Kalimantan Timur Traveler’s Guide

In 1989, I spent a long period of time where I went back and forth to the remote Indonesian province of East Kalimantan (Kalimantan Timur). There were many reasons – the sheer immensity of the place, the fascinating Dayak tribes, the opportunity to collect artefacts insitu, the photographic opportunities and so on. I had also been told that Joseph Conrad’s masterpiece, Heart of Darkness, was in reality based on his experiences on the Mahakam River in what was then Borneo.

It is ironic that later I found out that it was much more likely that the book had been based on his experiences in Africa but it is such mistakes that shape our lives.

I traveled methodically through much of the lower Mahakam towns and villages, getting considerable help from the local tourism and culture office in Tenggarong. During one visit, they flatly refused to help anymore, which astounded me but then I realised what they were actually saying: they could no longer help me as my knowledge by then had grown greater than theirs!!.

With out much ado, they then asked if I could put together some information, in English, on my travels. They had asked head office for help and were presented with a gorgeous 200 plus page full colour guide with a limited print run that was all gone with weeks of publication. Repeated cries for a second run fell on deaf ears – it would be too expensive.

What they needed was some simple, straight forward flyers they could hand out to the small but growing group of adventurers who were finding their way to the sleepy river town.

Timber was devastating much of the first growth forest there and, besides the ecological aspects of such a vast reservoir of vibrant jungle, it was a real shame that the great beauty of the people and their land was being wiped out for the sake of mahogany sideboards and the hardwood chipping industry. Tourism seemed a less invasive and more sustainable way of countering the dollars that the local people were selling off their land for and I agree to the task without much further prodding.

So next trip back to Darwin (my base at the time) I put together a thirty page booklet, specially formatted to be able to be printed on duplex A4 paper and then hand folded into a pocket sized A5 booklet. The Tourism office in Tenggarong could then print copies locally, as needed.

I dont know how effective it was as there was no way of finding out how many copies were eventually distributed but the office was certainly pleased at my efforts. I printed off a few copies in Darwin and managed to sell a hundred or so at the local newsagents and travel suppliers.

I haven’t been back to KalTim for many years, life changes, new adventures, then in 1995 a new family.

I would not know how useful this booklet will be as I am aware that Kalimantan has changed significantly with the arrival of the Palm Oil industry. However, I offer this up as a bit of an history oddity, if nothing else than to add to the diversity with makes the internet what it is today.

Good Traveling

Paul Ryan , Brisbane 2017

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