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Have Wheels Will Travel Handicapped

“How did you get up here?” I asked her. The lady replied, “They carried me.” As we continued our travels around Ethiopia, she was in the same places as we were, Lalibela, the Omo Valley and Addis Abba. 13-2I began speaking with her and learned this lady travels all over the world just like we do.pic7

But this lady travels in a wheelchair. Soon we became friends and I started asking how she makes it because I might need to know one day myself. And while we discussed all of her tips and ideas, I thought how many other people would like to know how she does it so successfully.

Even the cattle were wondering how she made it to many countries around the world HANDICAPPED.

Following is her story and photos of her various trips around the world to Austria, Japan, Mongolia, Namibia, Norway, Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, China, Myanmar, Antarctica, Trans Siberian Express, Argentina, Bermuda and more.pic6

By Cynthia Henry

“Physically handicapped,” “disabled,” “physically challenged,” “differently abled”….. I have yet to find any term that feels comfortable for a life-changing condition that no one expects.  But, I no longer need to!  Thanks to Journeys International and API Tours of Indonesia (JI’s overseas operator), Focus Tours and more, I now use “World Traveler!”  What a thrill to return from two and a half weeks in Indonesia and say, “What a grand trip—and it was do-able!”pic1

Were there challenges? Well, sure.  Did they work out?  Yes, with the help of my traveling companions, Molly and Carolynne, and the operators, drivers, guides, boatmen and local people of Journeys/API and Focus Tours.  Were the challenges overwhelming?  NO!  Could I do every single activity that Molly and Carolynne did?  I never planned to and did sit out some, but was thrilled and amazed at what everyone made possible!pic5

I had done much traveling over the years and planned to continue as I eased into retirement in 2003.  I got in four overseas trips until… March 2005.  Who was to know that I would then topple off an exercise ball and suffer a spinal cord injury? As I lay paralyzed in rehab, thoughts of going to such remote places flowed out of my head while I instead worked on feeding myself a cheese sandwich. 

Does this look handicapped accessible? It is if you have several strong wonderful men helping you in every way.

Well, movement came back.  I eventually returned home, learned how to live from a wheelchair and soon “graduated” to a walker.  I continue to use the walker and always will; I take a wheelchair on trips, which I use as a walker when not being pushed.   I can go up and down steps, either with a railing or with support from two companions and someone hauling the wheelchair up.    I am slow, awkward and have a variety of physical issues, but…I can also travel around the world! 

My wheelchair was welcomed in all countries I visited and so was I. We both were treated with a “can do” attitude and they figured out every way to make the trip an enjoyable experience.

After I began experimenting with shorter and then longer excursions and finding out I could fly (get down the aisle and use the bathroom), a major life goal, I began thinking of the possibility of travel outside the country.  Since then, I have been on several overseas trips!  Five of my trips have been with Journeys International, that company rep providing the warmest and most hopeful and helpful response to my tentative query of  “….uh….what do you think?  Here’s what I can do.”   Pat’s response, in essence, were six magic words, “Our guides will get you up.”  And, they did!

Stairs were no problem. Several men just picked me up in my wheelchair and carried me right up the stairs perfectly. But many times I was able to climb a few stairs using handrails and a helper.

JI’s philosophy is that people with special needs have rights—the right to travel, the right to have “inaccessible” places made accessible, the freedom to go places they may have thought impossible… They then provide the support of so many staff to make this happen.  Each JI agent has been wonderful in working with me.  They assure me this will work and take every step necessary to see that it does.  Many thanks to them!

My traveling companions and good friends, Molly and Carolynne are always willing to travel with me and assist me

So, how did the staff on the ground make all this possible? First, the spirit of Journey’s International/API/Focus Tours was there.  I felt only support and no apprehension or dismay at the extra responsibilities that my situation meant for so many people. Every guide, driver (van or boat), hotel staff member and all others were kind, patient and helpful.Pic26.png

Bali, Indonesia had long been a goal, and so we finally booked it.  But, then, Molly called and said, “Guess what!!!  They have extensions to see the orangutans on Borneo and the Komodo dragons on Komodo Island!”  My immediate thought, was “Oh, no, extensive sitting in a van or on a boat or alongside the trail while my two friends go traipsing off on marvelous adventures.”  But, I weakly responded, “Uh, sure…take lots of pictures for me.”pic36

I generally have a “rule” of no pictures of me in the wheelchair, but the ingenuity, the creativity, the physical strength, the dedication of everyone, the incongruousness of it all—well, no choice this time around!  And, thank goodness, we did document, so that when our final guide, Yansur, asked that I do a report as a traveler with a disability, we were ready to say, “You bet!”    He hoped it would inspire more people with special needs to venture to the far corners of the globe.  I hope that will be the case.pic37

Now to my report on this specific trip, especially the parts that I had no expectations of seeing–the orangutans and the Komodo dragons…. Bali was lovely, fairly routine sightseeing , and we enjoyed the ease of driving around and staying at marvelous hotels.  Budi was our outstanding guide.  I did have to stay in the van for a few off-the-road surprises, but, am used to that.pic24 The main help provided that made a huge difference was our wonderful driver coming up with a step to make my way into the van without such massive bottom boosts.  Some vans are easier than others, and our driver throughout Bali converted this one into the “easy” category.  He and all drivers were so kind to wrestle that wheelchair in and out of the back area so I could enjoy the monkey forest near Ubud and a Rhesus monkey on my head.pic33

We flew to Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo, for our orangutan experience  Again, I did not expect to see any, except possibly swinging through the jungle trees during the boat journeys or from the boat at the get-in site, both of which actually did happen.  Pic27.png

However, while still in Bali, my hopes were raised with a message from our wonderful companies that they were confident they had a plan to make it work!!! The word “palanquin” does not often come up in my vocabulary, but the written description brought it forth.  Sure enough…oh, my…  and my dream was accomplished well beyond anything I imagined.

Momma and Baby at eating station in Camp Leakey. Photo by Carolyn



With my usual awkwardness and trepidation (all this isn’t emotionally stress-free), and with many hands helping many body parts, I am loaded bit by bit onto the boat, get comfy in my chair—and ponder my latest wheelchair riding in first class… rigged up with a rope loop handle attached to each of the four corners.pic34

After two hours, with a couple of orangutans along the way, we reach delightful Rimba Lodge and enough adventures for us all!  First by my just getting there…!   We begin with a nice boardwalk and board-carrying me in my wheelchair. And, off we go—some bare feet, tree roots, bumps, streams, slippery slopes…hard work, indeed!pic35

Success!   It can be handy to bring your own ringside seat for watching orangutans at a feeding station or mother and baby right in front of you.

Dr. Birute Galdikas is the number one orangutan expert in the world and the creator of Camp Leakey. Photo by Carolyn

I had long wanted to see where Birute Galdikas, one of the three Leakey women primate researchers, did her thing, along with Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall doing theirs in Africa.  And, here I am at Camp Leakey, thanks to my “four strong men” as Erwin reassured me!pic42

On to the Komodo dragons on Rinca Island, Indonesia…another “impossible” feat to get me to these remarkable creatures..pic41

My wheelchair and a vegetable cart are loaded onto the boat. The cart was unloaded, and then fitted with a lounge chair so that I could follow the path of this prehistoric reptile waddling ahead of me. We made it to the ranger station for some fun viewing while the others trekked through the wilderness, seeing six in the wild.pic44

The four men from API Tours who met with us in the lobby of our hotel in Santur, at the end of our Indonesia journey emphasized that dealing with my specials needs, and working along with staff on the ground to solve the issues required was not a burden, but an exhilarating challenge to be creative and to work out plans for me to see the animals.a-196

And then there was Harbin, China and the world famous Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival where my wheelchair was fitted with skis that I was told to bring with me so my helper could just push me on ice around the awesomely incredible illuminated sculptures in below freezing temperature.2017-wheelchair-skis-closeup



And then there was Antarctica where I thought I would just see it. But, no. The ship crew saw to it that I would experience and stand on THE island and even enjoy a glass of champagne to celebrate making it.cynthia-on-cont

Our experience in Mongolia was another great experience. Several times, I left the wheelchair and one time I would be surprised when I returned to it, like the time a precious Mongolian boy taking a nap or working on a game. mongolia-2009

And in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, an iguana was resting on the chair’s arm and a chameleon sat on my arm.pic23

In Myanmar/Burma, we watched an ox harvest peanut oil while walking around and around. Afterwards, we could buy it and sample it. What an experience that was.burma-2013-3

Asaro Mudmen

And in Papua New Guinea, we were so fortunate to experience the Asaro Mudmen. Amazing! I am so grateful for all who made feasible these incredible experiences that I never imagined would happen.

Watching the tango being danced in Buenos Aires, Argentina was one highlight of our trip there. Photo by Carolyn.

I encourage anyone to contact me should you have questions or need additional information. Perhaps by knowing as much as possible about my physical situation and adaptations, this will help you judge your ability to travel to “far away places with strange sounding names!” If anyone can get you there, Journeys International/API Tours, Focus Tours and others can if you ask!

Cynthia Henry

Here we are going into Camp Leakey to see those orangutans up close and personal.


When I visited the wild mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda, I learned they are equipped with a chair to carry handicapped persons up the mountain to be with the gorillas. So, I hired a crew of 8-12 men to carry me up the mountain for a one-hour trek. Four men rotated every 10 minutes. The experience was unbelievable and the scenery up and back was so beautiful and interesting. With those men carrying me, we crossed a creek like it wasn’t there in Uganda. Waiting for us was a family of gorillas going about their daily life for us to enjoy. It was worth every penny and a once in a lifetime experience I will treasure always. Emmy Maseruka ( of Afrikan Wildlife Safaris, was our guide for the entire safari and visit to the gorillas. He did an A+ job for us. Emmy will take 2 persons or more to see the gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda for 10 days for $4851.00 per person, (plus government gorilla permits in Uganda and Rwanda are separate). Carolyn
Here I am in Lhasa, Tibet enjoying my favorite chocolate ice cream while riding in a wheelchair the entire 3 days because of my broken foot. My 2 helpers took me all over the nearly 11,500 feet high city. It was a wonderful experience.
While sitting in a wheelchair, this beautiful lady in Saudi Arabia put henna on my hands. It was at one of the booths at an entertainment park during a special festival for the families around Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. June Landrum, my adventurous travel companion and I were honored to attend this special festival. The people were as happy to meet us as we were to meet them and we took photos of each other on our cell phones! I was in a wheelchair for this event because I could not walk for 4 hours non-stop due to my chronic arthritic back pain.
And yes, June Landrum and I had to have an ice cream like we do in every country we visit in the world. And everyone is delicious! Of, course, we are stared at everywhere we go and we become friends with them all. This Saudi Arabia tour with Spiekermann Tours (  was a delightful, fun experience with the incredible country and we were welcomed everywhere we went.


Photo Copy ©  2017

Photos taken for Cynthia’s story were by Molly.




Tau Taus Guard Tombs in Torajaland

After the elaborate funeral celebration of the life of a family member, Torajan people believe the deceased must be buried between Earth and Heaven. So coffins are placed in rocks, cliffs, trees, or rock walls so the deceased will not be buried in the Earth. And a tau tau is carved to guard the tomb.DSC_0221

With items needed in the afterlife beside the body, the coffin is placed in a tomb in a rock cliff located in Lemo, Sulawesi, Indonesia, after weeks of chiseling out a big hole. Then the opening is closed with a wooden door and a tau tau placed above it.

The out-stretched hands offer protection, wealth, prosperity, and good health to family members.
The out-stretched hands of the tau taus offer protection, wealth, prosperity, and good health to family members.


Guarding over the tomb is the hand-carved wooden tau tau, an effigy or likeness of the person in the tomb standing on the adjacent balcony. Every August the ritual is held where the Torajan family takes the body from the tomb and washes, grooms and dresses it in new clothes.

And the effigies are dressed with new clothes and refurbished regularly. Coffins are repaired and replaced when needed, our Bestway Tours & Safaris guide told us.DSC_0464

In another burial rock cliff called Ke’te’Kese in Sulawesi, Indonesia, coffins of all shapes and sizes are hung from the side of the cliffs. These are called the Hanging Cliffs.DSC_0479The coffins are repaired and replaced after years of deterioration and many families collect the remains and place them with other family member’s remains in one family communal coffin. It is not unusual to see skulls on top of the grave at the Hanging Cliffs.DSC_0469

Guarding the tombs at the Hanging Cliffs
Tau tau guarding the tombs at the Hanging Cliffs


When babies die before they have started teething, they are buried in a large pine tree trunk, called the Baby TreeDSC_0268. The deceased baby is wrapped in a cloth and placed in hole dug out in a palm tree trunk. Palm fiber is placed over the hole to close the tomb. DSC_0274As the tree trunk grows, the baby’s remains become one with the tree. When many babies are buried in the same palm tree trunk, the tree dies.DSC_0088

The Torajans have one more place to bury their loved ones. Since the people live in a rocky hilly terrain in the mountains, rocks are used as tombs. Many of the rocks are huge boulders making it a perfect place for tombs. And a tau tau of the deceased person is placed over the coffin to watch over it.DSC_0052

The former King and Queen had their own tomb built. And they guard it to this day.
The former King and Queen had their own tomb built. And they guard it to this day. Notice the Queen has her arms out-stretched but her hands are down. She was the Queen.

After several years of preparing for the deceased’s funeral celebration, Torajan people then spend weeks preparing the burial tomb located between Heaven and Earth. This is followed with the ritual cleaning and dressing the body every August after burial in rocks, trees, rock walls or hanging from cliffs.

Photo Copy ©  2015 

A Torajan lady in her traditional headdress.
A Torajan lady in her traditional headdress.

Dani Tribe Perform Traditional Ceremony Barely Clothed

Barely clothed and wearing a feather headdress, a koteka, and fur arm bands were all each tribesman wore as he battled barefooted with men of another tribe. These tribesmen were the Dani of Papua Irian Jaya, also known as Papua, Indonesia, and they used spears and bows and arrows to fight others. DSC_0365Several men wore a Wally Mo, a cowry shell tie indicating wealth and status as a village chief and others wore a pig tusk in their nose.DSC_0373

As we approached the early morning battleground in the Baliem Valley, hollering was heard to get us to stop. DSC_0690Not knowing what the sounds meant and where it was coming from, we finally noticed a Dani tribesman standing at the top of a 30-foot pole talking to us. When he discovered we were friendly, he welcomed us.

The battle continued about 15 minutes after we arrived and then we were invited into the Dani village of 8 different families.DSC_0358DSC_0351 DSC_0422After clearing the door 3 feet from the ground without steps, we saw the Dani women waiting.

Dressed only in a skirt and beautiful headdresses made of bird of paradise, cassowary and ostrich feathers, the ladies welcomed us into their village with a dance. DSC_0583Going around and around in a circle, they chanted and sang to a traditional Dani beat. Their beautiful colorful skirts were made of tree bark and white grass or beads from orchid seeds worn loosely around the hips.DSC_0472

After 15 minutes of dancing, it was time to start the feast. A tribesman started the fire by rubbing 2 sticks together in straw until a fire began.DSC_0654 Immediately, a woman bent down to light her cigarette as did several others because everyone smokes in this Dani tribe and Indonesia.DSC_0670

And for this feast, a pig had to be sacrificed as the Dani are Christian with animistic beliefs. Held by 2 tribesmen, the pig squealed the entire time until the arrow hit is heart. DSC_0720As this was going on, the ladies prepared the cooking pit in the ground using the fire started by the men.

As the food was being prepared, the children were playing hop scotch with a rock and a grid scratched in the ground and chasing each other.DSC_0793 At all times, the children were polite, charming and curious.DSC_0808 One girl wanted Denise to help her with English letters. Each girl begins wearing the sack from her head at age 1-2 and it remains there for life as it is tradition for the female to carry any kind of item in the sack, even a baby. The female teenagers stayed around quietly making crafts and eating.DSC_1006

Young males are not carrying on the tradition of wearing the koteka. But between the age of 9-12, they go through an initiation ceremony of manhood which is held in the house only for men in the village. Circumcision is not performed but the koteka is installed and the young man wears it only for ceremonies now. The rest of the time, he is dressed in western clothes just like the rest of the men in his Dani village. One young man wore it during the ceremony that we saw.DSC_0732

The feast preparation continued as the pig was cooked by itself in a pit of straw, wood and rocks over the fire. After 1 hour or so, it was removed and placed in the steam pit full of greens, sweet potatoes and other vegetables.DSC_0838 The steam pit had hot rocks placed in it and then it was wrapped up tight to steam.DSC_0895

DSC_0904About 3 hours later, the feast was ready for all to enjoy.DSC_0040 The children got the tiny bones to eat and chew and they joined the males in a circle to eat their meal.DSC_0064 And the ladies offer others food as they sit in their circle and enjoyed the fruits of their labor. The sweet potatoes were delicious.DSC_0056

Now, it was time for one more thing–the market. Each lady displayed items for us to buy. DSC_0964The entire traditional ceremony cost $400 USD, our Bestway Tours & Safaris guide told us, which is divided by 8 village families after all the yearly performances. Each family gets paid for the performances just once a year.DSC_0601

And then it was time for the afternoon traditional ceremony where they wear only the koteka, beautiful headdress, maybe the Wally Mo for the chief and battle barely clothed and barefooted with another tribe using swords, bows and arrows. And then they feast.

Photo Copy ©  2015 


It is traditional for Dani women to cut off part of their fingers upon the death of close family members. This shows the grief the lady will bear her entire life.
It is traditional for Dani women to cut off part of their fingers upon the death of close family members. This shows the grief the lady will bear her entire life.
Indonesia Travel

A Bon Voyage Celebration Like No Other

It was a family reunion, bon voyage party, and happy celebration of the life of a loved one all at the same time. And it is the most important, expensive and elaborate event in the life of a Tana Torajan who leaves this world.

The rante or ceremony site of the Torajan funeral around their Tongkonan houses.
The rante or ceremony site of the Torajan funeral around their Tongkonan houses.

Hundreds of family members, friends, tourists and anyone in the community are welcomed to this happy funeral occasion celebrated by sacrificing dozens of water buffalo and pigs “loaned” for the attendees to eat and take home as gift.

The colorful and carved coffin under the Tongkonan house.
The colorful and carved coffin under the Tongkonan house.

And each guest brings a gift to the event from cigarettes, alcohol, and rice, to water buffalo and pigs.

We brought cigarettes and gave them to the Hery in honor of his deceased father's Bato' Pakym celebration.
We brought cigarettes and gave them to Hery in honor of his deceased father’s Bato’ Pakym celebration. Our Bestway Tours and Safaris guide helped us purchase the Nikki Indonesian-made cigarettes for 102,000 rupiah, $10.20 USD.

This big funeral celebration by the Tana Torajan tribe in the mountainous south of Sulawesi Island in the Republic of Indonesia, is a very expensive affair taking years to create and can cost as much as one hundred thousand dollars depending on the wealth of the family.

DSC_0852When a family member dies, the body is embalmed and placed in a beautiful elaborately carved coffin in or under their tongkonan house for up to 5 years until the family can gather enough money to give the deceased a proper send off.

Until the funeral, the deceased is considered “sick” and is given 3 meals a day and regularly bathed and clothed as if alive. Not until the funeral celebration is the deceased considered deceased. The coffin, costing $600-$1200, is made of Uru wood and takes 2 weeks to make. Four colors can be used on a coffin, red signifying blood and bravery, black for simple life and sorrow, while for holiness and yellow for prosperity. The coffin at this funeral was red, white, black and yellow.

The family arrived at the celebration, first the women entered, followed by the men.
The family arrived at the celebration, first the women entering, followed by the men.

The family then begins constructing a rante or funeral set, from scratch around the family’s massive peaked boat-like houses called tongkonan or on a vacant field. Wood bleachers complete with roof are built around the main area so that hundreds of guests can observe and participate in the ceremonies. Traditional Torajan symbolic fabric is used to decorate and wrap each structure. But seats are not provided in these bleachers, leaving all guests to sit on the floor. A ceremonial tower is built at the site where the body is placed during the ceremonies.DSC_0868

After everything is built and enough money is collected, the funeral starts with a pastor conducting a service for the family and then the public ceremony begins. Most people smoke non-stop during the event and drink and eat snacks, buffalo and pig meat. DSC_0867Music, chants, songs and crying are the traditional signs of sorrow and grief displayed at this happy celebration.

The presentation of the deceased to the guests with the gong leading the way.
The presentation of the deceased to the guests with the gong leading the way.

The coffin is then removed from the tongkonan house and carried around and around the rante ceremonial site to the beat of a gong so all can bid farewell to the deceased for the last time in this world. Ten men carrying the coffin then must lift it up to the second floor of the lakkian tower via a “ladder” constructed just for that purpose. DSC_0904After considerable effort, the men get the deceased in his place of honor for the Rambu Solo funeral ceremony that is to follow.

If the deceased is wealthy, sacred water buffalo and cock fights are held in the rante and guests enjoy placing bets for their favorite animal. And singing and dancing follows. And 3 different trees are placed in the rante to honor the deceased. Then, a stake is hammered into the ground and a water buffalo is brought into the rante and tied to the stake. DSC_0915Its throat is cut, blood gushes out and the animal swings around and around and finally falls and dies on the ground that is covered with blood.

  DSC_0916Several men then began skinning the animal and cutting and distributing the different parts to the guests. And buffalo and pig meat is cooked for all to eat.DSC_0935

The goal of this funeral celebration is to be the best, most expensive and elaborate party ever held and it lasts for 3 days or for weeks depending on the status and wealth of the deceased. The number of water buffalo slaughtered at this status celebration can be in the hundreds for the Torajan are Christians with ancient animistic beliefs for funerals. The Torajan believe the decease’s soul and the soul of the water buffalo must accompany each other to heaven.

After being sacrificed, the many buffalo heads are placed in a line awaiting the deceased soul so that all can go to heaven together. It is called aluk or the way of the ancestors.

The many water buffalo horns mounted on this family's old tongkonan house show the family's wealth over the years.
The many water buffalo horns mounted on this family’s old tongkonan house show the family’s wealth over the years.

Spiritual life is very important to the Torajan because it connects their ancestors, current living and future generations. Buffalo horns are then placed on the front of the tongkonan houses to show wealth generation after generation. Since the tongkonan house is never sold, it serves as the family home forever.

Each family brings a water buffalo as a gift that is a “loan” or “debt” of the giving family and it is recorded by the government. Each buffalo costs about $5000 US Dollars and if the buffalo has spots all over, it costs about $7000. Then, the “loan or debt” is repaid by the deceased’s family at each of the families funerals that gifted a buffalo. The buffalo giving never ends and the debt is never paid off. And since so many funerals exist and so many water buffalo are being sacrificed, most water buffalo in Sulawesi now are imported.DSC_0811

So for centuries the way of the ancestors continues and hundreds come to an elaborate bon voyage party to help the deceased pass into the afterlife. And water buffalo giving and sacrificing will never end as it is the only way a deceased Tana Torajan in Sulawesi, Indonesia can pass from this world into another.

Photo Copy ©  2015 


A Perfect Cup of Coffee

The coffee was smooth, mild, and delicious and it tasted and looked so wonderful we thought of drinking another cup of Luwak Coffee. But then we remembered we were drinking coffee obtained from coffee beans in the poop of a Civet animal.

Poop of the Civet full of coffee beans
Poop of the Civet full of coffee beans

 And there on display for us to see was an Asian Palm Civet and a basket full of Civet poop. How could people drink this coffee, we thought. And then we tried a sample and it was delicious, mild and smooth. Plus, we didn’t get sick or have any medical problems after drinking it.

We thought the coffee was delicious.
We thought the coffee was delicious.

 So, we bought one ounce of Luwak/Loewak coffee beans for $17.50 from the Siskio Pranoto family business in Jogyakarta, on the island of Java, in the Republic of Indonesia. That ounce is packaged in a souvenir box which was perfect for gift giving when we returned home and the beans were good for one year. DSC_0895DSC_0892It is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of its very limited availability on the international market.  Upon inquiring on how coffee is obtained from the poop of an animal, we learned that it is washed and then the whole coffee beans are collected and washed again even though no bacteria is in the bean. The bean is still intact and in original condition because the civet does not chew the beans.

They just swallow them whole to get the fleshy pulp covering the bean.  It is while the best, juiciest and ripest coffee beans are proceeding through the Civets digestive track that fermentation occurs and an enzyme in the stomach causes a mild, less acidic and less caffeine product. DSC_0559Beginning at age 2, the Civet selects the ripest coffee cherry from the trees and then poops them every 10 hours. Many workers are standing by to collect every piece of poop. “The Civet eats the beans in the evening and we collect the coffee bean poop in the morning,” granddaughter Fina explained.  Before the coffee is washed several more times, it is hand peeled of its outer layer, yielding the perfect coffee bean, which is then packaged for sale.DSC_0571 This labor intensive hand peeling process is very slow as only one coffee bean at a time is cleaned and peeled. Workers sit round talking and visiting with each other while they peel each coffee bean. Each person can yield about a pound (1/2 kilo) a day and make about one million Rupiah ($110 USD) a month peeling the beans.

Machines break the beans while removing the outer layer so the beans are only hand peeled at this family-owned business, Kopi Luwak.  After the coffee is ready to sell, the Siskio Pranoto family roasts 5 kilos (about 11 pounds) at a time for 2 hours to make sure it is at its freshest and best for sale.

Fina and Mary, granddaughters running Kopi Luwak/Loewak.
Fina and Mary, granddaughters running Kopi Luwak/Loewak.

The third generation of the Siskio Pranoto family has owned the business for 8 years now and business continues doing well.  Their grandfather started the small 2 hectares (about 5 acres) coffee plantation in 1940 and Civets roamed the property, especially when the coffee cherries were at their ripest. But why would the people want to eat the beans in the coffee poop, we wondered. DSC_0575  In the 18th century, the Dutch established coffee plantations in their colony of Indonesia on the islands of Sumatra and Java as a cash crop. The native farmers and workers were prevented from picking the coffee beans for their own use but they wanted to drink coffee. Then it was noticed that the poop of the Civet contained intact coffee beans and the natives took it and cleaned it and made coffee from the beans.

The Dutch wondered where the natives and workers were getting coffee. So they told their secret. After tasting the poop coffee, the Dutch liked it better than the bitter coffee from their trees they were drinking. And the natives, workers and Dutch drank the coffee from then on. Even people in the Philippines and Viet Nam drink Luwak/Loewak coffee.DSC_0551  But, some people think Civet coffee is a scam and cruelty to animals. The coffee industry calls it a gimmick or novelty item. Some people say it tastes just like their favorite coffee or like dish water. But the Siskio Pranoto family of Java, Indonesia keeps processing and selling the poop beans to coffee lovers who like the smooth, mild delicious taste.  

Photo Copy ©  2015 

Borneo Indonesia Malaysia Oceania

Orangutans, Dr. Birute Galdikas, Proboscis Monkeys, Camp Leakey in Borneo

Getting charged by a female orangutan, being with Dr. Birute Galdikas for 2 days and seeing and interacting with orangutans in their native habitat was the highlight of “Faces in the Forest” from Singapore to Bali, with stops in Borneo.

  • Having the founder of Camp Leakey, Dr. Birute Galdikas, join us in Borneo’s Camp Leakey near Tanjung Puting National Park to show and tell us about her experiences and why she started Camp Leakey and loves orangutans. Priceless.

    Dr. Biruite Galdikas
  • Touring the Orangutan Care Center with Dr. Birute Galdikas, the world’s #1 authority on orangutans. Priceless
  • Getting to hold an infant orangutan in diapers and teenager in my arms at the Orangutan Care Center in Camp Leaky near Tanjung Putting National Park while Dr. Galdikas told us each one’s name and individual rescue story. Beyond Priceless and a dream come true.
  • Momma and Baby at Camp Leakey.
  • Learning that The Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), the non-profit organization that funds the Orangutan Care Center (OCC) wants to buy more pristine forest land next to the OCC because they do not have enough forest for the orphaned and rescued orangutans to live in their wild habitat.
  • Learning that any one can donate any amount of money to the The Orangutan Foundation International ( to help make the goal of buying more natural forest adjacent to the Orangutan Care Center and that in the USA it is a 5013c tax deductible donation.

    Learning that Dr. Galdikas, president of OFI,  has studied orangutans longer than any other person in human history and has worked ceaselessly to save orangutans and forests, and to bring orangutans and their loss of the rainforest plight to the attention of the world.

Enjoying every minute with the orangutans and proboscis monkeys in the Singapore Zoo while (now owned by National Geographic) Orion was boarding 78 new passengers for the Singapore/Borneo/Bali segment.

  • Going for a second time to Semenggoh Rehabilitation Center in a medium heavy rain and walking into the rainforest to photograph 4 orangutans that had come for a morning snack and then leaving the rain forest to go to another viewing platform when Hot Mamma and her baby and 2 other orangutans came to eat their snack, giving us another “greatest show on earth”. AWESOME.

    Hot Mamma and her baby at Semenggoh
  • Seeing Big Momma and her baby kissing and another baby yawning at Semenggoh Rehab Center in the pouring rain and capturing the second it happened in a photo. Priceless.
  • Learning the many terms and uses for palm tree oil in a speech called “The Good Oil??” Unbelievable.
  • Enjoying Trivia everyday at 4:30 pm on the (National Geographic) Orion expedition ship and hearing the MC from France jokingly take points away from teams that didn’t agree with the answer, argued, or questioned him. So much fun and a laughing good time.
  • Snorkeling in Tanjung Lintang and Tanjung Seitah, two islands in the South China Sea between Borneo and Singapore, then having a BBQ Dinner on the beach.
  • Arriving at each “port” by getting in a 10-person rubber raft boat called a Zodiac that was rocking back and forth 12 inches up and 12 inches down then sideways up and down then traveling to shore for 15-45 minutes at 15 knots while sitting on the Zodiac edge holding on for dear life as it regularly slammed into and over waves all the way to shore, only to walk in water or muddy mud/sand for 15 to 150 feet to shore. Adventure to the max.

    Momma and Baby kissing in the rain.
  • Learning that orangutans are considered the smartest of the great apes and they have great patience.
  • Having a wonderful lunch of hamburger, French fries, coke and banana split in Singapore, compliments of (National Geographic) Orion.
  • Enjoying every minute with the orangutans and proboscis monkeys in the Singapore Zoo while the (National Geographic) Orion was boarding new passengers on the next segment, Singapore to Bali.

    A male Proboscis Monkey at Singapore Zoo
  • Having 78 new passengers on “Faces in the Forest” segment to Bali on the (National Geographic) Orion, with 8 “stowaways” as we were called along with 6 others, from the previous “Rajahs, Riches and Rainforests” cruise from Kota Kinabalu.
  •  Snorkeling on Tanjung Lintang and not being able to see the mountain next door because of the heavy smoke from the burning forests in Borneo.
  • Absolutely and totally enjoying “Faces in the Forest” segment of (National Geographic) Orion Borneo cruise with 75 crew members from the Philippines who gave excellent service, and 86 enjoyable passengers from the USA, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Philippines, Germany, UK, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway and Peru.
  • Having lunch on the (National Geographic) Orion and meeting a couple from New Zealand, Julie and Mel, plus a couple from Indonesia and Australia, Bob and Yanti, and discussing our travels and travel stories. Absolutely fabulous.
  • Going to Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan, Indonesia, on the island of Borneo, my #143 country to visit.

    Leaving Camp Leakey and Tanjung Puting National Park in a klotok.
  • Losing my new camera and not missing it until the following day and (National Geographic) Orion Reception manager saying it had not been found, only to get a phone call 5 minutes later saying it had been found because it was labeled with my name. Priceless, Priceless, Priceless.
  • Learning that humans can have a blood transfusion from chimpanzees that have almost 99% DNA as humans, depending on blood type and that they have the strength of 5 humans.
  • Visiting Bako National Park for the second time in one week in Sarawak on the island of Borneo and seeing a Pit Viper, all green and waiting in a tree for prey to come,  Macaque monkeys, one with a baby, and proboscis monkeys. Fun.

    Pit Viper in Bako National Park, Borneo
  • Seeing the heavy smoked terrain from the middle central of Borneo all the way south and west to Singapore and not getting to see the true color of everything due to the burning of the forest’s wood to make way for palm tree plantations. Palm oil and its products are used in processed foods around the world.
  • Watching orangutans come down from the rainforest in the rain to the platform via ropes to grab a dozen bananas at a time and carrying them any way possible with their feet to their mouth and returning up the rope to a safe place on the nearest tree to enjoy their morning snack.

    Grab and Go in Semenggoh in the rain.
  • Learning that Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia on the island of Borneo is known as the city of Hornbills, only to learn there are no Hornbills now because the trees in the rainforest where they lived have been cut down to make way for palm oil plantations and developments.
  • Learning that Hornbills are the #1 keystone fauna in importance, because if Hornbills go, everything else goes because Hornbills spread the seeds that keep flora and fauna going.
  • Learning that “Borneo” resulted in an Anglicized version of “Brunei”, which used to occupy the entire island of Borneo until Brunei gave part of its kingdom to Malaysia and Indonesia, saving enough land for the current Kingdom of Brunei Darussalem which luckily contained the vast oil reserves.
  • Learning that gorilla’s DNA is 98% like humans and they have the strength of 6 humans.
  •  Learning that Kalimantan, the southern section of Borneo owned by Indonesia where Tanjung Puting National Park is located, means “river of gems” or “river of diamonds” which are found in abundance in some areas.
  • Learning that Orangutans are perfectly at ease being solitary or semi-solitary and do not need constant social reassurance, nor do they fear being along or lonely, the opposite of other great apes and humans.

    An adult male orangutan.
  • Learning from Fred Galdikas, Dr. Birute Galdikas’s son, who was born and raised in Camp Leakey, about his Mother’s Orangutan research, how he was raised with the orangutans and other children in the camp, and how the orangutans taught him to climb a tree.

Learning that Camp Leakey has 340 orangutans led by Tom, the 300+ pound dominant male orangutan.

  • Learning that the Orangutan Care Center, established in 1998, has 60 orphaned and rescued infants and teenagers.
  • Being told when visiting Camp Leakey, the only place left in Borneo to see wild orangutans, to let the orangutans come voluntarily to us, and don’t fight back if they grab us or our possessions because a ranger will come and help.

    Mooch showing us she is boss.
  • Learning the difference between monkeys and apes–monkeys have tails and apes don’t.
  • Learning that New World Primates are from South America and that Old World Apes are from Africa and Asia.
  • Holding a baby orangutan that did not smell, was heavy, hot, strong and loving. An unbelievable dream come true.

    My baby boy was so loving.
  • Watching the orangutans with Dr.Galdikas at Camp Leakey come in from the forest for a snack of bananas and nutritious milk supplement. Priceless
  • Watching a mother and baby orangutan bury their heads together in a box of milk supplement thereby causing their behinds to be up in the air while drinking. So funny.
  • Enjoying the hugs from 12 infant orangutans at the Orangutan Care Center (OCC).
  • Ranking the Orangutan Care Center, where we fell in love with 12 infants and Dr. Galdikas, the best part of the trip.
  •  Getting charged by Mooch, a 25 year-old female orangutan while sitting on a bench at Camp Leakey “because I exuded confidence and therefore I was in her territory,” according to Dr. Birute Galdikas. Priceless.

    Being shown the way to the snack platform in Camp Leakey.
  • Being met at the Camp Leakey dock by Mooch the orangutan and then being led into the camp by a mother and baby orangutan. Amazing and so much fun.
  • Seeing a beautiful black and white gibbon ape at Camp Leakey doing acrobatics.

    Gibbon ape
  • Seeing the orangutan hospital at the Orangutan Care Center, learning how they operate on, do tests on and care for sick orangutans and seeing inside an orangutan vet’s office.
  • Learning that inside an orangutan’s body is exactly the same as a human’s body.
  • Seeing a tree full of 15 to 20 Proboscis monkeys, each sitting on a separate limb like Christmas lights, while gliding in a klotok back to the (National Geographic) Orion at dusk. Absolutely awesome.

    A “Proboscis Monkey” Tree near Camp Leakey
  • Having one second to take a photo of those 15-20 proboscis monkeys sitting in a tree. A beautiful photo.
  • Having the orangutans walk freely among us at Camp Leakey and they were fun, not dangerous. Such an unexpected treat.

    Camp Leakey is his home.
  • Having Erin surprisingly jump into Tom’s arms because “Erin doesn’t have anything to do with people” Dr. Galdikas said.
  • Riding in a klotok, with kitchen, toilet and main room, at 5 miles per hour down the Black River to Camp Leaky eating lunch prepared by the (National Geographic) Orion exploration ship. Totally enjoyable.
  • Seeing many trees with Proboscis monkeys at dusk sitting in trees eating with their babies nearby.
  • Gliding down the Black River and Semanyer River in a klotok at night with the quarter moon and stars putting a fabulous glow on the water. Beautiful.
  • Enjoying the slow, smooth, easy gliding klotok, making it hard to stay awake to look for orangutans and proboscis monkeys.
  •  Having lunch with Dr. Birute Galdikas and learning what it was like associating with Dian Fossey studying gorillas, Jane Goodall studying chimpanzees and Louis Leakey, who discovered the oldest living human in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. The three ladies are known and “the Leakey Angels.”
  • Meeting a lovely couple on the Singapore to Bali segment, Bob and Yanti from Jakarta, Indonesia, on the island of Java, and being invited to enjoy their private tour of Jakarta, making my #144th country/entity to visit in the world. Outstanding.
  • Ending the “dream of a lifetime” (National Geographic) Orion exploration experience in Bali and being told “Goodbye” by Dr. Birute Galdikas with a “Thank You” hug and then kiss on the check. Beyond Priceless.
  • Seeing the smoke from Borneo all the way inside Singapore from the burning forest trees to make way for the many palm oil plantations..

    Mooch showing her stuff at Camp Leakey
  • Learning that Borneo is the third largest island (after Greenland and Papua New Guinea) in the world and that Sumatra and Borneo are the only 2 places in the world where orangutans remain and their habitat is being destroyed by the minute for palm oil plantations.
  • Learning that it is projected that orangutans will no longer exist in the wild by 2022.
  • Learning that it takes $1200 USD a year to maintain an infant/baby orangutan at the Orangutan Care Cener and that there are 360 of them being raised and cared for at the OCC now.
  • Learning that the best things one can do in the rainforet is to use a flashlight when dark as it alerts the animals, cobras, etc. to avoid that area or that light.
  • Learning that it is feast or famine at the Orangutan Care Center because the fruits in the rainforest are seasonal, making it necessary to supplement feed.
  • Learning that orangutans now are working on computers and the iPad at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. because they are very intelligent,
  • Learning from Dr. Galdikas that the orangutans constantly are active removing locks, handles, latches, and breaking doors and windows on her house at Camp Leakey. Plus, she said they figure out how things operate and are smart about mechanics.
  • Learning from Dr. Galdikas that the orangutans at Camp Leakey figure out when she is coming by the sound of her boat and where it docks, by the behavior of her assistants getting things in order for her arrival, and if she doesn’t stay the night in her house they know she will be back the next day.
  • Learning that Dr. Galdikas works with students from all over the world who come to study orangutans just like she has done since she was 25 years old in Camp Leakey, Borneo.DSC_0110

Observing that every orangutan mother I saw carried and held her baby under her left arm and used her free right arm and hand for eating food and doing whatever she needed to do.Amazing.