December 11, 2013

Paupan to Binawang - PART DEUX

Okay, lots of pictures here, please enjoy!

So here we are ready to go: David, Paul, Felix, myself, & our guide who agreed to get us part of the way to Binawang.
Some of these photos are courtesy of Paul, thanks Paul! Between the two of us we still didn't have an overabundance of good photos as it rained most of the time we were on the trail. Everything gets wet, and the camera lens fogs up quite nicely. Needles to say, I didn't bring my nicer camera.
I must say, this area is very beautiful! Being from British Columbia, I have grown up appreciating the God's creation more-or-less untouched. Even though this is the jungle on the other side of the world, the wilderness here felt a little familiar to me.
The photo above is of the first rapid we passed along side in the Krayan river. Between each of the four villages we travelled from/to, there are three different sections of rapids. This makes it impossible to travel between any of these four villages directly by boat. Normally, boat is by the far the quickest ground method of travel from one place to another in the jungle, but in these areas it is always a combination between walking and boating.

The picture below I need to describe. It is almost the exact location from where I took the photo above; a kind of perch looking down on the rapids. If you can see it, there are a few rocky bumps or castellations mostly covered in moss & vines. These are not natural, but are from long ago, probably some sort of marking by the local people groups of these river rapids. Just a few metres down the trail there were some more rocks with carvings, but due to the rain I didn't get a picture.

In Binawang, Pak Kalvin (Paul's good friend who had us stay in his house for a couple of nights) mentioned how throughout the Krayan only 2 or 3 generations ago there were monuments or markings of some sort put in specific locations for the sole purpose of marking the boundaries between villages. If a person crossed over a boundary from his own village, the other villagers would try to kill him, & vice versa.
MAF in Kalimantan is primarily about transportation. More specifically, transportation for people who live in areas like this. One of the coolest parts of this little trip was to walk some of the routes people still regularly take when an airplane is not available. Being that we did not stray away too far from the Krayan river or areas where there were known trails, we were still kind of on the 'beaten' path. Although, the beaten path was pretty hard to discern at times!
After getting to the bottom of the rapids we got to travel via boat. Much quicker! 
Travelling down this river was beautiful - just what you might expect from the interior jungles of Borneo. I kept looking along the shores in hopes of seeing a King Cobra sunning itself, or some other creepy crawly.
One thing we did see plenty of: Leeches! After our first little hike we stopped in the village of Rungang (sp?). It was here I quickly decided Paul's advise of pulling your socks over your pant legs was indeed excellent advise. Leeches are great at crawling up your boots & pant legs when you walk. My knees were the first skin they found and that's where they all hung out eating. This guy below fell out of my pant leg. He was so fat on eating my blood he could barely move. Nice!
After leaving Rungang, we travelled by boat down to this little "pondok" which is located not too far from the next stretch of rapids. We spent the night here. I guess it wasn't truly roughing it in the jungle because we had this wonderful little place to keep dry and cook a meal. Considering it rained most of the evening and night, it was a nice bonus as it provided a place to keep some stuff dry.
As a testament to how hardy the people of the Krayan are, just a couple minutes before dark a Dad and his son showed up at the pondok after a long day of travel. They stopped in for a couple of hours to try and dry out before heading by boat to Rungang. That day, they had hiked 13 or 14 hrs straight! Not only that, their last 2.5hrs of hiking before arriving at the pondok was the same bit of route we took the next day, and it took us 4hrs!

Below, one our awesome boat drivers is starting a fire in a traditional fashion. No, I don't mean the plastic lighter, but rather the hard rock-looking substance that is on fire in his hand. It is a crystallized soottie type material that builds up on a certain kind of tree. Apparently locals have use it as a great fire starter for a long time in the wet, wet jungle.
Despite the pondok and the rain, all four of us still slept in hammocks. Actually they are a more comfortable way to sleep! Despite all the rain, we stayed quite dry. It felt nice to be above the leeches and ants, sneaking about only inches below. I couldn't help but think what a delicious treat we would appear to be (pre-wrapped and all) for a hungry giant reticulating python.
Good morning Paul! 
Below, is what kids call "selfies" nowadays. Here, I was tired, very tired. I normally sweat a lot, but when you take a Canadian boy like myself and put me in a hot, humid jungle environment, it gets down right ridiculous. The actual hiking was not too bad but for me the hardest part was staying hydrated. I couldn't drink water fast enough! By the end of our second day of hiking, I really felt the affects of sweating way more than I was taking in (and also maybe the affects of what happens when you drink only partially filtered jungle water). It certainly is a different set of rules in this environment!
Shimmying up a log. I'm just glad to say no one fell in in any of our attempts to cross water like this.
Below is my "Ben conquering Borneo" pose. Actually, I was just super excited at the opportunity to just sit in a boat again and not let Borneo conquer me anymore for the day. Notice the soccer socks for leech protection.
 This is Paul, in the process of conquering Borneo.
Felix & David (below) in the boat ahead of us. Notice the straight shaft style boat motor / propeller setup. This is the way they roll here. It is a much cheaper setup than a conventional outboard motor ( the kind we are all familiar back home). Also, I imagine they have their advantages in this kind of boating, as you can control how deep or shallow the prop blades sit in the water.
These two photos below really capture how soggy & wet we all were. The photo immediately below is at the old location for the 2nd village we arrived at named Long Patti (3rd of 4 villages we visited during the 4 days), about 1/2 walk from the new village site of Long Patti. The reason for relocation maybe 30 years ago was that the new site has a better location for a airstrip. That is how important air travel was to them back then, that they'd move their whole village...and it still is today!

 Felix and David.
These guys spent another 3 weeks out here, pretty hardcore!

One of the coolest parts of this trip was being able to help plant a rice padi in Binawang. Growing rice in this region is their bread and butter, their main production crop. It's interesting to think how this crop really ties this rugged interior jungle area of Borneo with the rest of southeast Asia, as rice has been at the foundation of food production for countless centuries in this part of the world. My friend Wikipedia informed me that this type of rice & the style of growing it probably originated in China.

But how the folks here in Binawang do their rice planting is very unique. The field we were planting was owned by one particular family, but it seemed like a good portion of the village was out helping them. In turn, they rotate through all the fields, helping each other out get their crops planted, "bersama-sama" - all together.
Below is the smaller set area that the seedlings are grown in. Now that they are at the right size, the seedlings are taken and planted by hand, spaced evenly throughout the muddy padi's. At all these different stages there is a name for the rice (which I can't remember), as it just seems when something is more important, you end up having more words to describe it.
Take "bread" for instance. Bread to me back home generally comes in a loaf, often sliced, and used for sandwiches or toast. It doesn't mean buns, cookies, or donuts. Here in Indonesia, they word "roti" is used for just about every bread type wheat product that comes their way. Culturally, "roti" takes a back seat to rice here.

Paul and Pak Kalvin planting rice.
Sunset over Binawang looking out over part of the runway to the church and community buildings on the other side.