Saturday, June 30, 2012

The sun was already well up by the time we left for our morning boat trip at 6:30. It was just us and the Germans, Arndt and Jana. The goal of the trip was an oxbow lake upstream, but we stopped to look at a number of things along the way. We saw even more Proboscis monkeys, plus some silver leaf monkeys (that's silver "leaf monkeys" not "silver leaf" monkeys), and more macaques (which seem fairly ubiquitous across SE Asia). We also saw a very rare sight, a gibbon. Yahya indicated that this was the first one he'd seen all calendar year, and today just happened to be the last day of the first half of the year. It wasn't doing much in terms of moving, but it's call was very loud (it can be heard a kilometer away), so we mostly just listened.

We also saw a Wallace's Hawk Eagle, named after Alfred Wallace, who "discovered" what is now known as the Wallace Line, that cuts through the Indonesian archipelago, with Australasian animals and birds on the South and East, and Asian animals and birds on the North and West. Wallace, while not known nearly as well as Darwin, arguably contributed just as much in terms of observing natural phenomena and the role of evolution.

The entrance into the oxbow lake was a narrow channel with a pretty good current, and there was a tree that had fallen across the channel. We kept backing up and trying to go underneath it - there was more clearance on the left than the right, but the current kept pushing us to the right. By the time we finally made it we were all basically laying flat on the bottom of the boat out of fear of being decapitated. To add insult to injury, another boat came by and made it through the first time with no problems.

Eventually we made it, and perhaps because of the difficulty, we were expecting a bit too much. Once to the lake, it was a bit of a letdown. It didn't seem to have near the amount of monkeys or birds that there were along the river itself. We did, however, see a very nice blue-eared kingfisher that came close to the boat while we were stopped for coffee/tea. Yahya tossed some crackers in the water, which made a ton of tiny fish come to the surface, and the kingfisher got some free food out of the deal.

We got back to the hotel around 9 and had a late breakfast. Then we went on a short walk near the hotel, hoping to see some animals while on foot. We didn't see much of anything, just a couple of big bugs here and there. Back at the hotel, we had some down time, so Crystal read and Justin went to sleep. We had lunch at 1 with Arndt and Jana, who by this time were the only ones at the hotel with us. We chatted about a number of things, including travel and the Euro zone economic crisis. (Again, we never discuss this at home). After being on private tours for all of Indonesia, it was nice to have other tourists to talk to. We talked until about 3:15, when we got ready for our afternoon excursion.

Right before we were about to leave, a deer walked into camp, just a couple meters away from us. It's much easier when the animals come to you - it saves a lot of effort. At our urging, Yahya agreed to boat us upriver in search of the pygmy elephants - that's where they'd been seen two days prior. Along the way we saw more proboscis monkeys and macaques, and also saw another giant croc, about 3.5 meters long. The sky was full of clouds, some dark grey, some bright white - very interesting. We hadn't been rained on yet this trip, and we knew this was unusual good luck, especially now that we were north of the equator (where it was now monsoon season). But the farther we went upstream the more likely this seemed.

Then it just started pouring, as in we were completely soaked in about 2 minutes pouring. This was despite our theoretically waterproof coats. Moreover, since we were still motoring along, the rain was also blasting us int he face, which was an added bonus. This was paying the piper for the prior dry days, apparently. Yahya actually put his raincoat on backwards, presumably to protect his face. When it started to rain less, we looked around for evidence of elephants. We did find some recent tracks on the shore, and some recently trampled elephant grass. No elephants, though. As other boats went by in the other direction, we asked about elephants - no luck there either.

Eventually Yahya said "sorry guys" and we turned around. On the way back, the rain was intermittent, and eventually itstopped altogether shortly before we got back to the lodge. Perhaps because of the rain, perhaps because of being on a boat in the rainforest, Crystal momentarily thought we were in Peru, was thinking about ordering a Pisco Sour. Alas, the only alcohol at the hotel was Tiger Beer. When we got back, it was a little after 6:30, so we'd been gone over two and a half hours. Crystal was frozen when we got back, and took a shower to thaw out. Fortunately it's pretty easy to thaw in the middle of the rainforest. At dinner, it was us and Arndt and Jana again. We talked more travel, including places to see on a trip they were planning to the US. We tried to convince them to add Washington DC and New Orleans to the cities they were planning to visit, NYC and Miami. After dinner we watched a video about proboscis monkeys, then went to sleep.