Sunday, April 17, 2011

At the End of Our Journey

We spend our last moments in Hong Kong. Just to remember we travelled to the tropics, we got a last big downpour today.

The city is superb, one of the best things about it is that we could check in for our midnight flight in the morning in the city, and our luggage was taken by an express train to the airport. We followed them only later.

So this made it easy for us to make a trip today, but we checked in our raincoats as well...

Never mind, some time later we were eating lobster in a fishing village (yes, there are things like that in the big Hong Hong), being as wet as only we had just jumped into the waters of Victoria Harbour. It wasn't too bad in the 28 degrees Celsius anyway.

As we know it will be 2 degrees in Helsinki when we change flights at dawn, but luckily we only have to watch it through windows. On our route here it was still snowy.

On Monday morning we'll be in Budapest, and that concludes our journey this year, which has been the most advanturous so far.

the village of Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island

Friday, April 15, 2011

Last Day on Borneo

Borneo sunsetWe are leaving for Hong Kong in the afternoon, flying all across the South China Sea. Yes, this means we could get out of Indonesia and we are back in Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah.

When we arrived, it was raining again, just like it was a month ago when we left. Then the sky cleared out by the evening and Borneo said farewell with an amazing sunset.

We'll spend the whole Sunday in Hong Kong and we'll go home on Monday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nunukan, Indonesia

warnet, netcafe in IndonesiaYes, it's still Indonesia, although we should already be in Malaysia. The thing is that the supposed ferry didn't go this morning, so we are stuck here as for now...

I started asking about the ferry already a week ago, even before leaving for Derawan, so as to know how to time our return trip, because here you sometimes have to destine days for a few hundred kilometres' journey. They they said the engine was sometimes wrong, so I should call ahead from Derawan. Eventually we decided to come back to Tarakan a day earlier instead, just to be on the safe side. If they can't reassure us, we'd better leave for Malaysia a day earlier, even though we didn't particularly like the town of Tawau.

So we casually walked in the ticket office. Since in this part of Indonesia nobody in fact speaks English (or any other European language), we didn't really understand what they said, but we got our tickets (and they took its price) quickly. The ferry was due today at 10 am...

Well it didn't go. Someone was knocking on our hotel door last night. We were in the room only by chance at that moment. Adri didn't feel good, that's why we'd returned to our room for a couple of hours. There were three people standing in the door: the receptionist boy, who spoke a few words in English, a wheezy boy in the T-shirt of the ferry company and a third one, who was just accompanying them. They somehow told me that 'Mister, the ferry won't go tomorrow because the engine is wrong. (It's still a misery how they could find us in a city of 180 thousand, when they only asked for our names when buying the tickets.) They just asked for the tickets and gave back their price.

We came up with another solution, that we move one town closer to the border, to Nunukan (where there are supposedly many ferries going), and from where Tawau is quite close already (where there are many ferries going, too).

It was all fine till Nunukan. When we bought the tickets we made it sure that there'll be a connection at 2 pm. On our way once the engine broke down, otherwise it was all smooth.

However, in Nunukan it turned out that there were no more ferries at 2 pm, nor at any other time that day to Tawau, because of the lack of passengers. We told them in vain that we were already two. 'Tomorrow morning, Mister!'

We have a flight tomorrow at 1.30 pm from Tawau, so I honestly hope that this time we can trust the information. Anyway, we couldn't buy the tickets, as the ticket seller also went home in the morning because of the lack of passengers. By the way Tawau is no more than 1 hour by boat from here.male proboscis monkey in the mangrove park, TarakanSome other stuff. There could be deer in the City Park in Budapest indeed, as we saw a lot of proboscis monkeys in the mangrove park in Tarakan yesterday :) And macaques, white-head and white-belly eagles circling above them, great white egrets, kingfishers and mudskippers as extras.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Derawan Island, Indonesia

We are in Tarakan again actually but it doesn't make a difference. In fact Tarakan was the only place in all our Indonesian travels where we could find Internet - and in Long Bawan where it had been working for 6 days already when we arrived. This is hard to believe from Europe. I am happy personally that there are still hidden places like this on Earth, and especially that we could find it.

the Kalimantan rainforest from aboveWe spent the past days in another amazing place, for a different reason. We managed to soon get out of the centre of Borneo with the help of an American Cessna pilot. This was the most beautiful flight in my life. Long Bawan is situated above 1000 metres, surrounded by mountains fully covered by untouched rainforests. The flight took an hour, mostly above continous forest which is only interrupted by rivers and a few villages. I was stucked to the window of the small Cessna that flew only a few hundred metres above the forest. Seeing it made me feel good. By the way we call this uninterrupted tropical canopy broccoli because that's what it's like from above.

We were sad to leave this beauty and we were very happy that we could get as close to it as it is possible in the 21st century. It wasn't cheap but worth all cents. Borneo is one of the last lungs of the World, but unfortunately loggers have realized it, too, and allegedly half of the tropical wood of the World comes from Borneo today. If logging continues at this rate, in 20 years nothing will remain of these forests, nobody will wake for the sound of gibbons.

After leaving the forest we travelled to another gem of nature, Derawan Island by a combination of speedboat and minibus.

fisherman with a lobsterDerawan and some 30 more islands lie an hour away by speedboat off the eastern coast of Kalimantan on the Celebes Sea, in the middle of the Coral Triangle. It's incredible here. On Derawan there is a sleepy village populated by the Bajau people who are originally traders from the Philippines. And that's all the island, just a small village, we could walk it around in less than an hour on the first night.

sea turtleThe island is surrounded by a coral reef full of sea turtles. We met a lot of them and people here live in such a peace with them that you can even see them swim among the huts built on the water. We also lived in a hut like this. In the mornings we just walked to the end of the stage to watch turtles. And we collected big seashells at low tide. In the village you can see huge piles of coral and seashells.

Yesterday on our evening walk we saw strange trails in the sand and we followed them with our torch. Finally we got it, it was a turtle that came out of the water to lay eggs in a hole. I didn't take any photos so as not to disturb it, but we watched it for at least an hour.

a baby turtleWe also visited two nearby islands on the Celebes Sea, Kakaban and Sangalaki. On Kakaban ther is a lake full of jellyfish that lost their singes, so you can easily swim among them. On Sangalaki there is a turtle reserve where newborn turtles are helped to reach the sea. Both islands are surrounded by beautiful coral and plenty of fish. Unfortunately we didn't see the famous mantas at Sangalaki.

beach on DerawanThe tourists? Not too many come here, most go to the neighbouring Malaysia or Bali. We only saw 5 Western people on 4 days - and it would have been hard to hide from us on the small island :) Anyway, this is already five times as much as we saw so far in all of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). Maybe because it is difficult to get here? Well, it will take us 5 days to get back to Budapest...

Well this beauty is hard to leave indeed. If only we could be sure that these treasures will remain the same until we come back some time...

Now, almost at the end of our journey, we are sitting in a net cafe in Tarakan, which once seemed a distant advanturous town in a hidden corner of Indonesia. Tarakan still has some surpise to offer: there is a mangrove park 200 metres from the centre where proboscis monkeys roam, that are endemic to Borneo. It is as if in the city park of Budapest you could still see deer. We took a nice room here for 2 nights and then we'll go back to Malaysia.

There are still a few exotic towns waiting for us on our way home: Tawau, that I called Malaysia's rearest gate, Kota Kinabalu where we had our first tropical impressions on the island of Manukan, and Hong Kong. In fact it's still unsure if we get home, as we didn't get a reassuring answer whether there's a ferry to Tawau on Thursday. All we know is 'maybe'...
Kakaban island

Long Layu - Long Bawan, Indonesia

In Long Layu, where we spent aour first night after the forest, surprisingly many spoke some English (this means 2-3 people). We didn't understand this because they said there'd been only 2 tourists there in recent times - us :))
kids playingWe liked this village, too. Everyone was happy, people go to their neighbours to have a chat, all the children run and play together. The village of 600 people has 3 football fields, 1 volleyball court, all full of children. Men cut the grass together around the houses. The smallest children, too little for playing, gathered the grass in stacks and burnt it. Then they went down to the river for a swim, and went home for dinner at sunset. There's no internet or mobile network, and only a few TV's.

It was very good sitting in front of the house and watching all this with the beautiful mountains and the broccolis on them - as we called the thick undulating dark green forest.

small Cessna landingOur flight was due at 10 am. At 8 we were urged to go to the airfield which was a lonely hut in the middle of a field. We bought the last 2 tickets and we were strictly weighed. Bags can't excede 10 kilos, and people 70 kilos. We were a bit concerned about the latter, but were fine on averge :) Well, the plane didn't arrive at 10. Not even at 11 and 12... Then eventually it arrived. The pilot was alone and seeing my camera he invited me to the front seat :)
scenery from the planeUnfortunately we only flew 20 minutes but we were shocked by the scenery. These pilots ha a dream job: they fly from village to village in an amazing scenery.

Unfortunately there were no more seats on the flight to Tarakan, so we have to stay in Long Bawan for 2 days. This is quite a big settlement. We'll spend these 2 days at the home of the only man speaking Ebglish here, Pak Alex. He is the main tour organizer here, so we try to make the best of our time here.salt wellWe visited an ancient salt well and a waterfall.

We'll leave Long Bawan in the morning to a nice quiet island with sea turtles and manta rays :) Sadly the trip there takes 2 days and we'll have to go home soon :(

Jungle Journal - Day 6

Today we got up very early. We are all very excited :) We continued descending from the mountain, the forest was becoming more like at home. Then it changed into thick undergrowth then firns appeared, just like on the way up.

Later we arrived at a strange swampy flat forest, and at every step we expected to catch a glimpse of Shrek's house behind the shrub. As if we walked in a slipslop all the way while the undergrowth hid all this and the trees bowed above us mysteriously.

Then this part was over again and we started going uphill. We felt quite close already because we saw many footprints and also some people. We thought we would soon see some houses, but we didn't. What's more, climbing upwards became more difficult in the mud used by many before. The path was very narrow, it was easy slipping down into the hillside. We had to stop several times for a rest and the 3 pm arrival seemed hopeless. We were also hungry because we only had breakfast today. We thought we saw some orchids, however not in blossoms.

our rubber shoes at the end of the trekkingFinally we reached a vast river, from where we continued by a little canoe. It was over... No more walking. We liked the sun above our heads because we hadn't seen it for 6 days. At the same time we were very sad that all this finished.

As we got out of the forest, it changed its face again. From far away it was so beautiful again!

We'll spend our night at a family with our guides. Tomorrow morning they'll immediately start their way back to Apau Ping, and we'll fly to Long Bawan by a small 6 passenger plane. If all goes well, we'll continue right to Tarakan.

For a while the forest is over for us :(