After four days visiting friends in Brisbane and three weeks touring four islands in Indonesia, Ally and I are now back safe and sound in Mandurah, West Australia.
In Indonesia, we started on the island of Borneo. Borneo is a very big island with three countries sharing its landmass - Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The main purpose for us to visit Borneo (and, in all reality, the main reason we went to Indonesia in the first place) was to visit with the orangutans. Over 3 1/2 days, we had "close encounters" with both wild and semi-wild orangutans in the national park (Tanjung Puting) at Camp Leakey and several other wildlife preserves. Observing these creatures up close was fascinating to say the least.
Since humans share 97% of our DNA with orangutans, to say that they are "almost human" is a vast understatement. On one occasion, one of the females stole a rain jacket from a tourist and was up the tree actually putting it on. She has clearly done this before and, according to the guide, not the first time she has "worn" human clothes. This same prankster the next day stole a tourist's back pack and took it up a tree. She then casually and methodically went through the contents piece by piece, inspecting everything and throwing away anything she didn't like. The passport was duly ripped into pieces and the cell phone she liked so much she decided to keep it. Pretty funny to watch when it's not your stuff.
To see how caring and loving the mothers are with their babies, to see how the dominant males truly are "masters of their domain", to see all of them swing through the trees with almost no effort - it was all very magical and spell-binding. Of course Alyson got close to 1,000 photos just of the orangutans, the majority of which are amazing with some of them absolutely breath taking.
While in the national park, we lived on a small "houseboat". Google "klotok house boat borneo" and you'll see what I mean. Living, eating and sleeping on deck with the jungle all around was both primitive and romantic at the same time. Of course no A/C, only limited running water, a toilet you flush into the river with a small bucket and a shower that takes brown/black water straight from the river. But the crew (captain and mate) were first rate, the cook was friendly and very talented, and our guide was knowledgeable and informative.
Then we proceeded to the island of Java, the main island of Indonesia with approximately 100 million people (about half the country's total population) and perhaps twice the size of Vancouver Island. There we saw incredible Hindu and Buddhist temples, thick jungle and rain forests, rice paddies built into terraces high into the mountains, and lots and lots of traffic.
One hilarious thing that happened a number of times on both Borneo and Java was when local Indonesian tourists wanted to take our picture - sometimes with them as well and sometimes just Ally and me. I guess in some places they don't see many six foot three white guys or blonde women so they have to get pictures to show their friends back home. We tried to charge them $10 a shot but it didn't work!
Then on to Sumba Island where we stayed at a small resort (only 33 villas on a 2 1/2 kilometer private beach). Rustic charm and luxurious amenities with service that is second to none.
Our final stop was on the island of Bali. Yes, all the bad things you have heard about Bali are all true - there is too much traffic, too many MacDonalds, too many KFC's, too many cheap hotels and too many drunk Australian tourists. But, fortunately, all of that nonsense is concentrated in the southern part right around the airport and the main city of Denpasar. Venture 30-60 minutes away and you find the charming side of Bali - countless temples, tons of artistic galleries and shops, beautiful volcanoes and countryside, lovely spas, hotels and restaurants. We didn't venture all the way to the north coast but we were told that that part of the island is sleepy, quiet and peaceful. Quite the opposite of what you hear on the news.
Now we're back in Australia for the next two months. The weather has been unseasonably cool and rainy for many months now but we hope that's about to change. We spent the afternoon today at the beach but, even though it's Friday, is was quite deserted. I guess 32C and breezy is not enough to get true Aussies out to the beach. But, for a couple of Canadian snow-dodgers, the day was quite lovely (even if the water is a bit chilly).
We're looking forward to Christmas in a hot climate, BBQs on the deck, and long walks and bike rides along the beach.
Lloyd and Ally - Kelowna