Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Continuing our Wild Borneo Adventure on #Terios7Wonders road trip, we drove north from Kandangan to Amuntai. It’s a small town sitting near the confluence of Negara, Tabalong and Balangan rivers. Our target was to see the kebo rawa or swamp buffalo. Rumor has it, swamp buffalo like to swim in the swamp, much like the water buffalo but, I guess, dirtier.
Before the sun had risen, we had gathered in the hotel lobby, ready to embark on an hour drive to Danau Panggang subdistrict. I was back asleep in the car and next thing I knew we were parking by Danau Panggang small port. The sun had just started to show herself on the horizon, the air was hazy, a combination of fog and forest smoke.
All 20 of us, because some stayed behind to catch more z’s, walked through the village on wooden path and bridge to then hopped on two boats. We had to take the boat ride for an hour to get to the area where the buffalo are grazing and bathing. It would be a shorter ride in rainy season, where the river is deeper.
Stilt houses, people bathing and grooming, kids going to scholl in their uniforms, were the scenery to our right and left. There wasn’t much we could do other than taking pictures and goofing off to kill boredom. The gray sky was a sad scene but it made great Instagram posts.
“Look! There’s a buffalo!”
I don’t remember who shouted but I remember we were all looking at the same direction, excited to finally see the star of the morning. Two or three buffalo were standing poised on the bridge to our left. The boat almost tipped over because most of us were sliding to the left to take better look of the buffalo.
“Easy, easy.. We’ll take a closer look at more buffalo ahead,” someone else reminded us and tried to keep balance of the boat.
A little while later, the boat stopped where we could see a large herd of buffalo seemed to be grazing or just gathering. Some were wallowing in the river among their breakfast, the water hyacinth. We were then guided to hop off the boat and get closer to the buffalo on land. Some short planks were laid down for us to step on among the swamp, but again, I lost a bit of balance and my feet sunk in mud almost ankle-deep. Oh, dear me!
These buffalo liked to stare, they were intimidating. They looked angry and angry animals with pointy and hard-looking horns like that can’t be good. Even though the shepherd convinced us that it’s safe to slowly get closer, I’d rather not. The other bloggers can have much better pictures by getting closer to the buffalo, I’m happy standing a little further than them.
Funny thing is, these buffalo tend to slowly walk away from us, as if they were scared of us. They’re like accidental celebrities who didn’t like fame and wanted to be left alone from all the cameras and strangers.
Photo by Wira Nurmansyah
These swamp buffalo belong to farmers, they’re not wild ones. They become some of the locals’ gold mine because 1 kg of a swamp buffalo’s meat could be worth IDR100,000 at the market, and a grown swamp buffalo could weigh up to 100 kg.
Normally these swamp buffalo become an ‘attraction’ to visitors when they’re released from the elevated platform to swim in the river and find food themselves. People say it’s interesting because there are perhaps hundreds of the buffalo on only one platform and it’s a unique sight to be seeing them all enter the water and wallow. Later toward dark they would be herded back into the platform, some even find their way back without any help. Unfortunately, we came in the wrong season. The river was too shallow that the buffalo didn’t need to be herded through the platform.
Amuntai is a small town with not much to see. The best accommodation that the trip organizer could find for us was the Lambung Mangkurat hotel – if not the only hotel around. It’s an old school building with old school interior with surprisingly a speedy wi-fi connection. Unfortunate for some who stayed downstairs, the connection was pretty sucky. The rate was about IDR 300,000/night/room if I’m not mistaken.
Still a lot of destinations and kilometers to go! But up next I’ll be back with a different kind of post, still about the road trip with Daihatsu Terios. Hint: I’ll be giving you some tips!
*This trip is fully paid by Astra Daihatsu Motor in exchange of blog publication, but the opinions are my own.