Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Tue 20 Oct 2009 11:32
Sailing has always been a romantic thing for me. Since I was a small boy I have wanted to live by a river that flowed directly to the sea. I remember clearly my very first cruise, crossing the Channel on a starlit night in the Island Cruising Club's Nicolette, watching the lights stream past and marvelling that we were sharing the sea lanes on an equal footing with Cunarders, Union Castle and Blue Funnel ships heading for destinations all over the world. Now, over 50 years later we ourselves were on the other side of the world, in Conrad country, heading up the estuary of the Seconyer river in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. Coming down towards us was a small tanker and I could see from the AIS symbol on the chart that if we kept to our current course we should pass quite close to her starboard side. We were motoring with our sails furled and I had to decide whether to steer to port and give her plenty of room or cross her bow and make to pass on her port side as convention and the "rule of the road at sea" lays down. She was seven miles off and I dithered for some time but when we were still five miles apart I made up my mind, steered 40 degrees to starboard and crossed over to the tanker's port side. By the time she was two miles off we were well clear to port and I was altering course to run parallel again. The VHF squawked: "Sailing vessel Gigi Mon; Pandunusa." Heh, that's me. Scramble down below for the best hand set. Got it. "Gigi Mon; Pandunusa". Bother, wrong glasses. Here we are. Phew! "Pandunusa, this is JJ Moon. Go ahead." "Do we pass port to port?" He had been watching my manoeuvering. "Yes, port to port." "OK". All a bit short and to the point. I hoped I had done the right thing. I watched her go past and then, as she was sailing away astern the radio squawked again: "Gigi Mon; Pandunusa". Oh no! What now? "Pandunusa; JJ Moon". "Thank you for port to port". "Oh! Fine. Thank you Captain. Have a good trip". I was touched and surprised yet again at how professional mariners going about their business will offer the same courtesy to an amateur yacht skipper as they will to the master of a Very Large Bulk Carrier. And always in English, which is rarely their own language.
Our sole purpose in going to Kumai was to visit the Tanjup Puting National Park to see the orang-utans. Which is not to say we did not quickly make some more local friends among those who hurried to serve us. Adi was first on the scene to offer trips into the National Park and we signed up for a day trip in one of his speed boats. We could have had a one night or two night trip on a klotok with chef and sleeping accommodation. Tapestry and Troubadour chose the one night option. Adi also arranged for 300 litres of diesel to be delivered, took our rubbish, and offered the use of his dinghy landing. Before leaving Kumai we gave him my "Sail Bunaken 2009" cap which he was pleased to use for PR purposes when other Rally boats arrived later.
This is the way to travel. We arrive alongside two of the slower klotoks.
The trip into the rain forest was a highlight of the season, even of our round-the-world trip. We were picked up at 0730 and whisked at speed deep into the Park to arrive in time for the 0900 orang-utan feeding at the Pondok Tangui feeding platform. Attendance was thin with only one sub-adult male, Nana, turning up for his bananas but he was a fine looking chap who gave us plenty of entertainment for 20 minutes or so, although one has to say his table manners left a lot to be desired.
Nana saved the day and provided us with entertainment and some wonderful photos. Thank you lad.
After he had retired back up into the forest canopy we returned to the boat and were zipped along to Camp Leakey, a primate research centre founded in 1971 by a Canadian scientist and her American colleague.
Arriving at Camp Leakey Barry is ready for anything
Sadly, it looked a bit run down during our visit with little evidence of recent research but it was still an excellent eco-tourist facility that enabled people like us to take a good look at some very interesting animals. We were shown a good BBC film made in the late 1990s, starring Kusasi, the previous alpha male in these parts, king of the jungle for over ten years, and featuring Julia Roberts in a supporting role. It was probably made as part of the effort to preserve the habitat of these wonderful animals, a habitat which is under constant threat from logging and the palm oil industry. The film was interesting and entertaining and introduced us, among other things, to Princess and her young son Percy. Princess is as intelligent an orang-utan as any and during her three year relationship with an American researcher was taught 57 sounds or "words". We returned to a shelter near the boat for a good local lunch box. On the way back to Camp Leakey we came across an orang-utan on the path who was pleased to accept an orange from Joe, our guide. The fruit was peeled most skilfully. Joe had once been a park ranger for four years and knew the animals intimately. They seemed to recognize him.
Our first near encounter.
Someone's watching you
Back at Camp Leakey rain was threatening so we took shelter but had the opportunity to see a wild boar and her eight offspring, a gibbon and a large male orang-utan skulking in the bush.
A wild boar at the ranger station. She was no beauty but a good mother.
A gibbon was also hanging around the ranger station.