When you travel for a long time, your days start to stretch out and time slows right down. I find my mind takes tea breaks when it’s in need of a refreshment and switches back to study mode as soon as the senses are tickled. Time takes a passenger seat and your day is driven by instinct. I eat when i’m hungry, listen when i’m curious, run when i’m energetic and swim when the water is cold.
We floated down the Kinabatangan for hours. Nowhere else to be but here. We became apart of nature, just a couple of critters to add to the long list of obscure animals that live in, and on, her shores. We saw the Proboscis Monkey perched up on the highest branches, defying gravity. The Hornbill and Short-Tailed Macaque flickered through the trees, and by chance a river otter, swimming across the Kinabatangan. An almost never to be seen risk to be taken by such a vulnerable little creature. These animals are hidden amongst the foliage and as you float down stream, they make their appearance one by one.
Borneo was a weird place for me. I had high expectations of wild untamed forestry, over run by a multitude of primate species, and every creepy crawly you can wrap your head around, swinging from trees and nesting under your pillow at night. The thought of it all gave me goosies. Yet when we arrived it all seemed a bit different. Don’t get me wrong Borneo does give you all of that but just not to the level I was expecting. Perhaps I had built it up in my head and was searching for a place to ruffle my feathers and push the personal bubble.
When drifting down the Kinabatangan you do experience a sense of wilderness. Time does stands still as you soak up every sound, every smell, every animal noise that vibrates its way into your awareness. Which is nothing short of spectacular. But just behind the forrest walls of the river there was a world completely outside of my awareness. One of destruction. Animal habitats being violated through deforestation. The fuel behind the palm oil industry. Which is what I discovered the minute we stepped off the plane. It makes it pretty hard to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Malaysia together with Indonesia make up 85% of the global supply of palm oil. And while it is the most efficient edible oil crop on earth, taking up the least amount of land to produce such high volumes, habitats and ecosystems are being demolished. I came to Borneo to witness animals like orang-utans in the wild but we were only fortunate enough to see them on a viewing platform. Still amazing of course and somewhat wild, but we had to buy a ticket and wait in line. Nothing infuriates me more than paying to see nature. It’s not just the concept of profiting off things that should be free and available that drives me crazy, but the idea that humans cause this situation and we are now making money of it.
We are a crafty, opportunistic bunch. It’s nothing but terrifying.