Ah, Spring Break! While our school calls this short break “Easter Holiday,” I call it “finally, a break!” We haven’t had more than a long weekend off since January, and the four months has been quite the academic push. More than an entire term went by without pause, leaving us all ready for some R&R. Because we were all so busy during our post-Christmas term, most of us decided to stay “local” and travel within the archipelago.
Kalimantan is an island almost directly north of Java, and is more well known by a different name: Borneo. While English speakers refer to the whole island as Borneo, and the Indonesian owned portion as Kalimantan, it is my understanding that an Indonesian would refer to the entire island as Kalimantan, and then differentiate the Malaysian portion of the island as Borneo, and the miniscule country of Brunei (population 400,000) as a third section.
While Kalimantan seems like a random destination, Kalimantan is one of two places on the entire planet where orangutans can still be seen in the wild.
We flew in late, on one of two flights available from Jakarta to Pangkalan Bun, a city close to the national park where various Orangutan camps feed and foster orangutans orphaned by illegal poachers. Our tour wasn’t to start until the next day, so we spend the evening searching for a restaurant and playing card games in our small hotel. Our group was quite large: fourteen people in all, so we were a odd sight as we wandered the streets. (If white people are a spectical in Jakarta, they are a total scene in central Kalimantan. Children yelled from across the street, and the call of “Hey Misterrrr” was not uncommon.)
Our first day on the boat was phenomenal. The style of boat on which we traveled is called a Klotok. Named because of the sound of the engine, a rattling “klo tok tok tok tok,” the wooden ship was about fouty-five feet long, had two levels and was equipped with a bathroom/ shower and a small kitchen. We spent all of our time on the shaded upper deck. During the times we were not hiking through the rainforest or furiously snapping photos of the flora and fauna, we laid in the sun, played card games, and read our books. (No one was without a novel, a consequence of traveling with teachers.) At night, the crew set up sleeping mats and mosquito nets. Our group was large enough to require two boats, but at night our koltoks were tied together along the jungle edge. As we crusied, it was not uncommon to see a variety of monkeys together in the trees.
Even without having seen a single monkey or primate, we all immediately relaxed.
The sunshine, clean air, and excitement of being in a new place were all exhilarating.