Friday, October 10, 2008

A mighty jungle

Apparently I was a bit mixed up with my orangutan preserve locations when I said earlier that I was going to Sumatra. Instead, I ended up on a boat in the jungle in Kalimantan, in the Indonesian portion of Borneo.

This week was spent with my sister on her fall weeklong holiday, as well as eight other teachers from the international school where she works in Bandung. We boarded the plane for Kalimantan in Jakarta, had a fun dance party to various Mika and Madonna songs at the back of the plane and before I knew it, I was on Borneo and boarding the boat that would be my home for the next four days.

The boat itself was rather nice, at least nicer than what I had in mind, which was sort of a bigger version of the one in the movie The African Queen (Katherine Hepburn + Humphrey Bogart). Our boat had two levels, the kitchen and the staff sleeping quarters below, and our living room/card-playing room/reading room/dining room/sleeping quarters on top.

The trip on the whole was absolutely fantastic. I got to get up close and personal with dozens of orangutans both males (not so close to them, they're rather aggressive. Come to think of it, eye contact was out of a question as well) and females, as well as adorable babies. I even got to touch one's hand! The hair was unbelievably coarse. And all of them move with an unbelievable grace--I couldn't take enough pictures of their hands and feet as a result.

Female orangutans are particularly awe-inspiring. They have one baby every eight years, and for those eight years, are completely devoted to their little one. For the first three years or so, the mother literally holds the baby, then the next two years consists of the baby holding onto Mama's back and finally the baby exploring on its own, but staying close until Mom decides it's time to get pregnant again. The females even have an internal birth control that makes them unable to get pregnant for those eight years that they're caring for the baby--the young ones are that vulnerable and need that much attention.

In addition to the orangutans, I got to experience other fun jungle-y experiences, such as showering in jungle river water, drinking arak (indo rice liquor), being doused in red wine for absolutely no reason by another passenger (long story that I'm still puzzling over), sleeping under a mosquito net only to awaken to 30+ mosquitos inside the net and my bum completely covered in bites...lots of enjoyable moments.

Ahhh, yes, the food! I have to say that the food we had on the boat was some of the best Indonesian food any of us (teachers having lived in Indo for two years included) had ever had. There was always nasi (rice), but I enjoyed some lovely squid dishes and barbecue stir-fried tempeh (another soy product, similar to tofu) and of course, I can't forget the tree shaped watermelon slices served at the end of every meal. Almost put me in the holiday spirit...

The rest of the week with my sister was spent in Jakarta, and the fabulous food we had there deserves its own post, coming soon.

P.S. I'm currently in Vietnam, in Hoi An, and have to apologize for posting so late! I'll try to catch up when I get another rainy day like today.

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