Bukit Raya (1): A Long Beginning

Anybody who wants to climb Mount Bukit Raya in Kalimantan (part of Borneo island within Indonesia border), must endure 2 flights, 2.5 hours bumpy ride by bus, 4 hours on a speedboat, another 4 hours on a long boat, and 30 minutes riding a motorcycle taxi. All those trouble require 2 days and only take you as far as Rantau Malam, the last village before the real hike begins. Sounds tiring doesn’t it?

Before 2008, almost nobody except researchers would ever think to visit Mount Bukit Raya let alone enduring 2 days of demanding travel only to arrive at the starting point.  Its secluded location and high transportation cost are main concerns.

But then Hendri Agustin, an avid mountaineer, introduced the concept of “Indonesian 7 summits” nine years ago. Since Bukit Raya (2278 m) is one of the 7 summits and the highest mountain in Kalimantan, soon people who want to complete “Indonesian 7 summits” challenge began to show up.

Hot n’ Fun

Day#1: 13-08-2016 | Climbing the highest mountain in Kalimantan seems like an exciting adventure, but the journey before the hike is a whole different story, and it starts at the equatorial city right in the middle of the globe: Pontianak, the capital city of West Kalimantan Province.

My hiking buddies and I board a plane to Pontianak, then we continue on a small aircraft to Sintang, a neighboring city, in a 45-minute flight. If you want to cut transportation cost but have flexible time, then riding a bus for 7-8 hours is a great option.

11:50 AM our plane lands at Susilo airport in Sintang. The airport is small, only serves domestic flight and has a short airstrip, no jumbo jet could land here. From here, we ride a minibus heading to Nanga Pinoh, a small town 75 km northeast of Sintang.

Equator monument, the landmark of Pontianak

Susilo Airport at Sintang
It’s a 2.5 hours ride to Nanga Pinoh along partially damaged road.  We’re heading straight to the market to find a restaurant because it’s already lunch time. The minutes I step out of the car I can feel that the temperature is blazing and I can’t stop sweating. In the restaurant, I order two glasses of orange juice before and another one after lunch.  I never been this thirsty before, traveling on the equator is sure damn hot.

From the restaurant, the car takes us downton to a hotel. I’m so happy when I turn on the air conditioner in my room to feel the cool breeze on my face. It doesn’t take me long to go straight to the bathroom, taking a refreshing shower.

Nanga Pinoh is small, quiet, and there isn’t much traffic. The town’s monument is in the main intersection. Strolling around the city, I can see a few hotels, some convenience stores, restaurants, and a city square where all the action is happening, lots of people and food stalls. I just realize that it’s Saturday night, no wonder people are gathering at the city square, hanging out while ordering dinner from the stalls.

The market at Nanga Pinoh


The town’s monument

Saturday night at the town’s square
Long and winding rivers

Day#2: 14-08-2016 | Wakey wakey, it’s time to rise and shine. Last night was one of the best sleeps in my life, probably because I had sleep deprivations for two days and yesterday was long and exhausting. After checking out and having breakfast, we walk to the dock where all the speedboats are moored. It’s time to travel on water.

There are 3 people from Manado that’d join us today. The captain of each ship separates us into three groups based on the variety of body weights because it’d affects the ship’s  maneuverability. The luggages are placed on the bow, the heavy one must seated in the front, the lighter ones are seated in the back. We’re all on three speedboats, speeding on Melawi river to the next stop: Serawai.

In Kalimantan, river is people’s  lifeblood, it’s their home, their bread and butter. Not only you can see many floated houses along the river with its residences doing daily activities, but also many portable gold mining station, which is illegal, almost every 500 meters.

After 2 hours half flying on a speedboat with wind slapping  on my face, the boat stops at a floating gas station. We’re straighten our legs at a kiosk nearby, having cold drinks while the captain refueling the speedboat. 30 minutes later we’re back again cruising the endless river that shapes like a giant snake.

The dock

The captain in action

Short break

Portable mining station

Refueling station
At 12:54, we approach a dock full of boats in Serawai, a major town that acts as a hub, connecting the neighboring small villages. There’s a small shop, a restaurant, and a refueling station. More boats are coming while I’m eating lunch, one group from Tangerang, one group from Palembang. They’re also have the same itinerary: heading for Rantau Malam today and start climbing Bukit Raya tomorrow.

Most people in Serawai who want to go to the neighboring villages prefer switching from speedboat to longboat, which has the capacity up to 20 people, it’s more suitable for cruising the small branches of Melawi river.

The captain and his assistant help us move our packs into a longboat, then after all people are aboard, he turn on the engine and heading towards Rantau Malam at 14:15. Just before entering the smaller branch of the river, the boat got stuck in the sand. Well, it’s the dry season, the river is shallow and thing like this is not unexpected. The assistant hop out, pushing the boat then…. voila, we’re back on water!

The distance from Serawai to Rantau Malam is approximately 24 km, but since we’re following the snake-shaped river, the actual distance is two times farther. The captain cautiously steers the boat that’s cruising against strong current on shallow river. The longboat is slow, almost half the speed of a speedboat, sluggish but sure.

Half the journey, the boat’s propeller hits rock several times and finally it gives up by detaching itself up in the air then smashes into the ground. Fortunately the captain brings a spare propeller, the assistant helps him put it back and then 15 minutes later everything is tip top. No more problem! Or so we thought.

I even think our trip is cursed when a few minutes later, the steering wheel got stuck, it can’t steer right and causes the boat to hit a tree on the left bank. My heart is beating faster and I think it would split in two parts like the Titanic, fortunately the boat is still in one piece and that’s a great relief for everyone. The captain fixes it and that costs us 20 minutes delay.


Moving the cargo

The longboat can fit up to 20 people

The cautious captain

Pushing the boat that gets stuck while cruising up the hairpin on shallow water
It’s getting dark and we haven’t arrive yet, Rantau Malam is still 2 hours away. The captain decides to stop at Brasnabun and spend the night there because it’s too risky to proceed at night, considering the boat’s steering wheel isn’t functioning properly. We could crash in the dark of the night and nobody wants that to happen.  The consequence of this decision is the boat must leave early tomorrow morning because everybody must start trekking from Rantau Malam at 9 AM.

We manage to stop at Brasnabun before it’s completely dark, the captain takes us to his relative’s house where we can spend the night. Tired and hungry, we step out of the boat and walk toward the house.

Phew…that’s enough adventure for today.

To be continued….



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