14-Dec-2003 -- About a month ago, I came across the confluence project website. I am currently living in Balikpapan. This is on the island of Borneo in the Kalimantan Timur province of Indonesia. To my surprise, there were only 3 points visited in Indonesia, and no points had been visited in Kalimantan. Also – there was a confluence very near to Balikpapan, which looked accessible.
I notified some friends about the project, and we all became very excited about the prospect of bagging the first confluence point in Kalimantan. Right away we started to make plans.
On Sunday 14th December 2003, an international group Tom McDonald, USA, Laurent Moinard, France, and Robin Slocombe, British, set out at 0630 AM in search of the confluence. We armed ourselves with mountain bikes, GPS, digital cameras, compass, water, and even binoculars. We had no idea what to expect, as the only maps we could find were old 1960’s army maps. As far as we could tell the point looked very close to KM 38 on the Samarinda road. For those interested, this is the location of the Balikpapan Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS), a charity funded institute for rehabilitation of Orangutans so that they can be released in the wild.
We drove by car along the road from Balikpapan through Samboja, it looked like this road would pass near the confluence point. We got quite excited as the road got closer and closer. Some anxiety set in as we saw good size rivers and swamps towards the direction of the point. We could not believe it when we found the nearest point along the road was only 250m from the confluence and also we were up on a hill away from most of the marshland. This was too good to be true. We stopped the car and set out on foot.
The terrain was hilly, with lots of trees, grass, and marshland. There were scattered small shacks and homes along the South side of the road. We walked around the back of one of the houses and walked down a small hill towards some marshy land and a small creek. Found a place we could jump across, and not get bogged too deep in the marsh. Headed up a hill towards the confluence, through a forested area, and encountered a small path. The path was a very nice surprise, as the tropical forest was very dense and not easy to walk through. Even better, the path led us directly towards the confluence – in fact right to the confluence – we counted down the GPS. 50 – 20 – 10 meters “zero!!” . The point was almost exactly on the path. Piece of cake.
The confluence area is in a tropical forest with lots of big rubber trees which had been tapped to produce rubber. (see photo) This is probably why the path was there. We had some trouble getting good satellite coverage due to the trees, but eventually got the GPS to zero out. The mosquitoes were horrendous, and had a good feast of our blood while we took some pictures.
We followed the path out, crossed over a little bridge, and in less than 15 minutes were back at the car – all in less than 2 hours from our houses. We took a picture of the building where you can find the start of the path if you are interested in visiting this confluence. Laurent and Robin decided to ride mountain bikes along some trails back to town, Tom took the car to make it back just in time for the ‘petanque’ tournament at the Total beach club.
So – we got the first confluence in Kalimantan. It was hardly a struggle, tough luck for all the guys who missed out on this coup. -- we hope to have more confluences visited in Indonesia in the near future.
All in all it was a great day.