Buying Enough Food for 20 People to Live in the Rainforest for 9 Weeks

Researcher Dale Mortiboys describes the joys of expedition food shopping in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan


Ponder if you will: you are given £2500 to purchase some food items for you and your friends, just enough to last you all for 9 weeks. “Oh the possibilities” you would no doubt exclaim. The mind reels off endless configurations of herbs and spices gently marinating some succulent meat ready for an oven pre-warmed to 180.

Now I am willing to bet that budget out of my own money that 400 tins of mackerel were not the forerunners of your mental shopping list. But this is what I found myself buying this week, along with 66kg of corned beef, 550 individually hand checked potatoes, and curiously – 50 kilos of peanut butter! For, alas, this is no ordinary shopping trip but the team’s only source of nutrition for 9 weeks deep in the jungle.

We landed in Borneo about a week ago. No sooner had we arrived in this land did Agung, Lara and myself descend to the familiar haven of a shopping mall. Complete with the strip lighting and air conditioning it was our home during waking hours. List after list were scribbled frantically as we try to appease a collection of personal tastes without going over budget.

Tinned items ticked from the list, we are off to the markets. Seeking a mass of vegetables but the stalls are small and sell trays of goods not industrial sizes we require. The place is a vibrant mix of colours and a confusing hybrid of smells. The senses are baffled as you weave through the stalls. Pausing to soak it up, you are swiftly ushered out of the narrow corridors to make room for someone magically balancing a 6 foot high tower of boxes. The whole floor creaks beneath you as you become uneasily aware it is a medley of chaotically constructed planks of wood. But it works well enough; similar in many ways to Indonesia as a whole.

The evening draws in as we haggle for onions with gaggle of ladies. Hand gestures and a cryptic game of charades are the tools of the day.  The language barrier is diffused with large smiles and invaluable presence of our Indonesian team members. They are the heroes of the day as I fire off translation questions from dawn til dusk.