Day 2: Transportation and communications, a privilege
The cold breeze from the open window woke us on the second day in Krayan. Hot water is not available in the bathroom so you need to get ready for icy cold water – icy yet refreshing. Breakfast was served – hot steaming white Adan rice with fried chicken and boiled duck eggs.
We met Mr. Lewi Gala Paru, Head of Indonesia FORMADAT. Pak Lewi, that’s what I called him. He is 66 years old (that’s what he said :) ) and has a friendly and wise face. We were enjoying our breakfast with Pak Lewi as he shared his stories about how FORMADAT was established years ago.
“We are brothers and sisters that were divided by country borders. We share a common heritage and a common land as the Lun Dayeh, Kelabit, Lun Bawang, and Sa’ban people. We are responsible to guard our forests as our ‘markets’, the place where we can get our food supplies, woods, water and other things to survive in life. Therefore, we need to work closely, to protect our borders, our forests, our home,” said Pak Lewi.
We were lucky to have Pak Lewi show us around. First stop is the Indonesian and Malaysian border at Long Midang. The FORMADAT work hand in hand to maintain the peace at the borders along with army forces from the two countries that are assigned to guard the borders. Everyone that is going to or from each side must report at the post and needs to have permission from FORMADAT.
The roads are mostly bumpy and challenging and amidst the bumps, Pak Lewi shared stories about how he and local people initiated building roads that connected Krayan to Ba’Kelalan. Roads are essential, since people exchanges goods and supplies every day from one area to another.
On our way there, we stopped at one of the rice fields, where the very famous Adan rice grows abundantly.
Farmers in the highland of the Heart of Borneo keep the traditional ways of agriculture, using fresh water from the mountain and no chemicals. It was an amazing experience watching women and men work together in the golden rice fields with beautiful layers of mountain as background and kids playing in the shade around it. Pak Lewi told me that each family can only cultivate one to five hectares of rice fields. They will never open forests to expand land for rice fields.
We continued our journey to the country border post where the soldiers greeted Pak Lewi and us warmly. Soldiers from Malaysia were there, as part of a courtesy visit and we all chatted in friendly tones, like old friends. We explained about the Kick Andy on Location shooting plans and two of the crew needed to cross the border for a short video shot, they were able to help us out through the necessary steps.
After that, we made one stop at one of the mountain salt sources. Over one hundred years ago, local people found this water source and were surprised the water tasted saltier – they decided to ‘cook’ it and found it crystallized. Local people say there are two sources of salt mountain, female and male, and that if you wash your face with salty water it will make you stay young. The salt also keeps vegetables green and fresh when you cook it.
Families around the sources take turns to produce the salt where one kilogram of salt can be wrapped in leaves or in a plastic bag, and it costs around Rp.25,000 per kilogram. The crew filmed the process and of course we bought the salt bags to bring home.
The roads were getting rough on the way to Long Midang. We stopped at a sign “Perbatasan Long Midang YONIF 407/PK”. We had to stop there, as we couldn’t continue our journey. The road was damaged and our trucks were not big enough to cross it. Lucky for us, there was another truck coming, and Pak Lewi was greeted by the man behind the wheel. He was willing to help us, as he was going to Ba’Kelalan (part of Malaysia). So Pak Lewi, Bambang (field director) and Iqbal (cameraman) jumped into his truck and continued the journey.
The rest of the team returned to Long Bawan where we stopped at the Telecenter & Information Center. This center is part of a collaboration between WWF-Indonesia and FORMADAT. The inauguration of the first Tele-Center E-Krayan in Long Bawan was held in April, 2011. In the center, solar cells and internet connections are available for the community to use. Electricity is a rare thing here in Long Bawan as it is only available from 6 to 12 pm. Most of people here use fuel power generators. With the telecenter, internet connection is the way to link these remote communities with the world.
FORMADAT also function the telecenter, as a meeting place and secretariat. I talked to Mr. Alex Balang, a FORMADAT person in charge of ecotourism, who said the internet connections and electricity has enhanced the tourism opportunity, more people are able to access online and interactive information provided for tourism activities in the area. As for me, who is used to regular internet and mobile connection, the absence of internet connection on my cell phone since we arrived here and the possibility of wifi internet at telecenter made me and the rest of team very happy!