The Apo Kayan is a remote highland region in the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. It is situated close to the Malaysian border in the northwest of the province of East Kalimantan. The headwaters of the Kayan River flow through this area, giving it its name. The thickly forested plateau, which is between 400 and 1,700 meters high is inhabited by Kenyah Dayaks.
Indonesian is generally understood by the village chiefs and the younger people. Knowing a few words in the Kenyah language helps a lot.
See also: Kenyah phrasebook
Samarinda to Long Ampung (one of the "bigger" villages) with Asahi or Pelita Airlines. Return flights twice a week if weather permits. The planes seat about twenty people flying in, but can only hold about fifteen people flying out due to the short runway in Long Ampung. Not only your luggage is weighed, but also you are, too. According to your weight, you are assigned a seat in the aircraft.
The best way to get around is on foot along jungle trails. Good maps are practically non-existent and a lot of the trails just peter out or end at little fields in the middle of the jungle. Be sure to ask if you're still walking in the right direction whenever you meet people along the way. The villages around Long Ampung are reachable within a couple of hours or a day.
Remote Dayak villages, such as:
- Long Ampung
- Long Sungai Barang
- Lidung Payau
- Long Nawang
- Jungle trekking
Either bring your own or eat what the Dayak eat -- It is a good idea to bring some canned food with you and give this to the people of the place you stay at. They will probably serve it in the evenings with some sweet potatoes or rice, which are both the main staples. If you don't do this, pay them a fair price for what they serve you (some families have a fixed price). You will eat a lot of sweet potatoes and rice.
Pretty much the same as eating. You can bring in some bottles, but they won't last long. You have to drink a lot in this humid environment. The river water should be drinkable as is (never drink stagnant water), but it is probably safer to carry some water purifying pills or a mechanical water purifier.
When you arrive in a village, it is best to ask the kepala desa (village chief) where you can sleep. In most cases, you will sleep in an ordinary wooden house, or sometimes in a longhouse (long communal houses). Bring along a mat and a blanket or a sleeping bag because you'll be sleeping on the floor.
The village of Long Nawang has a small basic losmen (guesthouse) with a few beds.
The Dayak's headhunting days are over, although there have been reports of a brief resurgence in 2001 (including cannibalism) during the clashes with the Madurese. However, it is unlikely that you will be served for dinner.
It is probably best to walk either with a guide or in a small party. You definitely should ask a Dayak to accompany you if you are planning to leave the main trails between the villages. Getting lost and spending the night alone in an unknown jungle would definitely be a memorable experience, but probably not a pleasant one.
Suspension bridges (made of wood and ropes) have the habit of swaying while you cross them. Some are old and in a state of disrepair. The Dayak know this and don't use them anymore. There are no signs to indicate their state, so if there's no-one around, you'll have to use your own judgment. If you doubt the bridge will be able to carry your weight (chances are high that you weigh more than the wiry Dayak), look for a place where the river is not too deep and wade to the other side.
Log bridges can be very slippery. Don't lose your balance if you don't want to get wet.