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Monday, 18 April 2011
Location: Budapest, Hungary

Back at Home

children playing football on tiny Derawan Island off the coast of Borneo
children playing football on tiny
Derawan Island off the coast of
Borneo

We've been away for one day less than a month and the first time we read the the news was yesterday in Hong Kong because we had WiFi and plenty of time in our room. The headlines were the same as when we left: leaking power plant in Japan, pension issues, falling currency, and protesting firefighters at home, missiles in Libya, natural disasters all over the world, and the preparations for Prince Williams' wedding.

There is still no sound option of public transport at Ferihegy Airport (like one similar to Hong Kong's 23-minute Airport Express), but only queuing in the traffic jam of Pest in the overpriced taxi while listening to the occasional siren.

In the taxi you start to think about work, things to do, people to call, bills to pay. Arriving home a bunch of letters awaits. Well, we could do without these.

Sunday, 17 April 2011
Location: Hong Kong, China

At the End of Our Journey

the village of Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island
the village of Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island

We spend our last moments in Hong Kong. Just to remind us we travelled to the tropics, we had 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.

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

Never mind, after the storm we ate lobster in a fishing village (yes, there are things like that in the big Hong Hong), being as wet as if 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 the windows. On our flight 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.

Friday, 15 April 2011
Location: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Last Day on Borneo

Borneo sunset
Borneo sunset

We 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, Malaysia.

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 good bye with an amazing sunset.

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

Wednesday, 13 April 2011
Location: Nunukan Island, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Stuck in Indonesia

warnet, netcafe in Indonesia
warnet, netcafe in Indonesia

Yes, we're still in 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, because here you sometimes have to count days for a few hundred kilometres' trip. 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 into the ticket office. Since in this part of Indonesia nobody really 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 to leave at 10 am today...

Well it didn't.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Location: Tarakan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Derawan Island

beach on Derawan
beach on Derawan

Actually we are in Tarakan again 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 yes, in Long Bawan where it had been running for 5 days already when we arrived. This is hard to believe from Europe. I am personally happy that there are still hidden places like this on earth, and especially that we could find it.

We spent the past days in another amazing place, amazing for a different reason. We soon managed to get out of the heart 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 intact rainforests. The flight took an hour, mostly above continuous forest which is only interrupted by rivers and a few villages. I was stuck to the window of the small Cessna that flew only a few hundred metres above the forest. Seeing it made me feel so good. By the way we call this uninterrupted tropical canopy broccoli because that's what it's like from above.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011
Location: Nunukan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Out of the jungle

great survivors
great survivors

We are creating history. And we are being photographed. The reason is that in Long Bawan, in the heart of Borneo they have internet since the 1st of April and we are the first foreigners to use it. Hurrah!

Now, this is a summary of our jungle trek.

First the impotrant thing: we got out of the forest. I mean we got into its deepest pocket. The WWF coleague, Pak Ishak helped us a lot but unfortunately he spoke very little English - luckily we did speak some Indonesian. The trip on the river took 4 days instead of the initially planned 2, we went as far upriver as the rapids made it possible. Even so, in the end we carried the boat more than what the boat transported us... Anyway, the deeper we got into Borneo the slower it became to move forward - and the more expensive. This is because the fuel has to be taken also from where we came, from Tanjung Selor, at 4 days' distance by longboat.

In the Heart of Borneo

small Cessna landing
small Cessna landing in Long Layu

In Long Layu, where we spent our 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 :))

We liked this village, too. Everyone was happy, people went to their neighbours to have a chat, all the children ran and played together. The village of 600 people had 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 cut grass in stacks and burnt it. Then they went down to the river for a swim, and went home for dinner at sunset. There was no internet or mobile network, and only a few TV's.

Monday, 4 April 2011
Location: Long Layu, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Day Six in the Junge

our rubber shoes at the end of the trekking
our rubber shoes at the end of the
trekking

Today we got up very early. We were all very excited :) We continued descending from the mountain, the forest was becoming more like at home. Then it changed into thick undergrowth, then the ferns 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 from our sight and the trees bowed above us mysteriously.

Then this part was over again and we started going uphill again. 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 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 blossom.

Finally we reached a vast river, from where we continued in a small canoe. Now 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. Watching from far away it was so beautiful again!

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

The forest is over for us for a while :(

Sunday, 3 April 2011
Location: Bahau Hulu, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Day Five in the Jungle

walking in the river bed
walking in the river bed

We started to descend from the mountain this morning. It's high time for Adri not to be frozen every night. In fact walking downhill is not easier than uphill, either. The moss forest is really cool, it's like being inside a fully wet sponge. The good news is that we think hornbills like it. Or the mountains. Or both :) Today we've seen a great many of them. Apart from them we've only seen a snake, no deer, no bears, no monkeys. We've only seen the signs of the presence of monkeys: half eaten fruit dropped from the canopy. This drives Adri mad: finding beautiful half eaten fruit on the ground while we haven't eaten any for at least 7 days! For one reason there's nothing edible in this forest, otherwise it's very difficult and therefore expensive getting to these remote villages. So they only take the most necessary things up the river. And there's little fruit growing here :(

Saturday, 2 April 2011
Location: Bahau Hulu, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Day Four in the Jungle: Clothing

our small group
our small group

We thought the sun would never rise and it will never be warm again, but eventually it did :) It's terrible putting on our wet clothes again in the morning.

For the trekking we only have two sets of clothes, we left all the rest in Tanjung Selor.

1. Night clothes in a waterproof plastic container that stay dry under all circumstances. We put these on every night, in the morning they go back to the plastic container.

2. Clothes we put on by day. These are generally washed in the creek in the evening and of course they won't get dry by the morning in the permanent 100% humidity. However, they are quick-drying stuff and get dryish soon after we put them on. We wear the same ones every day.

Friday, 1 April 2011
Location: Bahau Hulu, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Day Three in the Jungle: Leeches and Shoes

an old growth tree
an old growth tree

We were held back by yesterday's heavy rains. So we started early today and walked quite fast. There was much mud everywhere, the leeches were thriving. At each stop all of us cut off many swollen ones from our bodies. These little creatures are different from the ones at home. They rest on the forest floor waiting for someone walking there and they quickly get stuck to his shoes and creep to all body parts unnoticed. When young they are as thin as a thread. When they finish their blood sucking job they become as fat as a baby's finger. In fact it doesn't hurt, they come and go unnoticed, only they are disgusting. We notice around 50-100 per day on ourselves that we take off somehow.

Thursday, 31 March 2011
Location: Bahau Hulu, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Day Two in the Jungle: Parangs and Shelters

forest shelter
forest shelter

After sunrise the guides started to prepare for the day. We were sleeping a bit longer but we soon had to wake up, too. By the time we got prepared ourselves, the breakfast was ready. Rice of course, and a huge frog on a stick...

By the way Adri had the ninth anniversary of her vegetarianism at the beginning of February, but after this she started preparing for this journey. She got used to meat day by day, so she didn't have any problems with any food. It was a good idea as apart from here we haven't found vegetarian food anywhere.

In fact she said frogs taste like chicken :)

Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Location: Bahau Hulu, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Day One in the Jungle

making coffee in the forest
making coffee in the forest

Today is Adri's birthday. She had a terrible sleep. She woke up at every noise wondering if a rat was coming into our room or a snake for the rat. All our stuff is wet (it was raining all night) and something has bitten her below the eye. It's been swollen and so have her lips.

After breakfast we packed our bags and started our trek. Our guides took everything we needed for the 6 days, plus some of our stuff. I carried my own backpack and Adri carried the small photo bag, everything else was carried by them.

We walked up and down the mountains all day, occasionally crossing creeks. The rubber shoes we'd bought in Tanjung Selor were really great ideas :) Its sole is like that of a football shoe, so it's not so slippery on the roots. It's fully made of rubber, so it's easy to jump on wet stones, and of course it's no problem if it gets wet.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011
Location: Long Tua, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Starting our Jungle Trek

Dayak necklace from bear teeth
Dayak necklace from
bear teeth

Today was the first day we didn't have to wake up early, so we stayed in bed until 9. We had breakfast and lunch together with our hosts and kept communicating word by word with the help of our phrasebook. They showed us their well preserved old tribal pieces: headdresses, shields, necklaces and even a pectoral decorated with 30 leopard teeth. This one well outshone the necklace with the two bear teeth.

After lunch our guides arrived and we began our journey which we came here for. Our first stop was only about 1 hour away in a small canoe. On this short section we had to get out of the boat many times and carry our bags hopping on the rocks on the riverbank and pull the canoe through the rapids. One of the guides caught two fish with a net, which became our dinner :)

Up the River

the longboat at the confluence of the Kayan and Pujungan rivers
the longboat at the confluence of the
Kayan and Pujungan rivers

We arrived in Indonesia through the port town of Tarakan. From there we went up the Kayan and Bahau rivers to start our rainforest tour. The first part of the journey was: Tarakan - Tanjung Selor - Long Pujungan - Apau Ping.

The first impressions on Tarakan were very good for both of us. Then at night it turned out to be a place full of cockroaches... We had a terrific night.

We left the place for Tanjung Selor the following day by speedboat, which wasn't a too speedy boat but a rather crowded one instead. There we met a man called Ishak, who is from the village where we'll start our rainforest trek from. He helped us a lot in the days that followed.

Thursday, 24 March 2011
Location: Tarakan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Arriving in Kalimantan

Tarakan from the pier
Tarakan from the pier

Through Malaysia's remotest gate, Tawau, we sneaked into Indonesia today. Contrary to my prejudices Indonesia has proved to be a much more pleasant place than Malaysia so far. People are greeting us and smiling at us again, like in the Philippines. Moreover, Tawau was so rundown that it fell short of all expectations.

Tarakan, however, is very pleasant and much cleaner.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Location: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

The First Encounter

pier on Manukan Island
pier on Manukan Island

We arrived on the island of Borneo yesterday and we got in close contact with the equatorial climate right on our first day here. (The Equator runs right through the centre of Borneo.) When we got off the plane we saw plenty of huge suspicious puddles, even though it wasn't raining then. It was like in a greenhouse, fog and warmth.

There are a handful of tropical islets lying out at the sea not far from Kota Kinabalu, and we have visited one of them today. The weather was once cloudy then sunny but it was warm so we decided to go. The ticket seller asked us if we wanted to return at 2 or 3 pm but we weren't suspicous at all at that time.

Monday, 21 March 2011
Location: Hong Kong, China

At Hong Kong Airport

giant Buddha on Lantau Island
giant Buddha on Lantau Island

Just about to leave Hong Kong. We have some time here at the airport and we have wi-fi here, just like everywhere in the city - even on the bus. We had one thing to visit today, a huge Buddha statue on one of Hong Kong's outlying green islands. It was a nice trip in the 25 degrees Celsius after the snowy airport in Helsinki. We are just about to leave for our next destination, the capital of the East Malaysian Sabah province, Kota Kinabalu, which is already on Borneo. The climate there is already equatorial, so we stay there for two days to get used to it before going on to our final destination, the Indonesian interior of the island. It's soon boardning time, so we say goodby now.

Friday, 18 March 2011
Location: Budapest, Hungary

Leaving Tomorrow

We aren't going to blog as actively this year as we did in the Philippines or in India but every now and then we'll report shortly about our whereabouts. And we'll do this here on this site.

But where exactly are we going to this time? To Borneo, which is the third largest island in the world and where South-East Asia's last large rainforest survives. The Borneo rainforest boasts one of the biggest biodiversities in the World: there are as many plant species here as in the whole of Africa and as many tree species that allegedly you can walk for days till you see the same type twice. And well, some of them are as high as 60 metres and the canopy so thick that having a GPS signal is hopeless, not to mention a mobile network. On one such tree patient scientists have counted 1000 insect species. Here lives the orang utan, the "man of the forest" in Malaysian.