Blog entry number 4.
Date: 1st December 2016.
Through the back way….
A while had passed since we last had the opportunity to send back a blog, and the adventure is well and truly underway!
We have been following the route of a road we believed to penetrate into the heart of Borneo, that came to an abrupt and morale crunching end when we reached the village of Dempar near the border East/Central Kalimantan, only to find that the road finished there. After a jarring conversation of pigeon Bahasa, many hand signals and several dictionary references with a local we headed a few kilometers north to the village of Sembuan.
With most the wooden houses perched atop stilts above a fast-flowing river it was a truly picturesque location. The local Dayak community set to making us feel at home immediately, and as seen already on this trip the hospitality shown was out of this world.
We set to inquiring about a way into “Kalimantan Tengah” (Central Kalimantan). We were told the only way was to back around 100k that we had already come. Disaster! Then as we pressed harder, whispers of “the back way” used by locals for generations started to seep through.
After some persuasive negotiations, we were introduced to a Dayak gentleman called Misrandi, a local farmer. Though he would not be able to take us for 2 days he agreed to be our guide for the journey. Not before warning us how dangerous the route had become. Ideal!!
In the meantime, the community of Sembuan had an NGO visiting who had helped the village acquire ownership of an area of jungle as a community forest. This provides protection from logging companies, also it helps to promote autonomy and self-sufficiency within the region. Which meant for us we had arrived at the perfect time to witness many rare and important tribal rituals. The locals found 2 white men scared of swimming in potentially croc infested water hilarious, and the kids laughed as we tested the water extremely cautiously.
We left the village of Sembuan on Sunday the 27th November for what we were led to believe would be a one day journey “In good weather”. By the time night drew close it became apparent it was going to be more than one day. We made a hast camp in the pitch black jungle hoping against hope we had set our tarps and hammocks correctly. That question was answered at 3am when the heavens opened. By daybreak we were both in our completely saturated sleeping bag, hammock and dry gear. Awful drills! Our guides had not bought enough food either so we were forced to break into our emergency rations. Wet gear, no food lost in the wilds of Kalimantan, things looked bleak.
That day the journey took no let up either. We were on an old logging road constructed at the beginning of Borneo’s mass deforestation era. It was completely eroded and was slowly being reclaimed by nature. Huge swathes of secondary forest made parts of our journey extremely hard going. Log bridges that once crossed the extremely fast flowing rivers had long since rotted and collapsed.
More than once we had to don our bottom field drills and crack a marine style river crossing. Huge thanks to May Clarke at Safety Lifting Gear for providing the rope that literally saves our lives in more than one tough spot.
By the end of the second day spent yomping with no food whatsoever bar a couple of dioralytes, things were looking very bleak indeed. The guides still being vague on distances coupled with GPS and maps not much help either we were starting to get slightly worried.
Charlie the younger of our guides turned to us as light was dropping and said we are near to a lodge used by his family for hunting. By nightfall we had made it to a bamboo shelter in the heart of the rainforest, equipped with YAMS!!! Nothing could ever taste so sweet as those yams did that night.
The following morning Misrandi set out to recce the route ahead. We used the opportunity to dry out soaking wet gear, and put us in good standing for future shenanigans.
Out of the blue Misrandi appeared machete in one hand freshly caught wild pig in the other. Mr Miyagi has absolutely nothing on Misrandi. Everything you imagine a Dayak to be encompassed in one person. Calm, quiet, friendly and his bush craft drills makes Ray Mears look like a donkey. We cooked and ate the wild boar, for which we were immensely grateful for and packed up our now dry kit and headed off again.
After another savage day’s journey we finally crossed the border into Kalimantan Tengah and into another time zone in the process.
We reached our destination 3 days into a one day yomp. Which turned out to be around 100km.
We have learned some valuable lessons during our few days in the wild, which we intend to take forward as we approach The Heart Of Borneo, which we have aptly nicknamed The Death Zone. These will be crucial for our and the expeditions very survival.
Though the challenges we face daily are immense. They are insignificant compared to the trials faced by injured servicemen and women that served our country. The charities we represent make a huge difference in the quality of life for many men and women.
If you are inspired by our challenge, we ask you take the time to make a small (or large!) donation via the link below. Until next time,
Ant and Louis!