On a recent flight to the small village of Long Sule, MAF pilot Steve Persenaire told me a little bit about the people who live there. Unlike most of the villages in Kalimantan, in Long Sule the women do much of the hard labor. Whenever a plane comes in, ladies are there waiting to help unload sacks of rice and boxes of noodles, barrels of fuel for powering boats and motorbikes, and building materials like metal roofing and bags of cement. They carry all this cargo over rough paths to the village below the airstrip.
When the plane rolled to a stop I immediately spotted the Cargo Ladies standing in groups waiting patiently to unload the plane. These women looked tough! They wore work pants, rubber jungle shoes, and colorful wide-brimmed hats to keep out of the sun. As they helped to unload large barrels of fuel, Steve had an idea. Why not treat these ladies to a short flight as a thank-you for their hard work? Many of them had never left Long Sule before and certainly had never flown on a plane!
The ladies excitedly climbed on board and soon the plane was barreling down the tiny grass airstrip and lifting gracefully up and over their village. Little screams of fear and joy escaped them at every little turn and bump. The ladies pointed in amazement as we flew by a large waterfall streaming down into a jungle canyon, a sight only three miles away from their village that many had never seen. Amid shrieks and laughter and lots of white knuckles, we soon touched back down at their jungle airstrip.
I realized after this fun little flight that I can’t begin to understand what it would be like to live my entire life in such a remote place. I am really glad that MAF is all about serving people in places like Long Sule by providing access to so many important things—and at the same time, giving these ladies the ride of their lives!
Photos and video by Kelly Hewes.