Jacquelyn and I returned to Sukadana with a new year's resolution to get out into the surrounding forest. Weddings, birthdays, and holiday parties before the break kept us in town without complaint, but we've decided that now it's time to play outside. Taking only a few steps off the beaten path, we quickly discovered that Borneo has retained a bit of a wild side.
A trail just down the road from Klinik ASRI leads up a forested hill within the Gunung Palung National Park boundaries. The trail was well-worn, despite a lack of local tourists or hikers, and after hearing more chainsaw activity lately, we worried we might not see as many big trees as we should. We were amazed, however, at how quickly the heat of the agricultural valley transitioned to a cool, lush, shady forest. Before we were a quarter of the way up the hill, birds and butterflies began to emerge, we paralleled a clear, cascading stream, and a troop of leaf monkeys followed our progress with as much curiosity as we had of them.
|Wondering what's up with all these trestles along the trail.|
Soon after that, suspicious signs began to appear. Makeshift trestles over obstacles, greased with motor oil, cigarette trash and packets of Ener-G powder suggested that others use this trail, for purposes different than ours. As the trail became steeper, and after a rest or two, we heard yells and crashes and a rumbling that grew louder until, around a bend, our questions were answered. Eight or nine men, heaving and pushing and running and pulling, emerged above us, guiding two enormous dugout canoes, carved from trees that must have been 5 feet in diameter. Both parties startled to see each other, we exchanged smiles, pleasantries, gave the men a reason for a break, took a few pictures and headed on our way.
|What's a canoe doing half-way up a forested mountainside?|
|Smile? Kari atop one of the felled trees that became a canoe|
|Lunch on Pulau Juanta|
|Wild times offshore|