagine living there. Unfortunately it is the place we had to go in order to travel up the river to the Tanjung Putting National Park. It is one of the only places in the world that one can still see wild orangutans (which comes from the Indonesian word for Person of the Forest) and it was a fantastic experience. We chartered a traditional Indonesia klotok boat, complete with captain, cook and guide to take us up the Sungai Sekonyer to see the orangutans in the wild, and it was wild. As we chugged amongst the walls of pandanus that fringed the river, we stopped at several feeding stations along the way and got real close to the semi-wild orangutans that get re-introduced into the wild, as well as seeing many wild orangutans while cruising up the river. In the evening we would pull to the edge of the river and just tie off to the palms and listen to the night in the jungle unfold. The jungle was full of sun bears, proboscis monkeys, gibbons and 200-plus bird species. Around 15 proboscis monkeys congregated in a tree above us and watched us as we watched them. It was unbelievable. We were awoken in the morning to them starting their day with huge leaps and feats of acrobatics. Sadly, after returning to Pursuit, we couldn't wait to leave that decimated area. The Indonesians are slowly destroying an amazing habitat. The illegal cutting of hardwoods and the rainforest burnings is destroying island and atmosphere.
Again with little wind we are motoring towards Batam. The final island and where we will check out of Indonesia, and from there onto Singapore, then Malaysia. There are a few little islands that we are going to stop at along the way in order to break up the passage, so hopefully there will be some good snorkeling and swimming soon. After the dirty little area of Kumai, we need it.
So, the engine hums along and the continuous white noise it makes lulls everyone on boat to sleep. It's my watch and I am just sitting in the cockpit watching the night go by. Off in the distance I see the glow of approaching ships in the shipping channel and occasionally there is a flash of lightening in the distance. Let's hope both stay far away! This life on the sea is rarely dull. I try to enjoy these moments as much as possible, because I know that in the next couple of months I'll be back in Canada. It is exciting, but I can't help but be sad about leaving Pursuit stored on the hard, waiting patiently for our next adventure to begin.