Kalimantan Peat Swamp Forest, OuTrop

Posted on November 15, 2014

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After booking flights to Bali and a quick trip to the supermarket. Scrat and I loaded up our stuff together with two other researchers at the town house and waited for the bemo.

Bemos are local buses that look like mini vans. Ours was driven by a man in his 70s. He’s married to a woman in her 50s who travels in the front passenger seat with their very young son lying across the pair of them. The drive can only be described as extraordinary because he manoeuvred the steering-wheel like it was a dodge ’em car. How the vehicle kept going in a straight line with the sharp 90 degree angles he was making every 20-30 seconds was a sheer miracle. His brown weather beaten skin, toothy grin and reassuring look over this shoulder at us was endearing, if not a little worrying.

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“Please keep your eyes on the road,” I thought. There was clearly method in his madness because we arrived at our next stop unscathed.

He dropped us off at a small fishing village where all the wooden houses are effectively shacks built on stilts high above the river.

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The river, a muddy brown bath, shimmers in the sun from the oil covering its surface. Diesel and the detritus from the canals have made this river less than safe to swim in, but the locals stills do. In some areas the water pH is so acidic only certain species of fish which appear to have adapted can be found.

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After a quick boat ride we disembarked from the motorised canoe and waited at what can only be described as a fairground ride. The rusty railway tracks, supported by creaky, rotten boards did not fill me with hope. But nonetheless I clambered into the front seat.
“It has been know to derail,” said Scrat, very matter of fact.
“Great, let’s just pray it’s my lucky day!” I thought.

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It’s an impressive ride through the swamp and the forest here called Sabangau can be seen looming ahead. The railway was built in the 90s when there was a logging concession. Now it’s used as one of the modes of transport in and out of camp. In the wet season it’s completely immersed by the river and even the dense river plants that stretch skyward up to 5m are covered. When the river levels are that high, the conservationists just take a boat all the way.

My ride pulled into camp around lunchtime and in time to sample the cook’s handy work.

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Posted in: Asia