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Hidden Beauty in South Kalimantan

Hidden Beauty in South Kalimantan

Have you ever thought of going to a peaceful place? The place where you can enjoy the nature without any noise of the vehicles? There’s one place hidden in the wildwood forest of South Kalimantan. There’s a few people know this place. It’s actually not a common place for tourists, but for you who love wild life and dare to take the adventure, you can put this place on your number one list.

Let me tell you one of my greatest experiences. Last year I got a chance to visit this hidden paradise. In Indonesian language, Bahasa, you can call it Desa Juhu. Desa means village. Desa Juhu is located in Batang Alai Timur District, Hulu Sungai Tengah Regency, South Kalimantan Province. The distance is 50 kilometers from Barabai City. The first 36 kilometers can be traveled with cars or motorcycles. But the rest of it can only be traveled by foot.

At first I didn’t believe it. But I followed the instruction from locals. I went to the last village named Desa Kiyu with my three friends. We spent one night there, in my guide’s house, to prepare for everything. My local guide said we needed 2 days to be there. I prepared one carrier full of the things I might need, also snacks, and some instant food. I didn’t really worry since I’d be going with locals. Locals always have their own way to get food – one thing I always believe. I’d never starve as long as they were there.

The next morning 10 locals arrived at my guide’s house. 5 of them were originally from Desa Juhu. They came to the district once a week to suffice their need. They came to pick me up as I told them so the previous day. They were all prepared. Each of them carried traditional bag called Kiba. Kiba was very unique. It’s made of the plaited woods with two ropes for shoulders, and one rope for the head. Yes, locals use their heads to ease the weight of the luggage. Although it’s far from the word comfortable, but locals were used to carry it to bring their things or when they go to the market to shop. Just like the regular bags.

Four locals didn’t bring Kiba but they brought me and my friends’ carriers. The one who brought mine was the oldest but I think he’s the strongest. I called him Kai – the local word for grandfather. At first I rejected for my carrier being brought by him, but since he insisted, I couldn’t do anything. Locals are always nice!

We departed at around 9 am. We walked through several rice fields on the hills for about an hour. After that, there were no more rice fields. We had got into the forest. It was the thickest forest that I had ever been. But the locals said it was even thicker back then. Since there was palm oil Company got in the area, the forest became defoliated. I frowned when I heard about it.

We walked with several stops. Locals seemed enjoying the journey. I did too, only my breath forced me to take rest sometimes or many times. It was honestly very tiring since the trek made me have to force the feet to keep moving upward. What a steep trek I had back then. It was steeper than the trek on Mount Semeru in East Java or Mount Gede in West Java. But believe me, you wouldn’t find any other place like this.

One of the proofs that this area was rarely passed by people was that there were a lot of leeches. That was the very first time I had ever known that there was an animal called leech. I couldn’t count how many leeches had sucked my blood. Once it touched the skin, it’d be hard for us to pull it away. But locals helped me again and again.

In the middle of our way, Kai stopped to pick up something. It was mushrooms. Lots of them! Not only mushrooms, he also took some bamboo sprouts. He said they were for dinner. I helped him picking up every mushroom on the dead tree branches. After putting them into Kiba, we carried on walking.

It was almost 6 pm when we arrived at the stopover place. It was a-not so large-house of stilts. We cooked the mushrooms and bamboo sprouts. That was the best dinner in my life! Simple but totally delicious. That night, we slept there. It actually only took 8 hours to arrive at Desa Juhu for locals. They usually didn’t have to spend a night on the trek. But for a comer like me and my 3 friends, we needed to take it easy.

The next day we started trekking at 7 am. We were halfway there and the forest was getting thicker. We were in the mossy forest. It was incredible. Very quite and calming. Bird sang from the top of the trees. Monkey’s voices were heard from the inside part of the forest. Locals said the forest that we were walking in was still pure, still virgin. But palm oil Company kept trying to get in. Of course locals did everything to keep their land. They said it was fine for them to walk to the village and it was fine for them not to have a proper way to be home, as long as their land stayed as it was.

About 6 hours from the stopover place, we arrived at the summit of Kilai Mountain. We stopped to drink and to do a ritual. Every new comer had to say hello to the ancestors. There was a natural hole under a tree. One of the locals scratched the ground inside it with a wooden stick and crossed it on my forehead and my 3 friends’. After that he asked us to put money – as much as we wanted to – into the hole. Then we continued walking.

I didn’t mind the time while I was walking. But it was around 5 pm when I saw the board sign of Desa Juhu. It made me so happy. It’s like getting the goal I had been wanting.

Desa Juhu is a small village which was lived by not more than 150 people. It was located in 560 meters above the sea level between Meratus Mountains. The temperature was never more than 30 degrees. The view was spectacular. There was green grass all over the village. Like the grass on football field, neat and tidy. The grass came by itself from natural process. Livestock like cows and goats were freely walk and run around the village. They were never been kept in the cage. That was one of the causes of the grass growth. The best part was in the morning. Fog came down blanketing the grass.

There was no bathroom in Juhu. People had to go to the small river to take a bath, wash clothes, etc. Of course the water was clear. I could even drink it directly.

The people in Desa Juhu were very kind and sincere. Almost a hundred percent of the people in Juhu were a farmer. They planted rice on their fields. Unlike other fields that we usually saw, the fields there were on the hills. It could be in 75 degrees tilt.

Almost a hundred percent of the people there embraced Kaharingan as their religion. They had faith in their ancestors. In one year, they held traditional ceremonies to respect the ancestors. But they also believed in education. There was one elementary school with one to six grades. After graduating, of course the children who wanted to continue the study had to go out of the village to go to the school in the district.

Due to the distance of Desa Juhu from the city or even the district, there was no health center or something like that. There was an abandoned building that had to be the health center, but no doctor or nurse who wanted to be in there, since there was no signal and electricity. This situation had happened since the very first time Desa Juhu existed. But the people weren’t angry to the government. They could live with it. If they were sick, they could find medicine in their own forest.

Now, after reading this, do you dare to visit?

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About Dinda Tahier

I'm an ordinary human being who just wants to share stories