All photos and text are property of Dave Forney and may not be used without express permission.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wild Pig Hunt!

On Thursday my good friend and fellow pilot, Paul College, and I got to go on a wild pig hunt with our friends in the village of Binuang.

We flew hard all day taking many loads of women to the village of Paupan for a big gathering. Then we parked our planes in Binuang and set out in search of fresh bacon. They provided each of us with one of their home-made shotguns--though I must confess I thought it more frightening to fire this rickety steel pipe, than to face a boar with a machete. None-the-less there's something inspiring and bonding about sluggin' through the woods (or jungle) with "the guys," a gun slung over our shoulder.

After riding in a motorized canoe for a bit, we hiked deep into the jungle. They asked us when we needed to be back to Binuang, understanding that we each had a long flight day on Friday. We suggested not too long after dark, maybe 7 or 8:00. That would prove to be wishful thinking.

Along the way we set a few fish nets in the small river that we were criss-crossing. Paul jumped right in to pull the net into a deep pool.

The guys tried to call some deer in just before dark, but none responded. We found an old, small pondok (small jungle hut) and built a little fire in the clearing. By now it was pitch dark, and the sound of constant, rumbling thunder was not far off. After eating some leaf-wrapped sticky rice and little fried fish, two of the guys said they were going to take a short walk across the river to check out one of their other pondoks. Pak Kalfin, Paul and I decided to wait for them to return. So around 7:00pm we laid down on the hard floor of the pondok and tried to catch some sleep until they returned. We would then hunt on the way back to Binuang.

But they didn't come back. The thunder gave way to torrents of rain--hour after hour it continued, and still they did not return. Around 1:00 am we heard loud hoots, far off in jungle, nearly drowned out by the sound of the now raging river and the waining drizzle. We searched out the source of the voices, and found that our friends were stranded on the other side of what used to be a creek, but now was a furry of chocolate brown frothy rage, far to deep and fast and wide for them to cross, not to mention the fact that they were bringing back a huge pig. So we set to work cutting down a massive stand of towering bamboo, falling them across the river to form a bridge.

The first several poles were immediately swept away by the torrents, but eventually they got two of them tied together with vines. Slowly they made their way across 30 feet of slippery, wet, bouncy bamboo, starting first in the water at the far side and slowly ascending 10 feet or so to the muddy cut bank on our side. On their backs were woven packs loaded to the hilt with fresh bloody pork.
We made it back to the pondok at about 2:00 am, even more wet, cold and tired than before.
Making a fire with wet bamboo hardly seemed worth the effort, but we got it going and tried to sleep a bit more...though sleeping on cold, hard wood boards is not exactly ideal. Additionally, it served as the cooking fire for breakfast. By 5:30am there was an old steaming iron pot full of boiled pork meat, slabs of chunky liver, and my favorite (note the sarcasm,) boiled pig brains wrapped in banana leaf. Yuuuuummmy! Nothing like fresh, warm, smooshy pig brains to get your day started.

So by 5:45am, we set out for Binuang, hiking several hours back through the sopping wet jungle and wading the swollen rivers, to arrive just in time to pre-flight our planes and set out on another day of mission flying. It certainly wasn't the same as a Pennsylvania deer hunt, or moose hunting in Alaska, but it was definitely a good adventure, and another great opportunity to bond and deepen friendships with our buddies from Binuang!

Chopped by a Boat Prop!

On Wednesday MAF got a call from the village of Mahak Baru, a one and a half hour flight from Tarakan. A 14 year old boy had somehow gotten up against a running boat propeller and got chopped up pretty good on his backside. He was bleeding heavily, and obviously needed medical attention. I was glad to be able to take him back to Tarakan, though the weather proved to be very challenging with massive, intense thunderstorms and brilliant displays of lightning. Just after the kid was loaded into the plane I snapped the pic below. Didn't take a pic of the kid--he probably wouldn't have appreciated it, and you probably wouldn't have wanted to see it.

Speaking of needing medical attention, the past couple of weeks have been a bit "trying" for our family, as we've faced a seemingly endless list of sicknesses and medical problems. It started with Joy getting a bad head cold that just wouldn't go away. While she still had that, I threw my back out, resulting in three days of missed work (the first time I've missed a day for "sickness" since being in Indonesia.) As bad as the intense pain was, perhaps even worse was the feeling of total helplessness as I was condemned to lie flat hour after hour, and seemingly day after day.

Then, while I was still down, and Joy still fighting the cold, Britton began to complain of bad pain in his leg. Seeing nothing obvious, we told him basically to buck up. I know, in retrospect it was the wrong advice, since the next morning his entire lower leg was swollen, red, and splotchy, with a white puss-filled hole in the middle. And now he had a fever to boot. After a trip to the doc, it was determined that whatever had bitten him had caused an infection that was now in his bloodstream. He was down and out for several days. Meantime, Hudson developed a weird and unidentified growth on his stomach that began to ooze puss and blood. And Joy was having strong recurring pain and aches in her joints and muscles--something she'd had pretty consistently the past several months until she was "diagnosed" with TB and began taking the medication last month.

Basically, the only healthy people in the house were Hannah and the twins. A week after Britton's initial infection, he got another fever that wouldn't go away. Again a trip to the doctor, and again an infection in the bloodstream--or perhaps the same one that never went away?? Down again. And finally it was the twins' turn. Yesterday Tanner got sick. After losing supper three times last night, and again this morning, he still has a fever late this afternoon. And it seems that Tyler is just starting to pick it up now as well.

Yes, we're growing a bit weary of the sickness thing. Being sick here is not as "easy" as being sick in the U.S., where the doctors speak English, seem to understand a bit better what's going on, and prescribe well-known medications. None-the-less, we have a lot to be thankful for. Hey, at least we didn't get chopped up by a boat prop! And in a few days or weeks, hopefully this will all be over and we'll be back to normal. In the meantime, thanks for praying for us. We sure do appreciate it! :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jungle Expedition Part IV

This is the last post about our adventure to the WWF Lalut Birai research station. We woke up Sunday morning with the smell of the camp fire...

... and a good square meal waiting to be devoured--rice, jungle veggies, little fried whole fish, and of course more frogs.

Crunchy, scrumptious, frogs!

While packing up our campsite along the pretty little creek, we heard some commotion from the direction of the research station.

Our guide had caught a little water snake. The guides loved the fact that Britton was so totally into the wildlife and insects. So they were always trying to find things to point out and show us.

We found some time to climb a really sweet tree. We had to climb it basically just because it was there...and needed to be climbed.

And beneath that tree was a vine. So of course, we had to swing on it.

Then Britton had the chance to feed that deep inner instinct, that fire-making desire that most boys have to suppress. In the jungle it's very, very difficult to make fire, so it's a great place for a boy to practice.

Just before leaving, our guide caught Britton a sweet lizard. We brought it home, where it now lives in Britton's terrarium. Everyday Britton catches a bunch of grasshoppers to feed him. What's really cool is that he can change color to match whatever he's on at the time.

Just before we left we took a group picture.

Then we hiked out to the river, took the motorized canoes back to the airstrip, and flew back to Tarakan--tired, but with plenty of fantastic memories.

Well, that's it. Hope you enjoyed hearing about our adventure. Wish you could have come along.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jungle Expedition Part III

Hope you're not getting bored with the retelling of our jungle adventure. Since we don't get to do stuff like this very often, (and certainly most folks never get the chance to do a trip like this,) it seems like it might be interesting for you as well. But if nothing else, I know the grandpas and grandmas like to see all the details. So here's part III.

We woke up Saturday morning at first light, with the sounds of the jungle all around, including the babbling brook that ran right beside our hammocks.

Already the cooking fire was going, and the ladies that had come along to prepare the food were hard at work. The hunting party the previous night had been successful, the guys bringing back a small deer and several small rodent-looking things. But since they were still being skinned and gutted, the pleasant, sizzling aroma drifting low on the smoke through the mist must be something else.

Indeed it was! Frogs! Lots of crispy, fried frogs, the result of our frog-hunting expedition the night before. I can't emphasize how small they were, especially after shriveling up in the hot campfire oil. I've never eaten the large bullfrogs that I've heard of in the southern U.S., but I'm pretty sure that you don't eat them the same way we did these. These were eaten whole...everything was pretty much the same crispy texture and flavor (bones, meat--what little there was, tendons, etc.) Actually, they were pretty good. Of course, just about anything cooked over a campfire in sizzling oil is good. Anyway, the one that Britton has in the picture below was the biggest one. The rest were all considerably smaller, with less "meat."

After breakfast we took off on a jungle hike with our guide. Britton was awesome, keeping up with the adults, despite the fact that we went up, up, up, and then up some more, as we climbed a spine ridge to one of the old transect areas that the scientists used to study here. In the picture below, We're on our way back down that same trail.

Our guide was fantastic. He pointed out all kinds of interesting things that the people use (or used to use in some cases,) for medicine and remedies of various sorts, building, weaving, painting, etc. etc. This is a certain kind of tree sap from a certain type of tree, that works particularly good for starting fires. I've seen it on the hike I did with Paul last year, and I've also tried it. It's quite amazing, being easy to light and burning steadily for a very long time. You could use it as a candle as well. I also learned that they use this (after melting it,) to help seal their canoes and boats.

We saw quite a few of these trees (below,) covered in long (maybe 2 - 4 inches,) hard, strong needle-like thorns all the way up. It seemed like no matter what we saw, there was some use or purpose for that thing, according to our guide.

Occasionally when I'm flying over endless green broccoli, I see one tree that stands out because it's totally covered in bright red flowering blooms. Other times, I've seen trees that appear to be orange, or red, but rather than flowers it appears to be the leaves themselves. Well, I finally got to see one from the ground. It's true that there's no fall, winter or spring here. But trees still often go through the cycle of losing leaves and getting new ones. They don't do it all at the same time though, and most of them don't turn colorful. But there's a few that do, and it's funny how right here in the middle of the hot and steamy Borneo jungle, if you just looked up at this one tree, you could almost think you're on the Appalachian trail in the Northeast U.S. in October.

Speaking of dried leaves, when we turned our gaze down, there was just as much to see there. Insects were busily going about their lives all around our feet. One of Britton's favorites were these giant ants. They were HUGE--close to an inch long.
After hearing the unique call of Gibbon monkeys for some time, we finally spotted them overhead in the canopy. It was an extra special treat for Britton, since he so badly wanted to see some "wild" monkeys. I wasn't able to get a picture of them, b/c they are fast, and stealthy, and my main focus was on getting Britton a chance to see them. But you can use your imagination, or look them up on Wikipedia here if you're interested.

The hike was well worth it, and we came back both tired and energized in time for lunch.

After lunch we went swimming in the small river (Sungai Enggeng) that passed by the research station. It's full of big rocks, but also offered "pooled" areas that were fairly deep. The banks were natural, undisturbed jungle, so it really had the feel of being out in the middle of nowhere. We also did some more vine-swinging (check out the video at the bottom.)

As for critters in the water, (something that my mom already asked about,) yeah, there were some. There's a lot of snakes around, but we didn't see one till the next morning (I'll have a picture in the last post about our trip.) They did catch this big eel right here in the same area where we were swimming later that night. Since they didn't have time to cook it before we left, they sent it home with us in the plane.

And of course the thick foliage-covered banks of the Enggeng river were teaming with insects and critters. Britton managed to rescue a praying mantas that was floating down the rapids, almost certain fish bait.

After placing him on a leave, the mantis hung out for quite some time, drying his wings before flying away. We were told later that there are some varieties here that are poisonous. Glad this wasn't one of them!

That night, Pak Anyi (Mr. Anyi) who is an elder in the village of Long Alango and had helped arrange the trip for us, had a ceremony to "adopt" Britton as his son. We all gathered around before eating supper, and he said some words, before giving Britton a special hat, and pronouncing him "Lawai Anyi" (a son always takes his father's first name as his second name--so in our case, follwing their tradition, Britton's name in English would be Britton David, my name would be David Carl, and my dad would be Carl John, and so on.)
Pak Anyi already has 12 children of his own, ten of whom are already married. He proudly informed us that he has a child married to just about every "suku" (people group) in the area, with the exception of two, the Punan (might have the spelling wrong, but these are the famous "jungle" people that still live totally out in the bush,) and a Westerner. Then he emphasized that he'd REALLY like to have a daughter of his marry a Westerner. He immediately followed up that statement by mentioning that he had specifically brought along his second-to-youngest daughter, so that she and Britton could meet. "Granted, they're a little young," he said, "but I thought they could begin to get to know each other now." We were all laughing about it...but I think he was actually sort of serious.
In any case, it's official, Britton is forever known as "Lawai" now in that area, and he is always welcome back as family. Pak Anyi was particularly impressed with how "strong" Britton was, and how interested in all the animals, insects, and jungle. Suffice to say, as I translated what Pak Anyi was telling Britton, I conveniently forgot to translate the part about how he was essentially trying to arrange a future marriage for him. Besides, I'm not even sure if I could afford the dowry! :)
That night, and after hunting and finding another scorpion, as well as a HUGE, poisonous centipede, we collapsed and slept soundly in our hammocks under the jungle canopy.

Tarzan! from Dave Forney on Vimeo.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jungle Expedition Part II

Well, after setting up our camp, we started to explore the jungle. Britton was prepared with plenty of specimen jars. We saw gobs of strange and beautiful and bewildering insect and bug creatures.

This is one of the most unique bugs I've ever seen. It was nearly two inches long, and it just sat on the tree bark totally unafraid of us. Anyone know what it is? I have no idea.

We also saw all kinds of beautiful plants and flowers. There's so much to see in a dense virgin jungle like this, that you could literally spend all day in a small patch and still miss things.

Of course, you have to watch your step too. Some plants are well protected. These spikes are about three inches long, and very strong and sharp.

We also had time to work in some Tarzan-style, vine-swinging. It was great fun!

And then we did some fishing in the small jungle river.

Although we didn't catch anything, our guides set some lines and left them out all day. At the end of the day there was a nice catch for supper.

Before dark we set up a white sheet along the creek, with a bright white light shining on it. As if this wasn't tantalizing enough for night insects, we also hung up some ropes soaked in our own home-made butterfly bait. Despite the full moon, (there's never as many insects when there's a moon,) we attracted some nice moths and hundreds of other little insects.

Then we did some intense frog and toad hunting. We caught dozens of both, with several different species of each. Good thing we had our guide going along with us, because there are several poisonous types that he steered us away from...however, the others are good eating. At least that's what we were told. I always thought edible frogs were big, but alas, just about anything here seems to be edible as we found out the next day. So the unlucky ones came back with us in plastic bags.

And then, to top it all off, we succeeded in finding ourselves a nice, live scorpion using a special ultraviolet flashlight. Scorpions have the unique characteristic of fluorescing bright blue under UV light. The scorpion literally seems to shine brightly like a bright blue light in the dark night.
It was a fantastic first day!