Welcome to Indonesia! ...I hope you like rice!
My first thoughts on arrival in Indonesia. It certainly throws you in at the deep end, but there's no better way to start!
On my first steps out of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta, I was greeted by the hot, humid air of Java; a tropical island previously covered in rainforest. Now, instead of humming cicadas, a cacophony of beeping taxi horns crave your attention. Indonesia is the most diverse place I've been so far. Not just in wildlife (my primary interest and reason for coming here) but in landscape, culture and wealth too. It's a fascinating place where there is always something different to do and people to meet.
So how did I end up here? 8 months ago I was sat in a lecture theatre listening to my university lecturers talking about the field trips offered for the 3rd year of my Zoology degree. Half way through, Prof Frank van Veen stood up to talk about his field course in Borneo for January 2018. He then went on to tell us about an exciting, extra trip to Borneo in the coming summer for a small group of students. A research expedition in the middle of Central Kalimantan forest collaborating with Borneo Nature Foundation and Universitas Muhammad Palangkaraya in order to document the flora and fauna in the region. I knew immediately I had to make sure I got on this expedition as this field of work is my dream career. And so I did. 8 months later I arrived in Jakarta like an excited (but tired!) puppy ready for adventure!
This may be a good point to introduce my travel buddy, Chloe. We met in university, both studying Zoology and share a passion for wildlife, research, conservation, travel and obviously a fantastic fashion sense...!
Back to Jakarta! Even in our very Western airport hotel, we had a wonderful introduction to Indonesian food for dinner. Rice, noodles, crackers, pungent, aromatic and spicy (and I mean spicy!!) flavours. It was a perfect reward for our 20 hour journey half way across the world. We looked forward to an equally delicious breakfast but did not expect what we were served! Exactly the same! Rice for breakfast was a pretty alien concept to us (albeit actually pretty good!). So if you want to survive in Indonesia, you better like rice! Obviously in the more touristy parts, Western food is readily available. But if you want to travel off the beaten track (a much more interesting and rewarding way to travel!), there's little option other than the humble white grain.
That afternoon we continued our journey onto Palangka Raya; a large city in Central Kalimantan of Indonesian Borneo. A short 1.5 hour flight landed us in the smallest airport I've ever passed through and we were greeted by the smiley faces of our expedition volunteer coordinators.
And so the Bornean adventure begins! Watch out for my next blog for our journey into the forest!