Published: July 26th 2012July 21st 2012
Sometimes there are destinations that blow your mind and sometimes there are places to be forgotten. In both cases you need to get there and often the journey is an experience to be enjoyed or to learn from. Too many times we are thinking about the nxt destination instead of enjoying exactly where we are at the present. Today we enjoyed the journey.
In our short time in Banjarmasin we had really fallen in love with the city and the people, but it was time to move on and see some more of Kalimantan. Most tourists head up to Loksado from Banjarmasin to trek and take a bamboo raft ride, but we wanted to be in Jakarta Sunday evening
and were pushed for time. The stopover town before Loksado is Kandangan and from here you can visit several other towns as day trips. We decided to head to Kandangan and also visit Negara, where the locals raise water buffalo. They keep them on rafts at night and allow them to swim during the day. In the evening canoe cowboys herd them up. This was nothing like anything we had ever seen so we checked out and headed for the minibus
Some of our travel in Indonesia has been straightforward and other plans have been hard to pull together. Getting to the minibus station was a breeze. We stepped out of the hotel and the first bemo was there in 10 seconds. We asked for km6 - the minibus terminal, in our best Indonesian and were told to jump in. When we got to the terminal it was surprisingly logically arranged with buses in queues behind a sign for their destinations. There was even one for Negara so we checked the price which was about $3.50 each for a 4 hour ride and settled in our seats.
The minibuses have 3 rows of seats plus the front in a bus smaller than a VW combi. There really only seemed room for 2 people in each row but the way things work here you need to have 4 people in a row. After 2 hours waiting we realised that we wouldn't go until there were 4 people in each row. This could have been in 5 minutes or a few hours. Being impatient and having an extra $3.50 on us, Toby offered to pay for the last seat as
long as we could leave - good move. Not only did we leave at last, we had only 3 of us in the row which was tight enough. Toby was especially happy at his negotiating skills. Fiona and Harriet were glad we were moving.
The landscape north of Banjarmasin was very different from East Kalimantan. It is much more open and very green and very pretty. The roads were also very different with hardly any potholes. The driver was the same as all Indonesian bus drivers though - a bit of a maniac. We were glad we weren't in the front row. As we travelled we past through several villages. Each family had a big mat or tarpaulin out the front of their homes and were drying rice. As we neared Negara the houses changed and all became built on stilts asthere was water either side of the road. It was really beautiful and thetime seemed to pass very quickly.
There were several ojek, bike rides for hire, drivers at the terminal in Negara. You couldnt really call it a terminal, it was more of a seat at the side of the road. We were very excited to find that we had learnt enough Indonesian to be able to explain to them we wanted to hire a boat to see around Negara. They took us to the boats and we even arranged for them to pick us up at pre- arranged time to take us back to Kandanagan. Unfortunately the one thing we didn't manage to explain was we wanted to see the water buffalo.
We had a lovely trip on the river around Negara without a water buffalo in sight. It was similar to Banjarmasin in the way that people lived on the water and used the river for everyday life. So in a way we didn't see anything new or different, but it was pleasant and relaxing anyway.
Disaster struck as we got off the boat. Fiona asked Toby if he had picked up the lonely Planet, which he assured her he had. He, however, meant the phrase book and the guide book was lost. Fiona who is totally obsessed with lonely Planet guides, felt as if her left arm was missing when she found out. We could manage without it but we had to make big adjustments to how we made decisions and organised things.
The ojek riders picked us up as arranged and we sped off towards Kandangan. Fiona was reminded of her younger days whether mother would insist that helmets and leather were worn on any bike, even a scooter, as she had seen too many results of accidents at work in the X-ray department. There were definitely no helmets or leather and the nearest hospital was a long way away.
Fiona's driver seemed to go faster than the others and she soon lost them. She worried a little what would happen if Harriet's driver took her to the wrong place and then realised this was the least of her worries- she had just put her 14 year old daughter on the back of a stranger's bike in a country where she didn't speak the language and knew no one and couldn't be seen by her mother. Luckily Toby had insisted his driver stay close behind Harriet. He is a much better parent!
The ride was fantastic. Motorbike really isthe best way to travel in Asia. It keeps you cool, gets you there fast and is fun. We should have hired or bought bikes for the whole trip. Toby and Harriet even saw a snake cross the road in front of them at one point. The drivers seemed to enjoy it as well, beeping at every person they passed to show them their white passengers.
We had chosen a losmen to stay in as a change from bland, characterless western chains. A losmen is a cheap family run establishment and we weren't expecting too much. Which was good as we didn't get too much, but what do you want for $13 for 3 people? We sprayed the room with mossie spray, shut the door and headed out to look around town.
Without the Lonely Planet we were a bit lost, but Toby and Harriet had spotted a Ramadan cake market on their way into town so we that was our first stop. Toby wasn't going to miss out a second time.Toby and Harriet both made their choices but Fiona didn't see anything she fancied so went without. A local guy decided to walk thought the market with us and told Harriet was her bodyguard. We weren't sure how he managed to know the right word as he didn't speak any english and was no help when we were trying to figure out prices. He seemed harmless and we didn't feel uncomfortable or in need of a bodyguard from him or anyone else.
They take Ramadan very seriously in Kandangan and their were no restaurants open until after dark, so we ate cake and played cards until we thought we might find something open. Playing cards has really made a difference to Harriet's mental arithmetic skills. It was painful to hear her making simple mistakes 3 weeks ago, but they are less often now. We eventually found a restaurant. We weren't sure if it was open because there we no one else there and they had curtains all around. The food was good though and we filled up. Fiona had wanted the local fish specialty but we spent so long finding something open finding a place selling it was just too hard. Back at the market we bought a pancake like dessert for breakfast so that's we didn't have to go through searching for food all over again in the morning. A nice guy chatted to us at the stall. Indonesians love to practice their English on you and we love finding out all about the locals.
Overall the 2 destinations we arrived at were disappointing today, no buffalos and no special food, but the journey was fun and we had seen more of Indonesia than we had yesterday.