Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
It’s time we elaborate what we actually did during our 3 days 2 nights stay at the Betung Kerihun National Park, West Kalimantan. Initially we chose this park because we were intrigued by a local Indonesian series ‘100 Hari Keliling Indonesia’ or ‘100 Days Around Indonesia’. We didn’t give much thought other than it was a national park that is pretty deep within the island. Thus we visited the heart of Borneo, also thanks to the hospitality of Betung Kerihun National Park.
There are four river catchment areas of the Betung Kerihun National Park, which are Embaloh, Mendalam, Sibau, and Kapuas Hulu. We only had the chance to visit Embaloh due to the time and budget.
Here’s the what, when, where, who, why and how, our style!
WHERE’s the nearest hotel?
You didn’t think there was a resort with an AC and jacuzzi at a place as wild as this, did you? There are no resorts or roofed accommodation within the Embaloh part of the national park. Camping is possible at a creek bank called Tekelan, also the creek name of Embaloh River catchment. Bringing your tent or build a flying camp is the only option. Flying camp is recommended, as it is a better option during windy days. An easy dismantled accommodation and easy exit is best to avoid danger from falling trees or branches during windy days. Say what now?!
The Tekelan camping ground is possible for a campfire, but with caution (to prevent forest fires)! A roofed shed is available as the kitchen and toilets are useable… when usable, which was only partially the case during our stay. People can be so gross sometimes! Better bring your business to the river or dig a whole in the bushes.
WHEN will I ever learn?!
We’ve seldom said that we’ll never climb a mountain ever again. However, we often have to stand corrected. We should always live the wisdom of Justin Bieber : ‘Never say never!’. Embaloh isn’t the mountainous part of the national park, however the easiest trek turned out to be elevated and exhausting. Of course, this is coming from kids that aren’t fond of climbing.
The easiest trek starts from behind the Tekelan camp. It’s about 1.5-hour climb and continues on a steep trek back down to the river. It was the most challenging trek so far, since it sloped up to 60 degrees, has no visible treks, humid air, and leeches. I didn’t feel a thing as the leeches suck the blood out of me, but the ickiness of seeing them on my feet and touching them were hair-raising. I ended with 12 visible leech marks, although I didn’t see as much. Sucking leeches aren’t always the case. Vira didn’t get a single bite, probably due to the use of socks.
By the end of that 4-hour trek, I was drenched with sweat, with that awesome feeling after a hard workout. Phew! I was also glad that it was over by the end of it.
A fun trek we did was to the Dajo Waterfall. This waterfall was located upstream at one of the many creeks along Embaloh River. The waterfall was relatively big, with three main accessible tiers. The fun part was trekking to it, which was easier done barefoot. Reminded me a lot about my childhood days. Ain’t it fun to go barefoot?
WHY aren’t we bringing water?!
It did occur to me that we didn’t bring as much wateras normal campers would. Turns out, the camping ground has a hose that connects to pristine mountain water, which was our water source during the trip both for cooking and direct drinking. We didn’t have diarrhea problems, although we should take in to account that we are Indonesians with strong stomachs.
This continued in each clean clear creek we found, including at the Dajo waterfall. We could refill easily anywhere! And it occurred to me that the water in the heart of Borneo could be as good as it gets. No pollution, hardly any people, and from one of the best forests in the world. It could have been a suggestive thing, but the craziest part was that the water tasted better than any bottled water. Addictive!
Did I mention, the air was insatiably good?! I can feel my lungs thanking me for taking them to the Borneo forest!
WHAT the hell was that?! A swimming pig?
Animal sightings are always exciting, especially for a Biology-geek like myself. Knowing that their appearances are unpredictable makes every encounter precious. We saw a few hornbills fly about along the river, a few local bird species, monkeys, proboscises, and even a pig swimming across the river to then run up the hill away from our hunting friends.
Of course, wildlife watching included that on the table. Our Dayak friends caught a few river fishes for dinner. One of them was even a family of the arowana fish. It was pretty awesome to eat a fish from a family that can be worth up to millions of rupiah.
WHO would bath in the river?!
A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. During this camping trip with air so hot and humid and toilet with questionable hygiene, bathing in the river is the only option to cool down and scrub that sticky sweat layer. Vira enjoyed our girly sessions of river gossip and activities, which will remain in the river!
During the dry season, the Tekelan River is considered clean. How clean is clean? Well, taking into the high water debit in a tropical forest, the greenish water is as good as it gets. It might be slightly murky but it’s just plain river particles. It didn’t occur to me how clean it was until I saw the creek meeting up with the main river, Embaloh. Thus, we took a bath in the river decently, as people rarely pass the creek. It was extremely refreshing and necessary. It did occur to me that I should be more aware to environment-friendly products during traveling. It kinda hit my consciousness knowing we were bathing in a clean river and yet using non-organic products.
Travel tip to Borneo: bring organic bathing products!
HOW would I live without the Internet?!
Life in the woods is as isolated as you can imagine. No signal from any frequencies, and hardly any electricity if not for the dry battery we bought for this special expedition. So what do you do to entertain yourself? Everything!
The art of doing nothing starts here. We enjoyed the presence of each other, getting to know everyone, including the rangers. Books would have been great if only we brought them. However, Vira had an e-book and several e-comics with her, which were pretty handy. A deck of cards and a bag of nuts can always entertain a crowd, which also led me to the one victory of the ‘Bok’ game. Or, just sitting on the side of the river, contemplating nature and how far we have come to preserve or even be aware of it. Pretty deep, right? Nature does that to you.
You’ll be surprised how much you’re dependent of the modern world after a little isolation.
After this trip, I realized that Betung Kerihun National Park is nature at its best. No easy road, no convenient living. It’s extreme for these city kids and we haven’t even visited the Kapuas Hulu River Catchment that is said to be the most extreme of them all. It’s definitely for the special interest tourism, and if you have these special interests then you know where your next destination should be.
To enter, you must submit your SIMAKSI application to the national park. You can submit your application by filling in the form here.
There are new fares for the national park and we have the update (2014):
For public activities for general public.
There are different fares for other activities such as research or taking commercial footages, but all can be asked to the Betung Kerihun National Park officers.
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