Blog for 2010-07-4

From BioDivBorneo2010

Jump to: navigation, search
Spiders are even better than coffee for waking up in the morning.
One of my favorite things has got to be waking up while hiking or backpacking, especially if you can stay in a nice place like Camel Trophy (Nepenthes) Camp. We had a nice start to our day with breakfast and hot tea, as well as getting to hear Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga playing on the radio from the kitchen (interesting subsamples of American music). Reports of Germany's 4-0 win over Argentina trickled in over the guides' radios, making the morning a very good start for some. :) We also had some early wildlife spottings, including a large Nephila spider. Apparently these do bite, but probably won't kill you. We hope.
Pitcher plants!

Our hike today took us through much of the kerangas forest, which is the sandy-soil forest characterized by low nutrients and unique vegetation. We got to see a lot of pitcher plants, which make up for the poor soil by modifying their leaves to create "pitchers," which trap small insects in digestive fluids secreted by the plant. We've seen about three or four different types, all genus Nepenthes. Some grow down low on the ground, while some tend to grow in large vines up the trees, leaving nicely spaced pitchers all the way up the trunk. We were really able to see how poor the soil was when we stopped at a clearing--the trees were only three or four meters tall, at most. It's been really neat to see the dramatic changes in the forest as we move through different geological foundations and structures.

In addition to the pitcher plants, we also spotted a lot of neat fungi and heard a hornbill and an Argus Pheasant, whose calls are quickly becoming familiar to us. However, the most commonly spotted wildlife today was the dreaded leech. Eurgh. The leeches here, unlike in North America, are terrestrial and will latch onto your boots or legs as you pass on the damp forest floor. They're actually Annelid worms in the subgroup Hirudinea. I learned recently that the blood anticoagulant they inject to help the blood flow from their victims more freely is called "hirudin," so this taxon name makes much more sense to me now! Finding that a leech had bitten my upper leg once we arrived in camp also helped me understand the leeches a bit better, even if I didn't exactly approach it in a sanguine manner. It's long pants for me from now on!

Due to the flatness of the trail and lack of steep trails, today's hike was fairly smooth and fast. Our group was able to move quickly through the forest; sometimes it's nice to hike fast, although I do enjoy stopping to examine things along the trial. The descent into Ginseng Camp was relatively steep, however. The camp was down near a stream for easy access to water, so we had to hike down quite a distance before we reached the camp. It also began to rain early in the evening, making any hopes for drying damp clothes only a dream. Ginseng Camp was much bigger compared to Camel Trophy; almost each bed had its own mosquito net, and there were bunk beds provided by (surprise!) Ikea. We spent much of the night relaxing after dinner, playing chess, checkers, and cards with a homemade set, thanks to Marlee and Kaz. Tomorrow we should reach the Maliau Falls. Hooray!