This is the fourth and final post from our jungle trek. The fourth day of hiking found us climbing gradually all afternoon up, up, up and into the mountains that divided the two regions. We were hoping to make it over the top and down to the river on the Krayan side, before setting up camp. But that wasn't to happen.
Along with heavy rain that made walking very difficult, the plateau at the top stretched on and on. Finally at around 4:30pm we stopped by a stream, way up high in the cloud forest, and made camp (this is quite late to set up camp in the jungle--it takes a lot of time and effort, especially when everything is soaked.) It was a very cold and wet night. The following morning we made it down to the Pa Bulu River (shown below at the headwaters), that would eventually take us to the point where we would hopefully be meeting the guys from Pa Upan.
The rain continued. We were totally soaked. The river continued to rise. Many times we had to wade across from one side to the other. It got deeper and deeper--and much swifter. Finally we made it to the meeting point. There was no sign of our friends from Pa Upan. We set up a small camp and waited. By 5:00 or so it became obvious that they would not be able to make it because of the "air besar" (big water!) We had one extra day thrown in to our trip for just this type of thing. So we figured we'd wait till 10:00 the following morning, and if they still weren't there we'd begin to hike the rest of the way to the village. It would have added a few more days of hiking, but would not have been the end of the world.
These are the hammocks that Paul and I slept in throughout the trip. The guys sleep under the "pondok" on the sticks they cut from the jungle as seen above. At first they thought we were weird for using these crazy hanging beds. They've been doing this stuff their whole lives and have never seen anything like these hammocks. By the end of the trip they were asking how they could get one.
Well, believe it or not, the guys did in fact reach us that night. At almost 6:15 pm (already quite dark in the jungle, and WAY late to be arriving to set up camp,) we heard the faint sound of a motorized canoe in the distance. The trip that normally takes around two and a half hours had taken them most of the day. But they were determined to press on, so as not to abandon their pilot friends in the jungle. We were humbled by their determination. There were four canoes in all, a group of men, and five hunting dogs. Below is a picture of us and and our friends from Pa Upan on our return trip.
Oh, and they also had a porcupine that they had caught on the way up river. By the light of headlamps they poured boiling water over it and began to prep it for cooking. Paul mentioned that they would likely feed this to the dogs. It looked that way to me as well. So we were a bit surprised when two hours later we were asked to join the feast...of porcupine. Most of it was boiled--they said the thick, rubbery skin was the best. And the tail was barbecued over the fire. Frankly, I have to tell you--it wasn't that bad. In fact, I rather liked it. Perhaps that's what a week in the jungle does to you?
The next day we awoke to heavy, heavy rain. It rained for half the day and the river got even bigger and wilder than before. There was no way we were going anywhere. So we stayed put till early afternoon and then finally the rain quit. We all took the dogs out to hunt pigs, but alas, no pigs were to be found. Hopefully the river would go down a bit overnight so we could make the trip to Pa Upan the following day. That night the guys did catch two tasty morsels--civets to be exact. The first was a common civet, as seen below. It's alive in the picture, but not for long.
The second was a banded palm civet. They look sort of like a cross between a cat and a large weasel of some sort. Though, I've never eaten cat or weasel, so I can't make a taste comparison.
I did find it interesting that they did NOT skin these animals. They simply singed all the hair off on the fire, leaving a charred, black corpse, with a strong odor of burned hair. Tasty! :)
During the night Paul was plagued by intense itching on his neck. In the morning we discovered he had a really nice rash. The guys first thought it was from a caterpillar, but later weren't convinced that it might be poison oak or something of the sort. In any case, it was a little "trophy" that he would get to take home from the trip.
Well, we did in fact finally make it to Pa Upan on Friday. It took a lot of effort, and I think all of us were soaked by the time we got there. Amazingly, none of the boats flipped, but that's probably do in part to the fact that every time we got close, we simply jumped out--hence the fact that we were soaked. There were numerous places where we simply had to remove the engines and rope the boat through rapids before getting back in on the other side.
Eventually we made it to the Krayan river, which took us to Pa Upan. From there we contacted MAF by HF radio. It had been eight days since our wives and kids had heard anything from us at all. Unlike our trip last year, there were no MAF planes flying over the remote region where we were hiking, so we had no way to contact anyone from the outside, whether good OR bad news.
At 4:30 pm we heard the distinct sound of an MAF Cessna 206 approaching from the east over the mountains--a very sweet and beautiful sound indeed! But this time, we would not be the pilots. Rather, we would be very appreciative, exhausted, weary passengers with a clear understanding of just how important the airplane is to the people who live in Northeast Kalimantan! As we flew the quick hour back to Tarakan, I looked out the window and was overwhelmed by the extreme contrast between the ease and safety and efficiency of travel by MAF, versus the grueling, dangerous, difficult and uncertain travel by foot and canoe through the jungles of Borneo. And once again I felt a deep sense of joy for the small role that my family and I get to play in meeting a critical need for the people of Kalimantan, in the name of Jesus!