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The Katingan River aboard the Ruhui Rahayu

A Jungle Adventure in Central Kalamantan (Indonesian Borneo)

The flight from Kuching was a 3 parts and long just to go a short distance. We stayed the night in Palangkaraya, a city of 200,000 and were picked up in the morning by our driver and our guide for the next week, Jeni. It was a 4 hour trip to our boat, the Ruhui Rahayu, and on the way we stopped to visit Orangutan Island in Nyaru Menteng where we rode in covered canoes to look at the orangutans which came from the foundation in Palangkaraya. They are relocated to the island as they are unable to live with fully wild orangutans. They don't like to swim so they stay safe on the island. We had some excellent sightings.
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Next stop was an indonesian lunch then a ride to Bukit Batu, a pile of rocks you can climb to get a 360 degree view of the surroundings. It is flat here. A magor fire recently has damaged the landscape, sadly. While we were there we had the first experience of locals wanting their picture taken with us. Jeni told us we would feel like "Brad and Angelina" because the locals only see visitors (just one couple or a family) once a week, often less than that.

Back to the car and the ride to Kasongan where our boat awaited us. Not an easy feat to get our luggage aboard using the rudimentary planks but no problem for the awesome crew. We set out along the Katingan River and watched the village go by. All the villages along this river have these huge bird houses where the locals collect the nests for bird's nest soup. Thunderclouds were gathering on the horizon that evening when we enjoyed the best meal of our entire trip so far. There would be many more wonderful meals to follow. As we slept our first night we were awakened by the loudest thunder we have ever heard in our lives along with torrential rain. Ask Leo, I love a good storm but even I was a little scared!
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Day 2

After a delicious breakfast we visited the village of Baun Bango and the home of a Dayak warrior. I learned a dance and Leo hit another bullseye with the blow pipe.
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Later we took canoes and left the brown water of the Katingan and entered the black water of the canal of the black water lake Jelampangen Incredibly beautiful.
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We walked through the village and met a little girl picking mushrooms for dinner, then saw her later down by the lake. Late in the afternoon we took the canoes for a beautiful paddle on the black water of Jelampangen Lake and watched the sunset
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One last picture with the locals then back to the boat for dinner.
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Day 3 and 4
After another yummy breakfast we headed downstream to Karuing village where it was obviously laundry day!

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then we visited a rattan nursery just off the river bank. Not much there, just potted plants in the jungle. We then proceeded down a black water canal on our way to the WWF reasearch centre for wild orangutans located in Sebangau National Park. This is where we would spend the night in a rustic lodge before jungle trekking the next day.

We had dinner at the lodge and After meeting the WWF staff and watching some video they took of the wild orangutans in the area we settled in for the night. Deluxe accommodations included a thin saggy mattress on the floor and a squat toilet. The shower was a tub filled with brackish water and a plastic dipper. We did have toilet paper and towels though. No a/c and no fan and only about 35 degrees and 95 % humidity. Leo fell to sleep right away. I got about 2 1/2 hours. The following day was supposed to be all day trekking in search of wild orangutans. We were prepared for a rough trail but not for what we got. No trail! The WWF guide just motored ahead and I lumbered behind him trying not to kill myself in the process. My knee, still injured and sore with limited flexibility really hampered my progress. You take a step, and the next step is a foot lower, then you sink into water up to your knees, bending and twisting around trees and roots. It would have been hard enough just worrying about my bac,k but the knee really freaked me out. I didn't want to end up hurt in the middle of the jungle. Leo was afraid for his camera and lenses as well so we decided to turn back. It took over an hour to go just a half kilometre and we had 3 1/2 more to go just to half way where they thought there might be orangutans. We later learned that of the six previous treks with visitors only one resulted in a sighting so we felt we made the right choice, it was quite the experience
So the afternoon was spent playing dominoes with Jeni and Wawon back at the lodge and then we took a canoe down the black water canal to a little lake. It was all awesome and good until the propeller hit a log and they lost it. It took about 20 minutes to find it during which time we got torrential rain! I kid you not. You have never seen or felt rain like in the jungle of Borneo! A bigger canoe came and saved us. Watching this lady try to transfer from one canoe into the other from the water must have been a hilarious and very scary sight. Leo would have taken pictures but it was raining too hard. Needless to say we were happy to get back on the boat. I enjoyed my glass of wine that evening from my one and only bottle.

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Day 5
This morning we cruised for three hours to the village of Telaga which Jeni called the village of bird houses because they have the most of them. We would visit the village later in the day but in the meantime we took the canoes down a nearby black water river, of course always on the lookout for Proboscus monkeys. We didn't see any this time.

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Then later we headed down the nearby River Klarn, a heavily forested and very beautiful river. This time we were lucky to spot some Proboscus monkeys! Of course, it's easier to manoeuvre a canoe than it is a bigger boat to get a better look but our pilot did a great job and we had some really good sightings. Whilst cruising, the heavens opened up on us again on our way back to the village. Once we were moored, the little village boys were anxious to see us and played peek a boo through the rain plastic.
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Finally, our visit to the village of Telaga began. The children were out of school and so eager to see us. The village was preparing the streets for a paved road but it was not done yet and after all the rain it was very muddy. We had so much fun meeting all the villagers and kept collecting children as we went. We felt like the Pied Piper of Hamlin! The kids followed us across the planks all the way to the boat and we left with very enthusiastic waves goodbye.
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After our last dinner we took pictures with our wonderful crew.
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Last day
An early morning canoe for one last chance to see Proboscus monkeys. Borneo is the only place in the world to see these marvellous creatures. We were very fortunate to see them again along the largest of the black rivers we traversed. Leo even saw one swimming across the river! Jeni got super excited, exclaiming, a monkey swimming! A monkey swimming! I thought she was saying, "swinging" and was looking for moving branches so I missed the whole thing!
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Back to our starting point and the four hour drive to Palangkaraya. Next stop, Ubud on the beautiful island of Bali.
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Posted by ciannaloo 00:46

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