Kick Andy on location: capturing the beauty of nature and people in the highlands of the Heart of Borneo
This trip is a part of the book launch of Communities and Conservation: 50 Inspiring Stories from WWF to Indonesia. The book contains stories written by WWF-Indonesia staff from Sabang in Aceh to Papua on their works and their inspiring stories working with local people in conservation areas. Devy Suradji, Marketing Director of WWF-Indonesia, proposed that the Kick Andy team (one of the highest rating shows from leading news channel Metro TV) feature stories from this book. By bringing the stories from book to life on the television show, the aim was to reach out and inspire more people.
Originally there were five stories from the total 50 stories selected but due to a tight production schedule, only one story could be featured, FORMADAT: Conservation and Sustainable Development across the border (between Indonesia and Malaysia). We only had one week to prepare for the trip. The weather and transportation challenges (limited plane schedule from Tarakan to Long Bawan) did not diminish the enthusiasm. Cristina Eghenter, Deputy Director of Social Development WWF-Indonesia and one of the book’s authors, with the help from the WWF field team in Kayan Mentarang Program, contacted the designated spokesperson and arranged the trip to the place where great stories from the Heart of Borneo are sourced.
Day 1: Tuesday, January 15 2013
We flew from Jakarta to Tarakan early in the morning. There were six from the Kick Andy team, led by the Senior Producer, Kumala Dewi, along with two camerapersons (Wawan and Iqbal), one field director (Bambang), one soundman (Lukman), one photographer (Broto). It was heavy rain on the way to the airport and I remember praying for the plane to be able to fly on time, since we needed to catch two more flights to get to the final destination. We arrived in Tarakan around 1 pm, just in time to catch our next plane to Long Bawan at 2pm.
We couldn’t use the regular MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) plane that usually operates the flight to Long Bawan since there were over six of us so we took Susi Air. After weighing all our bags, equipment and ourselves (Yup! You read it right! The passengers need to get on the scale too) we were off flying.
I’ve never been in a 12 seater plane before but the nervous feeling disappeared as I looked down and saw the amazing view beneath. You could see the Sesayap River, like a giant brown snake cutting into the green carpets of trees and layers of green mountains. The whole team was so quiet - only the clicks of our cameras could be heard.
After an hour of flying, we finally landed Yuvai Semaring Airport, a small airport serving Long Bawan. We were welcomed by Mr. Ilyas, Mr.Yusia, Mr. Johnson and the rest of the FORMADAT people with three 4WD trucks. It is only a five minute drive from the airport to the Agung Raya, an inn managed by Yangung Bangau, head of customary chief in Krayan Darat (Kepala Adat Besar Krayan Darat) – it is actually his house. After dropping off our bags, the team was ready to move. We needed to survey the area to find good spots for the shooting day.
First destination was Yuvai Semaring Mountain where the bumpy roads made it clear why most people use 4WD trucks. This point is the highest of the area – you can see layers of mountain and breathtaking views of the border between Indonesia and Malaysia. There were firm steps climbing up the mountains but those steps soon stopped and we had to carry on walking up to the mountains. It took the team around one hour to get to the top. A reminder to go down as the day became darker stopped the team from capturing the beauty on camera.
Next destination was the Cultural Field School in Terang Baru, Krayan. The school is on a traditional house of Rumah Kubu, made from local woods. Again, we met Mr. Ilyas who is responsible for Art Commission of FORMADAT.
“We teach the youngsters around here traditional arts of our people. After school, they come here three days a week to learn singing, dancing, playing traditional music instruments and crafting. It was hard at first to make them love the traditional music, we are competing with modern music. But I am happy, there are more than 30 students now learning the traditional art,” said Mr.Ilyas.
He and the students indulged us with beautiful sounds from traditional music instruments such as Keng and Telingut. The people used to play it early morning or at dawn, as ways to be inspired. Watching him play it with the light coming from burning resin outside the house was magical.