Blog for 2010-07-6

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Biodiversity of Borneo Blog for 6 July 2010

Another freezing morning greeted us on our last day of our four day hike. I had never realized how different temperatures could be at night with such a small area. The birds appeared to have had a wonderful night, they were chirping happily whilst most people still sleeping groaned uncomfortably. I shuffled out of my hammock at towards the fireplace quietly so that I would not wake anyone. Luckily, the guides had been boiling water for the past half hour. Without much thought, I looked for my mug and hastily poured milo powder and water into it. Waiting to warm up with hot milo and sabah tea, others started to emerge from under the tarp. It looked like lots of us had had a better night's sleep than the previous nights (if anyone saw Marlee yesterday morning, they will understand) but others, like Sachi, arrived at the table speechless and frowning. A cup of milo appeared to do wonders for everyone. The brave ones that went out at 4am to hide at a bird's dancing ground hoping to catch a glimpse of it's performance returned warm, tired and a little disappointed. The bird had apparently danced around them, squaking loudly, but did not show itself to them. Luckily, we have Frank for us when the bird fauna fails to show up. A solid replacement.

Breakfast was the usual noodles with chicken nuggets. Afterwards we gathered all the guides and the cooks and thanked them for taking such good care of us whislt hiking, making up the camp when it had not been used for about 6 months, carrying up all our food and making it into something edible. The guides are surprisingly tough. Many of them climb around the basin in basic rubber shoes without much trouble - some even climb around in flip flops! A few of them come from the fourth largest town in Sabah, the name of which escaped me. The funniest moments are when we try to guess each other's ages. They say that judging people of the same ethnic group is a lot easier than judging the ages of other ethnic groups you are not exposed to as much. We pitched a 15 year old as the oldest, and underestimated the ages of the other guides.

We quickly packed our things together as well as we could. Almost everyone had a set of wet clothes from swimming in the river yesterday. The clothes had not dried and smelled pretty vile. Kinari called this 'the funk'. When she and Cam lived in the rainforest it was impossible to avoid the funk. The best way to keep it away for as long as possible was to wera the same clothes straight (walking, sleeping, everything) for a week and only then wash them. The guides manage to keep this 'funk' out of their clothes by thoroughly washing them every day as soon as they are done with the hike. Personal hygiene in Malaysia seems much cleaner over all than in the West. People bathe up to 3 times a day in South East Asian countries and almost certainly twice. the South East Asian students admitted that Westerners had a reputation for being a little dirty.

We set off for one last trek through the rain forest at around 9am. During the first hour of walking, I thought there may be a chance to see some birds. Unfortunately, my patience is not made for bird watching. I had been spoiled by the hornbills at the Maliau Basin study facility. The walk along a hill soon turned into a climb up a slippery, leaf covered trail. We paused by a huge tree, probably with a diameter of 2m. We made a circle around the base of the tree to wee how many people it takes to completely reach around it. 8 people are needed to reach around the butresses. The walk became no easier. In fact, the walk became harder since the trails were on the edge of a hill and diffifult to walk on. It was not far from real bushwhacking. There were two points on this trail that I distinctly remeber. The first, was a clearing in the canopy by the trail that exposed a picture perfect view of the primary forest. The second was a treachorous part of the path along a cliff. There, as far as we could tell, the best way to pass was by holding on to a vine and balancing on a thick tree root that protruded from the cliff face. This part was only two or three steps but definitely got more adrenalin going that any other step at Maliau.

Eventually, the terrain levelled out. Dex and I walked briskly to through the last patch of forest to find the path leading to the Study center. That 5 minute walk from the forest edge to the study center appeared to be the longest part. The Resthouse at the study center had put out pound cake and watermelon. We of course devoured as much of it as we could and then headed to the showers to feel cleaner than at any point in the last four days. People started to triclke into the camp soon after. the exhaustion was obvious by the lack of loud talking and body language. Slumping had become every one's favorite way of holding themselves.

The hornbills in the large fig tree at the front of the study center were giving a show. Zach said he spotted about a dozen. One large rhinocerous hornbill was in plain view for a good 45 minutes before 'going home' in Zach's words. It was a perfect end to our stay at the Maliau Study Center.