Monday, March 30, 2009
This is a predawn shot taken from the beach at the Laguna Resort. Soon after the sun rises, the sea mist blurs the mountain in the background.
The tide is at its low point. At high tide the water moves about 30 yards inward, just 10 yards from the trees.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
We spent the day on the river and this turned out to be the best day to see the Orangutans up close. Saving the Orangutans is big business in Indonesia as witness by the billboard we saw as we walked from our plane to the terminal.
They build nests, the only primate to do so, in high trees. The cutting of high trees taking place in most of Borneo is one of the greatest threats to the orangutans.
They are highly intelligent, resourceful animals, capable of amazing feats of memory and learning. In the wild, they can remember the exact location and fruiting seasons of a whole range of trees.
Orangutans have 96% of the same DNA as humans so they are a distant cousin to humans. Chimpanzees have 98%, so they are our closest relatives.
The van stopped at a small market area where the 8 of us found some real bargains. I bought a Borneo t-shirt for $2. Judith found an ornate used (which was desired) baby carrier that the mother straps on her back to carry her small baby. In Jakarta, it would have cost 4 times the amount.
The ex-pats were driven to the airport and we were driven to a new hotel, the Rungan Sari, 45 minutes away and enjoyed some food sitting around a swimming pool. The next morning we flew to Jakarta, then to Bali where we spend 4 nights at our favorite hotel, the Laguna in Nusa Dua.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I will cite another example. When we went into the Krueger game reserve in South Africa, the first thing we saw was a couple of zebra. I can still visualize the event. We were thrilled. Soon however, looking at zebra was about exciting as looking at your shoe laces. There were just so many of them and they aren’t all that exotic looking, really.
The boat’s six additional passengers (3 couples) showed up, stowed their belongings, and came on deck. Later, as we started up the river again they were thrilled to see this or that, which seemed to us almost funny. We didn’t think it was anything worth looking at because it was so commonplace. It reminded me of your zebra experience.
I told the zebra story to Amy (whose name I thought was Annie for a while) and how it applied to what was unfolding as our new passengers were pointing out things. She was greatly amused and later commented how funny the story was to her.
I will always remember however, the first time I saw Orangutans in the wild in the trees along the river. Even though later opportunities were even better, the first impression gets imprinted on some part of my brain that allows vivid color to remain.
Our three couples were UK ex-pats living in Jakarta and knew each other from previous trips together. I turned out that this was a different cultural experience for us as we learned about them as they talked around the breakfast, lunch and dinner table with us interacting with them along the way. They were all in their early 50’s or late 40’s, putting them almost in the generation of our children. The men all came equipped with newer models of my Nixon camera and bigger lens also. At times the 3 women would socialize together while the 3 men would be socializing together at the same time. It is common for sexes to separate like this but seeing it reminded me that I prefer being in the company where both sexes are represented.
Seeing this made me examine why this was my preference. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s at parties, I grew bored with man talk after a while (sports, cars, and other toys) and would sidle over to the women to listen. They were just as boring after awhile (children, husbands and other kin). At least I was interested in sports and could hold my own in discussions. If I moved in closer where the women talked, one of the women would thoughtfully include me in their discussion. And having a male included in the group would always move the level of conversation to different level, which I found I enjoyed more. Men’s discussions also change when women are included, for the better I think.
The ex-pats were quite enjoyable and everyone got along well and after two days of having the boat to ourselves, I was a pleasant change to have company. I had little time to write, however, so this post was written a week after returning from Indonesia.
As we were waiting for our new shipmates to arrive, we were docked by a small group of houses where two brothers played in the water along side their house. They had a great time splashing each other and sliding on some of slick vegetation just below the water’s surface. They were fun to watch and their enthusiasm was energizing.
After a while we had to move the boat however. Laying in the water along side our boat were two dead stinking pythons. They had been captured, skinned, and then thrown in the river where their carcasses got caught in some debris on the river’s edge. They were about 12 feet long and about 6 inches in diameter.
Our new companions arrived with little luggage as they were only staying 2 nights on the boat, but brought a cooler of beer, wine, and plenty of snacks with them, which they generously shared with us. Before we started up the river again, they were given a large canoe type motorized boat ride like we had the day before. We declined to go with them as we preferred to watch more orangutans on the opposite shore.
We picked up the others and then spent the rest of the evening on the boat and docked there during the night.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
The next day we take one of several tributaries of the river and take note of the color change of the water with each new route. From muddy brown, copper colored, and black with various hues in between. All surrounded with an amazing variety of green from the shores with the sky providing the most change to the landscape.
Towards the middle of the day we encountered a tropical downpour and the crew scurried to put up protective plastic tarps completely surrounding the boat. I felt I was in a cave.
But before that suddenly the boat slows and the crew shows us several Orangutans. They are orphans who were discovered near the gold mines, their mothers having been killed by poachers. After they reach a certain age they will be transported to a larger protective national park where they will live in the wild. At any given time I could see seven out of the nine that live there. Three wardens are within 100 yards to watch over them and provide them with bananas and other foods.
The boat is anchored and we slowly drift a little closer and watch them for most of an hour.
The picture below shows four Orangutans. Can you find them? One is at the very top. There is a platform at the bottom where the bananas are placed. Several monkeys could also be seen but they seemed of small import.
And we got closest to this one in a Bamboo tree. Another is partially hidden but visible.
After the downpour we were treated to a motorized canoe ride similar to those constantly seen moving up and down the rivers. We ventured off the river into a maze of waterways some of them very narrow providing some up close views.
We dock for the night where the canoe came to pick us up. I arose early and captured this sunrise.
Up to now we have had the boat to ourselves. Today, 6 others will join us for the next 2 days.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I suppose life on the river in any country has many similarities. Houses are built to float or are built on stilts to accommodate the rise and fall of the river’s cyclic levels. Where there are larger villages, various shops are built for boats to stop and shop. Woman bathe their offspring and themselves in the river and laundry their clothes there frequently judging by the amount of items drying on clothes lines.
Our boat (the Rahai’i Pangun which can be roughly translated to mean the Big Enterprise) has five cabins below and of course Judith has chosen the best one and in the front of the boat. With the amount of luggage we have, we are able to pile our stuff on the single bed leaving us room to move about comfortably. The boat’s generator provides electricity for all cabins and the two very small toilets. There are cold water showers in the toilets. At night the generator is turned off for the sake of quietness and toilet flushing is done using a small bucket from the water barrel. Lights and an electric fan are still available through battery power.
Most of the day we enjoy the rain forest and beauty of the river while reading or starting a post for my blog, occasionally looking up to see if there is something of interest to see.
A VERY SHORT HISTORY/GEOGRAPHY LESSON OF
We disembark and walk in the heat of the day, slowly, to view the site where ancestral bones are kept. Now days, the Daytaks are Christians but there are still those who hang onto the old time religion.
Feb-Mar 2001 the Dayaks participated in a massacre against the immigrant Madurese. About 500 people were killed and by April all the Madurese (about 100,000) had fled
Anyway, we go to a place where ancestral bones are kept. Bodies of the dead are first buried, then 5 years later they are dug up and their bones are cleaned and put into boxes. Just another expression of rising from the dead, I suppose. Their descendants can come there from time to time to bring a token gift to keep their spirits placated. The ancestors are provided with some help to ascend into “heaven”. The object on the left is to help pierce through the clouds. The long pole on the right is to provide a springboard which must be an all time pole vaulting record if successful. The red colored statues are replacements for originals which were stolen for their antique value.
During the ceremony that accompanies the unearthing ritual, slaves were tied to the figure below and put to death so the deceased would have someone to tend to them. Now days, slaves have been replaced by animals that serve the same purpose, with minor adjustments I suppose.
A man there explained all this to us and then asked if we would like him and others to play music for us that night. We accepted. Keep in mind that the sun rises and sets about 6 in the morning and at night on the Equator. So when lighting is limited for reading there isn’t a whole lot to do. So sure enough the man and his merry band came and entertained us.
Everyone took several group pictures. The young woman on the right was our English speaking guide. Her name is Amie. She met us at the airport and ate with us. She can speak four languages and her English was excellent.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
My upgrade status fell from 1K (100,000 miles in one year) to Premier Executive (between 50,000 and 100,000 miles) on March 1st and it is March 2nd., explaining why I am #9 on the list instead of in the top five. Which again points out there is only so much you can control in your life.
There is a group of us huddled around the podium really to bolt to the man in power as all those who already have a secured First or Business Class seat board the aircraft. If you don’t get an upgrade, you know that you will have to go to the end of the economy class line which means by the time you arrive at your assigned seat, the best luggage storage spots will already be taken. And I will be muttering, “why me”?
But there I stand watching the agent’s every move. At that moment, if a halo appeared over the agent, I would fall to my knees and confess that I have been unswerving loyal to United Airlines since 1987 and beg that he has heard my prayers to be one of his chosen few. I realize I have no shame but could not care less.
My name is announced, I hand him my coach seat boarding pass which is somewhat by now anything but pristine, I the agent hands me the golden calf Business Class seat and his halo disappears. I sincerely thank him and an relieved that won’t have to think ill of him for the rest of the trip. My religious conversion is put on hold once again. Back to hedonism.
If you have never flown Business Class for a 10-12 hour flight, you have no idea how much better it is than coach. I could write many words about the benefits, but mere words are totally inadequate. But if recall, rat studies indicate when there is not enough personal space, they go berserk.
The first leg of the flight is to Narita airport in Tokyo and after less than an hour I am on my way to Singapore (Business Class) arriving Changi Airport (the city that never sleeps) shortly after midnight. From the time I get off the airplane to the time I get in a taxi is about 10 minutes. The efficiency, cleanliness, and orderliness in Singapore are models for the rest of the world to follow. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Singapore government takes an extremely dim view of sex, drugs, and rock and roll but if you can avoid these things (and chewing gum) life there could be pleasant. The city/country sits on the Equator so it is warm/hot year round. It is a tightly controlled democracy with less freedom for error or rebelliousness.
Hotel Re was selected due its price and customer comments as researched from the Internet. In the morning I find the clientele consists of Aussie and UK men in their 30’s who arrive at breakfast promptly at 7 AM, as I do, and are out the door to work with backpacks in hand within 15 minutes. As I wait for my taxi about for the airport between 10:15 and 10:30 several other guests coming into the lobby and they are tourists Western retirees. I imaged they chose the hotel the same way I did. The Internet is changing the world is so many ways. I suppose you have to be my age to be continually being awed this technology which could not have been imaged 30 years ago.
The flight to Jakarta is about 90 minutes and after I long line through customs, I gather my luggage and taxi to the Grand Hyatt to meet Judith who has been having a very successful business trip there while I was off skiing in Vail, the week before. At the Grand Hyatt, we had messages and mine was one of the best I ever had. I felt so alive and energized it took me a while to fall asleep that night.
But off we went at 6:30 in the morning to catch a 8 o’clock flight to Borneo, or more specifically the city of Pelangkaraya, Kalimantan, Indonesia. Kalimantan is north of the island of Java, so once again we are on the Equator.
Judith has booked us on a 4 day boat trip on the