The honeymoon continues
We started our Kalimantan adventure in Banjarmasin, this town is known as the Venice of Indonesia but besides having canals/ river, well I don’t see it. Yes there is a certain charm about the city but its buildings though crumbling don’t have that old world charisma. The charm of this place lies within the people themselves. The river is the center of life for many that live around it; it’s a bathroom, shower, washing machine, sink, swimming pool, transport hub and a place to catch up on the local gossip. We did an afternoon canal boat tour to see some of this for ourselves. The children that were swimming come speeding toward the boats for high fives while some pose for photos like their lives depended on it. The atmosphere is crackling with good spirits and you can’t help but smile at everyone. It was through our guide Taila that we did this and also organized our trip to Tangung Putting National park. Taila is a ‘famous’ guide in the LP guidebooks but to be honest when we first met him he just seemed like an aging hippy who was embarrassed by his fame. Later he became a persistent guy who was on the border of getting on our nerves but more of that later.
So now it is time to talk about Orangutans. The national park is a rehabilitation site and has semi wild and wild orangutans. We floated down the river in a klotok,( a luxury boat, with a shower, toilet, kitchen and sleeping area for the cook, guide and boat captain downstairs, and upstairs the deck had mattresses for us to sleep, a dining area and a mini terrace area) in which to chill and watch the passing scenery. The river is surrounded by lots of greenery which is filled with birds, orangutans, macaques, proboscis (nose) monkeys and crocodiles. While we were there we were quite lucky to meet Dr Birute Galdikas. She is known locally as the professor and is one of the world top female ape experts, starting her research there back in 1971. We were told afterwards that it is rare to meet her as she is so busy and in high demand. Honeymoon luck strikes again. I won’t go overboard with the descriptions here of how amazing this place is and how much it needs to be protected as I wouldn’t be able to do it justice but wow this was a highlight for me. The animals are beautiful and I’m so happy that I saw them.
Back in Banjarmasin we decided it would be nice to do some jungle hiking and as Taila is so well known for it, we headed to Loksado for two days of hiking through the jungle, sleeping in Dayak villages and then taking a bamboo canoe back down the river. Initially we thought it was going to be an easy hike, but well Taila decided that Arjan was Tarzan and that I was spider woman so he made part of the trek up as he went a long, choosing steep climbs when possible, sliding across rivers, dragging ourselves up hills with fingers crossed for not falling and generally cutting out a trail with his large knife. It was definitely a good experience when we look back but I’ll be honest and say that at some stages I was ready to scream, especially when we could see an easier and equally scenic route just a few meters away. Also to hear from locals that your second day trek of over 8 hours (up and down mountains, falling down ravines into the rivers before crossing, stinking of sweat, could be done on the main road by ojek in 15 minutes was not a great moment. Each evening was spent talking to locals late into the night while the morning started before dawn with children playing and breakfast before hiking all day. This is partly why we look like zombies in the photos. The final day was bamboo rafting which was really a lot of fun, with Arjan taking over as captain in the end. We even had two little stow aways climb on board for the final journey. Strangely enough Taila seemed very proud that I was the first female who hadn’t cried on this type of trek, he thought I should see it as a great thing, but I felt sorry for his other trekkers and could understand that at certain points it could be easier to give up. Besides why would anyone be proud that he made them cry? The scenery at some of the view points was fantastic but sometimes the toil of just getting up the mountain through the dense shrubbery meant that it wasn’t always easy to appreciate the views.
While in Banjar we also visited the morning floating markets….some photos below…….
We really enjoyed our time in Banjarmasin but were ready to move on. Taila was becoming annoying, though he seemed to care and came to the hotel to check we were okay all the time, he was also always asking us to do tours or walk with him on the street so he could attract other tourists. The number of guides out numbers the tourists so competition was high during low season. But I hate feeling hassled and I hadn’t been well for a few days so the limit was when he called to our room door in the hotel when we just wanted our privacy to relax. Don’t get me wrong, he is a nice guy, but competition has made a lot of the guides needy, clingy and annoying.
So after this there was a visa run to the border and well it took a few days and won’t be interesting for most of you so we’ll skip the town descriptions………Except to say that we went via Berau to head up to the border and to head to Pulau Derawan, if you can skip staying in Berau then you should!!
Ahhh Pulau Derawan, this is a fishing village island that is already a bit jaded with tourism and the increased numbers of accommodations. It is a pretty place but seems to lack some soul. The main and best reason to come here is for the marine life. Turtles swim around you, lay their eggs on the beach and stare at you with curiosity while you sit on your balcony. A short boat trip away brings you to a small island with a lake that is filled with jellyfish, that you swim/snorkel with, as they have no sting at all. A little further and dolphins follow your boat, criss crossing in front of it in their own games, while you head off in search of Manta Rays. The mantas are amazing to snorkel with, so impressive in grace and size. Below are some photos of the water life and island that I managed to take………
These photos next are from Anna and Arnaud, they are a Spanish couple that we went snorkeling with. Another couple leant them an underwater camera for one of our trips so that we could capture some of the beauty of the manta’s and fish. So here is a few of the photos that Anna took when I was beside her, so now you can see what I saw.
From here we travelled back to Berau and on to Surabaya, Java for the final leg of our trip.