Blog 3: Putussibau to Lanjak
Putussibau sits in the upper reaches of the Kapuas river, the longest river in Indonesia and one of the longest in the world. It’s a small town but the centre of an important area of West Kalimantan – around 56% of the area surrounding Putussibau is national park or conservation area. We can see the green surrounding us - I’m excited about being in and seeing places that I feel I know so well from photographs and YouTube videos.
The town straddles a long, winding, busy main street which is where we find the WWF office and where we meet Albertus Tjiu, Project Leader for Kapuas Hulu in WWF-Indonesia and his team.
Although I know that there is a lot of work being supported over here by WWF (both Indonesia and around the world) - a brief rundown on the key focus areas for the team makes me realise just how enormous and diverse their task is. Their projects cover ecotourism, conservation biology, community empowerment, environmental water services, forests and a legal and policy arm that supports and builds the capacity of local law enforcement. It will be great to see how some of this is playing out on the ground and I've already started my list of potential stories to be used to promote their work.
A quick lunch and we’re bundled into 4WDs to start the 3 hour journey to Lanjak, a small village on the edge of Danau Sentarum National Park. The road alternates between rocky, sealed and potholed passing smouldering blackened patches of land, forests and villages of roaming pigs and scratching hens.
Once we hit Lanjak, we’ve got 3 accommodation options – a small hotel next to the WWF office, rooms adjoining the office or a couple of rooms in houses down the road. I’m in a room in a house down the road and it’s a nice way to see how people live out here.
The house is more like a guesthouse with around 10 bedrooms, mostly filled with young women or young families, and a communal kitchen and bathroom. I share a small simple room with Very which has thin mattresses on the floor and a sheet over a window. There’s a little boy running around outside the room and I suppose he’s not used to orang putih (local way of saying white people) around here because he sees me and stops, slowly opening his eyes and mouth wider and wider in surprise and once I laugh he runs off screaming in excitement. The camera comes out and I’m stuck taking photos of him and his brother doing ninja poses for the next half hour.
After dinner women from a local women’s group came in to show us their craft and share their skills. They were initially using native seeds as beads and creating pieces for traditional dress but when WWF came along in 1996, they suggested combining the seeds with glass and plastic beads and selling the items. Most of the pieces (necklaces, bracelets, telephone holders, pencil cases) made by this group are sold to visitors passing through, at exhibitions in Jakarta and by special order. Not their main source of income – it’s just a hobby for many – they’d just received an order from Germany for 500 pieces having been discovered at an exhibition. Some of the students had a go at beading but I think they’d need a lot more practice to keep up with these women!
Slowing down for the night, our last stop is the long-delayed National Indonesian Independence Day celebration that the village chief has invited us to. They’re keen for our group to enter the talent show but everyone seems to be looking at the ground/moon…