Day 155, Year 3: Saying Goodbye to Justin and Jo
Date: Hari Sabtu (Saturday), Bulan Oktober 11, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: More Hot and Humid Equatorial Weather
Location: Kumai River, Kalimantan, Indonesia
It’s a mother’s dream to have her children come visit her in far-away exotic places, and it is the same mother’s nightmare when they leave. And today was a bit of a nightmare. We went to shore at 7 am and Harry’s Yacht Service had a car there for us in about two minutes. The airport is about thirty minutes from here and Justin and Jo’s flight was at 8:30 am, so we thought we had plenty of time. Here you just show up right before the flight-no two hours early for local Indonesian flights. But as we were leaving Kumai, we actually found ourselves in a traffic jam! I couldn’t believe it. There were huge cargo trucks heading in our direction and coming into Kumai and there were hundreds of people on the side of the road. We were near a mosque and Justin thinks the people had just finished a twenty-four hour reading of the Koran. Ten days after the end of Ramadan, Muslims are required to read through the whole Koran something like thirteen times. And we think the little community we
were traveling through was celebrating the successful completion of that task. Whatever was happening, it was certainly keeping us from getting to the airport. But finally we got there, got Justin and Jo checked in, and then we sat and talked. Indonesians airlines are notorious for their delays, cancellations, and problem aircraft, so we were all a little nervous about this. But we finally pried ourselves away and asked Justin to call us if there were any problems. Mark and I headed on to Pangkalan
Bun to go to the fresh food market and to see the riverfront and old palace. We have been in the town two other times, but never had a chance to see the sights. The riverfront was really interesting. From the main road we walked down a boardwalk to the river’s edge. People live in the mudflats and in houses on stilts all along the river. We walked along the boardwalk which took us past people’s homes and headed back to the riverfront market.
Mark and had decided to keep the driver that took us to the airport instead of riding the very crowded and dangerous bemos back to Kumai. After our ride back to Kumai yesterday where all four of us weren’t sure we were going to make it, we decided that paying a little more for a safe car was a good idea. I also wanted to have a car in case something went wrong at the airport. And it did. While we were shopping in the market, we got a call from Justin telling us that as he and Jo were stepping
aboard the plane, Jo noticed that fuel was pouring from the side. She was about to say something when someone more official noticed the problem. Some people had already boarded and they were evacuated quickly. No one was going to Java on this plane today. They returned to the terminal and found that the only other flight going to Central Java today was already booked solid, so they started investigating other options. When they called us, we called Harry who had booked the tickets and had him
start investigating options as well. We went back to our car and had the driver take us to the airport to see if we could be of any assistance there. When we arrived, Justin and Jo had figured out that there only hope of getting out of Kalimantan today was to fly to Jakarta in Java on a late afternoon flight and then fly to Bali from there late in the evening. This would mean not getting to see the Borobudur Buddhist temple in Central Java which was a huge disappointment, but at this point, just finding a safe way to Bali to connect with their flight back to the US seemed the prudent thing to do. It was even harder to say goodbye the second time, but we needed to get back to Kumai to check-out with the harbormaster in case things work out for Justin and Jo and we can leave in the morning. Before we left the airport, they had tickets for the flight to Java and we had called Harry to see if he could book tickets on the evening flight from Java to Bali. We got a call from Justin and Jo letting us know that they did arrive safely in Jakarta and saying that they will call later tonight when they arrive in Bali. They will then have two full days in Bali before flying out at midnight on our Monday. We’re just hoping that the plane from Jakarta to Bali is in good shape. There are lots of things for a mother to worry about, so Justin promised to call when they arrive in Bali late tonight. I’m sure things will be fine, but I will certainly be glad to get that phone call.
We think we are ready to leave Kumai at 5 am in the morning headed for Belitung. The interesting thing is that we have absolutely no information about this place. It is not in the Lonely Planet and none of our information from former Indonesia cruisers mentions it, but it is the place that Sail Indonesia has asked us to go to check-out of Indonesia. So we will sail two days and nights to get there, and from there we will head to Singapore. Of course, if something happens and Justin and Jo don’t make it to Bali tonight we might change our plans. We will be out of cell phone range once we leave here and I’m not sure I can continue on until I know they are safe in Bali.
I’m looking forward to arriving in Singapore where I think we will have good, fast internet. I have been missing our webcam connections with Sam and hope that we will be able to do this Singapore. We are having a wonderful time out here, but we do miss family so much. The past month with Justin and Jo was wonderful and now we look forward to seeing Heather, Jed, and Sam in Thailand in January.
Note: Just as I finished writing this log, Justin called to say that he and Jo are in Bali. They got an early flight from Java, so all is well. What a relief!
Day 154, Year 3: Getting Ready to Leave
Date: Hari Jumat (Friday), Bulan Oktober 10, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Still HOT and HUMID
Location: Kumai River, Kalimantan, Indonesia
Today was a day of getting ready. Justin and Jo are getting ready to leave in the morning and we are getting Windbird ready to leave on the following day. I already have “empty nest” syndrome just thinking about Justin and Jo’s departure. We have had a wonderful month together. Bali was wonderful, passages were challenging, Karimunjawa was fantastic, passages were challenging, and Kumai has been very special. So we have had our ups and downs. I just hope the good times will be the memories
that Justin and Jo will take with them.
We had a slow morning and then hopped in a min-van to go to Pankalan Bun as we needed money and internet. We think today must be some special day in the Muslim faith as the mosque was blaring all morning and nothing was open in Kumai. By the time we reached Pankalan Bun it was early afternoon and things started opening. Mark, Justin, and Jo spent time in the internet café while I walked around town trying to find potatoes to buy. I had absolutely no luck, but I did run into some of the younger
cruisers who had just arrived in Kumai today. We sat in a lovely little café with air conditioning. I shared stories of our trip upriver and they shared their thoughts about where they would stop on the way to Singapore. On my way back to the internet café, I saw Justin and Jo headed in my direction. Justin had gone back to say hello to Jo in the internet café and found her almost fast asleep. She felt like she had a temperature, but when we returned to Windbird we found that her temp was just
slightly above abnormal. She seems much better this evening.
Justin and Jo packed this evening and prepared for the long trip home. Fortunately they will have time to spend a day seeing the temples on Java and another day in Bali resting up for the long flight home.
We will miss them terribly as we do our own preparations for the passage to Beletung and then on to Malaysia with a possible stop in Singapore.
Day 153, Year 3: Day 3 of the Ultimate Orangutan and Wildlife Explore
Date: Hari Kamis (Thursday), Bulan Oktober 9, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Hotter Than Ever!
Location: Back in the Kumai River, Kalimantan, Indonesia
We are back home after a wonderful, but VERY hot, three days up the Sekonyer River observing those red-haired beauties called orangutans. I think it will take a few days for the whole experience to become real. It’s not everyday that you get such close encounters with such creatures and we had so many wonderful experiences that it became almost common place. But now we are back on Windbird and all was well here. We have never been away from Windbird for this long when we needed someone who we
didn’t know to start the engine twice a day to keep the refrig and freezer going. If our batteries were all fine, this wouldn’t have been necessary, but our batteries are barely going to get us to Langkawi in Malaysia where we hope to replace them. And since the man boat sitting didn’t speak English, I was very worried that something might go wrong. We weren’t completely sure he understood the directions. But he did a phenomenal job and all is well. He even polished all the stainless onboard,
so all is even better than when we left. We are so thankful to him for doing such a great job.
I’ll regress a bit to last night. It was a complete turn around from our first night. The skies cleared during the night and we had absolutely no rain. We woke to clear blue skies and sunshine and watched a beautiful azure blue kingfisher darting into the water beside us to catch her breakfast. We started downriver to the orangutan observation center at Ponkok Tangguy (tangooee) for the 9 am feeding and on the way we saw a monitor lizard sunning on a log and another one of those magnificent hornbills
in the trees. Hornbills are very long-tailed black birds with horn-like light-colored beaks. We saw three on our first evening on the river and it was great to get another glimpse. Once at Pondok Tangguy we got off the boat and headed to the feeding platform. We weren’t going to be here long enough to really get acquainted with the orangutans as we did at Camp Leaky but we thoroughly enjoyed the antics of the young orangutans as they swung through the trees and tussled with one another like rowdy
teenagers. It was fun to watch the little ones high in the trees, but a little scarier to be down below when the larger orangutans started swinging and jumping from tree to tree above us. Once in a while the whole top of a small tree or rather large branch would come tumbling down, but no one was ever hurt, not even an orangutan.
Our next stop today was at Pesalat reforestation area. In addition to illegal logging in the national park, in the late 1990’s there was a fire that devastated the area. In this reforestation area, we learned about the project and walked in the forest where ironwood and sandalwood trees are making a comeback. The walk was beautiful but there were sooooo many mosquitoes. We were spraying and covering up as much as we could. Justin made a misstep on the way back and fell off the boardwalk. He
was not hurt, so we were thankful for that. When we got back to the boat we discovered that we had picked up a couple of hitchhikers. Justin had a leech on his sock, but my leech had crawled up my sock that my pants were tucked in to and had attached itself to my ankle. Captain Suma pulled it off and Rudi took tobacco out of one of his cigarettes and put it on the spot and covered it with a band-aid. Hopefully that will take care of that problem. So even though the reforestation project was
interesting, the mosquitoes and leeches made it a challenging experience.
Our last stop of the day was at the Tanjung Harapan observation center and village. On one side of the river we walked far back into the forest to see another orangutan feeding. Jo was feeling particularly hot and tired, so she stayed on the boat. Justin, Mark, and I trudged ahead with Rudi and got to see another dominant male with huge cheek pads eating a whole load of bananas. A young orangutan was also there and would swoop down to steal a banana with a watchful eye on the dominant male.
It was quite interesting to watch the two interact. While we were watching, Jo appeared. Evidently it was so hot on the boat she decided to brave the forest to find us. One of the crew on the boat actually came to her assistance and led her into the forest. We all walked back to Omega together and then moved across the river to the Tanjung Harapan village. It is a village subsidized by the government and often visited by tourists. There were some friendly people, especially the playful children,
but not much else remarkable about it. I think we were all ready to go home, so we got back on Omega and putt-putted down the river to the Kumai. We arrived back on Windbird just after dark and even though we had all had an amazing three days, it was good to get back “home.” Justin and Jo have one more day here and then they fly to Java early, early the next morning. So for now, we just want to enjoy tomorrow. Once Justin and Jo are gone, we will figure out what we are doing next. Whatever it is, it will take us from here to Singapore.
Day 152, Year 3: Day 2 of the Ultimate Orangutan and Wildlife Explore
Date: Hari Ratu (Wednesday), Bulan Oktober 8, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: How hot can it get?
Location: Sekonyer River, Kalimantan, Indonesia
Yesterday was a fantastic day but last night we learned what it is like really roughing it in the jungle. After dinner, Captain Suma brought mattresses up to the top deck and enclosed each in a mosquito net. Looked good. We were sleeping on the top deck with a tarp over our heads but still enough out in the open to hear all of the jungle sounds. All was well until about 3 am when the rains came. We had a torrential downpour that continued on into morning. Justin and Jo made it through fine,
but we had water coming in on Mark’s side of the bed that was soaking his mattress. He finally figured out that there was a low place in the covering tarp that was filling with water, so every twenty minutes of so he would get up and drain the water. Between the deafening sound of the pounding rain, the leaks, and the hard-as-a-board mattresses, we didn’t get all that much sleep in the early hours of the morning. But then we had already had hours of sleep before the rain, so we were really fine.
By the time we got up there were just “dibble dopps” of rain, but the clouds persisted through most of the day. After all, we are in a rain forest. We took a long walk through the jungle early and heard lots of jungle sounds but saw no wildlife. Back at Camp Leaky we watched the video about Kusasi and learned just how fragile the survival of the Borneo orangutans really is. I think it has slowed some now, but until recently Borneo was losing a forest the size of Vermont each year. It is the
world’s third largest island, but that is a huge chunk of forest to lose and the feeding area for orangutans has been drastically reduced. There are currently about 45,000 to 50,000 orangutans left in Borneo and another 7,000 on Sumatra, but that’s it for orangutans in the world. So if he loggers, miners, and farmers keep destroying the forests, there will be no more orangutans. After seeing the video, we were so glad that we had met Kusasi yesterday. We felt very lucky indeed.
We went back to the boat for lunch where Pan, the twelve to fifteen year-old son of Princess decided to make us his new best friends. Pan sat on the dock and watched as we ate lunch. Mark got brave and decided to go up and scratch Pan’s back. Pan seemed to love it and then Justin went up and sat down beside him on the top of the dock stairs. As they sat there, Pan seemed to spot something inside our boat. Quick as a flash he came down the dock steps, reached in the boat, and took the Captain’s
cookie jar. He made off to shore with the bounty. We watched him as he ate every single cookie. What a guy! It was then time for us to head in for the afternoon feeding. Mark and I went ahead and Pan was sitting by the side of the boardwalk. Mark took his hand and they walked together down the dock. Justin and Jo caught up with us, as well as our guide Rudi, and Rudi encouraged Justin and Jo to each take a hand a walk with Pan. It was quite a special moment. Pan finally got tired and sat
down and we moved on, but none of us will ever forget this experience.
We headed on to the feeding platform and watch more orangutan antics. Tom, the new king, came to the feeding platform for the second day in a row, and when returned to the camp, Kusasi was there with a couple of his old “girlfriends”, Siswi and Gara. Gara was there with her baby Gita and it was a little scary and a little touching to watch Kusasi reach to touch baby Gita. We couldn’t be sure of his intentions, but it honestly looked like he jut wanted to touch his baby. Male orangutans live alone
and never have anything to do with the parenting of their young, but today Kusasi looked like a doting papa. We just felt so lucky to be able to observe this.
It was the end of another day and we headed back to Omega and chugged down the river to find our anchoring spot for the night. We stopped when we saw a bunch of proboscis monkeys leaping from three to tree. These guys literally just leap and hope to find a leaf to hold on to. We tied up to some reeds, watched the show, and made this home for the night.
Day 151, Year 3: Day 1 of the Ultimate Orangutan and Wildlife Explore
Date: Hari Selasa (Tuesday), Bulan Oktober 7, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Even Hotter!
Location: Sekonyer River, Kalimantan, Indonesia
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever envision myself motoring up the Sungai (river) Sekonyer to Camp Leaky to actually observe some of the world’s last orangutans. But this morning this is just what we did. The Omega, a wooden river klotok (slowboat) came to Windbird to drop off a man who will live in our cockpit for the three days we are gone and to pick us and our gear up and start our jungle journey. The motor on the klotoks make a loud, distinctive “putt-putt” sound and away we went back
down the wide Sungai Kumai the way Windbird had come in. We made a turn to the left and found ourselves in the much smaller, dark chocolate-colored Sungai Sekonyer. Klotoks are about eight to ten feet wide and two can pass easily in the river but there’s not much more room than that. At first the river was lined with Nipas palms that grow right at the edge of the river. They are one of the few palms that can grow in salt water. The scene changed as we went further up as low growing pandanus
replaced the Nipas palms. These mangrove pandanus bear a poisonous fruit that monkeys can tolerate and people can eat if the fruit if cooked properly. A little further back from the river’s edge taller deciduous trees reached up to the sky, some with the most delicate salmon-colored leaves. All of the trees seemed to be covered with epiphytes of one kind or another and there were the largest staghorn ferns that I have ever seen. Butterflies were flitting here and there and dragon flies were darting
about. The sun was shining brightly and it was just a glorious day. We passed the first two observation camps and then the Sekonyer made a right turn heading to Camp Leaky. The river narrowed and the water color changed abruptly from a muddy brown to a clear black. At the point where we turned the Sungai Aspai joins the Sekonyer and brings the mercury pollution from the gold mines downstream. Thankfully the fork of the Sekonyer heading to Camp Leaky is pollution free, but all of a sudden the
air was so thick with humidity that it felt like you could cut through it with a knife. The river narrowed and Justin and I spotted a small crocodile sunning itself along the bank of the river. There was no other wildlife to observe until we reached Camp Leaky. But once we were tied to the dock, Siswi, a female orangutan, was there to greet us. It was quite thrilling to meet our first orangutan friend. We made our way to the camp on the boardwalk and as we were walking I asked our guide, Rudi,
if he thought we would get to meet Tom, the current “king of the jungle.” Rudi explained that Tom rules the jungle here and travels where he likes. We would have to be very “lucky” to meet him. But no sooner that Rudi said this than we heard someone in the camp call to say that Tom was there. It was like magic. We were the only people in that area so we had Tom all to ourselves. Tom is a very large orangutan sporting huge cheek pads and a large throat pouch, all signs of male dominance. He
looked so regal and just sat there while we got as close as we dared for photo ops with the king. After spending time with Tom, we walked past the Information Center and over to the building where bananas are stored. The banana boat from Kumai arrives once a week bringing the much needed food for the orangutans in Camp Leaky and today was the day. We had quite a show of gibbons, orangutans, and wild boar all wanting their share of the bananas. It was a great opportunity to watch the orangutans
swinging through the trees. They prefer this to walking on all fours, but their moves are slow and deliberate compared to the smaller gibbons which seems to really glide through the tree tops. They swing with graceful abandon. At this point we had only been in Camp Leaky for an hour but we had seen so much. It was way past time for the 2 pm feeding, so we scurried through the forest and open swamp land to reach the feeding platform. Tom, the king, decided to come, along with about fifteen other
orangutans. Some were young males and others were mothers with babies. The babies are just so cute, but the real show stopper was a female named Princess, her one-year old Putri, and her six to seven-year old son Percy. There is a picture of baby Princess on the cover of the June 1980 National Geographic playing with a human baby, the infant son of De. Galdiikas. This is the woman who arrived here as a brand new PhD in the early 1970’s and has stayed and become the mother of all orangutans.
Another researcher in the late 1970’s, Gary Shapiro, “adopted” baby Princess and taught her sign language. She is a very intelligent orangutan and we delighted as she responded to Rudi when her encouraged her to sign. Her latest trick is blowing out a lighter when you sing Happy Birthday. Princess is about 35 years old and she is quite a lady. All in all, it had been just a fantastic day at Camp Leaky, but there was even more to come. Before leaving, we went back to the area where the bananas
are stored and we had yet another treat in store. We got to meet the “fallen” king, Kusasi. He ruled the jungle here in the 1990’s and into the 2000″s but was badly hut in a fight with another male and never really recovered enough to maintain his rule. Near the end of his reign, actress Julia Roberts came here to meet him and tomorrow we will see the film made starring Kusasi with Julia as his supporting actress. Kusasi is still a big orangutan but you can see that he is growing old and has
lost his spirit. It is quite sad to see him, but we were still glad to have the chance to meet this grand old fellow.
We went back to our klotok thinking it couldn’t get any better than this. Our first afternoon at Camp Leaky had been really phenomenal but it was time to find a quiet place to anchor for the night and then return in the morning. We found our place for the night, had dinner, and then Captain Suma brought mattresses up to the top deck and enclosed them in mosquito nets. It was a great day and we are looking forward to more adventure tomorrow.
Day 150, Year 3: Getting Ready for the River Trip
Date: Hari Senin (Monday), Bulan Oktober 6, Pada Tahan 2008
Weather: Just HOT
Location: Kumai River, Kalimantan, Indonesia
We are only two degrees south of the equator and we can surely feel that. Just moving from one spot to another here can cause a severe outbreak of perspiration. So I picked today as a day to bake granola. Not smart, but necessary. And the morning began with a series of repairs. First the whole refrigeration system seemed to have just quit. Mark got out the manual and started tearing things apart to fix the system, but then I had a brilliant thought. Could it be that we had just let the batteries
go too low during the night and that charging the batteries might fix the system? That ended up to be the problem, so that repair was easy. We just started the engine. But then there were other problems. The forward head that Justin and Jo have been using got clogged and while Mark was trying to fix that, the water intake for the engine got clogged. So it was definitely one of those mornings that defines world cruising as repairing your boat in exotic places.
We all did make it to the nearby city of Pangkalan Bun where we had lunch and went to the ATM to sustain our activities and then to the internet café to check in on world happenings. We left Justin and Jo in the internet café and headed back to Kumai to finish our projects aboard Windbird. We also checked in with Harry to make sure that he had successfully made reservations for the kids to fly to back to Java and then on the Bali and to make sure we had given him the necessary paperwork to get
us in and out of the national park. All was well, so we headed back to Windibird to finish the projects we had started in the morning. Justin and Jo got back just about sunset and we had a taco dinner onboard and packed our bags for the river trip.
Tomorrow morning at 7:30 am we take off for our three day trip to see the orangutans. We will not be able to send logs, so the next log will be sent from here three days from now. We expect to have lots of great things to report, so stay tuned.