Monday, April 11, 2011

KALAWEIT, Indonesia, 27th December 2009

I woke up at 5am on the dot...That's a perfect 8 hours sleep...again. Lovely.

The gibbon shrill was barely getting started, so I hopped out of bed to go outside and listen.

It really is the most amazing, relaxing and magical sound. The time doesn't matter; waking up with nature does. Listening to the sounds around me, feeling unbelievably relaxed; it's the ultimate, and more, much more than I could have ever imagined.

6am - I fed Tongki again today. He totally adores the lempek (lychee-like fruit); he ate 3 or 4 today. He is just adorable, even if he is hitting his plate for more!

I witnessed the washing of the towels for the first time. This needs to be done everyday. The water is pumped from the ground. It's a rather laborious process, but worth it for the gibbons. Adam suggested getting a basic spin machine to do the washing, but with the move up north, it may not be possible now.

To note - I am possible the last volunteer here at Hampapak. This plot will become an eco-tourist village and the new land up north will become a sanctuary.

Anyway, the hand washing adds to the beautiful simplicity of life out here, so why change it?!

I then went off with the staff to help wit the feeding of the gibbons in Camp 1. I was going to meet Rahud too!!

I got a basket (just to point out, I LOVE these basket/bags. They are a woven product of the region, and very colourful and stylish!)

The bag was filled full of papaya and green leaves. My fellow feeder had the bananas, and we were set!

The gibbons have feeding trays outside their cages and all we needed to do was simply place the food on them. However, some of the gibbons are nakal (aggressive). This means that they could snatch anything from you or grab anything from you as you walk past. They might also just run to the front of the cage, just to scare you and get a reaction (works with me!).

I had a few bums shown to me as well!!! It's a sign that the boys don't like you, or that the girls want sex!!!!

In total, there are 183 gibbons in quarantine, plus 3 in the clinic.

We are at Camp 1 now and there are 78 there, so we split up the feeding groups. Me and my partner one way, another dude in the opposite direction; it was a carefully planned routine.

Each gibbon is completely different. Their characteristics are unique, just like humans. a lot of the gibbons near the front are alone in smaller cages, but as we ventured further into the island and its jungle, the enclosures got bigger and some of the gibbons were lucky enough to be paired with a partner. A couple of cages even had babies as well!!!

The jungle of the island (it is a controlled territory, remember, not the hardcore mass of rainforest across the water) was wet. There were many big puddles everywhere. I could imagine, only slightly, the deluge just the week before.

Some cages were surrounded by water that was knee-deep for me. It must have been a nightmare for everyone to go through with feeding time.

With water in their cages, the gibbons are forced to stay at the top, which encourages them that higher places are better for them.

A disadvantage of this, would be a gibbon who was reared in captivity but now, in the wild, would not fully comprehend the parental duty they have. As a young gibbon, they would have seen their own parents killed and as a result, would not have learnt about the maternal or paternal love that they would later have to share. As a result, such a gibbon may escape to the heights of the trees where he/she belongs, but they may also let their baby drop to the ground simply unaware.

It's constantly a tough situation, but overall, this land is good for them and their rehabilitation process. They can be monitored carefully by all members of staff.

We met Rahud.He seemd docile and not nakal at all. Yay! It was quite the trek to get to him,
very tiring, but unbelievable and awe-inspiring fun. I'm learning more and more, slowly but surely, that there is so much more than meets the eye. Feeding the little cuties in the clinic is a small sideline to the whole story.

Back at camp - breakfast time. Deep fried aubergine-like veggie, which had the texture of chicken, a courgette-like veggie...fried and omlette and rice. I was ravenous!!! I could not get enough!!!

We all hung out for a bit, but before long, it was treat time at camps 1 & 2! Today, the protein treat was boiled egg, so, once again, we all set off to give each gibbon an egg.

The aggressive ones had to be handled carefully, perhaps by pretending to place the egg in one place with an empty hand, and actually having it in the other hand and sneakily placing on another tray.

One gibbon took his egg from my hand gently and Rahud looked like he would too, but I didn't want to anger him, so I just left it on his plate. He is docile and cute. We love him.

We headed over to camp 2, followed by the bears too. They were to get their rewards afterwards. First, the gibbons...and the crocodile!

There is one rescue croc, quite the size.

Adam threw in some headless chicken, raw..yum! One made it straight to his mouth, the other hit the tree, but I am sure he will get it later, we weren't going in to help him!
It was less flooded at camp 2, until the hut that was. We found Adam's plastic bag that had had the snake from my first night. This was were he had been released. Apparently, he was venomous!

En route back to base, I did manage to sink my leg inthe mud and lose my show like a veritable Cinderella...all part of the wilderness fun.

All that, and it was only 11am!! I feel like I have had my day already! (and UK are still sleeping, Japan are just waking up with Xmas hangovers...such different worlds!!)

I need a pre-lunch nap, but I just checked the time...1150! no rest for the wicked!!! Feeding time soon!

12pm - It's Manisa's turn.

He is just a baby, so, you have to put him in your lap. He likes to be mischievous, but with his little pink tongue hanging out, who can resist this little gibbon? We have to feed him with a syringe and break off the banana that he wants. Simple. He got up and into his cage when he chose, although he still wanted banana. If I held out my hand, he would simply pop his head out and reach for the fruit. Then he would go back to his swinging. He wasn't so agile yet, givenhis young age, but he still liked to show off, like Tongki.

Then, it was our feeding time - Rice, veggies (green leaf, pumpkin, and corn), that deep fried veggie from earlier, tuna? fried and crispy, but yum, as always.

And, that's it till 4pm!
Everybody suddenly disappears to their rooms for a nap. It's just Ayung and myself playing snap, with a few members of staff hanging out, chatting.

The rain has stopped; it was on and off all day long, but the rain here is so glorious. It enhances the already beautiful colours of nature. This place is truly gorgeous.

4pm- Once again it was me and Tongki. I am becoming, if not already, very attached to this little boy. The way he has apparently calmed down since I came makes me feel good and the way he looks into my eyes.....and holds my hands......

He was extra adorable today, really gentle and calm and lovable.
He really loved his bananas and even his milk, holding my hand each time and gesturing towards the milk when he was thirsty or grabbing the banana if he was hungry.

When he had eaten the two that I had taken from the counter, he looked lost, pointing at my hand, wanting more.

As he tried to swing to show off his agility, his eyes were shutting fast and heavy. He was so tired and his body would begin to flop. Then, suddenly, he would reach for more banana.

He reached toward me when I closed the door - four bananas weren't enough?
He just wanted to hold my hand. Too cute.

Even when I shut the door, his fingers came through the mesh to touch mine. We sat like that for a while but tears welled up in my eyes when I thought about where he had come from and what all of his gibbon friends experience before they come to Kalaweit. It's too sad, and I can predict that, I will be a nightmare when I leave here, but thankfully, that it still far away!

8pm. I am totally in love with Tongki! He seemed sleepy tonight, and I felt bad to disturb him, but he took two pisang (small banana) from my hand. I didn't push him to eat any more. I think he was as tired as me!

I wrote this diary entry from my bed, 8.30!!! A couple of treks through the Borneo bush will do that to you! Although, other than that, I have pretty much been sitting, reading and playing games!

I cannot WAIT for 5am and the sound of the gibbon song to wake me up!! It is great hanging with the gibbons!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

KALAWEIT, Indonesia - Boxing day!!! (Back at Hampapak)

Dinner was good. More chicken. Clearly the sights of the day (upside down chickens at the markets and various body parts on display) had not put me off my food.

There was rice and something tasty with tofu and bamboo shoots. Adam was saying that
everything ( she cooks, she cooks with oil. So, as healthy as this all sounds, it isn't! But, my goodness, it is all delicious.

I also stocked up on 'provisions', so at camp, we have oreo cookies and crisps and such treats to get us through the week, or more realistically, 2 days.

4pm. Feeding the gibbons was another treat!
We made it back just in time to feed Smikey. We had to get him from the big cage where he is being kept at say time to train him to be a bit more independant. But tonight, we brought him in for feeding . I had a job giving him the milk. I kept pushing the syringe too hard and squirting the milk in his face! Luckily, he didn't seem to mind so much and licked his face and fur. He had 6 syringes of milk. Bless him.
(We always noted how much they drank and ate while they were under observation.)

8pm. I fed Tongki again. He was being rather timid and wanted to hang in the branches as he ate. At one point, his hands, one with a banana in it, were attached to the branch and he was determined not to let go. Stretching his body and head up, he eventually reached out and ate his reward. For the most part, he would take the fruit from my hands, preferring the lengpak and edging his head out of the cage to how me.


We just hung out after that at camp. Me writing, the others reading, the staff watching television. It was Saturday and there there was an Islamic programme on but we couldn't even try and follow it. I did see a cockroach, big and fat, and in my bedroom!!!! but he escaped. Gaaaarr.

I taught Ayung (the cook's son) how to play snap.
He was a genki little boy. We played at high 5-ing too, heaps of lovely fun. What a wonderful experience to be spending time with the locals and enjoying the very simple life.

As I went to bed, I saw that the cockroach had returned with a friend! I let out a sudden and loud shriek and one of the staff was there straight away with a broom. I think they are getting used to me and my squeamishness already. They seem to come to my rescue very quickly!!

KALAWEIT, Indonesia - Boxing day!!! (Palangkaraya)

What a fantastic day!! So glad I went out.

We hit 'town' at about 9am...too early for the shopping centre, but in time for the street markets. And, wow, this what it was all about - The raw, gritty, at times stinky streets of Palangkaraya. Sophie & Jean-Paul went and did their thing, so Adam and I hung out. I would have found a shopping trip, even for an hour, a bit lonely and strange in this little town, so it was good to have someone to wander the unpaved streets with.

Fruits were in abundance, clothes were everywhere, but what did we do? We bought ice cream! It's the little things, even after one day in the jungle!

We walked around and found a fish market too, another world from Tsukiji.
The place did not smell too good and the floor was just mud with a few pieces of wood attempting to facilitate the walk.

I managed to pick up a few goodies, enjoying the exchange rate and the general value of the rupiah.
We were picked up and whisked off to a shopping centre where, it was not even 11am and we were trying to get KFC!!! It was the iced pepsi that did it for me! It is unbelievably hot here and hit 30 degrees by 10am if that gives you any idea.

The shopping centre was dead quiet, but it was early.

Lunch time, well, officially anyway, lunch, round two. On the menu spicy chicken, rice and FRESH AVOCADO juice!!! Yummy! oh, and fresh melon juice too. Well, I simply had to.

I was apparently very hungry. Perhaps my spicy noodles and and boiled egg for breakfast wasn't enough, although, it must be said that they were delicious and became my favourite treat at camp (and even now I squeal with excitement when I see a packet of mi goreng!)

After that great food, we went to the Kalaweit office. We met the staff there and also saw some of the monkeys and gibbons that were in the space outside.

We loaded the boat up to the max on our return, four volunteers, Emil, the cook and her son and another worker at the camp. The staff at camp rotated regularly so they would live at camp for a week or so and then return home.

We made a stop at the 'riverside shop'.
It was very well presented and very quaint indeed. At the house behind, there were 4 very cute girls mesmerised by the fact that there were foreigners in their midst.

They happily posed for pictures as did we when they took out their parent's phones. Such a lovely moment.

The rest of the journey back was a little disconcerting. The boat chugged a couple of times, and then actually stopped, twice! My heart stopped each time, imagining the worst. we would be floating through the dark night in crocodile infested waters and shore was miles away.

Save the hitches, it was a lovely ride home.
Actually, this river didn't have crocs, so I later learnt...

After a while, with more petrol in the tank, and there was no more chugging, Adam shouted out and pointed up to the trees. I eventually saw what he was pointing to and saw something orange at the top of a tree! Wow! An orang-utan! No, it was a probiscus monkey, you know the one with the funny nose!
Nature in action, lovely!