What Does it Take to Carry out an Expedition Like This?

Expedition Leader Martin Holland helps you imagine the logistics involved in the Murung Raya Expedition


Imagine you decide to live on your own, cut off from the outside world, for three whole years. You don’t want to leave your house, or have anything delivered. How much food would you need to buy? What would your diet be and would it keep you healthy? How much would it cost and where on earth would you get it all from? And how would you get it to your house?

You’re also going to have to get all fuel you need to run your own generator since you won’t be connected to the national grid. How much fuel will you need to have light in the evenings? You’ll need batteries and inverters to make use of the power you’re generating too.

Starting from scratch

You’re going to build your new home, so even if it’s just a hut you also need to think about everything else you’ll need to live. How will you clean your drinking water? How will you cook and what will you eat with? What about materials and tools to build with? You’ll need communications in case of an emergency – what will they be and how will they work?  Where will you sleep? How will you wash your clothes and keep clean and healthy? What books will you take to read?

You decide you want to carry out some experiments while you’re in this place, so you don’t get bored and so your time is useful. You need to decide what experiments you’re going to do, and how, so that you can choose all of the equipment you’ll need to carry them out properly. Of course, you’ll have to buy that too.

Now, imagine you decide you want your house to be in the middle of an island on the other side of the world. The island is huge, the third biggest in the world, and the interior is very hard to get to since the country is not very well developed away from the coast. That’s why you’re going there.

Another world

The country also runs on ‘rubber time’ which you’re not used to, and you don’t speak the local language, but you only have a week to buy everything you need. There aren’t really any supermarkets, and most of the trade happens in local markets where the shops are the size of a garden shed, hidden among hundreds of other similar shops all crowded together in  exciting but confusing mazes.

To make matters worse, your only week to navigate these mazes and prepare yourself for your three years is interrupted by the long, slow and complicated process of getting all the right stamps, in the right order, for you to be allowed to carry out your experiments. Nobody else is in a rush, and trying to make things go faster only seems to slow them down.

Transport and costs

While all of this is going on, you also need to find someone to take you and all your supplies to your new home. You have to trawl the harbours looking for a captain of a boat willing to take you to where you want to go. You know that he will only take you so far, and then you will have to find another boat, and another, and another, as the rivers get smaller and smaller as you move close to the mountains in the interior of the island.

You are also operating on a very tight budget, so you can’t simply pay some one to do all of this for you, and you have to find everything at the cheapest price available.

The island is Borneo, and 3 years is the amount of time that 1 person could survive, happily, on the food we are buying for this expedition.

Week 1 for the team

1 week was how much time we gave ourselves to organise all of the above in our ‘if everything goes perfectly’ itinerary. Remarkably we have managed that feat, except for the stamp getting. One official being out of his office in Jakarta for two days, plus one very over zealous administrator in Palangkaraya, has meant that we are now a few days behind that schedule and operating on our ‘realistic’ itinerary.

We have a weekend in Palangkaraya before finalising the immigration process on Monday and Tuesday and then heading back down to Banjarmasin to collect all our stores and begin the move upriver.

Happy days!