Monday, February 26, 2007

V2.C.P3= Kalimantan -final(ly)

I loved Kalimantan.

For that very reason, I will keep the story to the absolute minimum and will try to help you envisage it with as many pictures as possible...

The moment we took our little boat towards the river that would carry us to the rainforests (the Orang Utan National Park), the horror of Kumai was left behind and I was already feeling refreshed. It was a bit worrisome to hear that we didn’t have a shower onboard (see our little boat on the pics), but there was no possibility of changing that, so my grey cells quickly moved on to more important issues: who was onboard, how I was going to change the trip and how the trip was going to change me… In the middle of all these there were of course “the people”. The people, or as they have been referred previously as Harro’s mysterious gang, were worth mentioning because despite the beauty of the landscape and my moods, this trip would never be the same without them:

Vince, for easing me (about being me) / forcing me (on the concept of “discourse”) / sharing a curiosity about books,

Timme, for being the balance point and the voice of wisdom –despite putting the blame on the “waterbottle” / for teaching me a new song to play (and hopefully even sing better than he does) and making it the theme song of my trip / for recording most of it and later on editing it (well… I hope you are Tim!) / and for (probably) being the only one of us who was missing someone and therefore making us realise that life was not all about this forest and this river and the sky and the horizon… (thanks Kirsten!)

Rob, for all the silence and the talk,

Harro, for being positively surprised and having to deal with my mumblings / readings / confusions and attempts of sharing Foucault and Latour as I read through them / for allowing me to exploit his camera (which DID became an important issue as “I was out of memory”... makes me think that we do need a lot of space as people, and these days one space that we need is measured in bytes! This very fact could easily freaked me out especially if you think that I was in the utmost middle of nature)

And all, for the songs and the movies, opening and closing the doors, containing Anjis (our guide), being around and about and constantly radiating positive energy…

Then there was our cook: And I will not try to write about him but simply refer to his artwork (after a few hours of hiking in the forest, it is even more appreciated)

Then there were the small things of the previous kalimantan post: the butterflies (and Vin, with whom they fell in love with!), and the mushrooms (as I wrote, I DID FEEL like Alice!)

And then came the mammals –the orang utans: first the babies, and then the adult versions: Rosemary being my favourite, with a cloud of mosquitoes around her and coming from the back and surprising / scaring (the line is thin in a rainforest) us (see pic)…

There is more on orang utans (info + video) and their forest (here).

"The word orangutan (also written orang-utan, orang utan and orangutang) is derived from the Malay and Indonesian words orang meaning "person" and hutan meaning "forest", thus "man of the forest". Orang Hutan is the common term in these two national languages, although local peoples may also refer to them by local languages. Maias and mawas are also used in Malay, but it is unclear if those words refer only to orangutans, or to all apes in general. They are endangered species as a whole.

The Borneo species of orangutans is highly endangered, and the Sumatran species is critically endangered, according to the IUCN Red List of mammals, and both are listed on Appendix I of CITES. The Borneo population is estimated at about 50,000 in the wild, while the Sumatran species is estimated at 7000-7500 individuals.

Orangutan habitat destruction due to logging, mining and forest fires has been increasing rapidly in the last decade. A major factor in that period of time has been the conversion of vast areas of tropical forest to oil palm plantations, for the production of palm oil. Much of this activity is illegal, occurring in national parks that are officially off limits to loggers, miners and plantation development. There is also a major problem with the poaching of baby orangutans for sale into the pet trade; the trappers usually kill the mother to steal the baby.

Major conservation centres in Indonesia include those at Tanjung Puting in Central Kalimantan, Kutai in East Kalimantan, Gunung Palung in West Kalimantan, and Bukit Lawang in the Gunung Leuser National Park on the border of Aceh and North Sumatra. In Malaysia, conservation areas include Semenggok in Sarawak, and the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary near Sandakan in Sabah."

Then came the gibbons:

"Also called the lesser apes, gibbons differ from great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and humans) in being smaller, pair-bonded, in not making nests, and in certain anatomical details in which they superficially more closely resemble monkeys than the great apes do. Gibbons are masters of their primary mode of locomotion, brachiation, swinging from branch to branch distances of up to 15 m (50 ft), at speeds as much as 56 km/h (35 mph). They can also make leaps of up to 8 m (27 ft), and walk bipedally with their arms raised for balance.

One unique aspect of gibbon physiology is that the wrist is composed of a ball and socket joint, allowing for biaxial movement. This greatly reduces the amount of energy needed in the upper arm and torso, while also reducing stress on the shoulder joint. They also have long hands and feet, with a deep cleft between the first and second digits of their hands. Their fur is usually black, gray, or brownish, often with white markings on hands, feet, and face. Some species have an enlarged throat sac, which inflates and serves as a resonating chamber when the animals call. This structure is enormous in a few species, equalling the size of the animal's head."

A gang of 5 gibons decided to prove us how agile and acrobatic we could have been if and only if we evolved differently. It was better than any circus I've seen. They posed for us and played around us for at least half an hour, and naturally made our day!

And then there was the rain… and the light… and thunder… and the forest a huge WHOLE! We all were in constant amazement, and our typical day was looking out of the boat, taking pics, observing, looking out more, taking long hikes, looking our more, taking more pics (see photos)...

(Before all these of course there was Kyla, who gave us the idea of going there. It was sweet to find her notes on the campblog that we all had to sign and write to on each every camp we ended up in. we took a pic of that too...)

All in all, Kalimantan was the symbol of a huge experience that made me think it was worth all the effort to do, and to have done whatever I did and will do… It brought me back to my more-ecologist-self, which I have lost touch with throughout the time I was more into the development and justice side of environmental issues. It was big, and I felt wonderfully small and yet, almost a part of a whole that meant a lot to me and embraced me. In such a way that no existential problems would be allowed into that embrace…

feelings that passed by:

- tranquility

- absolute fulfillment

- peace

- harmony

- being at the top of the world

- longing for a shower

- desparation each time we came across the mines and palm plantations and each time we heard the speed in which the flaura and fauna was disappearing...

- absolute love towards the planet and each and every iota.

- excitement

I know what I sound like... it sounds naive/hippy-like/unreal once you are in the world of technology and modernity. but "there in the still, all that you feel is tranquility" and it was more real than any other experience...

Being back made me want to read Walden again...


smack said...

o wow you finally managed to get us back too kalimantan. I all most forgot about it. Nah just kidding. Love to see how you described your experience with the mysterious gang. And to read back the stories in time..

Harro van Asselt said...

Wonderful story! I am glad that you and Rob (and hopefully soon, Timme) have been able to bring back the trip so vividly - it makes a great read. Wish I could also go back in time & relive it & express it...
By the way, you forget one feeling that surely passed by - sober ;)

Timme said...

A great read. This was one of the most special things I did in my life. And sharing it with this group of people was amazing. Forgetting time, place, date, the world..... It was beautifull. Thanx for the story!