• Abi Gwynn

Camp Life

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

Entering camp for the first time was a glorious feeling! 9 long months of planning and excitement but I was finally here, deep in the heart of beautiful tropical rainforest.

There was an excited chatter as everyone filed through the narrow log one by one as we got our first sight of home for the next 4 weeks. I was pleasantly surprised by the conditions in camp! I expected a hammock for a bed, strung up over swampy ground but being prepared for the worst meant anything would've been better! But to be honest, it was luxury! As we entered camp, to our left was the girls' 'pondok' (sleeping tent). Inside the large, blue tarpaulin tent there were two lines of beds with a walkway in between. They were made of empty rice sacks stretched across two poles. It may sound basic but you'd be surprised how comfy they are!

Our messy pondok!

As we continued through camp to the right was the boys' pondok, and opposite that the communal eating and meeting area. Further on was the kitchen area, more bedrooms and down two sapling walkways coming off each side were the 'mandis' (Indonesian for washing area).

Just up the hill from the girls' pondok was the toilet block. Everyone was itching to find out what we'd be dealing with for the next month but it wasn't actually that bad (judge for yourself I suppose!)

There was an excited hum in the air as everyone got settled in. After our sweaty walk, us girls decided to make quick use of the mandi before the boys could get in! The cold flowing water was so refreshing after hiking through the near 100% humidity and the communal washing every day soon turned into a bit of a gossip session (for the girls at least!). Sat in a red/brown coloured river in the middle of a rainforest singing to the Circle of Life and a multitude of other Disney classics is not your average day at the office!

It didn't take long until we had our first injury of the trip...and it was me. After returning from the mandi and hanging my clothes out to dry, I was a complete fool and misjudged where the sapling walkway was, falling off into the mud below. Luckily it wasn't that bad, leaving me with only, well, a little less skin on my leg than I had before! Just a bad graze and a beautiful bruise afterwards. It's safe to say when maneuvering across the sapling walkways, I never took my eyes off my feet again!

“Sat in a red/brown coloured river in the middle of a rainforest singing to the Circle of Life and a multitude of other Disney classics is not your average day at the office!”

One of the first evenings in camp we were lucky enough to grab a sighting of some three-striped palm civets high in the trees above our camp! These animals are not commonly seen but these individuals showed no fear of our presence at all! Civets look like they should be a cross between a cat, fox and a primate but they are in fact a more primitive form of cats, contained in the Viverridae family, along with genets. Sadly, they are widely exploited across Asia for 'civet coffee'. They are kept in cages and fed coffee beans. Because the bean doesn't fully digest, when they excrete them, the bean supposedly tastes better after passing through the digestive tract of an animal. Interesting idea but we saw this on sale much too often whilst travelling around Indonesia.

Three-striped palm civet

That evening we all gathered for dinner which consisted of, yep you guessed it, rice! Along with noodles, stir fried veg, tofu and tempe (which is amaaazing!). Little did I realise this meal would be our staple...every day...3 times a day... I never got sick of it as it was very tasty, however the sheer amount of oil and grease all of the time wasn't great for me.

Tomorrow would mark the first day of forest training and I was so excited! My next blog will talk about the research we started doing in the forest!

Some of the team! Composed of University of Exeter students & staff, Universitas Muhammadiyah Palangkaraya students & staff, local people from Mungku Baru and Borneo Nature Foundation

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