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« January 22, 2005 | Main | January 20, 2005 »

January 21, 2005

Mile 21 Camp, 3:29 PM

Wonderful to wake up in a tent, a bit cold outside but cozy in your sleeping bag, and look up and see mist-covered mountains in the largest continuous tract of tropical forests in S.E. Asia. Padded out in my flip-flops and Polartec jacket to have a hot cup of tea.  The fires had already been started and breakfast was on the way.  This is the life.

Left camp after breakfast this morning and headed back up the road - the downhill section effectively becoming uphill again - for about a mile and a half until we ran into a group of six rattan collectors.  A friendly lot, and we got loads of information about species, quantities, and prices.  While we were chatting, a flock of five hornbills flew by overhead.  Have never seen a flock of hornbills; a bit like seeing five Rafflesia flowers (see Corpse Flower) in one day. The collectors told us about a large diameter cane that they were collecting, "kadin", and agreed to show us where we could get a specimen. They had gone into the forest eight miles yesterday to collect  "yamata" rattan.   The were intrigued by our method of collecting specimens and hung around until we started doing our transect.   I have some black flies biting me as I write this, each bite drawing a small drop of blood.  I've just returned from a bath and have shorts on, but I think I 'll go put on some long sleeves and long pants to stop the bugs.

3:48 (con't).

Back with pants and jacket.  The place where the rattan collectors took us was close by and perfect for a transect.  We counted five separate species in the plots and made two collections, both of them new and unknown rattans. This will be my high elevation transect at 1040 masl. It's amazing how far up rattans can grow and still maintain such high diversity. It's also amazing how we keep finding new rattans in these forests.

After finishing our transect we had a "picnic" lunch along the road. Since we have been on this section of the road from Namyun to Shimbweyang, with the exception of the truck we came in, we haven't seen one vehicle.  A couple of dozen women carrying large baskets of stuff, and a handful of men on scooters laden with rice sacks, one team of rattan collectors, and a couple of army guys...but not one vehicle.  Roads without cars aren't so bad.

Back at camp, Andrew and I went to bathe under the bridge where ice cold water pours out of a bamboo pipe. Very brisk, but I did manage to bathe and, as a gesture to Case's admonition "to not come back with a beard", I even shaved. The sun is going down now and it's time to take down the solar panel which I had left on the roof of the tent all day charging camera batteries. The sun was blazing so well today that I managed to charge up my camera battery and after we returned from the field I plugged in one of Andrew's batteries and managed to charge it, too. It's a great system as long as it doesn't rain.

I hear the cooks chopping away preparing our dinner and now that Andrew and I are both clean, we have some plants to press. A relaxing evening in camp.  And now the moon is full.

7:37 PM (con't).

While we were in the field, the kitchen crew made a picnic table and benches for eight people out in front of our camp. It is made entirely of bamboo and rattan and took three of them 2 hours to make.  We pressed plants on it this afternoon and they prepared a sumptuous candlelight dinner on it this evening. It will be a nice gift to leave for the next travelers that visit Mile 21 camp. The temperature has already dropped to 6º C. It's going to be a cold night...


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