17-Feb-2007 -- The confluence point at 1N 118E was 1.0 km East of the dock at Peridan, Kutai Timur, Kalimantan Timur, Indonesia, under several coconut trees and other large species, with no understory but a tight tree canopy.
The ten of us left a small but well appointed village near Sangatta in East Kalimantan on the morning of Saturday 17th February aiming to reach 1N 118E by boat and foot.
We were following up on a prior unsuccessful attempt made on 3rd February when Sarah Boyce, Shane Bennett, Terry Liddy, and James Nagel reconnoitered the area, but retired after closing to within 500m of the confluence point from 4 different directions but being stopped by variously a swarm of hornets, impenetrable swamp and jungle (twice) and finally dehydration.
This larger team was better informed of the lie of the land and equipped with machetes, plenty of arms to swing them, plenty of water, and good humour.
The plan was to travel by boat to the Peridan dock, walk through Pak Junaidi’s farm to about 500m from the confluence point, then cut our way through the jungle on the shortest path possible. Maps showed there was a creek we had to cross or extend our walk by several kilometers to go around it, but we were hopeful it would be shallow enough to wade and that no crocodiles were around.
Two hours spent on the local dive boat got us past Golok Bay, Miang Besar and Miang Kecil islands and up the Sangkulirang river to the Peridan dock, almost exactly one kilometer west of the confluence. We tied up alongside a local tug, asked the guys fixing the engine to keep an eye on our boat and walked through the riverside part of Peridan village. A five minute chat with some of the local people ensured we had permission and goodwill to continue the trip.
With foreknowledge we walked five minutes by footpath and paddy fields to 500 metres from the point, walked through a gap in the pig fence, took a bearing, drew the machetes and started into the jungle, straight up the side of a steep ridge about 50m high covered with tangled regrowth up to 3 meters in height. Cresting the hill we had to crawl through another pig fence and had about 400 metres to go. The jungle opened up a bit descending the other side of the ridge towards the creek but we still had to cut our way through.
Reaching the steep side of the creek we moved upstream 100 metres looking for a narrower spot to cross, but realized wading across was not an option with an unknown depth, a current running strongly and too much electronic gear at risk. A short conflab reached consensus to return the way we came and try to walk around on the paths Sarah, Shane and James had unsuccessfully followed two weeks earlier.
We had started back and were still on the side of the creek when a local man, Pak Eri, went past in his small wooden boat. The local small boats are called kiting-tings for the sound their motors make and this one could just carry four passengers. Discussions with Pak Eri persuaded him to defer laying his mud-crab pots for a few minutes to cart all ten of us 25 meters across the creek. Pak Eri assured us there were no big crocodiles, but the creek was at least 3 meters deep, and that he would be back in about a half hour to ferry us the return trip.
Scrambling up the opposite side of the creek in mud up to mid-calf deep we were now just over 300m from the confluence and were confronted with dense and spectacularly formed mangrove swap as far as we could see. Plunging on over roots, branches and more mud, after about 150m the mangroves gave way to a dense thicket of short palms with savage thorns all over them, underlain by swampy clinging mud.
This was the terrain that had defeated the attempt two weeks prior. Our progress slowed dramatically as people took turns cutting our path while trying not to be caught on the palm fronds. Many swings and spikes and prickles later we had made a further 50m in about 30 minutes and the team was beginning to tire, when the prickle palms started to thin out a little and the land started to rise and dry out.
The last 30 meters to the confluence was through forest with very little understory but a densely closed canopy that made getting satellite lock an exercise in patience and still only achieved 23m accuracy. We arrived at the confluence just before 11:30 am and the last 500m had taken us almost 2.5 hours to cover.
The confluence of 1N 118E is on the side of another low ridge that runs NE-SW, and while we were probably the first to recognize the location as a confluence, the pile of cut coconuts almost on the confluence showed we were not the first visitors.
After taking the requisite photos, we looked for 5 minutes before finding our tracks and following our cut path back to the creek. Back on the side of the creek Pak Eri was nowhere to be seen, we were considerably later than expected we assumed he was probably off at lunch.
After waiting on the bank for about 15 minutes Pak Sony rang a friend, Pak Ismu Nandar who was born in Peridan village and had become the Assistant Secretary for East Kutai, the local Kabupaten or Regency.
Pak Ismu arranged for another local Pak Mael to collect us from the side of the creek in his very attractive speedboat and as most of group was very tired, Pak Mael drove us in two seriously muddy loads directly back to the our boat moored at Peridan dock.
After a bit of a wash in the wide Sangkulirang river to address the worst of the mud, we motored across the river to Sangkulirang township for an excellent lunch of barbequed chicken, fish and fried rice. We left Sangkulirang in a rain storm and after a few dramas on the trip down river, made it back to the Makassar Strait to open sea and got home just after 4 pm having covered more than 160 km in the day.