Sunday, October 30, 2011

Week 1 - JB and Singapore

This place is so busy and full of life! Our first week here has involved a few hurdles as we negotiate trying to readjust into "normal" life again.There has been ups and downs, much has happened and I'll briefly write about some of it here.

We sorted out local phone numbers and internet (the wireless internet here is so much faster and cheaper than what we had in Australia!!). Then, just as we'd become totally addicted to having fast, constant internet again, our modem melted!!! It took 2 days to sort out the problems from this as we had to find a new modem and put in both of our laptops for repair. 
Jan and Rene at a local Indian restaurant.
Nick and Jan from Yawarra 2 have been a great help - letting us have a few showers onboard their boat, letting us borrow their internet and shouting us out to our first meal here. Our taste buds have been getting a work out - after 3 months of relatively similar Indonesian food, we are now enjoying flavours from elsewhere. The Indian restaurant served up our meals on banana leaves and loud electronic music pumped out from the busy markets. We arrived just before Deepavali, the Indian festival of lights, but unfortunately missed out on the celebrations due to a mix up with dates. 

The marina in Danga Bay is free because a rich Malaysian man simply wanted to own it as a status symbol. The problem with it being free however, is that there is no money for maintenance. The water wasn't running in the women's toilets yesterday and the shower head and pipe for the men's shower is missing. There is a stray cat with a bunch of kittens that lives here and every time I see it, it's peeing or pooing on the pathway. Right next to the marina is a small theme park complete with rides and money-wasting stalls. One night we went out with some Kiwi yachties and very nearly got on the pirate ride but figured it was a rip off at 10RM each (about $3.50 each). The water here is very dirty. With each change of tide, more rubbish floats past. The worst of it was when a giant sausage floated down from the reclamation site upstream to wrap itself around Anima! Nick and Jan zipped over in their dinghy to help but it was stuck fast - being quite large and incredibly heavy. At the change of tide, we managed to get it off but couldn't move it away far enough to avoid getting us again. We pulled up anchor and the marina kindly allowed us into a berth early!
Anima and the giant sausage stuck around her bows.
Nick, Jan and Rene all trying to move the giant sausage.
In contrast to the pollution of Johor Bahru, Singapore is like a shining, green beacon of cleanliness and organisation. Our first visit was with friends Alicia, Andrew and Josephine who drove us over the causeway. It was so exciting to be in a real shopping centre again! Our special treats were eating real ice-cream and real milk. YUM! 
We visited Raffles Marina and were amazed at the luxury compared to Danga Bay. There are multiple pools, spa's, waterslides and waterfalls, a gym and amenities like I've never seen before in any marina!!

Subsequent visits to Singapore have been via bus - or to be exact, three busses each way plus kilometres of walking. We originally planned to live in JB and commute across to Singapore each day for work. After making this trip a few times however, we've realised that it's not a very viable plan as it takes between 1.5 to 3 hours for each trip. Instead, the current plan is to move across to Singapore (I really want to live at Raffles but we are looking at other cheaper alternatives too) when we get jobs and working Visa's.

Our Australian friend Jodie moved to Singapore to work as a teacher in July this year. We met with her in the Arab quarter and enjoyed culinary delights such as real hummus, apple-cinnamon-milk and real coffee! We even visited a mosque and had to wear ridiculous large, hot blue gowns to cover our non-Muslim skin. We arrived just as a wedding was taking place and the friendly guides explained it all to us very enthusiastically.
Jodie and I at the mosque
 What I really like about Singapore is how green it is! Most streets are lined with tall, healthy trees. The ones in the picture below showered us in golden droplets of water as the leaves gently shook off their recent rain shower.
A Singapore street near Bugis MRT station
My Toshiba laptop was brought back from the dead at Sim Lim Square for only $100. Rene's laptop is still getting repaired. Rene and I negotiated our way through the underground train system, the MRT. It is super efficient and reminded me of being in Japan.
Plenty of people in the MRT
A trip to the big supermarket in JB (GIANT) made me depressed/homesick. It was just too big and so difficult to find the simplest of items. All I wanted was some crackers that didn't have sugar or msg added. These two ingredients seem to be added to almost everything. I managed to find something... but I'm not in a hurry to return to that shop.

There's so much to write about and so much is happening but what I really need to be doing is applying for jobs....

The Final Leg - Belitung to Malaysia

The GRIB files predicted a couple of days of 10-15knots SE winds. Perfect, we thought and left Belitung a few days earlier than planned. We'd been the only boat anchored there for two days and, unlike in Australia where I enjoyed the privacy of a secluded anchorage, here in Indonesia, I felt vulnerable. After cruising for 3 months with the Sail Indonesia rally, I've come to feel more comfortable in the company of other yachts! Ironically, as we left, a catamaran arrived. We spoke briefly on the radio before continuing out to sea. 

The forecast wind was not yet around, so we motored along easily in small swell under gathering cloud. Rene got our new autopilot (a Raymarine ST 1000 Tiller Pilot) working and we enjoyed its ease of operation. We've named it MeesterRay (inspired by Indonesia) and are quite impressed with how it keeps us on course. 
MeesterRay in action working with Aries to steer us along.
The first of many squalls came over, bringing with it some rain, but not much wind. We'd prepared for it by furling in the headsail and triple-reefing the main. Our extreme caution came from hearing the horror stories of other yachts caught in gale-force storms in this area. The clouds never left that day as the rain eased in and out. I tidied up on deck, lashing things down, wiping and sweeping. My main worry for this leg was being caught in a violent storm or water spout (like a miniature twister). 
Instead of water spouts, our first night involved the other danger out here near the equator, electrical storms! The lightning started during my watch, just after sunset as large, black clouds ambled towards us, sparkling with sheet lighting. I woke Rene just before it hit and we pulled in all the sails, battened down the hatches and held on! Visibility reduced to a few metres in front of us as heavy rain blasted down. I maintained a constant watch for shipping, using the near-constant lightning flashes to scan the horizon. Some of this lightning was so bright that it hurt my wide-open night eyes! I convinced myself that the lightning was getting ever closer and so unplugged our laptops and GPS and shoved the laptop under the stove in case of a direct hit. I then painstakingly wrote out all the 30 or so GPS waypoints for our course into Johor Bahru in case we suffered a strike and lost our computer and GPS. 
An approaching storm.
Rene had a busy watch that first night also. MeesterRay stopped working and R2 had to be coaxed back into action. Another squall passed over, increasing our speed by one knot under bare poles. Rene calculated the nearest lightning strike to be 5 seconds away (about 4.5 km). 
Stormy skies surrounded us.
Rene had tried (unsuccessfully) to get Open CPN to read our AIS signal without dropping out while in Belitung. He again worked at it but as yet has found no fix. We have to reboot the navigation laptop whenever we wish to see what big ships are around us. 

My midnight watch that first night was not so good. The storms still surrounded us - but now, so were many small fishing boats and FAD's. Many of these small boats would only put on their light when we got close-ish to them! I spent the entire 4 hours of my watch staring out into the night, tracking, spotting and navigating around various lights. The worst are lights which flash on and off in blue, red or green as they're very difficult to take a bearing of. There were so many flashing lights that I was forced to alter course hard to port. Then, when more and more started appearing, I changed course completely and headed out to sea - rather than parrallel to the land. After all of my careful route-planning back in Belitung, we changed our minds and instead took the outside route where we hoped there would be fewer small fishing boats/traps. Again, I wrote out all the waypoints by hand. 
Beautiful clouds bringing rain.
While I collapsed, exhausted, Rene's shift involved continuing to navigate past fishing vessels and unlit FADs! He stopped the engine for 20 minutes (with no wind, Anima simply sat still on the calm sea) in order to repair the alternator which wasn't working (again). After cleaning the negative terminals, it worked again - now putting in 20 amps to our batteries. Mr Fix-it Rene also changed the wiring to MeesterRay using a much thicker cable and the autopilot fired into life again. 

More and rain and no wind. Some swallows landed on Anima for a while to shelter from the wet weather and dry their wings. They were very unafraid of us and one even landed on Rene's shoulder for a time! 
Rene and his new little friend :)
Boat-loving Swallow.
More fishing boats were about. These ones had me nervous for a different reason. Through binoculars, I could see about a dozen men on each (smaller than Anima-sized) boat. Again, probably due to us being at the tail end of the rally, the solitude of sailing with no other yachts had me imagining all sorts of terrible pirate-related things. Of course, nothing ever happened and we were probably really safe. 

We passed a few seasnakes (the biggest was 2 metres long and 20 cm thick!) swirling down through the clear water to escape our hull. A few small pods of really large dolphins also came by to say G'day. 
Glass-out seas means there's no wind for sailing! 
This is the life! Very relaxed in calm seas. 
We tracked our fuel usage and were pleased to figure out that Anima burns less diesel than we'd always thought. At 1400Rpm (about 4.5 to 5 knots) she goes through about 3 litres an hour. At higher rev's, this amount increases exponentially. 
Rene refills Anima while underway.
On the second night (as we inched ever closer to Malaysia) the dark sky was frequented by the friendly flashing of aeroplane lights! Such a simple thing - but it came to symbolise our return to civilisation. Before now, I'd seen probably 4 planes in 3 months. Now, there were usually four in the sky simultaneously for hours!! This second night was one of my best night watches. I didn't see a single ship/fish device, the seas had a gentle breeze and the crescent moon lit up the constantly changing layered clouds. 
Early morning on the 21st, Rene woke me and we turned off the engine. Rene had hoisted the sails so we could sail (at 1 knot) across the equator. I offered Neptune a shot of Captain Morgan Rum over our bows which Rene teased me incessantly over. He thought it was all a big joke and was yelling out taunts and challeges to the nautical God (much to my displeasure!). He then added insult to injury by pouring water over my head! 
The GPS doesn't lie! We're in the northern hemisphere now!!
Pouring a shot for Neptune.
Actually, it wasn't so bad - it even woke me up a little and fulfilled the tradition of getting wet the first time you cross the equator by sea. 

Perhaps Rene's taunts to Neptune were indeed heard, as the wind picked up from the North and we had to punch into (small) waves hard on the nose for the rest of the day. The sky was a metallic blue/grey, heavy with the threat of something nasty. 
Threatening cloud approaches as does a tug boat! 
Rene planned to sail (motor) up the Riau strait by night in order to get up to the Singapore Strait by the following day. I wasn't keen on this plan - the passage the Riau strait looked to be a bit hazardous. I convinced him to anchor at a nearby island and to take the rest of the journey in day hops. Neptune however had other plans! The increasing wind brought a dark, dark band of clouds which gave us bigger waves and stronger wind on the nose! 

Taking a compass sight to ensure we don't collide with another ship.
We survived the storm easily due to Anima's strength and managed to avoid the tug boat too. I was getting quite tired of all this and was very much looking forward to being still for a long time!! Our planned anchorage however was not protected at all from the north and we were concerned that the wind could change direction at any time during the night, rendering any anchorage quite unsafe. So, we decided to push on, up the Riau Strait. On a few occasions we had to alter course in order to avoid local fishermen and their nets. It's almost as though Indonesian fishermen have a death wish! They seem to go out into the middle of busy shipping lanes, with no lights (until another boat gets close and they switch it on). A few times, we would be steaming along quickly with the current and only see a small, bright light minutes before collision could have occurred! 
Sunset over the Riau Strait
The city lights from Singapore made up for the lack of moon. We could easily see the islands to avoid and the ships were all marked on our AIS. The major annoyance with this was that it required our navigation laptop to be rebooted every 5-20 minutes (usually 5). Rene plans on using his IT skills to address this problem so that next time we require AIS, it will be more reliable. 

Rene let me take a cat nap for an hour and when I arose, we were well on our way along the Singapore Strait! WOW! The horizon was filled with thousands of lights - not Singapore, container ships!! HUNDREDS OF THEM!!! We now rebooted our laptop every 5 minutes to keep an up to date account of the surrounding shipping and their movements. Often, a ship would look like it was coming for us, but we'd see on the AIS that in fact, it was about to turn, to follow the marked shipping lane. 

We made our way along the far edge of the Singapore Strait, away from the busiest parts of the shipping lanes. We still had to be constantly alert however, as these massive container ships would frequently peel away from the main laneway to head off on alternate paths, right past us! 
Close encounters with container ships.
Our plotted course had us following the far south-easterly edge of the Strait, but just before midnight, we encountered a problem: reef. There was a few reefs marked on the charts, they had lights too but as we approached them, the moonlight showed exposed reef extending much further than what we thought was marked on the chart. Our course had us going right over it! I freaked out and Rene eventually agreed that it was not a good idea to push on. Instead he went below and plotted a new course while I took the helm and kept us away from the reef and big ships. One of these big ships was coming right for us and had been for about 5 minutes. He was on a collision course. Rene came on deck with our new course - we were to cross the shipping lanes and continue on the northern edge. The big ship kept steaming up to us and then, amazingly, turned to port, pausing to allow us to cross the shipping lane!! How polite! We took off, relying quite heavily on the AIS and only having to reboot it twice. We then had a relatively smooth journey along the edge of the shipping lane, on the Singapore side for the remainder of the night. We both stayed awake with frequent coffee's and the excitement of it all. Where we'd crossed over was right in front of Singapore city. What a sight! What a place! I took screen images from our AIS but unfortunately, the files seem to be corrupt. 

At dawn we were followed by a water Police vehicle, ensuring we didn't stray over the line into Singaporean waters. We motored through hundreds more giant ships, all waiting at anchor to be processed in or out.

So many ships!!!
We continued on, the tide now against us up the Johor Strait. A Singaporean water police boat tailed us for most of the way - ensuring we didn't try and sneak over I guess. In our tired state, the hot, slow journey up towards Danga Bay was very hot and very slow! Frequent fishermen dropped their nets right in front of us and we had to reverse and negotiate our way through many fishing areas. We figured out later that those nets were deep enough for us to go over but we were too worried about getting nets caught around our propeller. 

Eventually we made it to Danga Bay in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The marina here was fully booked for the Sail Malaysia rally so we anchored in shallow, muddy water right near Yawarra 2!! Our relatives we last saw a year ago in Townsville!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Belitung - Our Final Stop In Indonesia

Picturesque Belitung

We arrived at Tanjung Kelayang on Northern Belitung as one of the last yachts (of about 70 or so). The Sail Indonesia events were quite extensive here as it culminated with a visit from the President of Indonesia. In the week prior to his visit, buildings had been demolished, rebuilt, designed and constructed. Many of the locals weren’t very happy about being bossed around by Central Government – their lives are at the whim of those in power.
The President never came in the end (how very “Indonesia”).
We don’t know the extent of the effort and changes that the local people had to put up with. The few locals that we did speak to were unhappy about it all. We feel uncomfortable when locals do without in order to give us all a good time. 
The Sail Indonesia yachts anchored in Belitung. 
We arrived in time to make it to the last two events. We went to the President’s dinner and had to dress up for the occasion (even though it was only the Vice President who attended). Women had to wear covered shoulders and a Batik sarong while men had to wear a Batik buttoned shirt and long trousers. The event was pretty unexciting. Lots of speeches by official types while their dressed-up wives looked on. For me, the highlight of the evening was the translation device which we all wore (says a lot about how exciting it was hey!). The long speeches dragged on but for once, we could understand them. The main themes were thanking the God Almighty and talking about good their political party was. The highlight for Rene was getting to meet and be photographed with Miss Indonesia (who, funnily enough, told me I was beautiful!!).
Rene with Miss Indonesia 2011
We had much more fun at the final event the following night (held at the beach) which was a party to thank the guides and to celebrate the conclusion of the 2011 rally. Some cruisers got up on stage to sing. Rene had a go (but had some difficulty keeping the melody going). The best performers were some shy local acts (with stunning voices) who only got up on stage when almost everyone had already left! We had great fun dancing with the other yachties and the guides and ended up staying until really late drinking Bintang’s with other young cruisers. The water was so beautiful under the full moon that Rene and I went for a swim around our dinghy before heading home in the early hours of the morning. 
Rene singing 'Hey Jude' 
A local woman, Ayu, befriended us and decided to shower her generous spirit onto us. She drove us (in her very nice, new Toyota 4WD) across to the city, Tanjung Pandan, to eat lunch, buy chocolate, buy us some souvenirs and eat ice-cream at KFC. Her teenage daughter came along too after school and she impressed us with her amazing English speaking skills. We ended up at their big house to meet a bunch of special Police-force guys (who were hanging out with her husband) and to see the origin of their wealth, Tin. They are tin miners and their tin sand is shipped to Hong Kong, Afghanistan and China to be made into ammunition. 
Kiwi yachties also checking out the Tin sand.

Us yachties with the special Police 
We ended up having the opportunity to see one of their mines on a different day of touring about with them. Neither of us have ever been to a mine before, so we can't really compare it professionally to mines in Australia. What we did note was the lack of health and safety measures. Men were standing, waist deep, in murky water, holding bits of machinery in place - wearing only their underpants. Steep walls of sandy clay and mud earth are formed around holes cut into the ground. During the peak wet season, landslides sometimes occur, trapping and killing the workers below. The extraction process involves pumping water out of and through the earth, to collect the heavy tin sand. This water is pumped around, either into disused mines or directly into the crocodile infested river flowing alongside. 

We squelched along the muddy road on foot, passing about 6 large mining holes - some no longer in use. There seems to be very little planning involved, they just start digging in a new spot, right next to the old one, cutting down the jungle as they go. Ayu complained passionately about the police and how they seemed to always be taking money from her. The corruption in the police force is apparently inherent. We eventually learnt that Ayu and her husband don't actually have a permit to be mining here. They have dozens of mines scattered all over Belitung and they're all illegal! The police want money from them all of the time as a bribe! 
Open cut tin-mine in Belitung.
Regardless of all of this, Ayu and her family were incredibly hospitable and couldn't have been friendlier. It seems that the way they operate their business is not uncommon. Indonesia is a crazy place! We left Australia feeling negative about the stifling over-use of rules and regulations but here, in Indonesia, I am frequently shocked at the lack of rules. The perfect country / society would have a balance - enough rules to live safely, but not so many as to cotton wool everyone's existence. 

Just next to where Anima was anchored, there was an amazing rocky island which looked a bit like a baby bird sitting in a nest. We'd been boat-bound the entire previous day as the early morning storm created waves that made our dinghy bounce around behind us (bad luck had it that the only time we didn't hoist it alongside, we had a problem!) and it was pierced by one of Aries' metal arms. It then rained all day and we couldn't glue a patch over the puncture. We used the inflatable kayak (which had again, torn its fabric along one side) to explore the picturesque rocks of .... 
Ren with the inflatable kayak.
Big storm clouds threatened but never wet us as we climbed over huge boulders. Rene became the human ladder for the vertically-challenged Cerae, allowing me to explore areas otherwise inaccessible. It was somewhat surreal and very fun. I was reminded of our times exploring the Whitsundays in Australia (still my favourite spot so far). I had fun taking photos but really want a better camera! 
Rene about to jump!

Can you see the baby bird rock?
Rene is the amazing human ladder!
The stormy skies of October in Belitung.
It was relaxing to explore these uninhabited islands and was a wonderful farewell journey for the inflatable kayak. We decided to give it to Rusdi - the local man to runs a beachside restaurant and who offers every service (fuel/laundry/groceries/water/transport) to yachties. We figured that we wouldn't be using the kayak for the next while and would prefer a hard plastic version rather than an inflatable. 
The view from Rusdi's restaurant. Anima is anchored on the left quarter of the picture out on the horizon.
I also gave away all of the gifts that we hadn't yet donated to Indonesians. As this is our last stop, I had to! I really regret not giving much of this stuff away earlier to some of the more remote and poorer villages we visited. Belitung isn't remote or very poor (they do well from tourism and mining) but I hope that the first aid kit, clothes, books, pens, toothbrushes and glasses will end up with people who need them. I entrusted this bounty to one of the guides who worked during the rally. She promised to give most of it to the orphanage. 

The bread here is green! 
Singin' and chillaxin' at Rusdi's 
After the organised events in Belitung, the rally boats all set off for Singapore / Malaysia until we were the only ones left. I felt a little nervous about being the only boat at anchor but needn't have worried as Belitung is a lovely spot with friendly, helpful locals. We did some boat preparation for the upcoming journey and enjoyed our time relaxing in Indonesia. 

Anima at anchor alone in Tanjung Kelayang
Sailbirds in Belitung.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

From The Java Sea to The South China Sea

We motored out of Kumai to the sound of millions of sparrows. The ominous tall cement buildings with tiny windows we'd first noticed upon arriving here turned out to be specially built to house birds. They harvest the nests and make them into drinks that apparently increase virility. 
Kumai bird nest buildings. The tiny black spots above each building are birds! Lots of birds!
There was no wind and so we motored all day and into the night. At around 9pm the engine slowed down on its own and then stopped without warning. Anima slowed and stopped in the calm night. Rene assumed she'd overheated after having run for so many hours. We waited for a few hours for the engine to cool off and tried starting her again. Nothing. Nigel Calder's Bible (Boat-owners Mechanical and Electrical Manual) came off the shelf and with it, Rene worked out we had air in the fuel line. He'd inadvertently pumped too much into our header tank and created a vacuum in the system! After another hour, he had the system bled and Anima eventually roared back into life in the early hours of the morning. We'd drifted half a mile in the wrong direction throughout this ordeal and luckily there were no hazards / bad weather / ships to contend with. 

We maintained our four-hourly watches and had no real hiccups. I was concerned about the shoals we had to cross (this area of the sea is quite shallow - ranging from 8 to 30 metres). In particular, we were heading right through some shoals called 'Fox Banks' and, knowing how sly foxes can be, I wondered if they would try to outfox us. Rene managed to sneak through them at dawn without waking the fox and we had no problems. 

The winds were very light. We managed to sail briefly using all 6 sails but only made between 2.5 and 4.5 knots with the current helping us. Overall we did 43 hours of motoring and used most of our 200 litres of diesel. There were less small fishing vessels / traps on this trip but many more large container ships. Our AIS is useful but unfortunately keeps "freezing" and is not 100% reliable. Both of our auto-pilots are playing up too. R2detour has been used far more than he was ever designed to. He is currently held together with bits of string, wood, one of my thongs and lots of willpower! Aries is again having problems and while in Belitung, Rene will install a Raymarine Tiller pilot (that we bought in Australia and haven't yet needed to install) onto it. 

R2 wedged in and tied together... 

On day three the wind picked up a little and Rene hoisted all the sails. We turned off the motor and caught up to our friends on Honalee! They took some beautiful photos of Anima under sail for us. We stayed at the same speed for hours and gradually overtook them. When the winds eased off however, we turned on the motor again and motor sailed at 6 knots all the way to Belitung. It was pretty close but we managed to anchor just before sunset, after a squall came through and changed the wind by 180degrees. The rest of the rally was already here but there was room enough to anchor. 

Sailing across the north of Belitung Island, Indonesia. 
Sailbirds on Anima, 2 degrees south of the equator.
Go Ani!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Orangutan's of Kalimantan

Rene and our Polish friends (Alicia & Andrew) negotiated a bonza deal for a three day, two night tour onboard a local boat into the wilds of Tanjung Puting National Park. We all only paid 1million Rp per person (which is about $100 each) which included all meals (freshly cooked by the cook Mama Tebe), an English speaking guide (Jo, a 52 year old Javanese man who is a master of many trades), a deckhand and the talented  Kapitan Suleimon who drove the Batavia. It was a rush to get ready on time as we’d arranged to leave at 11 but in true Indonesian style, they showed up at 8 to collect us! We packed and locked up Anima in a flurry and part of our amazing deal was that a local man stayed in our cockpit to guard our home while we were away. Please note, many of the photos in this post were taken by our Polish friends as they had better equipment than us. Check out their blog: (it's in Polish but has great photos and layout...!).
Setting out on our tour - Rene, Jo, Alicia and Andrew pictured. Kapitan Suleimon likes Penguins.
We set off into the jungle – well… almost. The first part of the Sekonyer river is mainly farming land with a fringe of palm trees along the shore. This section is quite polluted with heavy metals and silt from the palm oil plantations and gold mines further upstream. The southern part of the river marks the boundary and is the national park (which still contains some 90 or so hectares of cleared farming land). Batavia’s propeller jammed up a few times with bits of Pandanus palm that seemed to be floating about everywhere. The crew dealt with the problem with practiced ease. They simply tied the boat to the shore (looping a rope around any convenient branch) and the captain dove overboard in his underwear, knife in hand to cut the stuff free. The toilet/shower area soon contained a row of his underpants hanging up to dry as a result of this repeated operation.
The Batavia
It was so pleasant to be onboard a boat that we weren’t responsible for! My favourite part of the tour was simply motoring along the river, watching the jungle pass by. We were offered tea, coffee and fruit on the top deck. Sipping tea on deck as we steamed up a river into the wild Borneo jungle, we all felt positively post colonial. 
Jolly good!
Flying Proboscis! 
Gradually the landscape changed to become more jungle-esque. The trees grew thicker, we turned off into a side arm of the river and the water changed colour to a clear, dark brown (apparently this water is pure and not polluted). The river thinned and we spotted wild Orangutan’s, Proboscis monkeys, Macaques, a freshwater crocodile and a variety of Kingfisher birds. The most amazing of which was the long-billed Kingfisher whose colouring is so bright they look like a cartoon with a red beak, yellow head and blue body. As we steamed along, we were served a freshly cooked lunch of fish, rice, tempeh, veggies, chips and fresh fruit. 

We disembarked at a jetty with a  bunch of other similar tour boats and walked into Camp Leaky – number 3 feeding station. Within minutes we had our first close encounter with a female Orangutan and her child. ‘Princess’ was sitting on the raised wooden path and our guide had to bribe her with fruit so we could all pass by. She held her hand up in front of me as if to say, ‘no, not you!’ but I managed to get past anyway… my heart thumping in my mouth! These animals are HUGE! Their strength is obvious – her head sat low against her massive shoulders, and her hands alone are at least twice as large as Rene’s and probably 8 times as strong.
Princess walking with Andrew, Rene and Jo.
We encountered more Orangutan’s along the path to the feeding platform to the sound of rangers making loud bellowing calls to announce the arrival of the bananas. A curious experience followed – as about 20 tourists sat in the sun to watch the Orangutan’s feeding. It was exhilarating to spot them appearing as they swung from tree to tree through the jungle. The ease with which they hold their massive frames so effortlessly in the air is incredible. I can’t remember how many Orangutan’s visited the feeding platform because some kept returning to grab as many bananas they could carry while others stayed, gorging themselves and others barely collected any. One boisterous female (with small baby clinging on) decided to be a drama queen and made a big display of her strength by shaking the information sign, blowing raspberries and making loud kissing noises. The babies are really cute and somehow manage to cling onto their mothers as they swing from tree to tree. I could see that these animals are good at yoga – some of the positions they held were quite yogic.
Borneo jungle Orangutan's feeding on bananas.
Look at that flexibility and strength! 
Rene: The Orangutans we saw at Camp Leaky have been rehabilitated into the protection of the national park and are fed almost daily by the rangers. It was pretty special to be able to get so close to these unique and rare relatives. However, the relationship definitely revolved around food and not really any genuine curiosity on their part. Some of them will play games with the food - the guides have a much better relationship with them and tended to bring out the more interesting sides of their personalities when we interacted.  When they look at you or approach you, the rehabilitated Orangutans are most of the time looking for food that might be on you. All of the Orangutans have names, and the extensive family trees are recorded on a wall in Camp Leaky.

While we were coming up the river we saw one truly wild Orangutan eating amongst the thick rushes on the bank, but it was very shy and quickly ambled back into the jungle when we stopped to get close. Dr Birute M Galdikas did an amazing job of tracking them in seventies and building much of our knowledge of their way of life. The people running camp Leaky continue the research - when a wild one is spotted, they follow it for 3 weeks, recording all the various encounters it has.

The most striking feature physically was that the relative sizes of their arms and legs are opposite to us. Many similarities exist with humans in other respects - the birth cycle and emotions like love, jealousy, contentedness, fear which we witnessed while they were playing in the trees. The mothers have a massively strong bond with their little ones, who hold onto them for the first 8 years of their life, learning where to get the food. 

They were a pretty relaxed bunch in general. These ones t

Orangutan mother and very cute child
Back onboard Batavia that evening, we ate another freshly cooked meal and showered in the river water (they simply turn on a generator which runs the water pump). I tried not to think about the pollution. We lathered ourselves in mosquito repellent and slept under nets out on deck. This is the first high malaria risk area we’ve visited and I decided against taking the preventative drug Doxycycline due to the side effects, though Rene is taking it. I’m pretty sure I managed to evade being bitten but we’ll see!
Alicia and I, ladies of leisure safe inside our mosquito nets.
Rene brought along his guitar and the captain turned out to be quite a talented musician. Rene tried to learn their songs and all the crew of the Batavia were musical, singing as they worked.
When I shut my eyes that night and listened to the sounds of the jungle, I could imagine that I was back at home where I grew up in the Australian bush. Apart from the occasional monkey and a different toned cicada call, all the noises were the same. People had spoken of how incredible the jungle night sounds were… I guess I’ve been spoilt for nature experiences growing up in Australia because it sounded normal to me!
Sailbirds with Alicia and Andrew in the Tanjung Puting National Park. This was the only big tree we saw. 
Next morning we set out on a three hour trek into “primary” forest. (I’m a bit cynical here as, having been to virgin/primary forests in Australia, the Borneo jungle was too sparse, lacking in the density and large trees of an old forest. It has probably been logged illegally and sold overseas in the form of furniture in places like ‘Loot’).
The forest was pretty cool regardless of my cynicism – and maybe this forest is indeed untouched. We were led by ranger Ranto who pointed out different plants and insects to us along the way. We saw plenty of carnivorous trap style plants. The liquid inside these, once the plant has captured some prey, is used for stomach upsets. 
Malaria treatment in the jungle.
Our playful guide, Jo, convinced us all to try eating some ‘sweet root’ which was of course incredibly bitter, being the local medicine for malaria. We drank water from cut vines which is also a treatment to stomach problems (and left my mouth feeling like sap).
Drinking vine water in the jungle. 
The boys had fun pretending to be Orangutans by swinging from vines and climbing trees. This was a pretty cool way to explore a forest – it was very interactive and our guides were very playful in their job. We got to smell sandalwood freshly cut from the tree, taste jungle berries, use giant leaves as fans and rest under tiny sleeping bats in a wooden shelter. Some of the paths were made from single or double planks of wood, connected end to end over marshy ground. We saw a few Orangutans, heard some Birds of Paradise, stepped around many giant Tarantula holes and even saw where a bear had climbed a tree to eat some honey! 
Rene tries to fit in with the locals.
The information centre at the conclusion of our trek contained plentiful depressing information and horrific stories about how humans are impacting upon the Orangutan’s livelihoods. The biggest threat currently is deforestation for palm oil plantations.

The boys went along to the same feeding station that afternoon – they just couldn’t get enough of the Orangutans! I stayed on Batavia and watched Macaques run about, foraging for scraps that the cooks were all throwing off their boats to prepare their guests evening meals. Alicia learnt how to weave in the local style and we were all given bracelets from the guide made from thin strips of leaves.

Tom, a large male visits the feeding station.

Jo, Siswi and Andrew getting all close and personal. 
While sitting in the oppressive humidity and sun on the final day of our tour at a different feeding station, watching different Orangutan’s eating more bananas, I voiced to Rene that I’d seen enough. He and everyone else however, had not. This got me thinking inwardly to figure out why I seemed to be the only one not having a life-changing experience? This feeling of not really enjoying myself as much as those around me has been emerging more often lately. I’ve been living in the future – looking forward to when we arrive in Malaysia / Singapore, to when we’re working again (can you believe that I’m actually looking forward to working!!?). While we’re sailing, I’m impatient and often a bit unhappy. I find myself thinking of home, of the good things about Australia, of my dear friends and family who we’ve left behind and who I miss. Is it all worth it? With these thoughts and feelings swirling around my mind, it’s no wonder I’ve had difficulty enjoying the present! This is not good and I don’t wish to live this way: always looking towards something in the future (or past) which will bring me happiness / fulfillment (and which inevitably probably won’t for there will always be something else to aspire to or long for). Yet again, I’m afflicted by that cursed ‘grass is greener’ mentality which has plagued me for most of my life!! This really annoys me – that I can’t shake it. Here I am, living “the dream”, spending months cruising around Indonesia, having an amazing adventure… and I’m thinking of the future!! This really won’t do. I’m going to have to work harder at shaking this bad mental habit. My current solution is to focus on living more fully in the present. Eckhart Tolle’s ideas about living in the now are helpful and inspiring. I guess none of us are perfect… but this is one thing I need to improve! NOW!
Amazing beauty here in southern Borneo.
Eventually we left the feeding station and continued our journey back up the river. Rene discovered that Jo, our guide was also a healer and he carved a wooden acupressure tool from some jungle wood when we returned to Batavia. Unexpectedly, he told me to lie down to receive a healing treatment which was quite intense and lasted about an hour. He used 13 pressure points on each of my feet, massaged my feet, legs, shoulders and head. Afterwards I did feel much more energized and positive about life. I gave him an Australian Custom’s beanie as a gesture of thanks.
Healing acupressure on Batavia.
Everyone but me was afflicted by strange black spots on their hands/face - we think as a result of touching too many strange plants in the jungle. Out guide, Jo, thought it was from touching a special poisonous rubber tree! 
Jungle disease.... hopefully it's not too serious!
We stopped off at a village on the way home and had a tour through it. I feel a bit weird about that element of the tour. This village gets thousands of tourists walking along the specially made path through the centre of their community. I can’t imagine that it would impact very positively upon their local lives to have so many voyeurs staring at them and taking photos of ‘village life’. The river here is polluted and it was sad to see the villagers still using their water to wash in. What impact will the heavy metals present in this water have on future generations here? Pollution became the end of our tour’s theme. As we re-entered the main river to return to our boats, we were faced with thick smog that reduced visibility considerably. Our decks were painted grey with the smoke – as were our lungs. This smoke resulted from the Palm Oil companies who burn the forest to make way for their plantations.
Polluted Kumai anchorage.
Kumai was an interesting experience. For many cruisers in Indonesia, seeing the Orangutan’s is their highlight. For me, seeing the Orangutans was pretty amazing as was getting to tour a jungle in an Indonesian boat. It was a life-changing experience – but not really for the normal reasons. I wouldn’t say it was the highlight, but it was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. 
A memorable experience!!