Kumai, Kalimantan, and Belitung
6th to 17th October
The sail from Bawean to Kumai in Central Kalimantan was marred by running aground near high tide on a lee shore near the river’s bar. Even with very capable help from fellow sailors and an Indonesian tug, we were unable to float free for many hours. After midnight a wind shift thankfully helped ease us off. (In case you’re interested, Navionics charts are hopelessly inaccurate in this area!)
Then followed a few wonderful and especially memorable days. First, an action-packed day that left us dizzy with new experiences: in the space of 15 hours on that one day we had welcome dances, lessons in blowpipe use (the Dayak weapon of choice, though we did not use poisoned darts), drinks of rice wine in Dayak longhouse, a colourful children’s fashion show (in torrential rain), a ‘getek’ race on local river (‘getek’ is local open narrow motorboat), two palaces, gala dinner with speeches and dances (lest you think these dances are all the same, they’re not – Kalimantan’s being much less formalised with livelier rhythm (and apparently happier participants) than Bali’s, for example, but everywhere the costumes are fabulous). It was a supremely well-organised and fascinating introduction to Kalimantan. Here are a few photos….
Next day, we’re collected by our ‘klotok’ (local boat, colourful double-decker) for ‘the orangutan trip’; three days and two nights when we are spoiled and guided by the local crew – four of them for the four of us.
These trips are the prime reason for tourists to visit Kumai, and in peak months as many as a hundred of these boats are navigating the narrow waterways to and from the various orangutan feeding stations, and allied jungle walks, and viewing – and hearing – the varied local wildlife (which includes kingfishers, proboscis monkeys, fireflies and the amazing cacophony of creatures whose loud orchestra fills the night).
With need to move briskly from Kalimantan to the next rally stop on the island of Belitung , nearly 300 miles away, we leave as soon as our orangutan cruise is over. It’s a tiresome trip with motoring and motor-sailing most of the way, adverse currents and a shipping lane, plus many tugs that pull big loads of coal or oil or goodness-knows-what across the Java Sea.
Small island Belitung boasts white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, and seems popular with Indonesians from Java and Sumatra. We have an organised coach trip to the town, our unflappable and smiling guide, Kiki, keen to show us the local sights (school, traditional house, market, dancing, snacks, meals, boat building et al.) and is only a little put out that no-one was up for karaoke on the return journey.
And then we’ve had a day of leisure on a gorgeous little islet decorated with huge rounded granite boulders, and the happy spectacle of young Indonesian girls learning to swim (or float at least) which they do with headscarfs and full dress, and lots of giggling…..but I had no camera…