Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Journey From Bukit Sawat To Sungai Ingei (Day 1 - 02/07/2010)

The journey from UBD to Bukit Sawat jetty took about two hours in which we reached there by 9.30am. To those participants who didn't sleep well the night before, two hours of sleep in the buses is more or less sufficient. The Bukit Sawat jetty is located in Kampong Bukit Sawat, Belait District and it is regarded as a common gateway to Sungai Ingei.

As we reached Bukit Sawat jetty, we were welcomed by the Belait River and several beautiful longboats which are locally known as 'temuai'. The boatmen are composed of the Iban and Penan communities who either live in Kampong Sukang or Kampong Melilas, in which both villages are found in the Ulu Belait region. The boatmen are very indispensable to the expedition because they are the ones who use the Belait River extensively and would know their way around without any doubt.

The day was sunny and the water level was very high

The beautiful temuai seen docking at Bukit Sawat jetty

We began to unload all the expedition luggage from the buses and the kind boatmen immediately took the luggage and arranged them properly in their temuai. There were a total of 6 temuai on that day, in which 3 are for carrying the expedition luggage and the other 3 are for carrying the participants. Once the luggage were properly arranged, each participant was given a life jacket and advised to seat properly in the boats.

Prior before departure from Bukit Sawat jetty, a short briefing and doa selamat were conducted and Dr. Joseph Charles (expedition leader) was the one who flagged us off. Dr. Charles didn't leave on the first day but eventually left for Sungai Ingei with the second batch on Day 3.

First batch of participants who left for Sungai Ingei on Day 1:

Ang Bee Biaw (project administrator/camp manager), Samhan (field coordinator), Angus (chief guide), Dr. Zohrah (deputy vice-chancellor of UBD and senior lecturer), Amalul (research assistant), Hj. Roslan (paramedic), Wandy (paramedic), Hj. Ramlee (chef), Azri (chef's assistant), Salwa (research assistant), Ishlah (research assistant), Rosli (research assistant), Metis (research assistant) and Jeffery (research assistant)

Participants leaving for Sungai Ingei from Bukit Sawat jetty

The journey from Bukit Sawat jetty to Sungai Ingei normally takes approximately 5-6 hours by boat and it is indeed a very long and tiring journey! But thankful for that day, the water level of Belait River was quite high and we managed to reach the Sungai Ingei Base Camp by 3pm (5 hours boat ride).

However, we didn't head straight to Sungai Ingei from Bukit Sawat jetty on that 5-hours' boat ride. We made a pit-stop at Kampong Melilas for an hour's lunch-break. In addition to that, the boatmen also took the chance to refuel their boats. The boat journey from Bukit Sawat jetty to Kampong Melilas is about 2 hours whereas it normally takes 3 hours from Kampong Melilas to Sungai Ingei.

Boats arriving at Kampong Melilas.
Weary faces seen on the participants!

Boats docking at the jetty of Kampong Melilas

Participants resting at the entrance
leading to the Kampong Melilas longhouse

And also not forgetting to show some pictures on the beauty and serenity of the riverine vegetation that can be found along the way to Sungai Ingei. The thickness of the riverine vegetation, the height of the towering trees and the lush surroundings show that Sungai Ingei is indeed a very pristine region.

Lush surroundings on both sides of Sungai Ingei

Entrance to Sungai Ingei

Emergent tree found along Sungai Belait

Unique white sand bank found along Sungai Belait

A beautiful sight of flowering trees

As mentioned earlier, we reached the Sungai Ingei Base Camp by 3pm and unloaded all the expedition luggage from the boats. It seemed that the participants have gotten bigger biceps from all the loading and unloading of heavy luggage but everyone did their parts efficiently.

The base camp was bare when we first arrived and hence, the first batch of participants had to 'decorate' the base camp. Who would want to stay at an empty and boring place right? Our project administrator/camp manager, Ang Bee Biaw, gave instructions and jobs to each of the participants and the base camp was 'beautified' at the end of the day! Our base camp hence became a 5-star resort hotel after all the hard work!

So you might be wondering what did we do to the base camp?

We swept the floor, put up tarpauline as curtains, laid tarpauline on the floor as floor mats, cleaned the toilets, fixed the generators and lighting, set up dressing lines, set up mosquito nets, prayer room and tents and even assisted the chef in organizing his kitchen area.

While everyone was busy with their individual tasks in the base camp, the sky decided to pour down heavily. Despite the rain, everyone managed to finish their individual tasks and little did we know that the time was already 7pm.

You will soon find out why 7pm is such a significant and important time during the expedition after these rolls of pictures. :)

The weather was fine when we arrived.
Salwa had the privilege to set up the dressing lines :)

We have our own chief electrician who's in charge of our lighting!
Ishlah is a lecturer from ITB who knows his wirings well

Then the sky decided to pour down heavily on us!

We had to hang tarpauline as curtains to prevent
rainwater from splashing into the main hall area

The chef (left) and his assistant organizing their kitchen space

Despite being busy, they still had a chance to pose for the camera :)

Tents were also set up in the base camp

Tarpauline was used as floor mats

Mosquito nets and air mattresses were also set up
for the participants' comfort in the base camp



Tambah Lagi!!!

Chef Haji Ramlee will call out for dinner and it's indeed one of the most anticipated moment of the day! The chef and his assistant prepared the best dishes that you would hardly find in any expeditions. Haji Ramlee's favourite quote during the expedition is 'Tambah Lagi!' and he insisted that the participants should eat more for every meal!

Participants resting at the kitchen after dinner

It was indeed a very tiring first day for the first batch of participants and everything went well in terms of preparing the base camp for the expedition. The toilets and lighting were running well and there was also a proper storage of water for consumption. The main generator that was producing the electricity for the base camp was switched off at 11pm every night during the expedition and the participants will head straight to bed when the lights go out.

Despite the heavy downpour that didn't end until the next day, Day 1 was indeed a very productive one.

To be continued...

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