The adventure begins! We board a “klotok”, a narrow motor-launch about 10-meters long, covered by a long cabin on top of which we install ourselves, under a canopy which protects from the sun as well as from the frequent rain.
There are 4 people on board: the captain, a boat-boy, a female cook and Kasri, our guide; a fifth person took station on board Shaula to guard it while we will be away.
We motor upriver, occasionally meeting a motor-launch or a decrepit power-boat, there are villages along the river even if we will only see a few roofs here and there, and occasionally we see small canoes hiddel in the bush at the side of the river, with somebody quietly fishing. Gradually the river gets narrower until it’s only a few meters wide, and every now and then our guide points at a monkey or even an orang-utan sitting among the trees. Not many birds, but the few we see are very brightly colored.
We reach Camp Leakey, a research-centre where orang-utans are trained to become self-sufficient again and then reintroduced in the wilderness: they are huge beasts, very strong and, despite their rather dumb appearance they can use tools and will soon show us that they are smarter than their looks would suggest.
Our guide, who has been a Park Ranger for several years, gives a bottle of water to a female, and she UNSCREWS THE CAP and drinks! I the meantime, her baby hangs from her back using his hind arms and pulling faces!
Later, the same female sort-of attacked me, grabbing my legs and sending me to the ground; I was a bit worried because she had just been described as a temperamental animal which has bitten several people for no apparent reason, but in the end nothing happened.
Funny, looking at the orang-utans moving from tree to tree: they lean out on a branch, causing the tree to bend, until they can reach for a branch from a nearby tree: they pull the branch until the new tree is near enough and then they move over!
Easy to see when an orang-utan is approaching: you see the trees shaking!
On the way back, under torrential rain, we find the only shelter occupied by a big male with a “try to shoo me away if you dare” kind of face, and so we ammass ourselves under a nearby roof; the male then stages a “king kong” act, reacting at an approaching female with big roars and then throwing around the big benches on which he was previously sitting while he was hanging from the shelter’s roof. A Ranger has to threaten him with a slingshot (empty, in fact…) and he goes sheepishly away. In the meantime another female who was under the same shelter goes away and catches a plastic bag to cover her head from the rain…
At night, we anchor along a bend in the river: just under us, a crocodile is waiting his prey, while we have our own trouble at protecting from the big and aggressive mosquitos…
Later, at another park station, we see an orang-utan running out of the Ranger’s house, where he had stolen a bunch of bananas and another big fruit: he clims over a tree, and puts the whole banana bunch in his mouth…
The Ranger tries to complain loudly, but he does not care…
We return aboard Shaula soaking wet due to another rainstorm, but it was really worth it!
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