Arts and Entertainment

Surprising Borneo

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Borneo? Why would anyone visit Borneo? Our visit to Malaysian Borneo answered that question for us and hopefully our presentation will encourage you to visit Borneo as well.


Before last year we had not visited Asia or Africa — that left holes in our “bucket list.” Since we prefer to visit regions with relatively low population densities, our interest in China and India is low. Two friends suggested a riverboat exploration of the island of Borneo. If we went, we could very lightly touch Asia, be in a region that had a relatively low population density, and even more interesting to us, we’d be visiting an island. We decided to go.


Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is governed by three nations: Malaysia, Indonesia and the Sultanate of Brunei.


Geographically, the island is divided by a mountain ridge that runs from the northeast to the southwest. Many rivers flow from this ridge to the sea.


The thought of exploring one of these rivers by boat really hooked us. But what should we expect?

Naively, we remembered tales of the “Wild Man of Borneo,” of jungles and orangutans, of monkeys and exotic birds, and headhunters. We expected a simple jungle-based lifestyle for the inhabitants with small villages scattered throughout. What we found was surprising. Here are a few teasers.


The Rajang River system took us into the heart of Borneo. We found the small villages that we expected, but we also found a flourishing economy based on agriculture, mining, logging, fishing and even boat building.


We found remnants of pre-World War II rubber plantations, small farm plots that produced many fruits and vegetables, and a large agribusiness based on the sago palm. There were jungles, but most were being used to produce goods. The river was the highway for all this activity.


There were schools, clinics, villages centered by longhouses, small fishing and transportation boats and large water taxis. The air was vibrant with activity. There were modern, flourishing cities with temples and churches scattered throughout. Small business service industries were evident as were markets for the agricultural products of the country. Trade and tourism were being promoted, particularly in the northern state of Sabah. And next door to these urban areas could be found longhouses, some of whose inhabitants previously had included headhunters.


A significant portion of Malaysian Borneo includes preserves and national parks that protect valuable habitat for the native wildlife. We visited two national parks and one reserve and found orangutans, wild pigs, monkeys, snakes, birds and several different ecosystems with their unique blend of flora. Of special interest were the orangutans that inhabit several areas on the island. As in other parts of the world, their habitat is decreasing. They are the iconic representatives of wildlife on the island and to see them was exciting. We learned what is being done to both safeguard their continued existence and provide opportunity for visitors, including us, to view them in the wild. We hope you will join us for a tour of exciting and unexpected Borneo.


About the presenters:

LaVonne and Bill Mueller hail from Winona, Minn., on the Mississippi River, and are career educators. They “discovered” Sequim in 1989, spending summers on their boat at John Wayne Marina until their retirement in 1997. They are now land-based with a home in Sequim.


Since retiring, they have traveled extensively to places in the world including Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Patagonia (Chile and Argentina), the Atacama Desert, Antarctica, the Arctic, Tasmania and Kangaroo Island, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, the Galapagos Islands and the Las Alpujarras mountains region in Spain. They’ve also explored some of the more conventional parts of Europe on foot, hiking in England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and taking a bike and barge tour of southwestern France.


At home in the Pacific Northwest, they’ve become trail crew junkies volunteering with Olympic National Park doing trail maintenance and repair, the Clallam County parks and trails volunteer group and the Thursday Trail Crew concerned with the Olympic Discovery Trail. They are active with the Washington Trails Association, the North Olympic Land Trust stewardship trail crew, the Gray Wolf trail crew and the Back Country Horsemen trail crew.


In their spare time, they work in cycling, hiking and dancing.


 About the presentation:
Traveler’s Journal is a presentation of the Peninsula Trails Coalition. All of the money raised is used to buy project supplies and food to feed volunteers working on Olympic Discovery Trail projects.
Shows start at 7 p.m. in the Sequim High School Cafeteria at 601 N. Sequim Ave. The cafeteria benches are hard and people should bring their own cushions.
Suggested donation is $5 for adults. Attendees 18 and younger welcome for free.
One selected photo enlargement is given away as a door prize.
Call Dave Shreffler at 683-1734 for more information.



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