25.07.2008 - 28.07.2008 30 °C
Two long bus rides later, I went back to Banjarmasin. A town full of old coal trucks, Banjarmasin can feel suffocated during daytime. I decided to escape to the nearby Loksado area for a day of trekking to get some fresh air.
To save money, me and my 50-year-old senior trekking guide, took yellow minibus taxi, then changed to long-distance minibus, then another truck, all packed with passengers, to get out to the mountains. By the time I reached Loksado, I had inhaled a few tons of exhaust fume which made my coughing and sinus much worse.
We started trekking from Loksado village on a trail, also used by the villager's motorbikes, for little more than two hours, finally reaching a small village with an old empty longhouse. Another 30 minute later took us to another village, then the supposedly famous waterfall. My guide, Alexander, was excited to show me their treasure, while I was a bit disappointed at the height of this fall. I, however, pretended to be quite glad that we made it and refused to walk out on the slippery log for photos because of my shoes. Alexander assured my safety so I braved myself but almost fell into the roaring river after my shoes slipped. Luckily, I was saved by my guide and avoided a tragedy.
We motorbiked through the secondary forest back to the Loksado village and had tea with some elders. Since the sun was about to set, we each took an ojec through the winding roads in the mountains back to Kandalgan. It was quite an exhilarating feeling speeding up and down these limestone hills. Another three hours of torturing inhalation of exhaust later, I was never so glad to reach my hotel room for a hot shower.
The next day, I took an overnight bus to Balikpapan with a New Zealand couple. Here we changed a few minibuses from the outskirt of Samarinda, to Tenggarone, to Kota Bungai, where we took a boat to the village of Muara Muntai along the mighty Sungai Makaham.
Muara Muntai is a relatively clean, beautifully-constructed and organized village on a swampy island with wide broadwalk and satellite next to almost every house. Some houses are as elaborated as large houses on land. We checked in a simple losmen for $5 a night.
After breakfast and morning walk, we took a cez across Danau (Lake) Jampung to the first Dayak village on the Mahakam called Tanjung Isuy. After checking into another losmen with beautiful view, we went for a walk and were invited by the local to the first night of the Ceremony for the Dead celebration.
Traditional ceremonies were always quite boring to be honest, especially after a few hours of mourning songs. Luckily, besides the 'singers' on one side of the longhouse, there are also a large number of very young children playing chess in the middle and another group of men gambling on the far end. Each oblivious of the other group.The highlight of the ceremony is the dancing or the circling of the skull box seven times by men and women separately. I joined in to the action, learned some new steps and was glad to finally retreat back to my room for the night.
Next morning, we rode along Sungai Ohong, a tributary off Sungai Mahakam, into another village called Moncong. While most exposed land were logged and farmed in the beginning, after an hour, our cez slowly took us into a territory with thick forest and large trees where kingfishers, herons, monitor lizards and proboscis monkeys roam freely. This is how I always imagine Borneo, at least the images on TV, not the polluted towns and plantations. Our cez driver, Yani, skillfully navigated through fallen logs over the next few hours while we enjoy the wildlife Borneo was so famous for.
On our return trip, the sky turned dark and the daily downpour began. Our boat kept moving along the narrow river with millions of raindrops hitting the river surface - a true rainforest river experience, I told myself and then dozed off shortly after with the soothing sound of rain.