A mum, dad and their three kids from Tasmania, go on an epic adventure in Borneo for 3 weeks in December
“Hey man sing me a song
When we were everyone
We were more than just a slice of American pie.”
Slice by Five For Fighting is the pre-dawn alarm on my phone that signals 5.40am. One by one the kids voices join in as the chorus repeats over and over. We scrape ourselves up and apply repellent. Oscar says Nani needs to do her hair unless she’s going to school for crazy hair day.
The grey sky is spitting a little so we arm ourselves with jackets and umbrellas and I hope it clears up because the animals don’t like getting wet any more than we do. It eases momentarily and we watch a troupe of proboscis feeding although we don’t see the Dutchman. The mothers hungrily stuff their faces while the little ones who were supposed to be having breakfast were playing silly buggers, jumping and squealing loudly. Sounds like our home at breakfast time. The proboscis is easy to find in the morning. After bedding down their smell is musky, sweet and slightly smokey and reminds me of pizzle stain odor that wethers get on their bellies from pissing on their own wool.
The rain increases and sadly our trip is cut short. I’m pretty disappointed as we turn back pulling our jackets tightly over our heads as rain pelts our faces. I put an umbrella in front of Abbey and she shrinks towards it but doesn’t complain. I spot a Malaysian otter dart across a gravel boat ramp and dive into the water. A village woman in a simple sarong does laundry in the rain on a rough pontoon made by two large logs on which a small wooden shelter serves as their bath house.
In the absence of seeing some of the wildlife I had longed for, I fall back on nostalgia and romance to console my disappointment by recalling times long gone where explorers like the Johnson’s traveled the length of the great Kinabatangan and I imagine the sights and the richness of wildlife they encountered. I’m drawn to this place I guess because of their stories, the fact that is still off the beaten track, and it’s a wild place with wild animals and I think there’s something in me that longs for wild things.
I guess there’s a danger of inflating our expectations of such places. I guess in some part I did have a bit of a mental checklist trying to tick off the animals. The guides would pull up at a group of macaques and I’d be thinking “Can we move on and find something else already?” After all it’s a wild place with wild animals that roam great areas not zoo animals on display (which I’m not a huge fan of).
After breakfast we sit in the cafe. I read them the story of the the spotted leopard and the biologist who “hunts” it with a camera, to study it’s secretive habits. It’s only spitting lightly. Oscar doesn’t want to go home he says because its “awesome” here but doesn’t elaborate and Lachie wants to live in a kampung because it is so peaceful. Nani counters and says Tasmania is peaceful too and wages are better than kampung wages. Is she defending Tassie? Can’t believe my ears. Abbey says she has loved it because she hasn’t seen many wild animals before.
It’s time to leave and we’re packed and waiting for Nani – she’s the official room checker. The driver turns to me and says “Prom?” rolling the “r”.
He repeats “Prom?” and I can see he’s searching for another way to ask but he’s unable to find an alternative. I say “Prawn?” unsure if he’s offering me prawns or what. I’m bewildered. He perseveres “Where prom?” ohhh “Australia” I say.