We don’t always go on the official rally tours. I don’t know, how many endless Indonesian speeches can you listen to before you just don’t care anymore? Sultans, governors, village officials, we’ve watched them all drone on and on, but sometimes the organizers get it right. The bus tour of Kumai promised to be one of the good ones, and besides there’s usually some descent swag. The problem is that once they have you on the bus, you’re on for the whole day until the final speech.
At 9:00 am as I motor toward the official rally dock I can already see the usual madness. Dignitaries at the podium, outrageously colorful “authentic costumes”on the dancers and the band, event facilitators desperately trying to hold a constantly evolving situation together.
After a mercifully short welcoming we are herded toward a couple of nice buses, but I can’t help noticing the six motorcycle Polisi, faces covered, with M4 assault weapons hanging from a shoulder mount. Most Indonesian authorities have extremely colorful uniforms. These guys are head to toe in black. I’m thinking this is just a bus load of bum sailors, what the hell is going on here? Turns out Indo TV has been shooting footage of us and as improbable as it seems, we are a very popular segment most every night on television! The ministry of tourism has pulled out all the stops and that kind of explains all the drone shots and taped interviews we’ve done. I breathe a heavy sigh of relief in the knowledge that when the hail of bullets start, Marce, who begged off with a recurrence of back pain, will be safe back on Escape Velocity wondering what is he up to now?
Right now the well armed motorcycle gentlemen in black are motioning for the bus driver to park over there and personally I think we should just do as they say. Turns out the first thing you see is a traditional long house of the Dayaknese Tribe.
These folks are the people that gave us the term Bogeyman due to their remarkable fierceness.
But first a rice wine welcome.
Things are looking up and, fortified, Yours Truly gives the eight foot blow pipe a go, firmly striking the target, all the while remembering not to suck.
More dancing where the bogeyman finally shows up, and a little more rice wine.
Next up, our armed motorcade pulls up to Astana Mangkubumi which features this cute and colorful little prince and princess.
I’ve noticed that these palaces are kind of empty and have a lot of stuff that looks like the Dutch just left it behind. After the buffet lunch we walk down to the Tujuh Putri Water Castle which is better known as the Princess’s Pool and rumor has it that if you dare to rub this filthy water on your skin you will become beautiful. I pass.
I was pretty excited about this next location at the Rainbow Village and when our armed entourage drops us off at their pier we are swamped with requests for selfies with the locals.
We stumble right into the middle of a Refuse Fashion Contest for all ages. Kinda cute and very creative.
Unfortunately it starts to rain as we clamber aboard the local watercraft called a Tuck-Tuck, a one lung diesel, hand cranked, with a tiny propeller at the end of a long shaft that is mostly out of the water. No neutral, no reverse, no transmission, but kinda fun.
Scenes like something on the Nile overwhelm us as we chug by. The view from the river is a bit less painted rainbow, let’s call it just unpainted wood.
The gents in black motion our bus to the car park for the Yellow Palace where the gala dinner will take place. The Sultan is a no-show due to the romancing of his mistress over in Jakarta, which suits me fine, so Yours Truly needn’t change into long pants out of respect. Strange place this Yellow Palace. Once again a kind of empty museum but with a ballroom and grounds where we end up listening to speeches in Indonesian and watching traditional dance. I’m no judge but this show seemed a cut above. I even meet Biruté Galdikas, one of Leakey’s Angels who still runs the Leakey Camp we’d just visited.
It’s well past cruisers’ midnight as the well protected bus pulls into the official rally dock. On the way to Catnip I pick up several stranded cruisers who find they have no way back to their boats so we all pile in bringing to an official end, the official tour.