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.
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