The Gods must be crazyI don’t get it. The Gods of Camping must hate me or something because it never fails to spring a leak just above my hammock, rather than anybody else’s. Even if it’s a new campsheet. You try sleeping on a damp hammock for days. It is not fun.
It rained so much in the field this week. I had to sacrifice my poncho to fix up the leak above my hammock, which meant that when I was working in the field, I had no protection from the rain. But when you’re hot and sweaty in the jungle, getting wet doesn’t matter so much. What sucks is trying to dry out your clothes. You just don’t bother anymore and you end up wearing the same skanky clothes as the day before. Waking up in a damp hammock and putting on smelly, wet clothes in the cold early morning is definitely not fun.
What was fun though was when Steward, my field assistant, made a hat out of a dead dipterocarp leaf (they can get pretty big – I’ve seen ones that are as big as a man’s torso + head) to cover his head from the perpetual downpour. It was too tempting to resist. I pelted his silly leaf hat with winged dipterocarp seeds, and he started running down the trail, with me in hot pursuit. It’s quite a challenge to actually run down the trail without tripping and hurting yourself. Or even just walking down the trail! While searching the treetops for orang utan nests, I brushed up against a rattan plant and ended up with three long angry-looking scratches on my upper right arm.
We saw a number of wildlife on this trip. It was pretty amazing. I was about six feet away from bearded pigs who were foraging! I remained very still so they didn’t notice me. It was only when they started heading down my direction that they took one look at me, had the funniest look of surprise on their faces and dashed off. I could feel my Iban field guides salivating next to me. But ah, where I go – no one hunts wildlife. I might as well be one of the few who actually obeys the law.
I also spotted a lifer, which in birder’s speak means the first specimen of a bird species that you have seen for the first time. I need to check it out in my bird guidebook later – it was the largest woodpecker that I’ve ever seen! I think that was what it was. There were three of them, squabbling. The strangest bit was how they climbed up the tree trunk – they crawled up, which was really creepy to watch. Especially considering how large they were.
We also saw gibbons, my favourite primate. I spotted a pair, one of which was all white with a black face. It’s pretty uncommon to see a white gibbon, for usually Bornean gibbons are grayish-black. By the way, the gibbon is an ape, not a monkey. Reminds me of this terrible news piece I read recently in the Borneo Post. The reporter had no clue what a monkey or an ape was, and called the animal by both terms! It was featured on the front page, no less. Sloppy writing AND editing at the Borneo Post – not impressive.
Other primates we observed were the red langur and the white-fronted langur (leaf monkeys). What was interesting was that these two groups were actually together. They don’t normally mix, or at least that’s what the current scientific literature tells us. There was no mass fruiting in the area either, which would explain their combined presence.
Every time I go in the field, and have similar observations of wildlife, there are questions that I want to answer. I really wish that there was more wildlife research going on in the State. There are still so many things about wildlife in Borneo that we don’t know about, including the possible new mammal species recently discovered in Kalimantan. The local university doesn’t do much wildlife research (other than short-stint ‘expeditions’ – they claim that staying in national park stations is an ‘expedition’!! Good lord – I call it luxury!!! What a pampered, unadventurous bunch), and most folks aren’t really keen to work in the field either. Even at my work, there are more office folks than actual field researchers. And do they show us the love? Sigh, work frustration creeping up, will stop now.
Ah well, I’m looking forward to sleeping tonight in my own bed UNDER a roof! How exciting! I’m not even being sarcastic. I get excited about things like roof, big bed, and hot water – especially the latter since we don’t even have hot water at home. Sigh, when was the last time I’ve actually had a hot shower???