Thursday, October 28, 2010

Welcome to the Hotel Paya Maga

Dearest Friends,

To say this post is overdue would be a heinous understatement. But life since coming back from the expedition has been busier than ever (Countless photos to edit and send to different people who need the pictures for work; dozens of plant samples to process; combating some unpleasantly belligerent bowel movements from some unclean water/food i must have taken in) Anyways, enough excuses...let's get to what everyone wants to hear- what the hell was my expedition into the virgin jungle like?

For one, it was fucking wet. We literally were in the clouds, with the humidity in most cases around 95%, and rain coming down with a vengeance sometimes on the hour. Also it was way cooler here, dipping to as low as 13 degrees Celsius at night. For me this was very refreshing, for the rest of the cold-unadjusted crew, this was sheer misery- people were bundled up in 4-5 layers as if a blizzard were sweeping over our camp. But taking baths (which consisted of pouring cupfuls of ice cold water over your body) was an experience...other than the cold and much cursing, there was always the walk back to bed through muddy terrain. Usually it was not possible to avoid that step into deep mud, undoing the hard work of the recent bath.

At night, the moths were out to play. They were not shy at all, perching on your head, face, computer, even glasses, usually flying straight into you. Those stupid bastards would always drown in my tea, I really never understood what led them to commit was probably the reflection of the light (for them it must be like a black hole with a bright "Enter Here" sign)
The size of these moths was just astounding- many of them were as big or bigger than the palm of my hand. i hope at some point some moth specialist will conduct a big study of the moths in this area. When the generator would turn off at 11, i would use my head lamp to get around and read...well at points i felt an entire army of moths attack my net, looking for ways to come closer to the Light. And the force of these guys was terrifying...i felt like they would rip my net in many cases, so would just hurry to turn off the light.
Ok so even though it sounds like i'm complaining, i loved every aspect of the expedition, even the moths, cold baths, and muddy walk back. On the first night at our camp, I woke up at 2 am, and looked up to be surprised by the most stunning starlit sky I have ever experienced. It looked densely pack with stars, and somehow was clearer and closer than I had ever seen before. That first night, I already felt this sense of great calm wash over me. On some level, I felt like this amazing place was healing the anxieties and scars of a busy urban life...for a moment I imagined myself being healed by this island (Borneo) as was John Locke from Lost (the baldness helped this relation). Like Locke, on the island, I feel myself able to tap into a whole new store of energy within me. That proved so important for the hiking I would do.
So over the next few days we did many hours of great hiking through the various trails in the area, searching for interesting and new plant/fungal life. We trekked across some precarious clay-covered log bridges, nasty mud, and trails densely packed with those needle-thorned plants just aching to pierce your skin. Leeches were commonplace, and I always found a minimum of 5 hiding in my shoes at the end of the day. We got to see some wicked plant life, most notably orchids...this area seems to be some sort of orchid haven.
At night, some of the fauna groups would go on hikes, since so many animals come out to play in the dark. I joined in on the last night hike, and definitely had to overcome some serious fears...I mean in the first 5 minutes we stumbled across two poisonous snakes...this viper that was particularly ticked off, and another called a boega, which was calm enough for me to hold with my hand. So hiking in night is actually really fun, and you get to see so much more...seems like all the coolest animal life can only be seen at night...all these frogs, stick insects, centipedes, snakes, geckos...and one guy even saw a slow loris. But it's definitely scarier, since you can easily step on an unsuspecting snake, or some unsteady ground (though good use of a head lamp really helps). But I guess it's something that comes with experience. At the end of the hike, we saw this orchid that blooms only at night. When I shined my UV light at it, the tentacles (it looks exactly like a jelly fish or something out of Alien) fluoresced bluish white.
Oh and i got to meet some of the coolest people ever- 55yr old adventurers who spelunk (one of them led the national geographic expedition into the Mulu Caves), and hike for entire days at a time. Also one of these guys is both a scuba diving and paragliding rad. We had some epic conversations about the meaning of life, and well, this trip made me realize how much I really do love adventure. I think I have a problem. Adventurers Anonymous?
And well, there is much more to talk about but I will come back to it later. this post is long enough.Stay tuned for my trip down on this makeshift RV, which we dubbed the Sarawak RV.

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