Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ingei-Berar Subcamp (Day 13 - 14/07/2010)

This blog post is based on the Ingei-Berar adventure as experienced by the camera trap group, Team Samhan, which is ideally made up of team leader Samhan, Haji Bakhtiar, Ishlah, Metis and Moon.

Date: 14th July 2010 (Day 13)
Time of departure: 10.00am

After breakfast, our leader Samhan gave us a short briefing and told us to enjoy the trip from the Sungai Ingei base camp to Sungai Berar. It was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime journey as not alot of people have experienced what we experienced.

We double-checked our luggage to see if we have brought everything that is necessary for the long trip such as the GPS, keys for camera trap locks, raffia strings, flagging tapes, tarps, canned food, gas stove, cooking utensils, tents, mosquito nets and coils, candles, clothes and etc. Our camping bags were very heavy but we were adapted to the weight after a short while.

Dr. Charles and our fellow friends bidded farewell to us as we boarded the boat to cross to the other side of the river. In addition to that, a prayer was recited by Haji Roslan (paramedic) to bless our journey. When we reached the other side of the river, we could see the base camp and everyone was waving to us happily.

So how did we navigate ourselves from the base camp to Sungai Berar?

1) We used two GPS to pin-point to us the way to the camera traps that were already set at Sungai Berar on Day 6. By using this method, we could find out the approximate distance between our positions to the nearest camera trap at Sungai Berar,

2) Our group leader Samhan also used the compass very well to navigate our way around in the forest. Apart from that, he also made alot of special markings along the journey on trees or rocks to indicate our pathway. We also used flagging tapes on trees to mark our paths.

3) Haji Bakhtiar (elder Iban guide) has been living in the forest since when he was a young boy and hence, he knows the forest very well. He was our main guide and he could use the sun's direction and position to navigate us around. Let's just say he used the sun as his own personal compass!

These 3 main methods ensured us that there was a zero percent chance that we could get lost in the forest. After all, it was a 4-hour long walk into unexplored areas of Sungai Ingei and I must say the terrain was not easy to walk on.

The forest types along the journey to Sungai Berar is composed of dominantly freshwater swamp forest, mixed dipterocarp forest and also riverine forest. The topography of the area is also made up of lush trees, steep hills, ridges and small rivers. There were a few of times that we had to cross these small rivers by walking on fallen logs. Very dangerous indeed!

Our brave leader Samhan was always the first
to cross the log as seen in the picture above

These rivers could be deep and the water
flow was actually quite fast! Picture shows
Ishlah, Metis and Moon posing on the log

Metis crossing another log slowly and steadily

Moon would rather cross the river that way!

As mentioned earlier, we came across steep hills and freshwater swamps and the concentration and energy spent on walking on these terrains actually made us very exhausted. Not forgetting to mention about the effort in cutting our way through the thick vegetation and also the heavy luggage that we carried on our backs!

We had 3 short breaks and one lunch break along the way to Sungai Berar and our water supplies ran out pretty fast. Some of us had to resolve to drink and store river water in our water bottles. For lunch, we only had digestive biscuits and fruits to replenish our energy. To be honest, we didn't have much mood to eat as our bodies were feeling very exhausted.

The time was near 2.30pm and the GPS indicated that the nearest camera trap at Sungai Berar was approximately 1km away from us. Even Haji Bakhtiar, who used the sun to navigate his way around the forest, said that we were not too far away. Unfortunately, dark clouds covered the sky and we had to find a place to set up our subcamp desperately.

Haji Bakhtiar insisted that we set up our subcamp near to a small river (for washing and drinking purposes) and not long after, we found one which actually branches out from Sungai Berar. This means that we were actually on the correct path towards Sungai Berar! The plan was to set up the subcamp and rest for the night and then continue on to search for the camera traps the next morning.

This is the small river in which
we set our subcamp right next to it

The river water was clear and there were fishes in it! The adjacent land next to the river was quite flat and we immediately cleared a small area of vegetation to set up our subcamp. We avoided setting the subcamp near to really tall trees as we tried to avoid any chances of tree fall, which can be dangerous.

Initially, Haji Bakhtiar and Samhan went to cut down some small trees, which were converted into stilts to set up our 'roof' as covered by tarps. Haji Bakhtiar also collected some rattans to tie some of these stilts together.

On the other hand, the three boys (Ishlah, Metis and Moon) cleared the forest floor, dug a deep hole (toilet), set up dressing lines and also set up their tent. Haji Bakhtiar and Samhan preferred to sleep on elevated beds made from stilts and canvas. The locals call it 'joli'. Mosquito nets would then hang down over the joli.

Tent set up under a tarp roof

Dressing line to hang our clothes

A 1 metre-deep hole was dug
for the purpose of you-know-what

Joli of Haji Bakhtiar and Samhan also covered by tarp roof

To avoid rain, Haji Bakhtiar also collected some
large leaves and used them as side-cover

Haji Bakhtiar taking a well-deserved rest on his joli

Overall view of the Ingei-Berar subcamp

The subcamp was eventually set up after 2 hours and the time was approximately 4.30pm. There was a mild drizzle and Samhan instructed us to boil some water and prepare dinner while he and Haji Bakhtiar looked around the vicinity of the subcamp for fire wood.

We also managed to wash ourselves quickly at the river before the drizzle and I must say that the river water is cold and refreshing! Haji Bakhtiar then made a bonfire to keep out insects and also to cook some fishes that he caught from the river.

Bonfire made by Haji Bakhtiar

A very innovative way to dry our wet clothes
as inspired by Haji Bakhtiar :)

Dinner was prepared at a
sheltered area in the subcamp

Guess who cooked rice that night? :)

Samhan and Haji Bakhtiar chatting
while awaiting dinner to be served

After dinner, we all rested for awhile and cleaned the cooking utensils and also hung the leftover food away from the ground to avoid animals from coming near to the subcamp. The rain was getting heavier and by 7pm, we all decided to hit the sack to get some good sleep. It got very cold at night but I guess everyone was too tired to be bothered.


The birds were singing by 6am the next morning on Day 14 and we woke up from a very good night's sleep. The forest floor was wet as a result of a whole night of raining but we were more glad that nothing had gone wrong near to the subcamp (tree falls or flood).

Breakfast was prepared and at 8am, Team Samhan (excluding Haji Bakhtiar) set out to search for the nearest camera trap at Sungai Berar. As mentioned earlier, the distance from the subcamp to the nearest camera trap was less than 1km in distance. Haji Bakhtiar was instructed to stay behind to look after the subcamp and our luggage.

After 1 hour of walking, we managed to find the nearest camera trap and went along the trail to re-set all the camera traps on the Sungai Berar trail. It was nostalgic to be at Sungai Berar again and we managed to re-set all the camera traps within half an hour's time. After that, we went back to the subcamp and saw Haji Bakhtiar happily fishing for more fishes!

We spent another night at the subcamp before departing back to the Sungai Ingei base camp the next morning on Day 15. Prior before departing, we cleaned the area by picking up all the rubbish, took down the mosquito nets and joli, pack the tent and also took down the tarps and stilts.

The journey from the subcamp back to the base camp took a shorter time as we had already established a known trail. However, the luggage that we carried were still heavy despite finishing all the canned food that we brought earlier. We all walked very slowly in such a way that we won't get too exhausted and of course, we stored extra water for the return trip.

Team Samhan managed to complete their Ingei-Berar adventure safely and successfully and I must say that it was one of the most tiring but memorable adventure as experienced by the team members. For now, we shall anticipate for the camera trap pictures of Sungai Berar and the results will be published during the Sungai Ingei Faunal Expedition seminar.

Well done, Team Samhan!

Survival of the Fittest (Day 13 - 14/07/2010)

Team Samhan, one of the two Camera Trap groups of the expedition, was ready to set out to no-man's land on Day 13, which is approximately a 4-hour walk from the Sungai Ingei base camp to Sungai Berar. There was no existing foot trail from the base camp to Sungai Berar and hence, some cutting had to be done by Team Samhan to make a small path with proper labelling on the trees.

The other Camera Trap group, Team Angus, set their journey to one of their existing trails for the purpose of re-setting their camera traps. They also had to walk quite far but they didn't need to camp for the night in the forest.

As for the Small Mammals group, it was the usual busy day for them as the participants went to check their traps in respective trails. Same happened to the Bat group and the Tarsier group and everyone was working hard to gather more data as Phase 1 of the expedition was near to its end.

After breakfast, most of the participants of the expedition were present to bid farewell to Team Samhan as they ventured into the thick, unexplored area to Sungai Berar. Some of the participants were very helpful as they helped the camera trap boys to finalize the packing of their luggage and equipments. It was a very long journey so it's always good to double-check on the things that are to be brought.

The next blog post will be on the Ingei-Berar trip as experienced by the camera trap group, Team Samhan (Samhan, Haji Bakhtiar, Ishlah, Metis and Moon). I'll end today's blog post with these memorable pictures. Stay tuned!

Camera Trap boys getting ready after breakfast
L-R: Moon, Bon and Jeff

Moon (black) helping Ishlah (blue) with the heavy camping bag

Arpin helping to tie the portable gas
stove to one of the camping bags

Metis making sure that he has brought everything!

Moon was all set for his once-in-a-lifetime journey

Both Camera Trap groups (Team Samhan and Team Angus)
posing for a picture prior before their departure

Camera Trap groups: Team Samhan and Team Angus
L-R: Samhan, Haji Bakhtiar, Moon, Ishlah, Arpin, Faisal, Bon,
Jeff, Angus, Metis and Haji Roslan (paramedic)

Team Samhan
L-R: Samhan, Haji Bakhtiar, Moon, Ishlah and Metis

Rangers in the making! ;)

Team Angus
L-R: Arpin, Bon, Jeff, Angus and Faisal

Team Samhan boarding the boat to
cross to the other side of the river

...and off they go!

Salwa of the Small Mammals group in action

Catherine setting up an arboreal small mammal trap

Pei Fen of the Small Mammals group in action

Our expedition leader, Dr. Charles, was also there to supervise
the small mammals group daily during the expedition

Team Angus taking a break from their long walk
L-R: Jeff, Angus, Bon and Faisal

L-R: Jeff, Arpin and Bon

Sembahyang Hajat being conducted at night

To be continued...

Friday, 26 November 2010

Perseverance (Day 12 - 13/07/2010)

If you can recall from Day 6, Team Samhan (one of the two camera trap groups) took the boat and set their course for Sungai Berar, which is a smaller river that branches from the main upper catchment of Sungai Belait. The boat ride from Sungai Ingei Base Camp to Sungai Berar took approximately 2 hours (without obstructions) and this is considered to be a long journey.

Team Samhan was instructed to go back to Sungai Berar and reset their camera traps (due to errors) on Day 13. However, the second journey to Sungai Berar was by foot and NOT by boat. Team Samhan recorded that the time taken to travel from the Sungai Ingei Base Camp to Sungai Berar by foot is approximately 4 hours.

In addition to that, Team Samhan were also instructed to build a permanent sub-camp near to Sungai Berar so that they could camp there for one night. It would be too tiring for anyone to travel back and forth from Sungai Ingei to Sungai Berar, which would be 8 hours by foot! Now this is what I call as a real adventure!

Hence, Team Samhan was advised to rest and also pack their bags, food and equipment on Day 12 and also to plan out properly on their working schedule. Check out the upcoming blog post on Day 13 for more information about the exciting Ingei-Berar trip!

Apart from that, it was another busy day on Day 12 for the other research groups apart from the camera trap groups (Team Samhan and Team Angus), whom were told to rest for Day 13. Team Angus also had to reset some of their camera tarps in their own respective trails due to some unforeseen errors.

Here are some of the pictures as taken on Day 12. More updates to come soon!

The ever-hardworking Small Mammal Group
L-R: Cikgu Haji, Catherine, BB and Pei Fen
(Salwa not in picture)

Small Mammal Group in action

A beautiful Argus Pheasant dancing ground found
along one of the small mammal trails

Lunch time!

Faisal of Team Angus decided to do his laundry
as he had some time to spare

Haji Ramlee (main chef) and Azree (assistant chef) teaching
Haji Roslan (paramedic) how to cook a type of sweet dessert

Perhaps one of the best desserts ever cooked in any expedition!

Dinner time!
Main menu: Nasi Briyani and Beef Rendang

Small discussion between Dr. Charles, Stephen Hogg and Dr. Lane

After dinner, Ishlah decided to pack
his stuffs for the big trip on Day 13

And he was done packing in an hour's time!

Moon was wondering what to pack
for his big trip since 4pm that day!

To be continued...

Back To Business (Day 11 - 12/07/2010)

So it's back to business on Day 11 as every research groups went out to the field as early as 8am. The small mammal group and tarsier group had to take the boat to cross to the other side of the river bank to check their trails. Dr. Yustian and Andrios of the tarsier group decided to set up more mist nets during the day to improve their chances in catching tarsiers when night falls.

As for the bat group, Dr. Lane and Mayyer decided to move some of their harp traps to better sites to maximize their capture of bats. Zaiedi, whom is a Forestry Department officer and also a member of the bat group, had to leave Sungai Ingei Base Camp that morning to Bukit Sawat as he had to report back to work the next day.

On ther other hand, Dr. Lane and Mayyer also surveyed for water bugs along Sungai Ingei that day. Stephen Hogg, whom is our wildlife photographer, was also busy that morning as he went around the base camp to take pictures and videos of any encountered wildlife.

The two camera trap groups, namely Team Samhan and Team Angus, also ventured into their trails to set more camera traps as guided by their leaders. Team Samhan literally spent the whole day out in the field and hence, packed lunch were prepared for them by our main chef Haji Ramlee. During the expedition, packed lunch were regularly prepared for those research groups
who couldn't go back to the base camp for lunch and would rather have their meals in the field.

Here are some of the pictures as taken on Day 11. Cheers!

Participants heading down to the boats

Tarsier Group and Small Mammal Group taking
the boat to cross to the other side of the river
L-R: Dr. Yustian, Andrios, Catherine, Pei Fen, Salwa and Cikgu Haji (boatman)

Bat Group featuring Mayyer (left) and Dr. Lane (right) with their harp traps

Stephen Hogg was always seen roaming
around with his cameras / video recorder

Camera trap group, Team Samhan, setting up a camera trap
L-R: Moon, Metis and Ishlah

Moon crawling on the forest floor to check if the camera was working

Metis and Ishlah moving in front of the camera
trap to see if the trap was operating well

Team Samhan taking a lunch break with their packed lunch

Some of the members of the other camera trap group, Team Angus.
L-R: Faisal, Arpin and Angus

A remnant of an old Gaharu poacher's camp as
stumbled upon by Team Angus in one of their trails

Team Angus returning to the base camp after a hard morning's work
L-R: Angus, Arpin, Faisal, Jeff and Bon

Participants anticipating for lunch

Soto for lunch!

Haji Ramlee also made ketupat

Our main chef, Haji Ramlee
Officially regarded as a VIP of the base camp :)

To be continued...