For the vast majority of the trip, we were in places we’d never been. Only Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, Bali and Switzerland had some of us been to before. So it was great to finish our cycle tour at Gyldenlund, my mom’s aunt Marianne and uncle Boerge’s farm in northern Sealand, Denmark. My mom has been there at least 20 times (her father was Marianne’s brother), and it was Kaia’s and my fifth time there. It’s a beautiful farm, with lots of animals and vegetable gardens, and borders one of Denmark’s biggest forests, and with a train station really close by (1 hr to Copenhagen).
When we arrived on our bikes, we met Marianne and Boerge, and my Mormor (Danish way to say “mother’s mother”), who we hadn’t seen since we left in September. We spent a week on the farm, and had lots of fun. I’ll keep this blog post short, so here are photos of some of the highlights.
Being at Gyldenlund was really fun, and was a great change of pace from finding our way in new, unknown places, what we’d been doing for the past 9 and a half months. It was great to see Marianne and Boerge again, and Bruno all grown up (he was a puppy the last time we visited), and to see my favourite country in Europe, Denmark.
Before we started the cycle tour, the biggest distance Kaia and I had cycled in a day was 42 kilometres. During the first week of the cycle tour, we passed the 60km mark a few times, and while cycling along the Rhine river, we hit 85km. We felt like we were up for a big goal: 100km. And what better place to do it than in a very flat country with great bicycle paths: Holland!
Our big day started near the city of Dusseldorf (Germany), in a campground with lots and lots of rabbits.
We needed to get to a grocery store, and we actually spent quite a long time at one, because we had breakfast at the little bakery in it. We ended up having a kind of late start. We rode for about 40km to get to the German-Dutch border.
Crossing the border into Holland was just as easy as it was between Germany and Switzerland. All there was to tell us we were entering a new country was a little sign saying “Niederlande”
Our first impressions of Holland were pretty similar to Germany, but we did notice a few changes. Here are some of the things we noticed:
-The bike paths are great. They’re almost always separated from the road by a strip of grass, and they’re easily identified because they’re painted red.
-The Dutch language seems to to be halfway between English and German. Ex: in English “street”, in German “strasse”, so in Dutch “straat”. The letter J is used a lot in Dutch, as well as double vowels.
-Renewable energy isn’t as big as it is in Germany. There aren’t many wind turbines, but there are a lot of old-fashioned “windmills”.
We continued our ride north into Holland.
At first, it didn’t seem like we would make it to 100km, but the further we went, the more determined we got. 60km… 70… 80… Once we hit 90km, we knew we would succeed. We counted down the last few metres. 99.97… 99.98… 99.99… 100 kilometres!!!
Wow! It was the first time for 3 of us to cycle that far in a day. It was a big personal accomplishment! We were tired and it was getting late, so we camped beside a canal right near the place where we hit 100km.
The next day, we continued to ride north. Now, those of you who have known us for 5 years or more will probably know that we spent a year in Namibia in 2009-2010. One of our best friends there was Jelda, a woman from Holland who was working in the same volunteer organisation as us, VSO (Volunteer Service Overseas) in Rundu, a town 2 hours away from the village we lived in, Mpungu. We would often stay at her house when we went to Rundu (Rundu had the closest grocery store to Mpungu, so we had to go pretty often), and we did many safari drives in Etosha national park together.
When she learned we were going to Holland, she invited us to come visit her in Utrecht, a city about 50km south of Amsterdam. We planned to ride in to Utrecht and meet her for dinner that evening, but we ran out of time, so took a short train ride to the central station.
Jelda lives close to downtown, so it was a short ride from the central station to her house. It was so good to see her again! We also met her husband Nick, and later, their 4-month old daughter Lykke, who was sleeping when we arrived. We had a delicious dinner, and talked about our experiences on this trip, and from 5 years ago in Namibia.
Their house is pretty small, so we were planning on staying at a campground that night, but they have a small back courtyard; just enough space for our bikes and tent!
We had breakfast with them the next day, and before we left, Jelda introduced us to some Dutch sweets like licorice, sweet bread, and Kaia’s and my favourite, “stroopwaffels” (these waffle cookies with cinnamon and honey in them). They’re delicious little treats, and were a great replacement during our time away from the land of pretzels, Germany.
We started riding kind of late, and had lunch in a park in Utrecht.
That day, we rode the 50km to Amsterdam, along perfectly flat bike paths, and beside canals (doesn’t get any more Dutch than that!)
Kaia will write a separate blog entry about what we did Amsterdam, so I’ll skip to May 31st, the day we left the city.
The first part of the day was going well, as cycling almost always does in Holland. After a while though, the weather started to get bad, and my parents wanted to have coffee, so we turned in to what we thought was a cafe. It was actually a visitor centre for a conservation area. There was a video about it in English, and we learned a lot. We were in an area of Holland called Flevoland, which is all reclaimed land, meaning it was once under the sea. It turns out, the land we had been riding on for the past couple of hours was all below sea level! It was a very ambitious plan: build dikes around a large section of ocean, then pump the water out until it’s down to land. Now, they’re really making an effort to help plants and animals begin to live in this new environment.
As we continued our ride, the weather worsened.
We hit 100km in the town of Emmeloord, and we were so cold and wet that the idea of camping was out of the question. We stayed at a hotel, a little over our budget, but definitely worth it! Ah, it felt so good to have a warm shower, get dry, and have a creamy hot chocolate at the restaurant in the hotel. We slept excellently that night.
There isn’t too much to say about our ride the next day, but we made it to 104 km (a new record) and camped at a campground just outside of Groningen, in the north of Holland. We were interested in learning about Groningen because it’s the town that has the highest percentage of trips done by bicycle in the world. 59%! While cycling through the town, we really felt like part of the majority, not a minority like we do in Canada. We went to City Hall to meet with some of the transportation planners and learn why Groningen is so bicycle-friendly and how it came to be that way. There will be a later blog entry about cycling infrastructure in European cities, so the details about Groningen will be there.
We rode out of Groningen that day, and headed towards an inlet at the northeastern border of Holland and Germany. The last ferry of the day to cross the inlet of had already left though, and it would take a long time to cycle around it, so we spent the night at a little campground near the ferry.
We took an early ferry across the inlet the next day, back into Germany. Holland is one of our favourite countries on this trip. It is such a lovely country. Its beautiful bike paths, interesting history, and smiling, friendly people made us feel happy too.
The southeastern part of Germany is known as Bavaria, called Bayern in German. It’s more traditional than other parts of Germany, and most people that live in this part consider themselves Bavarian, not German. The city of Munich, or München in German, is the biggest city in Bavaria, and apparently worth seeing, so we decided to go there.
The weather forecast had been saying all week that a certain day would be very rainy. The morning of that day that we spent in Augsburg was fine, but we had already decided to take a train to Munich instead of riding. It’s pretty easy to take your bike on trains in Germany. And, sure enough, on the train, it rained for a while.
We had heard from a few people that they really liked Munich. My dad went on the Warm Showers network (people who open their house to cycle tourists) and found some people who let us stay with them in Munich. He also looked at TripAdvisor reviews for the best things to do there, and one of the activities that got great reviews was a bicycle tour of the city. So, we contacted a company that runs these tours, and found out where to meet for the tour. The train from Augsburg arrived at Munich Hauptbahnhof (central train station), and then we rode to Marienplatz, the central square, where we met the rest of the tour group.
The tour guide was a guy named Tony, from Washington DC. He has loved Munich ever since he moved there 9 years ago, and he’s really fun and enthusiastic about the bike tour. He really brought history to life for me!
There were 11 people on the tour, including us. 2 were from Scotland, and the rest were all Canadians! First, Tony told us some general history on Munich, and specifically, on Marienplatz.
Things have been happening that square for a long time. Munich used to be the “capital” of the old kingdom of Bavaria, so the king held many celebrations in the square. For a royal wedding that happened there, they even held a jousting tournament! You know, when knights on horses run at each other with big lances and try to knock the other guy off his horse. Sounds pretty entertaining!
Then, we walked to the bike tour shop to get bikes. We already had ours, but we left all our paniers and trailer there. Once everyone had a bike, we started the ride around town. We visited another square, with a statue of King Maximilian in the middle. If I remember correctly, his son Ludwig’s wedding got re-celebrated every year, and now it’s known as Oktoberfest. Don’t blame me if I’m wrong though, because I find European monarchs’ names extremely confusing (King Ludwig I, II, III, and so on).
We went to an old government building, with a big courtyard in the middle of it. It looks like all the walls are intricately decorated, but at a second glance, you’ll see that some of it’s just painted on! The reason why is that before Germany started World War II, they knew that their towns would be bombed, so they hid some of their precious artwork (statues, paintings, etc) in lakes and salt mines so that they could be put back after the war. They did start to restore these things after the war, but didn’t have enough money to complete it. You can see that some of the pillars and windows in the government building are real, and others are just painted on.
Outside the building, there are a few big statues, but before going out to see them, Tony had us “act” out the statues.
And here’s what the real statue looks like.
The statues have interesting meanings. The lion on the left (Kaia) has it’s mouth open, facing the government building, and the one on the right (me) has it’s mouth closed, facing a big church. It means that you’re allowed to criticize the government, but not the church! The statue in the middle represents when the kingdom of Bavaria became part of Germany. It means: “Germany can have our flag, they can have our lion (the symbol of Bavaria), but they can’t have the Lady of Bavaria”, or in other words “we’re still Bavarian”. I don’t know what the two soldiers on the sides represent though. I still think the one we did was better!
We had a look inside the theaterin kirche church (the one that you’re not allowed to criticize!)
After touring of the old part of town, we went through a big park called the English Garden, which is bigger than New York Central Park!
The bike tour stops at a Biergarten (beer house), but the one it usually goes to was closed, so we went a smaller Biergarten in the park (don’t worry, Kaia and I didn’t have beer!) We chatted with the other people on the tour as we ate wieners and pretzels. My parents were surprised that some others on the tour drank two full litres of beer! My dad had a half litre and Tony said that Bavarians would ask 1/2 L drinkers if they were still in Kindergarten. My dad ordered another half litre. Tony said that people who don’t want to drink all that alcohol get half beer and half lemonade, so it still looks like 1L of beer.
The last stop on the tour was… the surfers! There’s a wave on the Isar river that people can actually surf.
It’s an unusual wave to surf, because instead of riding with the flow of the water like you do in the ocean, you ride against the flow. It’s certainly much harder than where I’ve surfed on Zancudo beach in Costa Rica and Kuta beach in Indonesia, but the surfers there made it look so easy.
The bike tour was really fun. I think it’s a great way to see a city like Munich. At the end of the tour, we rode back to the bike shop to pick up our stuff, then rode (through pouring rain and hail) to Götz and Liza’s apartment, the people we met through Warm Showers. Götz has cycled through New Zealand staying with Warm Showers people, and now opens his apartment to cycle tourists like us. Their apartment is pretty small, but there was enough floor space for us to sleep on our air mattresses.
We were out all of the next day, but it wasn’t at all as joyful as the bike tour: we visited the Dachau concentration camp which is about 30km out of Munich.
It’s a really sad place. Dachau was a concentration camp before and during World War II, but now, it’s set up like a museum. The main building has many informational plaques, and a small theatre showing a video about the camp. I’ll share a bit of what I learned with you. I used to think that concentration camps were only used to imprison Jews, but I learned that there were also Hitler’s political opponents, communists, homosexuals, prisoners of war, and pretty much anyone else the Nazis didn’t like. This particular camp was only for men. It was originally built to hold 6 000 prisoners, but at one point there were more than 60 000 of them. Prisoners were forced to work extremely hard all day, but were hardly given any food. How is someone supposed to work hard without any food in their belly? And the guards treated them so poorly. Twice a day, they had attend “roll call”, where they had to stand straight and motionless for hours as the guards did “attendance”, but mostly just for torture. They were also brutally punished for the slightest thing, like a missing button on a shirt for example. About 49 000 prisoners died there, but not from the “gassing” used in other concentration camps to murder large amounts of people at once. They were either worked to death, starved to death, beaten to death, and many Soviet prisoners of war were brought there, where they were shot. Typhoid outbreaks killed many too. It was finally liberated by the American army in 1945.
There was a gas chamber, but it was never actually used for mass murder, like at other concentration camps. A particularly notorious camp was Auschwitz, in Poland, where thousands upon thousands of people were brought in on trains, then murdered with poisonous gas.
These next photos were taken from the Internet. They’re from between 1933 and 1945, when the camp was still in use.
The visit to the Dachau concentration camp left me feeling very sorry for all the prisoners who died or spent time there, but also feeling appalled that Hitler could actually do that. How could someone think that putting people in concentration camps would do any good? What did those people ever do wrong? It seems like pure evil to me.
We took the train back to Götz and Liza’s apartment, and went out for Mother’s Day dinner at a lovely restaurant on a walking street. It wasn’t the usual cheery way to spend mother’s day but it was a nice meal in the end.
We left Munich at mid afternoon the next day, but we went downtown to see a few more things in the morning.
We climbed to the top of a church tower near Marienplatz.
We also went to the Munich food market.
And back in Marienplatz, we watched the 12:00 PM glockenspiel, a carousel type of thing on the clock tower that shows a mini jousting match.
It always has the same outcome: the Bavarian horse always wins!
I think we experienced a lot in and around Munich. The beautiful, the evil, the friendly, and the yummy. It’s a really cool city, and it made great first impressions of Bavaria. Next stop: Neuschwanstein!
Back in July last year, when my parents were booking the flight tickets for this trip, we only had a vague idea of where we wanted to go. A travel agent was on the phone with my dad, and said: “On your way from Nepal to Germany, the plane stops in Abu Dhabi in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), do you want to stay there for a few days?” We thought it would be cool to see the UAE, especially the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, but it would be very expensive and hard to find (cheap) accommodation, so we decided to stay for only 2 days. But as we started looking into stuff to do there, we realized that 2 days is way too short! And on top of that, my mom’s high school friend Heidi emailed us saying “We’ll have a place for you to stay in Dubai”. We later found out that she and her husband Daniel, who live in the US, had invested in an apartment there, and let us stay there for our time in the UAE, and even arranged a driver for us. A driver! We couldn’t believe it!
After a 5 hour flight from Kathmandu, we walked out of the Abu Dhabi airport and our driver, Sunil, was there to drive us from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. Sunil is from Agra, in India (where the Taj Mahal is), but lives with his family in Dubai. The drive between Abu Dhabi and Dubai was on a big highway in the desert, and it took about an hour and a half to get to the apartment. It was on the 3rd floor of a 39 story building. It was beautiful! We looked around, and found stuff like:
“Look, there’s a nice, big kitchen!”
“Look, there’s beer in the fridge!”
“Look, there’s a second floor!”
“Look, there’s a jacuzzi in the bathroom!”
It was really late, so we went right to bed. Like I said earlier, 2 days is not enough time in Dubai, so we packed as much stuff as we could into our time there. This blog entry will be about our first day, and Kaia will cover Day 2. Here was the plan for Day 1:
-go up the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building
-visit Hema, a friend we met in Bali who lives in Dubai
-go to the Dubai museum
-do the desert safari
We got up early, and Sunil brought us to the bottom of the Burj Khalifa.
We got our tickets at the bottom, and went through the little museum before going up. At 829 metres tall, the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest man-made structure. It surpasses the 628 metre tall KVLY-TV mast, a communication tower in Blanchard, North Dakota that used to be the world’s tallest man-made structure, the 550 metre tall CN Tower in Toronto (that we’ve been up before), that used to be the world’s tallest freestanding structure (meaning it doesn’t have any wires holding it up), and the Taipei 101 in Taiwan that used to be the world’s tallest building (meaning it has the most floors). So, the Burj Kalifa beats all 3 of those world records!
And the Burj Khalifa won’t even hold onto its title for much longer. They’re already building the Kingdom Tower, a building in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia that will be over 1000 metres tall!
After looking around the museum a bit, we headed for the elevator and went up, up, up…
The Burj Khalifa also breaks the world record for the world’s fastest elevator, at 10 metres per second. It only took about a minute to go up to the 124th floor, at Observation Deck 1. Let me tell you, I would not recommend it for people who are afraid of heights! We were way, way up, and could see all of Dubai.
I want make it clear that the reason Dubai has so many tall, expensive buildings is because the country is extremely wealthy, because of its oil reserves.
Dubai is built in a desert, so we were wondering why there’s a big city in such a desolate place, but one of the reasons Dubai became a big city is because half the world’s population is within a 5 hour flight, making it the “business capital of the world”.
After looking around on the observation deck, we walked back inside, where there was, of course, a gift shop, with all those little souvenirs and knickknacks. There was also one of those green screen photo stands, to make it look like you’re hanging on the building and stuff.
We were considering doing it, until we found out the price. 90 UAE dirhams, equal to about 30 American dollars. A bit too much for one picture!
There was also the most ridiculous souvenir ever: a stuffy Burj Khalifa!
Then, we went back down, down, down to the bottom, and explored around the Dubai mall.
The mall is huge! It’s way bigger than the Toronto Eaton Centre. There are several atriums, and hundreds of stores, but it seemed like most of them sell fancy clothes and cosmetics. It was hard to believe that all those stores can stay in business! It’s not even the only mall in Dubai.
There was also a huge aquarium in the mall, with lots of fish, sharks and rays. It was beautiful, but nothing compared to the scuba diving we’d done earlier on the trip!
Then, Sunil picked us up from the mall and brought us to an apartment building where a friend we met in Bali, Hema, lives. You might remember Kaia’s blog entry about Ubud, in Bali, Indonesia. We did a bicycle day tour, and met Hema. She’s from India, but lives in Dubai, since she’s a flight attendant for Emirates airline. When we told her we were coming to Dubai, she invited us to visit her for lunch. At her apartment, we met her and her neighbour, Aditi, also an Emirates flight attendant from India. In fact, all residents in the apartment building are Emirates flight attendants!
Lunch was, of course, Indian food! Nice, soft naan bread with different kinds of curry. Delicious!
After lunch, Sunil brought us for a quick visit to the Dubai museum. It was mostly about the life and culture of the Bedouins, the indigenous people of Arabia. It was pretty cool, but we don’t have any photos.
Then, we went on the desert safari, recommended to us by a few people. The guide/driver (I can’t remember his name), originally from Pakistan, drove us out into the desert outside Dubai.
We got to a place where tire tracks went off the road and into the dunes, and we followed them.
None of us expected what followed. It turned out that the desert safari included dune bashing, or in other words, driving up, down and all over sand dunes! This didn’t exactly fit in with our sustainability idea of this trip, but it sure was fun.
The sand was SO nice, so we got out to play around on a dune for a while.
After a while of dune bashing, we got to a setup of huts and a stage, the main part of the desert safari.
The first thing we did there was ride a camel!
After a while, everyone got called in for a buffet dinner. It was so good! I filled up my whole plate before even realizing there was a barbecue too.
Once everyone was seated, the show began. It started with an Arabian man dressed in a hard-to-describe outfit. He did an amazing dance, where he kept spinning around and around for almost 20 minutes! We couldn’t believe he didn’t get dizzy! My dad gets dizzy after only one turn.
He spun non-stop for his whole performance. The second other performance was a woman doing a dance with a cane and a cape.
After the show, we got driven back to the apartment, and slept soundly that night. Thank you Daniel for paying for the desert safari! We really enjoyed it.
We packed in a lot of cool stuff into our day in Dubai, and we still had another one left in Abu Dhabi.
We are torn apart with internet updates re Nepal. It just keeps getting worse. The roads to the communities are barely passable at the best of times … let alone after landslides and worse. The death toll will certainly rise.
Just after Jake finished this entry below about the final leg of our Poon Hill/Annapurna Base Camp trek, we learned that trekkers out there have been cut off by landslides and avalanches. The update came from a phone call from a little village called “Bamboo” where we had lunch on the way in to ABC and slept at on the way out. The trail follows a very steep slope so not surprising that landslides have cut off the trail.
We normally post entries in chronological order. But all our thoughts are on our last 3 days in Nepal – spent in the Kathmandu valley visiting the old temples and cities. I will write about this in tomorrow’s entry. But we wanted to post Jake’s entry below because it is part 3 of 3 entries on our trek to ABC.
I write this intro from my hospital bed in Frankfurt. An infection at the top of my leg got away from me and turned into an abscess that required full general anesthetic surgery. But let me tell you that I am not feeling sorry for myself, as I have nurses and doctors buzzing around, clean operating room, food to eat, a warm dry bed and my family by my side. I will be out of hospital on my feet later today. I am so lucky. Oh, Nepal …. 😦 Cam
From Jake ….
I’m writing this entry in French, but I recommend that our English readers look at the photos, because I’ll be putting in photos of our morning up at Annapurna Base Camp, where we got an amazing close-up view of the Himalaya mountains.
Brrr! La nuit à ABC était la plus froide qu’on a eu pour longtemps, probablement depuis qu’on est parti du Canada! On portait toutes nos vêtements chaudes dans nos sacs de couchage. Dehors, ça avait l’air comme le matin de Noël, avec la neige fraiche partout. On voulait sortir pour voir les montagnes avant même de manger le déjeuner, car il fait toujours clair les matins dans les montagnes. Donc, on s’est habillé pour le temps neigeux et sorti de notre petite chambre pour voir la levée du soleil.
Tout de suite, on était tous étonnés. L’après midi précédant, quand on est arrivé à ABC, il faisait nuageux, alors on ne pouvait pas voir ce qui nous entourait. Mais ce matin là, il faisait tellement clair, et on pouvait voir qu’on était entouré 360 degrés par des montagnes formidables! C’est difficile de décrire ce qu’on voyait, mais je vais faire de mon mieux, en utilisant le texte et les photos.
Annapurna est aussi considéré la montagne la plus dangereuse à escalader au monde. Un moyen d’un escaladeur sur quatre meurt en essayant d’atteindre le sommet. Maintenant, je lis un livre à propos du premier ascension d’Annapurna, en 1950. Le livre est écrit par le chef de l’expedition lui-meme, le français Maurice Herzog. C’était la première fois qu’un humain a atteint un sommet de plus que 8000 metres d’altitude. Herzog devait avoir toutes ses doigts amputés apres l’expédition, à cause de la gelure. Non merci, on préfère de juste l’observer!
C’était très different de notre vue des montagnes de Poon Hill, car on était si proche cette fois ci. En observant Annapurna, on trouvait difficile à croire qu’on était a 4130 mètres, ce qui voulait dire que le sommet était encore presque 4 kilometres verticaux plus haut que nous!
On a observé les montagnes pendant longtemps avant de retourner pour le déjeuner. Prakash nous a dit qu’on devait partir rapidement, car on devait passer la zone d’avalanches entre MBC et Deurali quand il était encore tôt, car c’est plus dangereux quand il fait chaud. Donc, on est retourné à notre chambre pour préparer pour faire un autre jour de randonnée.
Plusieurs personnes dorment à MBC et montent à ABC tres tôt, alors le sentier était bien tassé pour nous de descendre.
Les deux heures de marche d’ABC à MBC étaient pas mal faciles, et on s’est amusé avec la belle neige.
Mais, la section après MBC était un peu dangereuse. Voici pourquoi:
Des avalanches tombaient des montagnes, et quelques uns ont meme traversé le sentier. Ceux qu’on a vu étaient petits, mais Prakash a dit qu’il y a des fois des grandes avalanches aussi.
On a réussi à traverser la zone d’avalanches sans problèmes, mais on n’a pas vraiment aimé la section du sentier en approchant le prochain village, Deurali, car le sentier était couvert de boue, et c’était difficile à descendre les collines!
On a mangé des momos et du dal bhat pour le dîner à Deurali, un vrai mets Nepali! On a continué de marcher pour quelques heures, en passant les villages Himalaya et Dobhan.
Et souvenez-vous de la photo que ma mère a mit de l’homme coupant un enorme arbre avec un seul, petit axe? Deux jours plus tard, le travail était deja fini.
On a arrêté pour la journée à à peu près 3 heures et demi, au village de Bamboo, au même guesthouse où on a mangé le dîner deux jours avant.
Le prochain matin marquait huit jours depuis qu’on a commencé de marcher à Nayapul. Le plan était de marcher jusqu’à Chhomrong pour le dîner, et arreter au village de Jhinu, où il y a des sources d’eau chaude naturelles. On a marché pendant deux heures entre Bamboo et Sinuwa, et une heure pour descendre loin dans une vallée et remonter à Chhomrong.
On a mangé un diner delicieux à un restaurant à Chhomrong. Je pense que c’est le seul restaurant sur tout le trek de Poon Hill-ABC qui a un menu different que les autres restaurants. La cuisinière, que les guides et les porteurs appelent Didi, ce qui veut dire “grande soeur”, nous a fait des burritos, des bons pizzas, et même un gateau au chocolat! Ça goûte incroyablement bon après marcher pour plus qu’une semaine et en mangeant seulement la nourriture simple. Il y avait meme un article dans TIME magazine à propos des gateaux de chocolat de Didi, qu’ils appelent dans l’article “Sugar Mama”!
En partant de Chhomrong, on commençait à marcher sur un sentier qu’on n’a pas déjà suivi, car on est entré de Chhomrong d’une differente façon trois jours avant.
La marche après Chhomrong n’était pas tres longue; dans moins de deux heures, on est arrivé à Jhinu, où on passerait la nuit. Le guesthouse là était le meilleur qu’on a eu tout le trek. Mais rapidement après arriver, on s’est préparé pour descendre aux sources d’eau chaude, près de la rivière. On a marché en descendant pour une demi heure, jusqu’à la rivière. On s’est changé dans nos maillots de bains et entré dans le bain chaud.
Ah! Ça sentait si bon! On a parlé avec les autres personnes là, de plusieurs différentes pays. Après un peu de temps dans le bain chaud, on a décidé qu’il fallait essayer la rivière glaciale aussi!
C’etait tellement froide! On ne pouvait pas y rester pour plus que quelques secondes.
Ce n’était pas si agréable dans l’eau froide, mais ça faisait le bain chaud de sentir encore mieux! On a fait le traitement de froid-chaud plusieurs fois. Finalement, on est retourné à Jhinu pour manger le souper et se coucher.
Le prochain jour, on est allé au sud de Jhinu à un village appelé Pothana. Ce n’était pas un jour tres spécial, mais on a encore vu quelques choses intéressantes.
On a mangé le dîner à un village appelé Landruk, et après ça, on marchait sur une route. On a commencé de marcher avec la soeur de Prakash et son mari.
Enfin, on est arrivé à Pothana, ou ont passerait la dernière nuit du trek, car ça ne prendrait pas longtemps pour arriver à l’autoroute pour retourner a Pokhara. Le village de Pothana était très beau, et ça nous rappelait un peu comme l’Ontario sud, d’où on vient.
On s’est réveillé à Pothana le dernier jour du trek. Prakash nous a dit que ça serait beau de manger le déjeuner à un camp un peu plus loin sur le sentier, alors on a commencé à marcher de Pothana tout de suite. Pendant le déjeuner au “camp Australien”, on a rencontré une femme des États Unis qui a fait un trek appelé Mardi Himal, et elle a inspiré mon pere d’y aller plus tard…
On a marché pendant à peu près deux heures de plus, et on est enfin arrivé à la fin du trek, un village sur l’autoroute appelé Khare. Woohoo! On a complété le trek!
On a pris un taxi de 45 minutes pour retourner à Pokhara, et dit au revoir à Prakash. On a vraiment aimé avoir lui avec nous. Le trek de Poon Hill-ABC était le trek parfait pour nous, et on le recommande à tout le monde qui visite le Nepal. On a eu des vues fantastiques des montagnes, et sans devoir monter à des hautes altitudes. C’était 10 jours très agreables, et c’est un sentiment incroyable d’etre proche aux montagnes Himalayas, les plus grandes au monde.
In case you hadn’t seen our update two entries back, we are now in Germany. We left the Kathmandu valley 6 days ago. The earthquake is so tragic – reminds us of Haiti, insofar as its emergency response capability is very limited at the best of times, and now much of it is damaged or destroyed. Most Nepalis live day to day, so the days ahead are difficult to imagine. We are also really sorry about the temples that were destroyed. We visited some of them last week and they are unique and majestic. Stay strong, Nepal. Nameste. Cam, Yvonne, Kaia & Jake
Okay, so Kaia mentioned in her latest entry that our flight itinerary to get to Nepal was downright awful. We took off from Hong Kong in the evening, going to Mumbai. It was about 7 hours long, and actually very comfortable because we had the bulkhead seats, with lots of legroom, and personal TVs. But in the Mumbai airport, we were exhausted, and we had to wait 7 hours through the night until our flight to Kathmandu. Worse still, there were armrests between all the seats in the waiting room, so we couldn’t lie down across them. It was definitely not my favourite night of this trip! At least our second flight was only about 2 and a half hours, and we got our first view of the Himalaya mountains.
Finally, we arrived in our 14th country on this trip.
Facts about Nepal: -Population: 29 million -Area: approx. 147 000 sq. kilometres (57 000 sq. miles), similar size as Florida -Currency: Nepali rupee (77 rupees=1 Canadian dollar) -Religions: mostly Hindu and Buddhist, which are apparently very similar in Nepal. -Languages: Nepali is spoken all over the country, and there are 128 local dialects. English is pretty well spoken, so you can go most places knowing only one word in Nepali: Namaste. It officially translates to “I salute the god in you”, but it can mean hello, goodbye, thank you, or pretty much anything positive.
-Drives on the left -Landscape: varying from high mountains near the Tibetan border in the north to low-lying plain and jungle near the Indian border in the south. Fun facts:
-There are 14 peaks in the world above 8000m altitude, and 8 of them are in Nepal (including the highest).
-Though Nepal has lots of unique animals like red pandas, yaks, elephants, rhinos and tigers, they chose the cow as their national animal, because they’re sacred in Hindu and Buddhist culture. It’s hard to find beef in Nepal.
-When we got off the plane, we had to change the time on our watches by 2 hours and 45 minutes, because for some reason, Nepal has it’s own mini time zone, 15 minutes off the time zone that the nearby part of India uses.
-The Nepali flag is the only national flag in the world that isn’t rectangular. It looks like this:
My mom actually booked a guesthouse in Kathmandu in advance, something we rarely do, so someone was waiting to pick us up at the airport. Kathmandu is a pretty big city, of about 3 million people (but seems tiny after being in Hong Kong), so it took about half an hour to drive to the guesthouse in a very touristy neighbourhood called Thamel. Our room was nice and big, and even had a whole kitchen. It was on the 5th floor though, so we got some exercise carrying our big packs up to it! Once we got settled in, we went out for lunch. Food in Nepal isn’t as cheap as it was in Indonesia and the Philippines, but still cheap enough that we hardly ever used the kitchen. We had chapati bread with curry for lunch. It was delicious! Before coming to Nepal, we didn’t know what to expect with the food, but after that lunch, we knew Nepali food would be good.
That afternoon, we didn’t go anywhere or do anything special, but we walked around Thamel a bit to get to know the area. Kathmandu is nice, but very, very busy, loud and polluted. Walking around Thamel was a stressful experience. There aren’t really any sidewalks and the streets are narrow, so you’re forced to walk through crowds of people, cars and motorcycles.
There were also tons of tourist shops. Nepal’s big tourist attraction is the Himalaya mountain range, and the best way to see it is by trekking. So, there are hundreds of shops selling trekking equipment: down jackets, boots, walking poles, you name it. There are also lots of souvenir shops selling Nepali clothing, bracelets, and all the rest of those little trinkets. There were a lot of really nice T-shirts with names of treks and pictures of mountains on them. Some have expressions like “Nepal: Never Ending Peace And Love”, or (this next one sold mostly to people who have already been trekking) “Nepal flat: little bit up, little it down”. Now that we’ve been trekking, that expression makes sense to us, because sometimes our guide would say “the path will be Nepal flat” or in other words “there’s no such thing as flat in Nepal”!
We went to a little restaurant near our guesthouse for dinner. One of the things we ate was a dish of these things called momos. They’re little Nepali dumplings filled with vegetables and sometimes chicken or buff (buffalo meat), and they’re really good! We’ve eaten many more momos for the 3 weeks we’ve been in Nepal now.
We slept okay that night, but not great, because of all the cars honking. We spent 2 more days in Kathmandu. During that time, we did some stuff that I’ll talk about, but I kind of forget when they happened during those 2 days, so for the rest of this entry, the events may not be in chronological order.
We took a taxi to the office of an organization called Solar Sisters, to organize an activity installing solar panels in villages. My dad will write about that in the next entry.
Back at our room, we spent time getting caught up on the blog, and Kaia had a Skype conversation with her class. Since our room was up on the 5th floor, we had view of the Thamel “skyline”.
And, we learned that there are urban monkeys in Kathmandu! One climbed right onto the rooftop patio, back down the other side of the building, then jumped across to the next building. I guess it’s kind of like how there are squirrels living in cities in Canada.
For lunch one day, we went to a middle-eastern style restaurant called OR2K. We sat on cushions at low tables, and the restaurant had a cool ambience. The music was funky, the walls were painted in a cool way, even the menu was artistic! And of course, the food was delicious. We had naan and focaccia bread with middle-eastern dipping sauces like hummus and babaganoush, and Israeli salad.
We went shopping for trekking equipment, and got stocked up on jackets, boots, socks, leggings, and more, because we’d be going up to Poon Hill and Annapurna base camp, and it would get cold up there.
All the trekking items at stores in Thamel are marked with famous brand names like The North Face and Mammut, but they’re all counterfeit. How can we tell? Well, read this tag that was on my new trekking boots that are apparently The North Face.
The tags on all the other items we bought weren’t much better, either. One of the shop owners we bought from even admitted they were fake. At least we know they’re definitely made in Nepal!
We walked to Kathmandu Durbar square, an ancient plaza that was once part of the old Kathmandu kingdom. We didn’t realize until we got there that tourists need a ticket to get into the square, and it was quite expensive for 4 people. So, we just walked around the outside of the square, then discretely walked in at a place that didn’t have a ticket booth. We had to be firm with a few very persistent guides that we weren’t interested in a tour of the square. We just sat up on the steps up to one of the temples and enjoyed the view.
Since it was a bit of a long walk (and walking is a stressful activity in Kathmandu) between our guesthouse and the square, we decided to take a bicycle drawn rickshaw back.
It was a crazy experience! The driver had only one gear on his bicycle, and since my mom and Kaia were riding in one right behind the one my dad and I were in, they could see that one of the back wheels on ours was loose and wobbly. My mom was worried it would fall off on one of the many potholes it went over! The rickshaw weaved it’s way through traffic all the way back to the guesthouse.
So, Kathmandu was a pretty hectic start to our time in Nepal, but in a way, it was good to start with the loud, crazy stuff, because it makes the rest of our experience in Nepal, out in the Himalaya, seem so calm and quiet.
This is the 100th blog entry from our travels this year and we are pausing, electronically and physically, to reflect on our travels. We’ve been traveling for 7.5 months, visited 14 countries, and gotten over 8000 views on the blog. We’re enjoying some rare slowed down time here in Pokhara and thinking about upcoming entries.
We’re hoping that our regular readers might take a few seconds to click through the poll questions below to give us some feedback on our blog. We work hard on our entries, and they are mostly for our own memories, but we do try to make them accessible to family, friends and others interested. Your responses to the survey questions are anonymous and appreciated. Can’t promise any specific changes but we’ll certainly consider your feedback. Thanks from all four of us!
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Northern Luzon is known for it’s amazing rice paddies. Lush, green staircase-looking fields on hillsides as far as the eye can see, and villages are built on “islands” in the fields. They’re so beautiful that they’ve become a UNESCO world heritage site. With about a week left in our time in the Philippines, we planned to go see these (my dad seems to have an obsession with rice paddies), but we also wanted to do our last scuba diving on this trip, because we’d be leaving warm ocean soon. The plan was to travel overland from Caramoan to Batangas, a town south of Manila, where we’d go diving, then travel north to Banaue, the place to see the iconic rice paddies. In case you’re wondering, that’s a long way, and it would take 2 full days of traveling on a lot of different kinds of vehicules. Our travel day started in Paniman (on the Caramoan peninsula) at about 7am. Here’s a list of all the modes of transport we took that day:
-a tricycle from Paniman to the town of Caramoan, 15 minutes
-a minibus from Caramoan to Naga City, 3-4 hours
-a bus from Naga to some place I forget (the bus was going to Manila, but we got off early), 8 hours
-2 jeepneys between places I forget, 40 minutes
-a bus to the Batangas bus terminal, 15 minutes
-a tricycle to a hotel in Batangas, 5 minutes
A VERY EXHAUSTING BUT BORING DAY!
Okay, so after 2 tricycles, 2 buses, 2 jeepneys and 1 minibus, we were pretty fed up of traveling. And we’d need to do another day like that to get up to Banaue, so we gave up on our original plan. Instead, we decided to go to Mindoro, an island south of Luzon that we heard had some good activities, including great diving. So the next morning, we headed down to the Batangas port and caught a 2 hour ferry to Porto Galera, a town on the northern coast of Mindoro.
Then, we took a short jeepney ride to Sabang, a small town on a beach that’s all about diving. In fact, they’ve built the shops so close to the ocean that there’s hardly any beach left.
Most of the businesses there provide accommodation, dining and diving, so we got a deal with one of them for a room because we dove with them too. It was a nice room, and there even was a swimming pool with a diving board!
At about 2pm, we got ready for a dive. There were the 4 of us, the divemaster Joel, and Mikka, a diver from Finland.
The boat ride to the dive site was really short. Within 5 minutes of us leaving the beach, we splashed into the water. We went down slowly, but for a while, my dad had troubles equalizing the pressure in his ears. Eventually, he got down, and we started our dive. It was beautiful! What really stood out to me was the amount of soft corals, that unlike hard corals, move and sway in the current.
There was a small shipwreck, and lots of fish and coral were living around it.
We went back to Sabang, and spent the rest of the day playing in the pool, blogging, and trying to organize a trip to Apo reef, which my dad will write about. My mom, Kaia and I went to a pizza restaurant for dinner.
The next morning, we had a light breakfast, did the usual swimming & blogging stuff, and did an 11am dive. This time, it was just the 4 of us and a divemaster, Bunny. The boat ride to the dive site was even shorter than it was the day before. The dive was quite different from the one the day before too, because it wasn’t on a coral reef. Instead, it was a sandy bottom, but with a few small shipwrecks with tons of coral and fish on them. A while before, we noticed that the photos from the GoPro camera while snorkeling were great, but when we took it diving, everything in the photos looked blue-green. So in Sabang, my dad bought a red filter, something you put on the GoPro lens to make the red and orange come back. You’ll notice that the fish and coral in the following photos are much more colourful, but the filter sometimes makes stuff look too red.
We can all agree that that was one of the best dives yet. It really goes to show how weird creatures in the ocean can be.
There’s not much to do in Sabang other than diving, so we decided to take a short boat ride to White Beach, a place that the Lonely Planet travel guide said was a bit more “family oriented”. It was pretty touristy, but at least they didn’t build right up to the water like they did in Sabang. After finding a room, we got into our bathing suits and swam out to a floating bar. We had great fun on their slides and jumping platforms!
Then, we went to a cafe for some drinks (and WiFi). While we were sitting there, a man dressed in women’s clothing and makeup walked by. Seeing that we looked a bit confused, the waitress said “That’s a ladyboy”. They’re similar to what we know as transvestites, but more committed to their feminine identity. She said that there are a lot of them in White beach, and many of them are part of a show on the beach every night. We went for a simple dinner on the beach, and while walking back to our room, the show began. Music started, and dancers ran onto the beach spinning fire poi.
We stopped to watch them for a while, and during that time, a show started at one of the bars. Women, or so we thought, were dancing and lipsyncing to super loud music pounding out of the bar’s 2 metre high speakers. Then, we realized that they were almost all ladyboys. Even some of the firedancers we thought were women were ladyboys. I think I only saw one real woman in the show. The rest were either men or ladyboys. Since no one’s making money if you’re standing and watching, there were ladyboys trying to get you to sit down at a table and buy drinks. And as if the night weren’t crazy enough, shortly after the one bar started it’s show, the neighbouring bar started a very similar show, and started competing with the other bar by pounding music even louder! When one bar started a slow, exotic dance, the other would start a rock or hip hop dance that would completely mess up the other’s music. There was a little sheet hanging to “divide” the 2 bars’ parts of the beach! It was very, very obvious that the 2 bars just hated each other.
If it wasn’t for the fact that the 2 bars were trying to outcompete each other in terms of music volume, it would have been quite an enjoyable experience, because a lot of the performances were quite impressive. Curious, my dad went back to the cafe we were at earlier to ask the owner about the show. She said that White Beach is a hub for ladyboys from all over the Philippines. One bar did a show alone for a while, but another started right next door, and it’s been going on like this every night for a year and a half! There wasn’t a crazy amount of people watching, so we were wondering how the bars could afford to pay all the performers, but apparently, since it’s not too far from Manila, it’s very busy on weekends. And during Holy Week there can be as many as 10 000 people on the beach. That whole thing really left us wondering why the Lonely Planet said White Beach was a family friendly destination!
Well, with the fish in Sabang and the ladyboys in White Beach, I can definitely say that we saw some interesting stuff during our time in northern Mindoro.
In Indonesian, “orang” means “person” and “utan” means “forest”.
Now before I begin, for anyone planning on going to Tanjung Puting national park (in Kalimantan, Indonesia) to see orangutans like we did, I’d like to highly recommend to you 2 things. Firstly, you should do it even if it’s out of your way, because it was definitely worth it, and secondly, I recommend our guide, Herman Ningrat. It was the best thing we did during our month in Indonesia, and Herman was an amazing guide. He spoke great English, was very friendly and taught us a lot about what we saw. If you’d like to contact him, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org and his mobile number is 0822-5478-0777.
Last summer, when my mom, Kaia and I went to Florida, we visited a place called Monkey Jungle, a kind of “open concept” zoo, where humans walk in caged walkways through big monkey enclosures. There were mostly small monkeys, but there were also a few great apes, including a female orangutan named Mei. She was very cute and lovable. Then, the zookeeper explained that in their natural habitat, on the island of Borneo in southeast Asia, orangutans are under threat because the jungle is being cut down to plant palm plantations, to make palm oil. She told us that a way to help orangutans is to not buy palm oil or products that contain it. I thought that it was a great idea to let people see an orangutan, then explain how to help, because Mei made people feel an emotional connection with orangutans, which motivates people much more than just hearing about them. And let me tell you, after we did what I’m going to write about in this blog, we’re even more motivated to help the amazing “red apes”.
Our time left in Indonesia was winding down, but there was still so much that we wanted to do. We’d heard about a 3 day trip on Borneo where you go up a river through the jungle on a boat with a personal guide, cook and captain, and you’re almost guaranteed to see orangutans. It would require 2 short flights from Bali to get there, and 2 flights back, so we didn’t know if it was worth doing it, but we read reviews on TripAdvisor saying it was “the best thing I did in Indonesia”, so we decided to go for it and my dad went to work booking tickets online. Most people arrange the trip ahead of time, but since it was the low tourist season, we figured we’d get a better price by hiring a boat and crew on the spot.
We spent the night in Kuta (the super touristy part of Bali) for no reason other than being close to the airport. We had at least 3 hours between flights in Surabaya, on the east side of Java, which I believe is the second biggest city in Indonesia (similar size to Toronto). We then flew to Pangkalan Bun, in the southwest part of Kalimantan. Most people consider the whole island Borneo, but that name only applies for the Malaysian part in the north. The Indonesian part is called Kalimantan, but when I’m talking about the whole island, I’ll call it Borneo, because that’s the only term I’ve heard for the whole island. We took a 15-minute taxi from the Pangkalan Bun airport to Kumai, on a big estuary that most rivers in southwest Borneo flow into. We found a pretty basic hotel (the first place we’ve stayed that doesn’t include toilet paper in the price), and my parents went to the port and found a boat captain and guide that would take us the next day. We didn’t do much in Kumai, so I’ll skip straight to the trip.
The boat, or the “kloktok” as they’re called, left port in the morning, with 8 people on board. The Douglas family, guide Herman, captain Anjung, assistant Rudy and cook Alu. We went downstream on the estuary for about 30 minutes, and Herman told us the plan for the trip: We’d enter the Sekonyer river off the estuary, and travel upstream until we got to the first orangutan feeding station (I know you’re wondering why they feed them, but I’ll explain later). We’d hopefully see orangutans, and we’d spend the night on the boat there too. The next day, we’d go further up the river to the second station, then turn off onto an even smaller river, and go to the third feeding station. We’d then head back downstream and spend the night somewhere along the small river, and the next day, we’d go all the way back to Kumai. We had an exciting trip ahead!
We turned off the estuary onto the Sekonyer river, the entrance to Tanjung Puting Notional Park.
As we cruised along, Alu brought us a delicious lunch of fried squid, vegetables and rice. She’s an amazing cook!
Herman told us that you can sometimes see orangutans in the trees, so we kept our eyes peeled. We didn’t see any, but we saw several troops of proboscis monkeys, known for their big, floppy noses.
Finally, we arrived at the first orangutan feeding station. Most of the orangutans in the area, the north of the national park, are semi-wild, meaning they spent most of their childhood in captivity (probably because they were orphans), and have been rehabilitated, then reintroduced into the wild. They’re able to survive in the wild, but they still need a little bit of help, so are fed fruits, vegetables and water once a day. During the dry season, when fruits are hard to find, they almost entirely rely on the daily feeding, but we were there in the wet season, so they don’t always come to the feedings because they can find food and water by themselves. First, we went to the little visitor centre at the ranger station. Then, we walked for about 20 minutes to the feeding platform, and sat down in the viewing area. There were about 15 people, and all of us had come by kloktok that day. We watched the park rangers put out bananas, sweet potatoes, lychees, and many more kinds of fruit onto the platform. Almost immediately after they left the platform, we heard rustling in the trees. Then, we saw something big and red moving through the forest. We watched in awe as a huge male orangutan climbed from the treetops down onto the platform. We couldn’t believe our eyes!
We watched Gungul eat for a long time. He was in no rush to finish eating and leave the platform, so the other orangutans needed to be patient for their turn. A while later, one of the rangers told us to come back on the path a bit. There was Kucao, the second most dominant male, waiting for Gungul to leave. We saw him right up close!
Gungul ate for a long time, but he finally got full and left. Kucao didn’t realize this though, so he kept waiting. A female orangutan, Chelsea, swung in on a vine and climbed down onto the platform. Kucao eventually realized Gungul was gone, so he came to the platform too. It seemed like after Gungul left, there was no order of who eats, because Kucao and Chelsea ate at the same time.
2 more females came, and both of them had a baby about 3 years old. They were so cute!
Later, we learned that one of the mothers and her baby are completely wild, but they come to the feedings too. We watched for at least 2 hours, then walked back to our boat. And after that amazing experience, we had a delicius fish dinner! Rudy and Herman set up mattresses and mosquito nets for us to sleep, and they slept on the bottom deck. We had a good first day of the trip!
The next morning, we woke up to the sound of birds singing. We had breakfast as we continued up the Sekonyer river. We saw many birds and more proboscis monkeys. They’re mainly active in the early morning and late afternoon when it’s not so hot, so we saw them jumping from tree to tree! We arrived at the second feeding station and walked about 10 minutes to the platform. The rangers put out food and we waited for them to come, but there wasn’t any sign of them. While waiting, we saw the biggest stick bug I’ve ever seen.
We waited patiently for an hour or so, but it was getting hot and it didn’t seem like the orangutans were going to come, so we walked back to our kloktok. In a way though, it’s a good thing that they didn’t come because it means they’re learning to live independently in the jungle.
Alu had another delicious lunch ready for us, this time baby lobster, and we ate it as we cruised up the Sekonyer river, and turned off of it and went up a small river, what they call the Coca Cola river, because of its clear, but brown colour.
It was even quieter on the Coca Cola river, and we saw hornbills and other birds flying over us. We went a couple of hours until we arrived at the third, and biggest feeding station, Camp Leakey. Right as we were coming up to the dock, we saw a female orangutan in a tree right next to the river! And as we looked more carefully, we saw this:
She had a baby! She turned around, and we got a better look.
We wanted to watch them forever, but we had to get to the feeding platform in time to see the feeding, so we said goodbye to Peta and Peter. To get to the camp, we needed to walk along a boardwalk, but there was quite a ridiculous obstruction. Siswi.
Everyone got by Siswi safely, and we walked along the boardwalk to the visitor centre. The camp has quite an interesting background. In 1971, Louis Leakey, a anthropologist from Kenya, was researching the origin of humans. To do so, he found 3 young women to research some of the closely related animals to humans. Jane Goodall went to Tanzania to study chimpanzees, Dian Fossey went to Rwanda to study gorillas, and Biruté Galdikas, a Canadian, came to Borneo to study orangutans. She and her team established Camp Leakey as their base. But orangutans had, and still have, several threats that are making their population decline rapidly. The biggest is habitat destruction, either for lumber or for palm plantations. Some orangutans are killed by the forest burning, or by trees falling, and others are forced into other troops’ territory, and there isn’t enough food for all of them. An even sadder problem is the pet trade. People go into the jungle to find a baby orangutan. They kill its mother, and take it and sell it as a pet. They seem like great pets at first, but they get big, and their owners don’t know how to take care of them anymore. All these threats make so many orphan orangutans and adult orangutans that don’t know how to survive in the wild, so Prof. Galdikas found herself not just researching, but rehabilitating orangutans.
At the visitor centre, there were great displays to teach people about orangutans and their threats, and all the other plants and animals living in the jungle around Camp Leakey.
There was also a big orangutan family tree on the wall, with pictures of all the semi-wild orangutans around Camp Leakey. They always name the babies with the same first letter as their mother (like Peta and Peter).
After the visitor centre, we headed to the feeding station. The platform was much closer to the seating area than it was at the first feeding station. Rangers put out similar food to the other stations, but they even put out cow’s milk here, because a lot of the adult orangutans’ old owners fed it to them as babies. Again, the orangutans didn’t come immediately like they did at the first station, but we waited. After about an hour, people were starting to give up and leave, but this time, our patience paid off. We saw a few red shapes moving in the trees, and as they got closer, we realized it was a family!
They were so cool! Just like at the first feeding station, it seemed like orangutans’ favourite fruit are bananas, because they ate lots of them before eating anything else. A few other female orangutans showed up later too.
We saw some other animals around there too. Wild pigs were under the platform, hoping the orangutans would drop something. We also saw Boy, a young gibbon who lives around Camp Leakey and apparently comes to every feeding and takes a few bananas.
Well, that was a pretty awesome afternoon! We walked back to the camp and to the kloktok, and had another delicious dinner as we headed back down the Coca Cola river. The place on the side of the river where we spent the night had the best fireflies I’d ever seen. It looked like all the trees were covered in Christmas lights! We slept very well that night. Busy, fun day + quiet night & fresh air = sleep.
We had another relaxing wake up, with hornbills and kingfishers flying and singing around us.
Alu made us Nasi Goreng, or fried rice. We went back down the Coca Cola river until it joined with the Sekonyer river.
We weren’t planning on going to a feeding station that day, but we visited Sekonyer village, across the river from the first feeding station. It was bigger than I’d expected it to be. The village is on the side of the river that’s not in the national park, so they’re allowed to have small farms and plantations.
We went back to the kloktok and continued cruising down the river. I want to emphasize how sweet it was on the kloktok. We’re eating lunch, listening to monkeys and birds, with not a care in the world. We felt like royalty!
The highlight of that day came as we were nearing where the Sekonyer river opens up onto the big estuary. There was a group of proboscis monkeys in the bushes beside the river. We’d seen lots of proboscis monkeys in the past couple of days, so we did little more than notice them. But Herman told Anjung to stop the boat, because he thought it looked like the monkeys wanted to cross the river. He said that they wait for a boat to be nearby, then swim across, because they’re so smart that they’ve figured out that boats scare the crocodiles away! We waited for a few minutes, and noticed that there were a lot of monkeys, at least 30 of them.
Finally, one brave monkey climbed down towards the water, then slipped in and started swimming across. After that, there was no hesitation in the rest, and they all started jumping in! The whole group was in the water within a minute of the first monkey crossing. There were sometimes 3 in the air at once!
The river wasn’t too wide, so every monkey made it across without drowning or getting caught by a crocodile. We could tell that the reason they crossed was because there were good fruit on the other side, because they all climbed into a big tree and started picking fruit. That was so cool!
A few hours later, we got back to Kumai.
We said goodbye to the crew, and took a taxi to a hotel in Pangkalan Bun. The next day, we flew back to Bali again, with a couple of hours in the Surabaya airport. The orangutan trip was the best thing we did in Indonesia, and that’s saying something!
But orangutans are endangered. Their numbers have dropped by 1/3 in the past 10 years and they have lost 80% of their habitat in the past 20 years. The threats are:
– deforestation for oil palm plantations. Palm oil use has gone up by 50% in the past 10 years – we use it in food, cooking and cosmetics
– illegal logging. The trees in these forests are worth a lot of money, especially to poor farmers. Our guide Herman told us that it happens in some remote places that the conservation officers can’t patrol, but also in obvious places where the loggers pay the officers to say nothing (corruption).
– illegal gold mining. These many small mines in remote places strip all the trees and soil away, so after the mining is done nothing can grow back. As you saw in that earlier photo, illegal gold mining was even a problem in the park that was set up to protect orangutans!
– hunting. People still hunt orangutans for food. And this often leaves orphans that they sell for pets. When the babies get too big, they are killed or given to the rehabilitation centers (like the one we saw).
– forest fires. Rainforests usually keep their moisture. But the logging and clearing has resulted in drier areas that have burned a lot more than natural in the past few decades.
So these orangutans need our help. When you’re shopping, check the ingredients of the products you’re buying, and if it contains palm oil, buy it only if it has the RSPO logo on it. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is an organization that gets all the people in the industry (growers, refiners, manufacturers and consumers) together to try to solve the problem. Preventing further deforestation is the main objective. I read that there are still problems with RSPO but it is a step in the right direction.
Baby and other orangutans that end up at rehabilitation centers are lucky. Birute Galdikas’s foundation is one that takes in guys like this. They first get the traumatized orangutans to play on play structures like they have at schools. They also spend a lot of time holding them because most of them didn’t really have time with their mothers. Once they can swing, they are taken into a little forest for more integration. All this happens in the rehab center.
Once the orangutans seem to be able to manage in the forest, they are taken out into Tanjung Puting park (where we saw them) to continue their reintegration. From what we saw, Galdikas’s foundation does fantastic work. You can support them by going to their website: orangutan.org