Getting to Tanjung Kasri
The answer to that question is "pretty %&$#*#$ hard". The road is much steeper, and at one point I was on a hill that made me feel like I was in some sort of Sisyphan hell designed just for me. It took me about 5 hours to make it to Tanjung Kasri. About a kilometer and a half out of town my assistant road by on the back of a farmer's stepthrough and waved at me. "See you in Tanjung Kasri", he smiled. Indeed. By the time I got into town I was beat from the sun and the climb, but fortunately my assistant had a cousin there who we ended up staying with, so I spared him the angry words I'd been preparing in my head as I staggered the last bit of the way.
The road is through the national park, and so it required special permission to be built, which took a number of years. Previously it was hardened gravel, but the new approval allows for a paved 2-meter wide road, the theory being that it would improve access while preventing big trucks, which are used for illegal logging, from entering the park. Currently approximately 10% of the way is concrete (1), but the the steep roadcuts with no buttressing combined with the heavy rainfall has led to a significant amount of erosion and gullying. It's still tough to make the trip, and in the rainy season it's impossible to pass. There are a couple of rivers that have to be forded by 4-wheeled vehicles as you can see in the video below, but there are plans to build bridges in the next couple of years. I made the video on the way back, and my new friend, the village secretary from Renah Kemumu, was out in the middle of the river with a hardhat clearing the way. The truck is filled with goods for his small store, one of two in the village.
Life in Tanjung Kasri
|Jono, Con, and Chua (RA) at the Batu Larung|
|Map from David Neidel's PhD dissertation; see references.|
You can also poach birds from the park if you are so inclined. All the men in the village carry air rifles, which while not a "man's weapon" (i.e. a Winchester), are sufficient to send birds to their reward. While songbirds are taken to sell, some are also eaten since there's not much meat around. I witnessed a significant amount of bird shooting; farmers "hunt" opportunistically while they are working in their coffee gardens and some folks walk the village trails looking for birds. I witnessed an interesting innovation: the use of cell phones to call the birds. Some of the folks I have met have bird songs recorded on their phones and when they are walking through the forest they play the song on the external speaker, which attracts their quarry. I recorded a few of the songs on my voice recorder and made "movies" so you can get the idea.
The first bird is a Murai Batu, which according to my bird expert buddy is Copsychus malabaricus, or Whited-Rumped Shama. You can see it in the picture that goes along with the recording.
The second bird is Cucuak Daun, or Chloropsis sp. One of a variety of leafbirds found in the area.
The last bird is Copsychus saularis. Locally known as the kacer, this is an oriental magpie robin. I'm not sure if the hunting of these birds or the rusa mentioned earlier makes a dent in the natural populations, but they are all supposed to be protected by the park. Most populations can stand some hunting for local consumption but problems arise when the creatures are sold in outside markets.
I had a very productive experience in Tanjung Kasri and met a lot of people. This is a town that only sees foreigners every couple of years or so, so everyone was very curious about me. After two days here we continued down the road to Rantau Kermas instead of heading back to Renah Kemumu because we found that transportation is actually a lot cheaper than we were told in the first village. But that's Sumatra for you; anything to do with prices, times, or distances is highly subjective here. In the next post I'll talk about the village of Rantau Kermas.
(1) Like most infrastructure projects in Indonesia, a significant amount of the money allocated for the road was skimmed by politicians and contractors, and so the whole things hasn't been completed.
Neidel, David. 2006. The Garden of Forking Paths. History, its Erasure and Remembrance in Sumatra's Kerinci Seblat National Park. PhD dissertation. Yale University.