I couldn’t see properly, heck, I couldn’t even see the hand right in front of my face. The only saving grace I had was the small torchlight strapped around my right wrist. Thankfully, it was a powerful little bugger. Tired and drenched with sweat, I pushed through the dense forest, hoping that the next step I was taking was not into a deep hole covered only by leaves and mud.
2 steps later, I landed in such a hole 😦
I don’t know where you spent your Monday night.
But I spent mine in the thick of a swamp forest near Seria, Labi road to be precise.
That’s right, the adventures of Indiana Alhamid have begun!
*Cue the inspirational Indiana Jones tune!*
Dr. Ulmar texted me and asked if I would like to tag along for a research very similar to what I’d be doing in July. I figured it would be a good way to get to know the techniques involved.
That and I didn’t have any stellar plans for Monday night.
Went to UBD to meet up with Ulmar and a research student doing her Masters in NUS, a Singaporean girl by the name of Gwen. We immediately left in Dr. Ulmar’s jeep for the hour long drive to Labi road.
When we finally got there, I was acquainted my new best friend…this bag:
*A 70 litre hiking bag*
It looked EXACTLY like that one above…except for the colour.
And it was not light.
In fact, it held most of the sensitive equipment for the tests we’d be doing.
Right, so I’ve strapped on this HUGE bag…almost as big as myself, on my back and I was going through the thick forest and if anyone of you knows what a swamp forest is like…you know the ground isn’t exactly the flattest thing in the world.
Bad enough my balance is offset due to the massive load I was carrying but I’ve also got to watch out for the many roots protruding out of nowhere.
We ventured about 15m into the forest to set up our site.
There in the thick of the forest, it got really dark, really fast – it was only 6.30pm.
Gwen and Ulmar had a headlamp.
I only had a torch, which Ulmar kindly lent to me. 😦
We set up equipment and made jokes to pass the time.
Found out that Gwen is super-super-smart when it comes to bugs. I know ONE lecturer that wouldn’t mind getting to know Gwen! She really fascinated me with the different kinds of bugs she studied and is probably the ONLY GIRL I’ve EVER met that loves cockroaches!
And dung flies.
I had set my bag down on the ground as we were talking and not 15 minutes into our conversation I had noticed a mini tarantula had gotten comfortable on top of my bag.
And that was the one I COULD see…mind you, alot of these little critters DON’T LIKE to be seen.
My mind wondered about how many had crawled into my bag through the zip I left open.
I quickly closed the zip.
Using my torch, I shooed the mini tarantula off my bag.
It raised its forelegs as if to say, “Bugger off! This here is my bag!”
We had a debate and a cup of tea.
Then it left.
What a nice chap 🙂
The roaches in the forest are DIFFERENT too!
*They look similar to the Brazilian cockroaches you see here*
Midway through our conversation they attacked.
The GOD-DAMN MOSQUITOES!
I knew I shouldn’t wear insect repellent because we were trapping INSECTS!
So all I could do was swat them like a madman.
I heard them cry, “The hairy one! He’s killing our men! Get him!”
Me, in my infinite genius, wore a black shirt to the trip 😦
I might as well have painted a “FREE DINNER” sign on myself for the mosquitoes to read!
Once we had set the insect traps we tried to catch a frog.
Gwen caught it very nicely.
Then we heard another one.
Now remember that it is PITCH BLACK in the forest, save for our flashlights.
So we were following the calling of this frog, moving through the dense forest.
When we finally arrived to where the frog was, we realized it was located too high up in the tree to catch.
So back we went.
When we had packed up our stuff, we wanted to go to another side of the forest, but first we had to exit this particular forest…which was kind of difficult.
Remember? Pitch black?
Where do we go?
With the huge bag on my back, we ended up making circles in the forest which sounds more fun than it actually was.
I was dead tired.
It was dark.
Mosquitoes were munching on me.
The forest was dizzying in the dark.
It was Patoi all over again.
But it was just the 3 of us.
Ulmar decided to head out alone to find an exit, leaving me and Gwen in the forest to rest.
Didn’t help that I watched a zombie film the night before.
But I wasn’t afraid of zombies as I was of running into the web of this kind of spider:
*Just try it buddy…*
As I said, it was dark – so it was hard to tell where I was heading.
Just then Ulmar called out and had said he had found a way out, Alhamdulillah.
As we walked towards him…the big bag I had on had caught on something – or something had caught on it.
I couldn’t move.
I tried to wrestle with the thing, but I couldn’t move.
The bag was taller than me, so it wasn’t like I could turn around and see what it was.
I had thought it was a vine…but vines this strong?
I pulled and pulled and I heard a ‘crack’…the vine had snapped…but still…I was stuck.
Ulmar was way out there.
Gwen was about 10m ahead of me.
I called out, “Gwen…I’m kinda stuck”
“Oh ok, I’ll be right there,” she said.
When she clambered back…I turned around to show her how my bag was stuck…when all of a sudden…I wasn’t stuck anymore…
We moved on out from the forest.
We almost spent 1 hour being lost and I was tired.
Alhamdulillah Ulmar said it was too late to conduct another test, so we headed on home.
So…spending 3 hours in the forest, getting lost, kissed by lovely spiny rattan stems and sucked on by mosquitoes…all we got was one frog 🙂
Oh yeah and the insect trappings yielded some good data as well.
At least 🙂
Got back home and had a nice shower…wow…I love showers after trips like that; makes you appreciate being clean 😀
Compared to Gwen, I wasn’t badly bitten actually…maybe it’s all the hair 😉 No landing space for the suckers.
That and I was swatting them like nuts.
Alhamdulillah, I had read many doa’s before and during my time in the forest and I am safe 🙂
The forest can be a dangerous place, not just physically (I almost dislocated my shoulder) but also metaphysically.
So yeah, behave yourself when you’re in there.
On the way back Ulmar and Gwen asked me if I wanted to join them again the next day…
“Haha, nah, it’s alright” I replied.
I got chores to do!
Stay safe my friends,
And if you’re ever on Labi road, look out for Ulmar’s copper brown Pajero! 😛