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!

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