>> Airborne

ATR propeller plane

Boarding an ATR 72 propeller plane for TriganaAir flight IL125. What I like about propeller planes is that they fly below the cloud level, so we got a nice aerial view of Kalimantan (although it’s depressing to see the scale on which rainforest is being replaced with palm oil plantations). Propeller planes are also more ecological than jets.

Many villages in the jungle-covered interior of Kalimantan are accessible only by boat or (bush) airplane. The few roads that do exist are often in bad condition, making transport incredibly slow and uncomfortable. The night ride from Kandangan to Balikpapan was a grueling twelve hour journey in a hot bus with barely enough leg space for the average Indonesian (who is half as tall as us), no head rests and reclining seats that had permanently stopped reclining a long time ago. To make sure that this wouldn’t keep us from sleeping the bus was also filled to the brim with noisy, chain-smoking passengers.

And that was the easy part. The onward journey to Tarakan, close to the Malaysian border, would have taken another twenty hours by road. Our weary bones were glad to get on a one-hour LionAir flight instead. It saved us some time on our Indonesian visa’s too, as they’d soon be running out.

Two other flights we took: TriganaAir IL125 from Pangkalan Bun to Banjarmasin, to avoid another twelve-hour Indonesian bus ride, and the long stretch to Peninsular Malaysia as there are no direct ferries from Borneo anymore.

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