Two nights and two and a
half days of hot sailing has brought us to Kalimantan, the Indonesian and
largest part of Borneo. The town of Kumai is about 15 miles up a muddy river,
the estuary is extremely wide but with only a narrow channel of navigable water
which took some negotiating. It is a busy little port with regular ferries
to Java and, sadly, massive barge loads of tropical hardwood trees being towed
away by tugs. There are unusual features visible on the skyline here. The tall
buildings are not the usual silos of a port but 'bird hotels'. These accommodate
thousands upon thousands of swiftlets who produce nests from a little mud and
much saliva. The nests they are very small, white but almost transparent, they
are the raw material of birds' nest soup and various other products including
medicines and cosmetics. The nests are shipped off in tens of kilos to China,
Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia. The trade only started a matter of 10 to 15 years
ago but is booming and a high revenue earner for Indonesia. Obviously the
environment is good for these little mosquito murderers because there were over
70 of these bird hotels in the town, some as much as 5 stories high. They have
no windows but are full of holes and recorded bird song is played to attract the
little swifts. The marvellous consequence of this for visitors is that Kumai has
very few mosquitos.
in time for a tour of the local area and capital town of the region, Pangkalan
Bun. This included a tree planting activity. Here Peter is helped by the local
visited the school, a vocational college where, amongst other things, they
taught tourism, accountancy and office practice. It seemed quite well resourced
with a computer suite and evidence that a small number of pupils had their own
laptops. We were welcomed with the customary dance.
Our next stop was for a boat trip up one of the tributaries of the Kumai
river lined either side by a collection of ramshackle buidings on
left something to be desired as the planking in the bow had a large gap. The
combination of 6 heavy tourists and some choppy water from other craft meant
that the bilge pump was unable to cope, our skipper suddenly steered for a
landing stage and ordered us out immediately. We were glad not to have had to
swim for it as the water looked distinctly toxic, lined as it was by the locals'
After the bale out!
commandeered a more seaworthy launch we were gald to return to our air
conditioned bus. To travel half way round the world to die from drowning in a
Borneo river would seem a bit unfair!
awaited at this Dayak longhouse.
The Red Carpet treatment and
Cool and beautiful inside.
took place, first by the performers...
then by the cruisers. Indonesians just love singing and dancing, officials sing
to us at welcome ceremonies, there are usually professional singers and always
dancers from the local communities. Their dancing is excellent even when
performed by amateurs. The locals are always very keen to get us all to join in
and a bit disappointed if they cannot get us to sing as well as dance.
Incredibly sociable and fun loving people who love having visitors.
usual, attracted attention and attempted to get himself arrested by this lovely
police woman. Sadly he was let off with a caution and told not to do it
dancers. These are Dayak costumes and the dance was based around a hunt complete
with blow pipe. Eagle and peacock feathers adorn the head dresses.
visited a wooden palace that was the home of local Sultans from the 17th
to the 20th century. It was burnt down by what was described as
a 'madman' in 1995 but has been rebuilt to exact design this time using iron
wood which is very strong and resistant.
This was a
wonderful building. Built on stilts to enhance the views and encourage
ventilation, air wafted through the vents under the shady over-hanging roof. The
large glass free windows had louvred shutters to provide air and shade in the
heat of the day. It was peaceful, cool and airy despite the temperature outside.
Kalimantan is HOT!