Monday, October 29, 2012


Kumai and the amazing Orangutans
The four hand grip
Kumai is about 475 miles from Lovina Beach Bali and we did it in 3 stages, Raas Island----Bawean Island and then Kumai. No wind on the first day so we motored to Raas Is, about 75 miles in total. Our reward was a 4kg Maori Wrasse bargained off the local floating fish market for two wood clamps and a few t-shirts. The wrasse was superb. Next morning we started the  motor to make our way out of the anchorage and a disturbing bearing rattle suddenly appeared from the fresh water pump at the front of the engine. These bearings can last some time before they go completely and with that in mind we headed out towards Bawean. Luckily we had breeze and sailed the entire distance of 196 miles, turning the motor on only for the last 15 miles to get around some shoals close to the anchorage. Bawean was a beautiful spot and once again we wanted to stay longer but our visas were out on the 28th and we still had a long way to go to Nongsa Point Marina, our port of exit from Indonesia.
 These are everywhere in Indonesian waters and without lights (barge only)make for "interesting" night encounters
Bawean to Kumai was 222 miles and miraculously we sailed the whole way apart from a 25 mile motor up the river to the town site. We were doing night sails and in Indonesian waters these are stressful. Suddenly you may come upon a floating fish trap unlit or a row of floats unlit or worse still a tug pulling a barge full of gravel doing 2 kts and again only partially lit. The tugs don’t come up on AIS and so you rely on radar to see where they are and what they are doing. We overheard a funny radio conversation between an American yacht (will go nameless) and the tug. It went as follows:
"Arrgh tug pulling large barge, tug pulling large barge I request you alter course to port, alter course to port now please."
Silence from the tug. Our American friend tries again, this time he adds
 "Terimakashi (thankyou in Bahasa) Terimakashi large tug pulling barge PLEASE alter course to port."
We lost contact thankfully and had no idea how the situation ended. Rules of the road state that tugs towing barges have limited manoeuvrability and so have right of way. Common sense states that a tug pulling a 50,000 tonne barge with a tow line of 1-3 kilometres might have difficulty moving to port to accommodate a yacht.
Oh well, it takes all sorts. Kumai was covered in smoke and when we peered through the haze the view was not so inspiring. It’s an industrial town that sits about 20 miles up from the river mouth and is grey and smoke infused. The smoke comes from farmers who burn off their paddocks and it hangs low in the sky like a thick mist. We got in touch with the tour operator who takes you up to the Orangutans and set up a trip for the following day. We had no interest in staying any longer than we needed.
Day after day we pushed on further into the impenetrable, the unfathomable, the deep and dark heart of darkness itself....( very dodgy quote from Conrad) and gee it was tough. Elise and Dan from Babar
Next morning a Klotok (a long thin house boat with open decks) purred alongside The Doctor and we clambered on board. We were going up with Dan and Elise off Babar. Oh what joy to sit back on the deck and let someone else worry about  depths, engine noises and courses while we lay back sipping coffee and watching the jungle slowly envelop us. Those of you who have read Heart of Darkness by Conrad and can remember his descriptions of the jungle closing in on Marlow as he negotiated snags and shoals and dodged overhangs will have a good idea of what we were experiencing. Our first sight of a monkey was the Proboscis species called thus because of the large nose of the males. These are big boys and we had a great view of one bloke and his clan. They have multiple females and we saw the complete family feeding voraciously on leaves as they hung from slim branches or sat in convenient nooks in the trees.
The big guy chewing on leaves.......looking very human....guess which monkey this one is..... think nose
Our next stop was one of 3 feeding stations that were part of the rehabilitation programme started some years ago to try and save captured or endangered Orangutans. This rehabilitation programme hoped to reintroduce orangutans back into the wild but it has apparently failed as they become to accustomed to human contact and it will be fazed out in time. Orangutan in Bahasa means people of the forest and when we finally came across them, the title seemed very appropriate. They have a fiery orange hair and black faces that seem both wise and contemplative. They look back at you with that” have we met somewhere before” look. Well, actually we are related but I haven’t seen you at many birthday parties..........There was a mother with baby firmly attached at the first station and she was quite forward. If you had a water bottle in your hand and weren’t careful, she would creep up and snatch it out of you lose grip, take the top off and empty the contents. I thought it made complete sense. It was a hot day and what better way to wash down 30 bananas than with a cool bottle of water. The Indonesian guides reacted quickly and grabbed it back and told her off. She wasn’t overly upset. She just loped off to the feeding platform, grabbed a 12 banana hand of fruit and scaled the nearest tree with bubs still clinging on to her back.
Hi, I'm an orangutan, nice to meet you!
To see them come swinging in from the forest to eat at the station is really an incredible sight. They use their limbs with a natural ease as they loop and swoop from branch to branch using their weight and natural bend of the branches to drop or lift themselves to where they wish to go. It all seems so effortless. Dan stood in amazement at what are essentially 2 sets of arms, complete with working fingers. He could see huge potential in the tight confines of the engine room on board Babar. Just think, he mused, you could change the oil filter at the same time as the fuel filter and every time you muttered, Gee, I could really do with another pair of hands...................sorted. He went so far as to volunteer to be the first human to have a foot transplant done with an Orangutan. Somehow I feel it might be going against the idea of rehabilitation and he was were joking Dan??????
Too easy!!!!!! can you see the little one?
The food was great on board the Klotok and after dinner and a glass or two of wine we all tucked down to sleep under mozzie nets on mattresses salvaged from the First World War. The trick was to and try to spread the dull ache of body parts evenly through the night. The Klotoks were comfortable in the Indonesian way and the cooling breeze generated as we motored along was a godsend. When we stopped the heat was suffocating, so much so that we decided to skip the last of three feeding stations and head back to the boat a little earlier.  While we were away, the tour boss promised his stay on board guards would be hard at work cleaning and polishing The Doctor. It was a sight to behold. Stainless that had never seen a cloth sparkled and the deck and dodger were squeaky clean. All up a great two days up the Tanjung Puting national park and lovely break from the boat.
Mum and baby just hanging out....
Dinner is served
A klotock jam from fallen tree, note the wood chopper working away to clear the problem
From Kumai we were headed for Nongsa Point and our final piece of Indonesia before we cross the Singapore Straits and into Malaysia for the next enthralling leg of our South East Asian odyssey. Stay tuned.

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