Star Date: April 2005
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
Ooohah! Nama Berita!!
(What's the news?? - Dayak tribe)
" You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself. "
(Alan Alda - actor)
Wild, rugged Kalimantan comprises the southern 2/3 of Borneo. Within it's remote wilderness areas are secrets yet to be discovered. Traveling here requires perseverance and time but discovering this hidden jewel is well worth the effort.
The real gems were the people. The smiles on the faces of the locals were so bright we needed sunglasses! (even though classified as dangerous, and possible terrorists, by the U.S. Dept of State's warning). In over 3 weeks we only laid eyes on one other white traveler and thus we were welcomed with interest and enthusiasm.
Simple everyday events can be a major undertaking here. When calling my son Kevin on his birthday, from a public phone, we attracted a chattering crowd of around 10 onlookers. Excitement mounted when after 3 hours of trying, the call actually went through. A car with loudspeakers on top circled the block in deafening swoops. A man with a machine gun over his shoulder, a soldier or policeman, walked up expecting to use the only working phone in the area. He had just stepped between a mother and her cub and the universal look told him to cool his jets and wait his turn! Cell phones are easier but are they this exciting?
After arm wrestling for an Indonesian visa at Tawau we took a speed boat down the coast to Tanjung Selor. Reminding me of the infrastructure of Africa, the main roads are almost impassable at places and it only gets worse inland; until a river or path are your only options. The radiant smile of Nicklas warmed up the back of the boat, where we were hanging with the locals. The only local with a few words of English, and us with our even fewer words of Bahasa Indonesia, we were soon just communicating with smiles and body language. There are hundreds of dialects in Borneo and when we would happen on to an English speaking person we wrote out needed words to get us through. We arrived up river at dusk and there was literally no room at the inn. Nicklas took us home and we cooked dinner over the fire in the kitchen, visited with the steady stream of curious onlookers and slept on a special 1/2" thick reed mat they had set up on the living room floor. Enthralled by the curious folks taking up their usual sleeping space, the rest of the family crammed into the next room like sardines. We all slept well and after a round of games, with the balloons we gave the children, they walked us up to the road and waved goodbye. The warmth and genuine kindness of this wonderful family, gladly sharing what little they had, inspired us as we began our 10 hour, turned 18 hour, bus ride to Samarinda.
We grabbed another bus from there to Penginapan Mukizat. We collapsed into a little loseman across from the mosque (good). The rustic balcony overlooked the Sungai Mahakam, a large river over 500 kms long. They have daily large "African Queen" steamer type boats that make the journey upriver in about 35 hours. The second night we walked down to the end of the small, completely dark, main street. Everyone called out 'hallo' from their doorways and we ended up singing with some young guys playing guitar. It was a totally Muslim town, no English spoken, and everyone with a heart of gold!
We made our way up river by water taxi to Murara Muntai. We chartered a boat from there to Tanjung Isuy. The 4 hour ride brought us through beautiful tributaries, lakes full of majestic water fowl and past fishermen and bamboo fish traps. We stayed in the longhouse with Brutan and his family (great). We spent 5 days immersed in the culture of the Dayak people. We were enveloped by the peace of this village, where time stood still. Everyone was fishing, weaving, carving, cooking or taking their mandi (or baths) in the river below. Many women were wearing a special beauty mask made of rice and herbs. One night we even went to see the shaman or medicine man carry out his animistic rituals at a house in the village. He sang, danced around totems, and stuck pins in voodoo type dolls. We left before they sacrificed the chickens and pig.
Everyday we have a 'kalapa sigar' or fresh coconut (great for your health). It is a easy way to meet the locals. We crossed the bridge one day on our walk and asked a group of 5 locals for a coconut. Someone scurried up a tree and for 25 cents had our treat. The next day 10 people were waiting for us and Joseph joked around with the machete, acting like he cut his fingers off, etc. Everyone was laughing. The 3rd day 20 adults and children were waiting for us to arrive. One of the men went in his shack and came out wearing his traditional costume. He and Joseph practiced shooting darts from his blowpipe into a banana tree. It is very important to remember to blow, not suck, the poison dart!! We bought a boar's tusk necklace, he had made, right off his chest. These soft spoken people were headhunters only 50 years ago so watch out when they get upset. In a tribal battle, less than 5 years earlier, 134 people were killed in Melak. On our last day all of our coconut buddies were sad to see us go. During hours together not a word of English was exchanged but we were able to share our cultural idiosyncrasies, our laughter and our smiles.
Back to Samarinda we took another long 15 hour bus ride to Banjarmasin, a large city in the south. A "Venice of the East" we spent hours exploring the maze like canals filled with floating markets, temples, mosques, and people bathing and brushing teeth, all within 6 feet of the floating outhouses. We also witnessed the by products of rampant logging of the valuable rainforest trees; large barges full of logs, then sawmills, piles of boards, plywood factories, 50 ft high sawdust piles, furniture craftsman, firewood, and finally scrap piles. At least every little bit was being used but try telling that to the orangutans and other flora and fauna facing extinction.
We made friends with a helpful local
man named 'Tyler'. With tourism so slim, so was Tyler. We invited him
to lunch everyday and when we left he said he had a "belly" because of us.
And so it goes...........................................................Next Sarawak. Until then Keep Smiling and push your comfort zone once in a while! You never know what you'll discover! Take Care and Keep in Touch.
Love, xoxoox Nancy & Joseph
A Dayak tribesman showing us his traditional
A Dayak woman back from gathering in the forest.
Those sun hats
Special herbal beauty mask. The Dayak women
wear this daily,
The village Shaman performed animistic ceremonies
Now that is a smile! Nicklas and his family
gave us not only a
Even though these diamond miners may work 10-12
hours a day,
The rain felt so good that the children frolicked and
Hi Tyler! Hope your friend lets you see our website!
The rivers and canals are a buzz of activity.
The veins of Gaia!