Our next stop was Palu, on the west coast of central Sulawesi. Here we hoped to get a ferry to Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. It was impossible to get correct information about the ferries. After an entire day of inquiries we found out that the Pelni (the national boat company in Indonesia ) ferry was in dry dock and that the private direct ferry was also out of service. Our only choice was to fly to Balikpapan, an oil town across the straits.
Kalimantan is flat and vast. Distances are immense and there are few roads, especially in the interior. Beautiful riverboats, painted in bright colors with long, curved keels, ply the water, transporting people and goods up and down the rivers. Most of the coastal areas have been heavily deforested, both by logging and by periodic, massive forest fires that rage out of control, caused by dry conditions during El Niño years. The native inhabitants of the area, called “Dayaks”, who are former headhunters converted to Christians, are friendly and enjoy meeting tourists.