This is another story in my series about the incredible good times I have had traveling in Muslim countries. I am attempting to provide a small measure of antidote to the Islamaphobic stories in the mainstream media. This tale takes place on the island of Borneo in the nation of Indonesia. The country of Indonesia has more Muslims than any other country on earth but the community where this story takes place is a mixed community of Muslims, Christians and animist natives. Indeed, the couple that saves the day is a mixed couple with a Muslim husband and Christian wife. Religion does not come up directly in the story because that is not what the story is about. But I include this story in the series because of the important part religious and ethnic tolerance plays in the background of the story.
I should also mention that the character Hans Clean is the fictionalized version of a young German guy I met on a boat dock in Borneo and ended up traveling with for two weeks. This story is one chapter in a book I wrote about the entire crazy adventure. In the book, certain aspects of “Mr. Clean’s” personality were emphasized in order to help the grand sweeping metaphor. But in reality, “Mr. Clean” was not so bad.
Finally, I realize that certain aspects of this story are, perhaps, a bit sappy. But this was all written right after I almost died a horrid death in the deep dark jungle so of course I was feeling sappy. If you want to know what happened in the deep dark jungle you can always buy the book. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/patryantravels
The Heart of Borneo
Tiong Hong, Kalimentan, Indonesian Borneo; March 10, 2010.
It really is a beautiful universe. The kindness, generosity and open hearts of the vast majority of human beings that occupy this planet never ceases to amaze me. Yeah, I know, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. With all the war, murder, rape and torture we hear about on the news, one could easily be led to believe that the vast majority of human beings are evil, rotten, nasty creatures. But I disagree. There may be a few nasty people out there, but they are really just a very small percentage of the whole population. The conflict and despair we all suffer derives most frequently from miscommunications and cultural misunderstanding, not from evil people acting in evil ways. Perhaps I’m overly optimistic, but I believe that if we strip away the metaphors and illusions that confuse us and look inside the hearts of human beings, what we will find at the very center is not fear, hatred and selfishness but a natural instinct to reach out to others with love…
When I awake on my fourth morning in the jungle, I am very happy to be alive. I reach up and touch my neck and head. Yup…it’s still attached…no blood, no scars, no open wound. I guess the Dayaks really have given up headhunting. I crawl from my tent and see my guides drinking coffee and laughing. I’d sure like to know what they are laughing about. They pour me some coffee and I offer thanks and then I say with a smile, “so, are we all ready to go to Tanjun Lokan today?”
“No,” says Rabun, “we return to Tiong Hong.”
“But look,” I say, “the river is down so we can go forward over the mountains.” It’s true. It didn’t rain during the night so the river has receded to the level of the first day.
Rabun points at his knee and says “pain.”
I do some charades to tell Rabun I will throw him over my shoulder and carry him over the mountain. I also communicate to Tiong that he can have my tent if we go to Tanjun Lokan. But the truth is; I have given up the possibility. I’m no longer arguing with the guides, I’m just joking. I’ve accepted defeat so I make light of the situation. After a while, the guides realize I’m joking. They are happy that they are getting their way. I’m not sure if they laugh at me or with me but they do laugh.
Mr. Clean awakes and we pack up our stuff. We start early, before the bees arrive. The journey back is not particularly bad but not particularly good either. The jungle is still beautiful but it loses a lot of its magic because we’ve seen it before and are now backtracking. We stop at the first campsite to eat some rice and fish and are once again inundated with bees. I don’t get stung anymore but their swarming behavior is an unpleasant reminder of the hell I have already suffered. Thankfully, the stings on my leg and foot from last night did not excessively swell and my hip is doing much better now. As a matter of fact, my only remaining bee issue is my swollen forearm that looks like Popeye. But I’m pretty certain that’s going to be all right as well. As we continue, we get harassed by more leeches and the air is oppressively hot and buggy, but these things are expected on any jungle trek. So all in all, it’s a fairly typical all day trek through dense virgin tropical jungle.