Monday, 8 October 2012


Hi everyone,
Yesterday we spent much of the day ashore arranging a boat tour and exploring the town of Kumai and the surrounding area.  Prior to that we took aboard water and fuel, and arranged to have a very large bag of laundry done.

View of Kumai from the anchorage
Boats in the anchorage
The boss of the tour company we chose offered to drive us inland to a nice place for lunch.  The lunch was good but far more interesting was the 20 minute drive.  It was interesting to see the surroundings of Kumai and a town inland (unsure of its name).  The town featured a number of large statues at the centre of traffic roundabouts.  One of them was a statue of the foot of a large tree (the rest presumably having been felled).  There was a different animal on each branch and orang utangs beside the tree.  All the animals looked sad, unsurprisingly.  I presume the statue is intended to highlight the consequences of logging.

Statues aside, logging continues at a rapid pace.  We've seen huge barges carrying logs proceeding downriver.  The air here is smoky continuously, albeit worse some times than others.  Sometimes it creates a real "pea soup" fog reducing visibility to 100m or so.  I'm sure we haven't seen the worst of it in our short stay so far.

As we approached Kumai on Saturday afternoon our first view of the town seemed to show large apartment blocks.  As we came closer the buildings clearly had no windows.  They are large concrete block houses with a matrix of tiny openings on each side.  Another thing we noticed was continuous birdsong.  We've since learned from other cruisers and from people ashore that they are bird nest soup "factories".

The birdsong is a recording played to attract swifts which enter the buildings through the small openings and build their nests inside.  Thousands of them.  Normally the birds nest in caves.  At the end of the season the birds (parents and young) fly away and the nests are "harvested".  The nests are shipped to China, where I suspect most of the profits are made.  It's amazing that the buildings are right in the middle of the town.  They are ugly, smelly, noisy and probably unhealthy for the local residents.  Very nice.

Hmm, seems cruising is turning me into a greeny!

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