SATURDAY, 11 AUGUST 2007
We all go ashore at 7.30 a.m. Harry, our agent, will arrange for clearance papers from Indonesia to be ready for our departure in a few days.
Then we are off to the local market to buy food with one of his young staff members. It is great to see the market but the outing seems very disorganized. Eddy is very indecisive so it takes a long time, and we then get caught in a huge downpour of rain with very little cover. Halfway through this excursion Geoff comes to find Ross as he and Harry are worried about our yacht. Apparently it has dragged anchor, but all is well by the time we return to the office.
Our expedition is looking a little glum at this stage and feeling very wet. We were all looking forward to it so much.
Our fortunes change! Harry has sorted out his crisis and he can now take us as planned. Eddy completes his shopping very quickly and efficiently and the engine is started ready for us to board the long boat.
As we depart on our Borneo Wilderness Orang-utan Eco-Tour a young man is dropped off onto each of our yachts to stay aboard and watch them for us until we return after dark tomorrow night – what an incredible service! Apparently, their families take their meals out to them on their boats. The Australian dollar goes a long way here!
Sekonga River (Kalimantan)We head off up the Sekonger River to Tanjung Puting Reserve National Park some 3040 sq. km. It has low-lying swampy terrain through which flow blackwater rivers. There are many mangrove swamps near the coast. There is also rainforest with a canopy of 40 metres. There is peat swamp forest and open areas of abandoned rice fields.
Eddie preparing lunch on the long boatThis area is famous for its orang-utans and has research and conservation programmes in place, including soft and hard release programmes, depending on the situation of the orang-utan. There are seven other species of monkeys and we saw proboscis and long-tail monkeys.
Apparently, there are over 220 species of birds. We certainly heard them often. We saw hornbills and larger species of kingfishers with the most brilliant colours. There are many beautiful species of butterflies, but we particularly admire the electric blue ones, and we spot a baby seawater crocodile sunning itself on a log.
We feel it is such a privilege to experience being amongst such biodiversity in this tropical rainforest, especially at the three different stations to watch the orang-utans.
On each occasion the feeding time is at the same hour each day and the ranger calls out loudly to encourage the orang-utans to come in. It is wonderful walking in through the forest and to hear and see these amazing animals approaching the feeding station. You may only see a tree high up swaying, or hear the rustle of branches and leaves, but gradually the orang-utans appear.
Orang-utansWe see all types and watch many different personalities behavioural roles played out, e.g. the dominant male of a group, the adolescents, including a "rape” of a mother who had her baby with her, the mother and baby, the pregnant orang-utan and many others. To see them swinging through the trees is amazing – they are so strong. They make the trees sway so they can reach across to the next one they want to reach. The orang-utans are fed bananas and given milk to drink in a large square bucket. Some of their antics are great to watch. They actually peel the bananas before eating them. Some of them seemed very greedy judging by the huge number they ate. There is a definite hierarchy within each group.
Orang-utans Tanjung National ParkI particularly enjoyed watching some of the mother/baby relationships. The mother suckles her young and you can just see their close relationship.
At the Leakey Research Station, the third station, we are thrilled to be so near the orang-utans and we could have reached out and touched a mother sitting on the ground, suckling her young baby and caring for her other young one at the same time.
Walking along the path one of the older females walks along too but a few times became a little undecided about which way to go, especially when we try to overtake her. When the guides run from her as she tries to approach them we realize you can’t take liberties with these animals, especially as they are so strong. She actually tried to grab my leg, which was quite exciting! (She is very gentle really. Apparently, she was born here in captivity so is very used to the environment.) There is a heavy downpour of rain and it is such fun to see several of them pick some large leaves and put them over their heads like umbrellas.
Chugging along the beautiful river in the long boat through the tropical rainforest is another delight. Throughout the trip Harry offers a wealth of information that is very much appreciated. The scenery is wonderful, the wildlife bountiful, and we pass by many small fishing boats.
One of the highlights of the trip is Eddie’s cuisine. It is sensational with his use of herbs and spices and wonderful recipes learned from his mother. He also manages this in very cramped conditions.
The six of us have one of the funniest nights we have had for a long time sleeping on the long boat. We decided the easiest thing is just to go to bed dressed as we are. We sleep on mattresses laid out beside each other on the deck and under mosquito nets. We all figure we won’t be having much sleep so we just rest as well as we can. There is discussion about the hilarious film “Kenny” because of the toilet on board which is open to the sky and provides cover just to chest level.
It is exciting waking up in the jungle the following morning listening to the orchestra of birds singing.
The final delight is sitting on the deck of the long boat in the dark and looking out at masses of groups of fireflies and looking up to the lovely clear sky scattered with thousands of bright, shimming stars.
We also visit a village that was relocated 33 years ago from the National Park to the other side of the river. They are still struggling to be self-sufficient because the land is so very poor – most of it is wet and soggy, so anything they grow has to be raised in pots. The government has helped but it is very difficult for these people. You can see from some of the houses and gardens most of them have worked very hard and have great pride. We meet a lovely old lady who is 84 and has had twelve children. We hope, with Harry’s help, we may be able to contribute something, e.g. a cow for the village, or a duck for each family.
Elderly woman from a relocated village from the National Park
What a wonderful and inspiring experience!
MONDAY, 13 AUGUST 2007
Feeling refreshed after a hot shower and a deep sleep we take up the anchor before 6.00 a.m. at first light to make our way west across the southern coast of Kalimantan and then north-west overnight to Seratu Island in the Java Sea.
We have an unexpectedly good sail until about 9.30 p.m. with 17-20 knots of wind on the port quarter, averaging about 7 knots S.O.G. We prepare the spinnaker pole for goose-winging on the new leg but the wind drops out so we have a pleasant drama free night motoring. There are very few other boats about on this leg.
We venture ashore at Seratu Island early evening. This is a very small and attractive island with the tiny, very under-developed village right on the beach nestled in below the backdrop of mountains.
A very lively young man helped us ashore (Phil has very kindly lent us his dinghy as we need to repair ours in Singapore).
The population here is very small so we have a quiet time with the welcoming people and their children. Some are already cooking fish on beach fires for their dinner.
We enjoy a walk along the white-sanded beach to the small mosque at the other end. Apparently, the Saudi Arabians built this and sent Imans here to teach their strict religious views, but we are very surprised when we see two young women dressed in short denim skirts.
We up anchor at about 4.30 a.m. and it is an easy anchorage to leave in the dark. We have 285 nautical miles to travel, which means another overnight sail. Apart from a minor issue with our depth sounder (used for checking shoals and reefs) all went well. Ross later fixes this, which is a relief for arriving at our next destination.
What a wonderful way to cross the South China Sea. We average 7.5 knots, the wind is behind us so the sails are set for goose-winging and it is a glorious day. I spent most of the day stretched out in the cockpit reading “Old Filth” by Jane Gardham.
We run the engine now and again to boost the batteries, run the refrigerators and keep up our speed average. When we are sailing it’s a great opportunity to listen to music.
These same conditions last through the night until 1.00 a.m. when the winds drop out and we motor just with the mainsail up.
I experience a slightly unnerving experience during my night watch. A vessel shows up ahead on the radar and, even when it is only 3 nautical miles away, I cannot see any lights. I keep changing course, but it changes course also, and continues heading towards us. (I’m not able to go to starboard because of the sail.) It must be a small vessel, as a light finally appears just under 2 nautical miles away. I am very relieved to pass by it.
The following morning we both feel tired and, although we enjoy the night watches, are pleased this is the last one for a while.
We cross the Equator at 9.50 a.m. - Neptune didn’t appear – and it was too early for a celebratory champagne. It is still a very exciting milestone as we now head into the northern hemisphere.
There is some disquiet when a fishing boat up ahead seems to remain on our track even when we change course. Then when we finally pass it turns and follows us. We put on plenty of power and, luckily, the wind picks up and gives us extra speed so we are able to outrun it. We later discover that the same thing happens to Phil and Robbie. It is not clear whether the fishermen were just curious or whether they had a more sinister purpose. It is the only time we have felt any discomfort at all in Indonesia. There is also a tradition here that if you are not having any luck catching any fish, if you go close to another vessel you can dispel any bad spirits from your boat to the other one.
We anchor just before dusk at Mesanak Island which is a beautiful tropical island. We bump a “bombie” on the way in which isn’t very clever but all is well. We are looking forward to getting the depth sounder fixed. There are many man-made wooden fishing traps in this area which stick up above the water level.
This is one place it would be lovely to have a few hours of daylight to enjoy a swim and a walk ashore, but we set off at 5.30 a.m. in the dark so we can arrive in Singapore in time to clear customs and be tied up at the marina before dark. We are all keen to be there for Sunday lunch at Raffles to celebrate Geoff’s birthday.
It is a lovely calm passage today up through the straits between many islands to Singapore. We are taking with us many happy memories from our cruising time in Indonesia – some wonderful sailing, beautiful places, many lovely, warm and welcoming people, and something of their culture.
Ross and I are looking forward to having a few days here to revisit some of the places Heather and Paul took us to when we stayed with them here some years ago. Also, we have the usual list of items to attend to on the yacht.