An ex­cel­lent ad­ven­ture

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - WARREN BREWER

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.”

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