The village lies beside the river we have followed the entire day. Instead of the wide brown swathe of water we’d become accustomed to on the lower plateau, it is narrow and fast flowing, the clear water washing in cool bubbling pools against the sand and the flat rocks of the shore. I am immediately introduced to an Indonesian village past-time – a mandy, which basically means to bathe. After a long sweaty day in the back of the jeep we approach this smooth clear water with a certain amount enthusiasm. Equipped with torches (the light goes fast in the tropics), cigarettes, soap and sarongs we cross the narrow trackway that serves as the main street in the village, crash through the light undergrowth, followed by a gang of giggling children, to the the river.
It really is a perfect place situated on a small bend where sand has collected to form a narrow little beach. The slow swirling passage of the river has cut a wide deep pool on either side is a congestion of rocks which create small turbulent patches of white water. Giant trees loom over this small space throwing rich shadows across the surface of the water. The children immediately jump amongst the rapids with much relish whilst we slowly wade out into the pool. The water is warm and gorgeous. Swimming on my back, I observe the great trees leaning across the water, the myriad details of branches and leaves diminishing and slowly blurring as the sky darkens to an intense imperial purple. The stars begin to emerge high above and the sounds of the forest become more distinct. We chatter excitedly to one another about the days ahead, the process of filming and capturing these peoples stories. We sit together, smoking cigarettes in the jungle stream, backs braced against the lazy current, the towering trees like dark mountains on either side. Nanang splashes to the bank lights a cigarette then wades back in. I can think of nothing but exultation, it is something immemorable. Darkness descends quickly and beneath the clear magnificence of the Milky Way with flashes of distant tropical lightning in the immense sky we slip back through the patch of jungle to the dim lights of the village.