Monday, 15 November 2010

VIP's Visit (Day 9 - 10/07/2010)

As mentioned in Day 8, Day 9 was marked as a day on the expedition calender in which an important event occured. Dr. Charles, our expedition leader, declared an off-day to ALL of the participants, much to the delight of everyone. This means that none of the research participants had to go to the field to collect their relevant data.

Although it may seem that we have alot of 'off-days', everyone in the base camp actually worked very hard everyday thus making the Sungai Ingei Faunal Expedition a big success.

Dr. Ulmar and Rosli (Frog Team) also went back to the base camp after several days of camping out at the Batu Melintang waterfall area in search for frogs and other reptiles. The Bat Group also closed their harp traps (used in catching bats) and the same was done by the Small Mammal Group. It was indeed fun to see everyone as a whole in the base camp.

However, the 'off-day' given by Dr. Charles didn't mean that everyone could relax and do whatever they want for the rest of the day. Everyone was instructed to clean up the base camp; which range from the kitchen to the toilets. The 'off-day' was indeed declared for a special purpose.

The Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, decided to visit the Sungai Ingei Base Camp and this news came as a surprise to most of the participants of the expedition. The Iban boatmen were also thrilled upon hearing the good news! Pehin Yahya had also decided to stay for the night and therefore alot of preparations were made on Day 9 itself.

This is also the reason why our project administrator/camp manager and chief guide, BB and Angus respectively, left the base camp on Day 7 along with Dr. Zohrah, Amalul and Hajjah Yatty. BB and Angus were there at Bukit Sawat jetty on Day 9 to greet Pehin Yahya and his delegation and brought them to the Sungai Ingei Base Camp.

Pehin Yahya's delegation included:
(a) Dato Dr. Amin Liew Abdullah (Permanent Secretary at MIPR)
(b) Awang Hj Saidin bin Salleh (Director of Brunei Forestry Department)
(c) Awang Mahmud bin Hj Yussuf (Deputy Director of Brunei Forestry Department)

Pehin Yahya and his delegation reached Bukit Sawat jetty as early as 9am and as mentioned, BB, Angus and two boatmen were there to greet them. The water level was quite high that day and hence, it took them only 2 hours to reach Kampong Melilas by boat.

The minister then decided to visit the Melilas longhouse and of course, it was again another surprise to the villagers. The minister and others then left Kampong Melilas at approximately 11.30am and set their journey straight to the Sungai Ingei Base Camp.

Angus (left) and Pehin Yahya (right) ready to leave Bukit Sawat jetty

At Melilas longhouse
L-R: Dato Amin, Awang Mahmud (and kids), Pehin Yahya,
David (boatman), Angus and Haji Saidin

Haji Saidin, Director of Forestry Department, taking a break

Sungai Ingei here we come!
L-R: Angus, Pehin Yahya, Haji Saidin, Dato Amin and Awg Mahmud, David


Meanwhile, back at the Sungai Ingei Base Camp...


The minister was expected to reach the base camp by 2pm on Day 9 and hence, everyone was quick at their feet in preparing the base camp from as early as 9am. Of course, everyone wanted to welcome Pehin Yahya and his delegation to our five-star resort hotel!

The chef and his assistant were also busy in preparing some good lunch while some of the boys decided to fix the wooden pathway that leads to the toilets. Some of the girls were instructed to set up a few air beds and mosquito nets for our VIP guests.

One of the participants, Ishlah, whom is also a lecturer at Institut Teknologi Brunei (ITB), took over as the chief eletrician for the day as he connected the wires and set up more fluorescent lights and light bulbs in the base camp.

Our paramedics Haji Roslan and Wandy and a few others also collected some wooden planks and made ourselves a shoe rack! In addition to that, they also used some tarps and made space for a changing room and praying area.

The pictures will paint you a better story. Very innovative indeed!

Azree (assistant chef) and Haji Ramlee (chef) in action!

Importance of tarps!
Space allocated for a changing room (left) and prayer room (right)

Ishlah (chief electrician for the day) climbing
high up to pull and connect electric wires

Innovative idea in making the shoe rack
Materials: wood and nails

A well-deserved dip in the cool water after a busy morning!

While the boys were having a dip in the river, suddenly they heard a faint and familiar noise that resembles the engine of the boat's motor board. Everyone was listening patiently but Ishlah suggested that it was the sound of a helicopter that was hovering nearby the base camp.

However, the noise got closer and closer to the base camp by the second and then the boys realized something, "PEHIN YAHYA IS HERE!". The boys got out of the river like a herd of panicking wilderbeasts and ran back to the base camp to dry themselves and to get dressed. It was a hilarious scene to some of the participants whom were at the base camp.

Indeed, Pehin Yahya and his delegation had finally reached the Sungai Ingei Base Camp at approximately 2.30pm and everyone was happy and excited to meet them! The minister waved and gave a huge smile as the boat docked on the river bank and a few of the participants went to unload the luggage from the boats.

Dr. Charles was the first to greet Pehin Yahya and his delegation and welcomed him to the base camp. The minister was introduced to all of the participants and Pehin Yahya had short talks with some of the older Iban boatmen. After that, the VIPs settled down and were showed to their beds.

Pehin Yahya with a smile upon reaching Sungai Ingei Base Camp

Unloading of luggage from boats
Picture showing Pehin Yahya and Dato Amin

Local communities (Iban boatmen) greeting Pehin Yahya
Picture showing Dr. Charles, Pehin Yahya and two Iban boatmen

Pehin Yahya and his delegation were then invited to have tea at the kitchen with some of the base camp's important people such as Dr. Charles, BB, Samhan, Angus and also some of the researchers. Next, the VIPS were given a short tour around the base camp by Dr. Charles in which Pehin Yahya got to see a short demo on how the small mammal group work.

Tea time! Pehin Yahya conversing with
the important people of the base camp

Happy and satisfied with the food I guess? :)

Dr. Ulmar (right) explaining his work on frogs to the VIPs

Local Iban boatmen explaining
about Gaharu trees to Pehin Yahya

VIPs examining one of the remaining Gaharu
trees found behind the base camp

Haji Saidin and Dato Amin

Awg Mahmud

VIPs watching the demo given by small mammal group

Hands-on experience by Pehin Yahya

Pehin checking out some tortoises caught near the base camp

Another round of tea before going to Batu Melintang waterfall

Serious discussions between Pehin and Dr. Charles

Near evening, the VIPs went for a short trip to the Batu Melintang waterfall area and returned back to the base camp just in time for dinner. The forest police and Angus guided the VIPs on that trip. During dinner, the chef and his assitant received high praises from the minister as he enjoyed the food and even said, "This is the only type of expedition in which good food is served!".

After dinner, a short presentation was given by Dr. Charles and the VIPs were also entertained with a slideshow on some of the expedition's camera trapping preliminary results. The minister was very impressed with the results and gave a few promising words regarding about the future of Sungai Ingei Protection Forest. By 11pm, the lights went out and everyone went to bed.

I will end today's long post with these remaining pictures. Check out the blog for more updates soon! :)

Dinner time!

Bet Pehin was super hungry that night :)

Projector Screen used for the presentation
YES! We do have a screen in the base camp!

Crowd watching the slideshow

Then Dr. Charles (green) gave a short speech to the VIPs

To be continued...

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