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

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sweet Earlobes and Other News!

Yesterday I took my good camera along to grab some shots for an upcoming Facebook thing that MAF is going to do in a few weeks (I'll let you know when that happens.) Well, when I landed in Data Dian, I just had to take a picture of these two elderly ladies with the sweet earlobes!!! This used to be the norm, and was considered beautiful. Although today, the younger folks don't practice this anymore, we were at a wedding last year in Tarakan and noticed that the mother and mother-in-law were sporting some pretty sweet, realistic-looking silicone earlobes for the occasion. Who knew there was such a thing?

In addition to flying a small group of Indonesian Christian doctors to Long Alango yesterday for a mission/medical trip (our Chief of Maintenance, Tim, went along with that group to help in various ways), I also picked up an emergency medevac in Long Pujungan nearby and took the lady straight back to Tarakan. Then I flew back out and completed the rest of the schedule.

I've recently been working with Tripp Flythe, our newest pilot to the program, to get him up to speed and ready to fly solo in the Krayan region of Northeast Kalimantan. It's been a pleasure to fly with Tripp, and fun to experience all of this again through the fresh perspectives and excitement of someone who is just getting here. O.k. o.k. Don't give me a hard time about the Fu Man Chu facial hair thing that I have going on in the picture. As is the tradition after one of my jungle trips, I shaved off my beard in stages, much to the delight of my children and the horror of my wife. Each new "look" only lasted one day, and it just so happened that the day we snapped a picture while doing an airstrip checkout in Pa Upan, happened to be the day where I was sporting the Fu Man Chu. I'm back to "normal" already, so nothing to worry about.

Joy was home-schooling the kids this year because much of our year was spent traveling and/or in the U.S. However, the other kids on the program had a school teacher this year. Our kids were able to participate in various classes at the school, and last week they had the end-of-year school program. It was a real delight to watch our children perform various skits, songs, poems etc. They all did very well, and yes, I did get some HD video for the grandparents to watch some day. Here, Hannah is on the left and Britton on the right, with their friends Grace and Carter in the middle (the older kids on the program.)

These are the younger kids. Hudson is on the left, with his friends, Zoe, Faith, Seth and Luke. There are MANY more kids that are not in school yet. We have a ton of little kids on our program...apparently there's something in the water over here b/c there are babies and toddlers everywhere! By the way, our school teacher had to return to the U.S., so next year all the moms will be home-schooling.

And now for some critters. This is a picture of our Asian Giant Wood Spider that moved into our back yard a few weeks ago. They're very BIG spiders! This is a female, because the males are much, much smaller, and not as colorful. Although they are not the largest spiders in the world (they can get up to 8 inches from leg tip to leg tip), they are known to make the strongest webs of any spider. It's said that their nets can catch small birds. Well, we've enjoyed watching this one catch a lot of big bugs, but so far no birds...or kids have gotten caught and eaten.

Two weeks ago we had a cute little bat land and rest up for the day under our banana tree above the sandbox. It stayed there all day until early evening, when it flew away presumably to find some food. Isn't he (or she) a cutie?

A few days ago Tripp and I landed in Long Bawan and opened the pod to discover a Pangolin (type of Anteater) that had gotten loose and was not very happy! I've seen one or two of these dead over the past couple of years, but never a live one. Apparently they are worth quite a bit of money because of the "medicinal" value to the Chinese. Poor little fellow!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jungle Trek 2010 (Part 4)

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!

Jungle Trek 2010 (Part 3)

Here's a few more shots from the middle of our seven days in the jungle.

This was a crazy looking little frog!

And this little furry friend is quite poisonous according to our guides. We kept finding him crawling up our socks while we were taking a break in a clearing. So finally we figured maybe he just wanted to be photographed.

And this is where we were taking a quick "breather" when the frog and caterpillar showed up.

Check out the size of this tree! Yeah, it's all one tree--these are basically shoots or roots from the one giant tree. From left to right: Paul, Andris, Me, Daud, Dan.

Here's a better look at the same tree. About 50 feet up the separate "trunks" began to join together and even higher still they became one. It was hundreds of feet tall, branching out over the top of the jungle canopy out of sight.

Yeah, we were starting to suffer the effects of day after day of hiking--cuts, leech wounds, etc. That's my nasty foot. But hey, we were just glad that we weren't fighting infections and knee and back problems like last time. All in all we faired pretty well considering.

And it wasn't all ugly. There were lots of flowers, orchids etc. But again, I wasn't able to get photos of most of them.

There's one more post to go related to our trek. There will be some pics of a few strange little animals in that last post, so check back in a few days.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jungle Trek 2010 (Part 2)

For the next five days we trudged mile after slow, soggy, sweaty, bloody, tiring mile, heading north through the mountainous region that separates the Bahau Hulu area from the Krayan region of Northeast Kalimantan. Like our trek last year, this year we were also going from one distinct region and river system to another, a very long and arduous hike that very few people have done--or would do on purpose for that matter. Does that make us crazy?

Here's an interesting fact for you: we could have spent a comfortable, quick, eight minutes in one of our little MAF airplanes and covered the entire distance that it took us five grueling days to cover by foot! Our entire seven day trip (included the two days by boat) could have been done in about 17 minutes in on of our planes. There's just simply no comparison out here when it comes to traveling by foot vs. taking an aircraft. No elderly person or child or pregnant woman, or a sick or injured person could have made the journey that we did by foot. It's simply impractical and often impossible for most people to travel long distances by any other means other than via MAF out here in the jungles of Kalimantan! It's such a privilege to be serving the people here by meeting such a practical need.

This time we didn't strike out when it came to meat. The second day we got ourselves a little jungle pig, just the right size for roasting and carrying along on the trail.

Our guides also snagged some wild mushrooms that tasted awesome later that night, fried in pig fat over the fire with jungle ferns. Yummy!

Speaking of shrooms, we saw some totally amazing ones in the mountains. Below is a picture of these little guys, taken in the dead of night, but illuminated with a small flashlight.

Turn the flashlight off, and the jungle was pitch black...well, except for the eerie green glow coming from the mushrooms. They're bio-luminescent! So sweet! There's several different types of fungi and mushrooms out there that glow at night. Actually, they were pretty bright to our eyes, but it's really difficult to take a time exposure and capture something like this with a point and shoot. This is the best I could do.

We also encountered tons of insects and creepy crawlies! There's no way I could show them all to you. In fact, I didn't even take pictures of all of them. However, here's a few. This one was about three inches long and moved very slowly. When we tried to get it to speed up it simply curled up in a ball and rolled off the log. It was bizarre!

Some type of spider I almost swallowed on the trail. It's not always beneficial being the tallest guy in the group.

This was a gorgeous spider we found! The guides said that it's very rare--they almost never see these. While I was trying to take a picture of it, a wasp flew into the web and the spider immediately attacked it. However, a second later the wasp actually broke free, and actually grabbed the spider and flew away with it. Crazy! Bye bye pretty spider.

Two days later, as our first pig meat was starting to run out, we shot two more...with one shot! The guide waited till they lined up and then fired once, killing two small pigs almost instantly. Since shotgun shells are very expensive here, that was a brilliant move. We ate those pigs during the rest of our hike.

There were no shortage of HUGE trees in the mountainous region. Some of these trees towered hundreds of feet above the jungle floor, and sported trunks and root systems that were absolutely immense!!! In the picture below, the perspective is skewed, but I'm probably about 15 or 20 feet up in the mess of roots. And I'm not even at the top of the root mess.

Paul is "Standing in the Gap" here, at the base of a giant! One of our guides and good friends from the village of Long Alango, works for WWF (No, not the World Wrestling Federation, but the World Wildlife Fund. A big difference!). I asked him about the age of some of these trees and he said that they've dated some of these giants (not specifically these very trees, but others like them) to over a thousand years old!

There was a small cave under the bank of this beautiful jungle stream. Of course, I had to climb inside. It was not inhabited at the time by any large animals. However, we found numerous trees that had large, comfy, holes in, with very active and recent signs of bear. This area is home to the rare Honey Bear (or Sun Bear) that is native only to this part of Borneo.

We paused at the creek for a group shot. From left to right: Andris, Paul, Dan, Daud, Me. Our three guides were amazing experts in the jungle--masters at survival in a very harsh environment. Paul and I always appreciate the many hours that a trek like this provides to get to hang out with guys like this. Usually, flight schedules are pretty intense and often don't allow much time to just hang out with folks interior. We always come away from a trip like this with not only a much deeper appreciation for the critical need that MAF meets for the folks interior, but also deeper friendships and camaraderie with those that we serve.

Check back in another couple days and I'll have some more cool stuff posted from our trek.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jungle Trek 2010 (Part 1)

We survived! Friday evening Paul and I finally made it back to Tarakan after covering many rugged miles of wet, leach-infested jungle. Below, a picture of us with all of our kids just prior to leaving Tarakan the previous Friday morning.

And of course a family photo before the big departure. I have a pretty awesome wife to let me go on adventures like this! And my kids were real troopers as well! Of course, all my boys are thrilled by the stories of jungle creatures that I encountered, and can't wait to go on future treks.

We flew 5o minutes in an MAF airplane to the village of Long Alango. From there we hiked a half hour up river past huge rapids, and then took motorized canoes several more hours upriver to the village of Apau Ping. On the way we stopped at an old stone burial ground near the edge of the river. Very fascinating. These are NOT clay jars. They're carved right out of stone and then capped with another large flat stone. The bones of the deceased would have been placed in the stone bowl. We were told that this site was at least a few hundred years old, but no one really knows for sure.

After spending a few hours in Apau Ping, we went another hour or so upriver to Long Tua. This involved getting the boat through some huge rapids, where we had to unload all the supplies and then pull/haul the boat up through the raging water and over rocks. Fun times! We arrived at Long Tua in the middle of the first afternoon. They've build a nice "Pondok" there, and this is where we spent the night. It's a nice place to start the journey as it's not a village, but also not quite jungle roughing either.

We weren't the only ones that enjoyed the place. A hive of honey bees had made their home in one section of the sleeping area. Obviously, this forced all five of us (Paul and I and our three guides) to cozy up in the remaining smaller area.

We had a few hours to mill around and enjoy the jungle beauty.

One of our guides caught a descent sized water turtle. While the other guides were cleaning and cooking the turtle for dinner, the rest of us made our way to the nearby "Padang Rumput" (grasslands). This is an absolutely gorgeous area where the jungle gives way to beautiful hills covered by thigh-high grass, sprinkled with flowers and berries. Obviously, it's a great place to spot wildlife in the late afternoon. If you look close you can see Pak Andris, one of our awesome guides and good friends, enjoying the view near the left side of the picture.

What we were really hoping to see was a Tembadau or Banteng. These are wild cattle-like animals, that live in the jungle of Borneo. They're actually quite rare now, but often come out in the evening in to feed in the grasslands. This is one of the best places in all of Borneo to see Banteng. The males are black, and the females and young are reddish-brown. Both have white rumps. After enjoying the views for a while we finally spotted a male on the opposite hillside, probably 500 meters or more away. Sorry, this is the best picture I could get with my little Sony point and shoot. I didn't take my good camera on this trip because I already had a very heavy pack for one thing, and secondly the conditions are extremely taxing on any electronics. My little Sony is WAY cheaper than my Canon 7D.

A few more Banteng came out, and we enjoyed watching them until the sun set and it began to get dark. I wish you could hear the jungle at night. It's a beautiful sound--full of insects and creatures of every kind.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable day...but things were about to get a whole lot harder, and sweatier, and stinkier, and bloodier, and--well, you get the idea. Tune in later for the next part of the story. By the way, Paul and I focused mostly on video, rather than pictures. Our little cameras shoot HD video, so we're putting together an HD video version of our trip, which will obviously be way cooler than this blog. But I'd never be able to show that on here, so these little pictures will have to do.