Saturday, 18 December 2010

Goodbye, Ingei! (Day 17 - 18/07/2010)

Someone's alarm went off abruptly and the time was already 6am. Excitements filled the base camp as the participants released the air from their air mattresses and took down their mosquito nets. Our main chef and his assistant had boiled some water and even cooked breakfast. The Iban boatmen were refuelling their boat engines and checked that their boats were in good condition.

Everyone was very eager to pack up and go home!

Day 17 was the last day of the Sungai Ingei Faunal Expedition Phase 1. Despite the eagerness to head home, all the participants were instructed to help out in any last-minute packing such as taking down some of the remaining tarps, packing up of kitchen utensils and toilet buckets and etc.

In addition to that, Dr. Charles (expedition leader) and Samhan (field coordinator) held a short meeting to inform the male participants about the loading of luggage and other equipments onto the boats. 8 boats were available on that morning, in which 5 were allocated for passengers and the other 3 were for transporting our luggage and expedition equipments.

On Day 17 itself, there were 25 participants in the base camp as 4 others have left a few days before which are Dr. Zohrah, Amalul, Hajah Yatty and Zaiedi. Hence, 5 participants were allocated to each boats for safety reasons.

After the meeting, the male participants and the Iban boatmen proceeded to load the luggage onto the boats. The number of luggage was numerous but with proper coordination and planning, all the luggage were loaded carefully.

Small meeting held by Dr. Charles and Samhan

While the short meeting was held, Haji Ramlee (main chef) and Azri (assistant chef) were helped by the girls in the kitchen in preparing packed lunch for everyone. The packed lunch were prepared and eaten in the boats when we had short breaks during the return journey to Bukit Sawat jetty.

Packed lunch being prepared in the kitchen prior before departure

Haji Ramlee (middle) instructing the girls

The time was already 9am and everything was going as planned. The base camp looked barren as nothing was left behind. Moreover, all the luggage were placed in the boats and some of the participants were already boarding the boats with their life jackets.

Dr. Charles was the last to leave the base camp as he made some final check-up before boarding the boat. A doa selamat was recited by Haji Roslan (paramedic) prior before our departure. After that, the Iban boatmen signalled one another as they ignited their boat engines.

The water level was quite low that day but the boats managed to slowly made their way out to the mouth of Sungai Ingei, which connects to Sungai Belait. It was good enough that some of the male participants cleared the river the day before as mentioned in Day 16.

Although everyone was happy to be heading back home, mixed feelings clouded most of our emotions as we slowly left Sungai Ingei. The last sights of Sungai Ingei, as the boats enter into Sungai Belait, included the tall lush trees and white sand beaches and they shall remain as fond and beautiful memories of Sungai Ingei.


Goodbye, Ingei!


The water level of Sungai Belait was unexpectedly high that day and we reached Kampong Melilas within an hour's time. Some of the participants decided to eat their lunch or rest while others hiked up to the Melilas longhouse to visit the folks there and to buy their handicrafts.

Participants resting at Melilas

Dr. Charles looked weary but everything went really well for him

The expedition has brought everyone closer together like a family
Picture shows BB (project administrator) and Angus (chief guide)

We only spent about an hour resting at Melilas and continued our journey back to Bukit Sawat jetty after that. The weather was on our side as it had been sunny the whole morning with no signs of rain clouds.

Moreover, the water level was quite high and hence, the boats could move faster. The time was near 2pm as we finally reached Bukit Sawat jetty, much to everyone's relief!

Happy reactions as we reached Bukit Sawat jetty!

Sigh of relief!

The buses that we hired were not there to greet us at Bukit Sawat as the boats slowly dock at the jetty. Apparently, we arrived earlier than expected at the jetty and hence had to wait for awhile before the buses arrived. The participants were instructed to get off the boats slowly before helping out with the unloading of luggage from the transport boats.

Docking of boats at the jetty

Participants helping out in unloading the luggage from the boat

Our indispensable Iban boatmen and their boats

After all the luggage and expedition equipments were unloaded, another doa selamat was recited by Haji Saifullah (Iban boatmen) to bless the safe return of the participants to Bukit Sawat jetty.

The participants also thanked and shared their happy moments with the Iban boatmen, whom had been indispensable to the expedition. The expedition would not have been a success without their commitments and big help!

Haji Saifullah recited the doa selamat
Moments later, the buses arrived too

Participants and their luggage

Moments later, the buses arrived and we eventually load all the luggage onto the buses. We bid our farewells to the Iban boatmen as the buses headed straight to UBD, in which we needed to unload the expedition equipments and stored them in the store room. Day 17 itself saw the day in which a few sessions of loading and unloading of luggage were done.

We reached UBD at around 4pm and unloaded and stored all the necessary equipments in the proper places. Everyone was already tired and looked weary! The participants then parted their own ways as they got picked up by their spouses or families, much to everyone's happiness.

The Sungai Ingei Faunal Expedition Phase 1 reached its final end on Day 17 after running for nearly three weeks. No injuries occurred during the stretch of the expedition and everything ran smoothly as planned.

On behalf of the participants of the Sungai Ingei Faunal Expedition, I would like to congratulate Dr. Joseph Charles (expedition leader) and his tireless administrative team in the successful running of the Sungai Ingei Faunal Expedition Phase 1 2010.

Group picture of all the participants of the expedition
with Pehin Yahya and other VIPs at the base camp

Check out this blog for more post-Ingei stories! Cheers!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

In The End (Day 16 - 17/07/2010)

The Sungai Ingei Faunal Expedition came to a near end as Day 16 approached. Time did passed by really quick throughout the last two weeks and the expedition has been a successful one with a zero-percent occurrence of any injury.

All research works were halted and the respective research teams went to their sites in the morning to collect their traps/nets; small mammal team to shut and collect traps, bat team to collapse and collect their harp traps and the tarsier team to close their mist nets.

The frog team had switch off and collected their light traps the night before too. In addition to that, the camera trap team also didn't need to collect any camera traps from their respective sites as those camera traps are meant to stay in the field for months.

After a good lunch, everyone in the base camp helped out in packing up all the necessary items that were to be brought back to UBD. The tarps that were used as our 'curtains' were all taken down. In addition to that, extra canned food and other kitchen utensils were also packed up.

Nothing is supposed to be left behind at the base camp after the expedition so you can imagine the load of luggage that needed to be packed on that day. After most of the things were packed, the participants proceeded to pack their own personal belongings.

The afternoon of Day 16 was considered as one of the most relaxed period of the expedition. Since most of the logistics items and equipments were packed, there was nothing much to do except for cleaning up the base camp and its surroundings.

The weather was hot and dry and the water level for that day was at its lowest during the course of the expedition. With free time to spare and a cool river just right next to the base camp, the temptation to jump into the river was just too strong! After all, it was the last time the participants could enjoy the river and its beautiful, white beach.

No wrong in drying some clothes under the hot sun
although the expedition was coming to a very near end

Dr. Yustian writing his page
in the expedition's log book

The men went wild in the river!

Human choo-choo train in the river?

The girls relaxing at the beach
while dipping their legs in the water

The time was 4pm and most of the participants were resting in the base camp. Our expedition leader, Dr. Charles, was discussing some matters with Samhan (field coordinator) in the kitchen when suddenly, they heard some repetitive shouting from the river. Some of the participants that were lying on their beds also jumped to their feet to check out where the shouting was from.

Not far from the foot of the base camp, a few half-naked men were seen in the river and it seemed that they were lifting some logs that were found in the river. Those men were composed of Angus (field guide) and our Iban boatmen and they were trying to lift and move some of the smaller yet heavy logs that were blocking the river.

Since the water level was very low, it would be wise to clear the stretch of river to enable a smoother path for the boats to pass through on Day 17. On the other hand, the younger men in the base camp all ran towards the river after realizing that the elder men were hard at work in removing the logs. Apart from showing off their biceps and triceps, removing the logs was fun and challenging and hence, become that afternoon's main activity.

Old but still strong
Picture shows the elder men lifting the log that was stuck in the river

Soon after, the younger men all helped to lift this particular log

It wasn't easy as some of the logs were big and heavy

SPLASH! The log was removed and there were more to lift!

Male hormone levels were high!

The last dinner of the expedition was one of the best dinners that was prepared by our main chef Haji Ramlee and everyone was happy and thankful. After dinner, while some went to finalize their packing of personal belongings, a Sembahyang Hajat was also conducted and lead by Haji Roslan to acknowledge the smooth-running of the expedition.

Last dinner of the expedition

Haji Roslan led the Sembahyang Hajat

Prayers being conducted by the participants

The night of Day 16 ended with the participants feeling happy and excited, as everyone had longed to go back to their homes the next day to their beloved families. Every participant was away from their homes and also away from the real, bustling world for two weeks. It was time to go back!

Check out the next blog post as the Sungai Ingei Faunal Expedition reached a happy end.

To be continued...

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Survivors (Day 15 - 16/07/2010)

The morning of Day 15 was hot and sunny and the water level was very low. The base camp was anticipating the return of Team Samhan (one of the two camera trap groups of the expedition) from Sungai Berar. As mentioned in the blog post on Day 13, Team Samhan had camped for two nights at the Ingei-Berar subcamp. In addition to that, Angus (chief guide) expected Team Samhan to reach the base camp by foot by 1pm.

After breakfast, a cleaning campaign was carried out by some of the participants and tin cans were also crushed before they were thrown into a fire pit as led by BB (project administrator/camp manager).

The tin cans were collected and kept aside by our chef and his assistant whenever food was prepared. This way of disposing the non-biodegradable materials is more eco-friendly to the environment.

Breakfast time!

BB (middle) leading the tin-crushing activity

Stilts were used to crush some of the tin cans
L-R: Angus, Haji Roslan, Arpin, Bon, BB and Fen

Instead of burying the tin cans, crushing them is much eco-friendly

Crushed tin cans were thrown in a small fire pit

The day passed by quick and the time was already 3pm but there were no signs of Team Samhan returning from their long journey. Some of the participants in the base camp got a tad worried but the majority of them trust the capability of Samhan, Haji Bakhtiar and the boys in navigating their way around in the forest. After all, a trail was already established when Team Samhan first ventured towards Sungai Berar by foot.

The time was 4pm and some of the participants were having tea in the kitchen when suddenly they saw abrupt movements among the foliage across the river. Team Samhan has finally returned!

It was indeed a welcoming sight to see Team Samhan and a few of the participants, including Dr. Charles, BB and Angus, immediately went to the river bank to welcome them back. Cikgu Haji (Iban boatman) also steered the boat across the river to pick Team Samhan up.

View from across the river showing the base camp
Picture taken by Samhan

4 hours of walk and still standing!
Picture shows Samhan (left) and Haji Bakhtiar (right)

Cikgu Haji (rowing) picked Team Samhan up from across the river

BB (project administrator and camp manager)
was the first to welcome Team Samhan back on the beach

Team Samhan was glad to be back after their long journey and indeed, they looked fatigued and needed alot of rest. Dr. Charles (expedition leader) congratulated them in their successful journey to Sungai Berar by foot and also making it back to the base camp safely.

Team Samhan, and also other participants of the expedition, were instructed to rest well for the night as Day 16 would be a very busy day for everyone. I'll end today's post with some more pictures on the return of Team Samhan. Check this blog for more updates to come!

Team Samhan returning back to the base camp.
Dr. Charles (far right) was there to welcome them back

Happy faces...

...and also weary faces

Samhan's torn shirt indicated how tough the journey was

We have made it!
Metis and Moon

To be continued...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Sultan's Birthday (Day 14 - 15/07/2010)

On every 15th of July, Taman SOAS located at the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan will take center stage as Bruneians of all walks of life will throng to see the Sultan and the beautiful parade. The 15th of July, as we all know, is the Sultan's birthday.

As his Majesty was celebrating his 64th birthday at town this year, the participants of the Sungai Ingei Faunal Expedition were far away from civilization but that didn't stop us from celebrating the annual royal birthday in the base camp.

The morning sky of Day 14 was clear and it had rained heavily the night before. The camera trap group Team Samhan were miles away from the base camp as they camped at Sungai Berar. After breakfast, the remaining participants in the base camp gathered together at the front porch of the base camp for a special event.

National Anthem and Flag as a sign of respect

The Brunei flag was raised high up and the participants, lead by Dr. Charles, sang the National Anthem. Although there was no audience (and they faced the beautiful forest when they sang), the event was held to show our respect and pride to our Sultan.

Since the Sultan's birthday was declared as a public holiday, a break was also given to the participants on Day 14. However, the Small Mammal group and the Tarsier group went to the field for a quick check and rested for the rest of the day after that.

To celebrate the Sultan's birthday, our main chef, Haji Ramlee, cooked us a special lunch and dinner and even baked two cakes, much to the delight of the participants in the base camp. The break was much needed because the participants were getting fatigued as the 3-weeks long expedition came to a near end.

Check out this blog for more updates!

Small Mammal group crossing the river to check their trail

Salwa and Cikgu Haji in action

Haji Ramlee (chef) writing down the special menu for the day

Haji Ramlee also baked this cake...

...and this too!

To be continued...