An excellent adventure
TASMANIAN teacher, author and adventurer Mark Heyward has written an extraordinary account of a daunting trek across remote Indonesian Borneo.
The narrative reveals not only the incredible journey he undertakes but also important aspects of the cultural divide between Australia and our diverse neighbour to the north.
The trek itself is a monumental feat. With four of his expatriate mates and various local porters, he traverses Kalimantan from Tamarind on the east coast across the 1800m Muller Ranges to Pontianak on the west coast, a distance of more than 1000km.
This is tropical rain forest, exotic and beautiful but also infested with all manner of discomforting creatures.
There are no roads, few tracks, rampant rivers and a few remote settlements.
Don’t mistake this for a travel book. Who would want to replicate this journey?
The maps are inadequate and availability of tourist information or assistance is negligible.
The account is cleverly constructed, as if there is the here and now and then moments where he reflects on or explains the broader cultural context of his experiences.
He recalls his own life- changing circumstances since coming to Indonesia and the complexity and confounding events that have shaped his life and this unique nation.
His well- informed insights into the lifestyles of Indonesians, both urban and rural, are brilliant.
As the journey progresses, Mark Heyward’s reflections and revelations about Indonesian history, political and economical challenges become less incidental and more expansive.
This is the appeal of the book. His comments have sensitivity, clarity and veracity and will provoke new perspectives for those wishing to better understand this emerging power in Asia. It’s a great read. Despite his emersion in the Islamic culture he offers an interesting piece of practical Aussie- like advice to prospective travellers: “Don’t sleep without your shorts on and always keep a whistle handy.”