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 by: Keri McKee
photos: Tyrone McKee & ?

Keri & Ty have spent many months exploring Asia. They are always keen to take the paths less travelled. Here is an “excerpt” from Keri's journal.

From Bali we headed north to Kalimantan.
Kalimantan was the highlight of our trip through Indonesia. It was always a secret dream of mine to see the orang-utans in the jungle, and Ty was just as keen. The local people were wonderful and we soon arranged to hire a long boat
to take us up the Sekonyer River
to where the orangs were in Tan Jung Puting National Park, southern Kalimantan.
So off we set, sitting on two chairs on the back of the long boat, feeling every bit like Lord Jim and the Queen of Sheba! The trip was beyond our wildest expectations
as we wound our way through the thick jungle either side of a very narrow river estuary, often having to stop and pole our way through. There was so much to see on the way-orangs, proboscis monkeys, macaques, long tail monkeys, deer, boar, crocodiles, snakes, dragon fish, exotic birds and butterflies-rave, rave, rave! It was every bit like watching a David Attenborough documentary unfolding before your very eyes. Nightfall brought with it fireflies dancing in the dark, and a myriad of monkeys settling in for the night in the trees above us, squabbling madly and throwing the occasional twig or nut at us!


 With a few of the cheeky natives...

We were so tired by the time we reached the first ranger station about 10pm, that we gladly curled up on our meagre mattresses on
the deck of the longboat and fell fast asleep. About 5am I was awakened by something touching my hair. The mind boggled! I turned around to find a young orang sitting by me, SMILING! I think I must have called out, “holy mother of ducks!”, or something
to that effect, because very soon the whole crew was on deck laughing. They quickly told me that it was only Gistok (“the cheeky one”), coming to say hello. With that, Gistok grabbed my cigarettes and was off. Ty finally coaxed him back with a mango and made a quick exchange. We had so much fun playing with Gistok. He was a never ending source of amusement. He had been owned by a wealthy Indonesian until he was about 2 (he was now 7), and the rangers were trying to re-introduce him into the wild.
Nevertheless, Gistok had never lost his preference for chocolates, champagne, etc… He wouldn't even eat the same bananas as the other orangs, and never really knew he was an orang. The funniest sight was watching the rangers trying to teach him to climb trees. Gistok was highly amused!



 Even cheekier native and new friend.

Soon after, one of the rangers came running down very excitedly to tell us that “King” had ventured back to the station after a months absence, and to come quickly if we wanted to catch a glimpse. As I hurried after Ty and the rangers, Gistok caught up with me and took me by the hand. He had decided he wanted me to stop by and play, and when an orang decides anything, that's exactly what you do! A bit like the old joke”: What does a gorilla/orang do?....Anything he wants to do!” Even at 7 years old, they are incredibly strong, and weigh about 60 kilos. We couldn't extricate his long, leathery hand from mine, so there I sat. I wasn't quite prepared for his next move!

Suddenly, he puckered up and planted a big, wet, sloppy kiss on my lips! Being kissed by and orang wasn't exactly my idea of romance! The boys thought it was hilarious (bless their cotton sox).
To make a long story longer, the crew finally distracted him and I broke free. I ran through the jungle trying to catch up with the boys, followed closely by the amorous orang. Thank goodness they can't move very fast on the ground. A little further up the track, the rangers froze in their tracks. Ty and I caught up with them and we soon realised why they had stopped. Coming toward them down the track was the one they nicknamed, “King”. His real name is “Corsiska”. 230 kilos of sheer muscle! He was the dominant male orang in the area, and even the rangers gave him a wide berth.
By this time we had reached one of the ranger's huts. King was
only feet away from us, and even though he had rarely shown aggression to anyone, he was still
A powerful, wild animal. My Instincts said, “RUN!”, but we were all mesmerised by the sheer proximity of him. Besides, the ranger's house was just behind me. Suddenly, he backed up to the door and tried to open it. My worst nightmare. It was locked, and the ranger with the key was on the other side of “the beastie”! I suddenly realised I was praying (and it wasn't even Gold Lotto night)! Thank goodness a little cat distracted King, and he set off after it. He probably felt like having his evening entrée! All the same, he was a most magnificent animal.
It was awesome just being in his presence.
Only in Indonesia could you see these animals at such close quarters. Every other country would have them behind bars. We were so privileged to see him, as he rarely comes near people. The rangers agreed that the end of the dry season had brought him to the station looking for food (now they tell me!), as the fruits in the jungle were becoming scarce, especially with all the fires they were having.
It was a fascinating two day trip. I could rave on for hours!