1. Yeow Pheng and I were delighted to celebrate our arrival at Sampit, with a beer at Hotel Idola, after 2 days of more than 500 km of grueling journey from Pontianak to Sampit, as we moved East and South into Kalimantan. It will be about 6-7 hrs drive to Banjarmasin today, but it should be a much easier drive.
2. Without a 4 by 4, one should not attempt this journey from Pontianak to Sampit. It will be much easier driving 1-2 years' time when the road improvement works are completed.
3. It was promising coming out of Pontianak, traveling East to our first check point, Tayan, but soon the road turned to unsealed laterite track. Along the way, we could not resist making a durian stop. Here, Yeow Pheng was having his durian breakfast in the middle of the road.
4. Near Tayan town (see landmark at the junction at Tayan), we had to take a ferry to cross the 300-400 m wide River Kapuas to Piasak. It was a 1.5 hrs wait at the ferry point, as we had to join the queue for the ferry which had a capacity of 6-7 vehicles. It was a steep slope down to the ferry and the heavy vehicles had to be pulled up by another vehicle. We had a drink at the shop near the ferry point while I read a book. The 2 girls there were too shy to have their picture taken.
5. From Piasak on, it was a mix of not bad sealed road, laterite tracks, and gravel roads in the process of upgrading. Roads were wide. My guess is that they were created by the logging industry some years ago. The 200-300 km from Tayan to Simpang Runtu was like a construction site, work in progress. Countless bridges and culverts were under construction, next to the old wooden bridges (some close to crumbling) and mud pools near them. There were 4 "serious" mud pools that could have got us stucked. We had to switch to low gear, high torque for the Pajero to get us out of the trouble. Otherwise, we would likely have to stay the night next to the mud pool.
6. It was heavy driving, but we were happy with some distractions along the way - the scenic view of rolling terrain (reminded me of NZ, but less the sheeps), and the small beautiful wooden churches and mosques. The variations in their design made them especially interesting. The picture on above (with me in yellow T shirt) shows an
hill with stones and many dry tree trunks sticking out. A pretty scene.
7. Many of the hills were covered with secondary forests, possibly the result of the logging industry some years ago. Many had now been cleared, with remnants of charred trees, ready for possibly oil palms. Oil palm plantations were common along the way, but they became massive as we approached Simpang Runtu; kms after kms, all the way to the horizon. Without doubt, Kalimantan will become a major palm oil producing region in the world; and it has the land.
7. The area where we traveled through was very thinly populated, with occasional small villages. Near them, there were some small clearings where padi was planted; often they were planted between remnants of charred stumps. It was a fair mix of churches and mosques along the way; unlike on the way to Singkawang over the hills where they were mostly churches. There were no petrol stations for a long stretch, from Tayan to Simpang Rintu, and it got us very anxious at one point. It was a great relief when we were able to buy 20 litres at a stall along the way, though at 50% higher in price. If we run out of petrol there, it would be real trouble.
8. At the end of the first day on this stretch, we ended up near Sandai and checked into Hotel Rahayu after dark. We slept in separate rooms, as the hotel did not have twin-sharing, at 100-120K Rps a night. We had chay kueh tiow at the fruits stall along the only street in Sandai. A shop ran by a Teochew lady ran out of food (ran out of food at 6.30 pm!!) and we were referred to this fruit stall. The "chef" too was Teochew. Went to bed early. The hotel generator came on at 5 am and woke me up. Read a book before Yeow Pheng came knocking on the door at 6 am. He was all ready to drive. Here you see him cleaning the windscreen and windows of the Pajero. The rest of the car was too dirty to clean. The 2 lady receptionists at the hotel were very friendly, probably seeing the 2 Martians coming to their hotel at Sandai for the first time.
9. At one of our coffee break, we saw this cute little twin.
10. From Sampit, the checkpoints for this part of our journey through the rugged terrain of Kalimantan included:
Tayan (426 km), Piasak (418), Balai Berkuak (365), Air Kuning (325), Sandai (301), Nanga Tayap (289), Tanjong Asam (277, see the picture on the right, of the formless structure at the junction), Kudangan (237), Lamandau (169, see the sculpture with a pot at the top), and Simpang Runtu (136).
11. This was the arch marking the separation between East and Central Kalimantan.
12. Overall, it was a challenging but a very memorable part of the Part 2 journey.