After a fair well coffee with the legend Misrandi and his team it was once again back to the Ex5 duo. We had our sights firmly set on getting to Timbanganio. A place that had been pivotal in our planning, what we thought to be the last settlement before the heart of Borneo, a vast, rugged area of dense jungle and mountainous terrain, the area that stood between us and West Kalimantan, the crux of the expedition – “the death zone”
We set off, making the most of the network of logging roads that scare Kalimantans landscape, we were able to make good progress – although the heat of the sun, the weight of our Bergan’s and the unrelenting change in elevation made every hour more painful that the last.
We eventually mate it to Tumbagaion, to find a small settlement – the normal gang of smiling children came running to meet to stupid sun burnt white men. Ant went straight to work and did his normal and by now very well rehearsed – “please can we rest here etc”. We were taken to a giant Dayak long house, raised 20 feet off the floor with amazing Dayak warrior carvings, watching as we dropped our bergans. One problem…..the kepala desa (village chief) is the only person with the key and he was visiting his family in a faraway district. Just as soon as we said “not to worry we can sleep in our hammocks outside” two men can running past, one with a claw hammer and the other with a crow bar and set about smashing this old, beautifully carved door down. We felt honoured if somewhat guilty that they had distorted the door just so us two stinking travelers could get our head down.
After a evening of talking to the locals, looking at the maps and planning the next day’s plans we discovered that there was in fact more settlements that penetrated further into the jungle – great news for us as it meant we could resupply our food before heading off into the death zone. We were also told of another Dayak legend – a man called Bapa Jako. He lives in a wooded cabin, just before the bridge at the next village. He would help and could guide us to West Kalimantan – perfect!! We shall go find this legend and he will take us through the death zone, safe and sound and home for Christmas – the expedition business is easy!
A early start before the sun raised, we yomped on a loggers track that followed the river to Tumbang Sukrun (Bapa Jakos village). After about 40k of pain we arrived. Sure enough there was a small wooden cabin, just before a bridge – no body in, brilliant! This little settlement had around 40 people and a little shop, that sold only fuel and coffee. We had a hot wet and waited. At around 2000 a figure with a head torch walked his way up from the river, with a hand full of dead fish. The famous Bapa Jakos was back. He certainly looked the part with traditional long dark Dayak hair and a strong and athlete physique. He told us to bring our things to his house where we would eat and rest. He had a very calm persona about him. His cabin was filled with the skulls of animals that he had hunted, mainly wild pig and turtles. Dinner with a boiled pigs head and rice, with plenty of strong black coffee to wash it down.
After dinner it was down to business, we explained our plan, he confirmed it was possible but there is banya agung (lots of mountains). Our plan was to use a old logging road we would follow this for 20k, then head in to the jungle and cross into West Kalimantan. He said this would take 7 days and nights through the jungle – about what we expected. He also said he would come with us – brilliant news, moral was high.
The following day after a big breakfast of more pigs head and rice we set off, our Bergans were heavy with 9 days of food and all our gear. We made it 10km up the track to a river, we began to cross it and noticed our new friend Bapa Jakol didn’t seem to keen. At this point he simply turned to Ant and said “ma av Mr” (sorry Mr) and walked off. The legendary Dayak warrior had just bailed on the lads! We quickly made the decision to carry on and yomped off up that track that was slowly but surely getting swallowed by the jungle.
Not more than a kilometer from the river we crossed the track completely disappeared and turned into dense and close to impenetrable secondary jungle. We came up with a strategy to try and keep covering ground – a almost impossible task. We would drop our gear, chop our way through the over growth on a bearing for around 100 meters and then come back and pick up the bergans – repeat, repeat, repeat. Eventually the secondary jungle turned to steep, muddy banks covered in larger trees and various spiky plants. In areas the banks were close to vertical and we had to use climbing ropes to pull our kit up and lower down on the other side. It was incredibly tough, the terrible ground, heavy bergans and jungle heat made for slow and painful going. After putting our heart and soul into it for 3 hours we had covered less than 2km. A devastating blow, we looked at the map, the ground we needed to cover and the amount of food we had. We both agreed this could be a bridge to far – to be continued.
The hardship that some of our wounded injured and sick service men and woman experience daily makes our jungle expedition look like a 5* holiday.
Please click below to help us help them.