This weeks Cruise Blog is by our guest blogger Dave Warne. Dave is the Commercial Director for WEXAS, our parent company, and this was his first cruise experience. Join him onboard Orion Expedition Cruises Orion II on his recent trip and discover the amazing ports of call
Day 5 LampukoWetlands and Rumpa Village
Overnight we cross the Wallace line and wake up with Sulawesi off to starboard.
The Wallace Line is a boundary that separates the Eco zones of Asia and Wallacea (the group of Indonesia Islands that includes Sulawesi, Lombok and Flores) and is named after the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin. Wallace noticed that the natural life on either side of the line - which follows the contours of the continental shelf - was distinctly different. Indeed, he proposed a theory of evolution that prompted Darwin to publish his own theory.
Breakfast onboard Orion II is al fresco again today and with a fair distance to go before our next stop and afternoon excursion we decided to watch another film in the comfort of our cabin. The lunch buffet was also al fresco, accompanied by our first cloudless blue skies of the trip.
The excursion today was set up largely due to the fact that the distance between Balikpapan and Pare Pare - the base for the next day's overnight trip to Tana Toraja -is too far to cover in one passage, so the Orion Expedition Cruises team had to find an intermediate place of interest. Expedition leader Mick Fogg discovered a little known area called the Lampuko Wetlands when researching the itinerary and decided to include a stop there. He spent a number of days in the little-known area looking for a suitable excursion and ultimately found the village of Rumpa.What seemed like it might at first be a relatively uneventful visit to a remote village turns out to be quite an experience.
Using the zodiacs we start up the river in the wetlands, an area rich bird life. Zodiacs had to be dispatched earlier in the day to check the river access and channel depth before guests could be taken out. As it turns out the river is very shallow and we get stuck on sandbars a couple of times, which adds to the feeling of discovery.
We find out later that only a handful of westerners have ever been to this part of Sulawesi. In this area it is deemed to be lucky if western visitors come to visit villages in the area, something that seems rather strange in the 21st century. We are therefore received like 'A-list' celebrities and the whole village is awaiting our arrival. Scores of young children splash about in the river to attract our attention and guide us in to the village, where the villagers await along the river bank.
Amazingly, everyone seems to have a mobile phone and everyone wants to have their photos taken with us. I can't walk more than 5 yards without being asked to be photographed or to take pictures groups of the villagers. Parents who are keen to have their family photographed with me thrust infants into my arms; a few infants burst out crying, apparently scared by my (very pale!) white skin.The villagers take real pride in showing off their handicrafts and food and want to take us into their homes to show us around.
Orion likes to develop relationships with villages like Rumpa so that it can give something back to the villages that guests visit. Typically this involves putting money into schools in the first instance. Perhaps, then, the villagers of Rumpa are right to believe that visits from westerners are indeed lucky.
It is difficult to express the warmth with which we are received -or indeed why we were given such a welcome - but everyone agrees it is a genuinely moving experience.
In the evening we enjoy a detailed briefing on tomorrow's overnight trip to Tana Toraja, the excursion I am most excited about on the entire cruise.