As I gripped the sides of the skinny dugout canoe and shut my eyes, I wondered if our jungle adventure was going to come to an end in the swirling brown river.
A lot of times when Kelly and I are explaining what MAF does, we’ll say something like, “In some of the most remote areas of the world, a short flight can save hours or days of walking over treacherous terrain.” It’s easy to say that, but we wanted to really experience it for ourselves.
The jungle of North Kalimantan seemed like the perfect place to do just that. We arranged a trip with a local guide to go between Long Bawan and Binuang, two villages that MAF regularly flies between. What would normally be only a twelve-minute flight would take us five days and three modes of transportation.
Our journey began with a white-knuckle motorbike ride on steep, muddy roads. Next, we embarked on a three-day trek through dense jungle, crossing rivers over shaky log bridges and winding our way through leech-infested trails. We slept in hammocks and our guide cooked meals over an open fire, including plants foraged along the trail and a tasty frog that ventured a little too close to our campsite.
Emerging from the jungle, we loaded up all of our gear and got into a tiny motorized canoe for the final leg of our journey. It was the most terrifying 30 minutes of our lives. Sitting inches above the water, we were frozen in place, knowing the slightest movement could upset the balance and send us tumbling into the river.
Thankfully, the canoe didn’t tip and we made it safely to Binuang. The MAF plane landed a few hours later and took us home. We had a really fun adventure, but it was eye-opening to see just how difficult the trip would be for someone who was sick or injured, or just needing to get somewhere quickly.
We made a video to chronicle our trek and help share the mission of MAF. It’s about 12 minutes long, the same amount of time it takes to fly between Long Bawan and Binuang. Check it out.