Saturday, 30 August 2014

13th - 15th August - Days 5 - 7; Nanga Sampa Longhouse, Sarawak Borneo

This morning we set off after breakfast, our destination Nanga Sampa Longhouse, a lodge about five hours north of Kuching.  There was however some initial confusion over exactly what we were doing, s our guide had a very different view to us.  Fortunately we were right, although later in the day we both wondered if that was actually the case.

Our journey took us on route one, which is the main road out of Kuching, and off towards Sabah in the north.  The main road though was not in the best condition and were continually bumped around as the road while looking quite smooth was full of bumps and cracks.

Our first stop was Serian, to tour around the market, we were treated to some strange new fruit, that all seemed to have the same taste.  A round brown one looking like a small potato, but once peeled looked and tasted like a lychee, and a red hairy fruit that too once peeled had a translucent look and tasted like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit.  Helen pointed out a bowl that had what looked like wood and saw dust, but was moving, and this turned out to be something called worms, something that apparently is good to eat raw.  We declined, these are actually the larvae of a large beetle, which we never found the name of.

The market itself was lively and colourful, and our guide obviously had a shopping list for the longhouse meal tonight

Back on the road we slowly travelled on, passing large construction trucks, and buses.  The next stop was at a pepper farm, and we had a short walk around and then were allowed to buy some, for the record black and white pepper are just the same, one is soaked for a period of time and goes white.

The next stop was lunch and the chance to buy more goodies which we declined, they just didn't have the right wardrobe available.  The bumping and throwing about made us drowsy and we all dropped off only to wake thinking we had been asleep for hours only to find it was a few minutes.  Our guide dropped off as well, and looked completely bewildered when we stopped and the driver told him to get out and show us a Pitcher Plant, and some flowers.

Our destination was Batang Ali Reservoir, a huge reservoir created about 20 years ago, not for water, there is plenty of that here in Borneo, but for power.  Apparently the hydro electric power from this dam can supply more than enough of Sarawak's energy demands, to the point where they have too much and are now considering building an Aluminium smelter.

As we approached the dam we saw our first egrets of the trip, it can't have been a coincidence that this was a fish farm.  On the whole of the journey we noticed once again the lack of birds.  There were doves on the power lines but that was about it.  I can only assume the doves do well because of the amount of palm trees that provide suitable nest trees.  There were a few more birds as we approached the reservoir, but unidentifiable.  The egrets too I was not sure of.

Another feature of the landscape was the amount of Palm Trees, they were everywhere in all stages of growth, again it can't be a coincidence that where there are a lot of palms there are few birds.  The natural vegetation has been removed and replaced with this sterile and choking crop.  I appreciate the vale of palm oil, but is is very sad to see the lack of wildlife.  Perhaps the saddest thing of all though is the sight of a tall rain forest trees sticking out of the middle of a Palm oil plantation.

At the boat lodge we waited for the long boats to arrive to take us up river to the longhouse.  

It was not a large boat, and narrow so one had to sit behind each other, powered by an outboard motor, with a paddle and pole used at the front.  Our bags were loaded and we gingerly boarded, and headed out onto the reservoir.  The water level was quite low as these are the dryer months.  Large expanses of sand could be seen where the water had dropped and exposed the sandy mud, while there were also the dead branches of trees that had been submerged when the valley had flooded once the dam was built.  The water was a green colour, and not the muddy colour of all the rivers we had seen so far, this is probably due to the dam holding the water back and it settling.

There were islands with old tin shacks on it, where people had to abandon them when the reservoir was created.  

The whole lake was though completely devoid of wildlife, there were a few Swifts, and a couple of butterflies, an then a little further in, Black-naped Terns.  Once we started to see houses, the House Swallows appeared, dipping low over the water

We made good time through the deeper part of the reservoir, but then we came to a set of rapids and a waterfall, that was to prove a major problem.  With the falling water level this time of year, we had to get out of the boat, and clamber up the side of the valley.  This would have been ok, if (a) we didn't have to carry bags, and (b) it wasn't raining.  I slipped and hurt my food, and had to help Helen, a little further along I slipped again and could have fallen quite a distance but managed to save myself on a pole.  At the same time I dropped Helen's bag and fortunately we only lost a bottle of water.

Finally we managed to make it up river, and on to a bluff where we could board the boat once again.  I must admit to being furious about this, we were given ono warning or chance to ensure we had equipment that would have made this easier to negotiate.  The whole preparation for this part of the trip had been handled very poorly.

One positive was that we began to see wildlife, Helen picked out a European Kingfisher, and there were birds calling close to the river.   The water level continued to be low, and we had to keep stopping to punt the boat through shallow areas.  We arrived at the Longhouse and were given a cup of tea, we rested and calmed down before going to our room.  It was very basic, very similar to our Indian experience.  We sat there and sorted our bags in silence, this was not what it looked like on the intranet.  We were informed about the fire in the original longhouse back in May, but not about this basic situation.  The new longhouse looks very nice, but it is not finished yet, we were just too late.

I decided to check out the bird life, there were  Tree Swiftlets in the top of the trees and I managed to get some pictures.

But just then it started to rain hard, something it continued to do for well into the evening.  the rain was incredible hard at time, lets hope it fills the river and the rapids.

As darkness fell we wondered what we will do for the evening, despite the fact that it was wet and humid and impossible to get dry it was also a very "dry" place.

We were awoken at 2.30 by crowing cockerels, goodness knows what they were up at that time for, but they were and they continued to crow for the rest of the night.  Sleep was fitful, and I finally decided to get up at 6:15 as it was just getting light.  I could hear bird song, and hoped there would be some around the lodge.

I grabbed a cup of tea and walked around the area.  The Tree Swiftlets were buzzing around catching insects and always returning to the same perch to wait for another hunting opportunity.

I came across a small blue and yellow bird that I assume was a Broadbill, but could never get a close enough view to agree on a firm identification.  All the other birds were distant and impossible to identify.  
The river looked a little calmer after the rain overnight

The morning dawned to mist high in the trees, and the sun rose there was some blue sky.  After breakfast we were off on a hike through one of the jungle trails ending up at another longhouse.

We were told about how the native persons used the vegetation for string and medicine, and all about the types of different plants, and all the various fruits that were edible.  We were given a wild pineapple which tasted much nicer than the domestic ones, and there was the hairy red fruit known as Rambutan, and the potato looking lychees, Mata Kucing.  These are the Rambutan fruits.

It was a dark and dense jungle, photography was difficult, and all the birds remained hidden just their song to let you know they were there.  The forest floor was covered with decaying leaves, and amongst them would be fungi, this lovely delicate cap being the largest we could find.

The trail was difficult as last nights rain had made the clay soil quite slippery.  We were show platforms in the trees that were the remains of an Orang Utan nest.  the Orang Utans are nomadic, and move through the forest making a new nest to sleep on every night.  We would scan across the forest canopy for any sign, but without any luck.

Another find on the path was this venomous Centipede, it can bite from the front, and sting like a scorpion from the back, quite a nasty individual, which won't kill you but deliver a very painful reaction.

Once again there were some lovely unidentifiable butterflies.

About halfway through the walk it started to rain, big spots at first then it became very heavy, and the walking became even more treacherous.  Finally we reached the longhouse and were able to shelter from what was now heavy rain.

The longhouse is exactly that a long house with one long room and rooms off the large one.  It was a bit like being in a shed.  Our plans were changed and we were now to have lunch while the rain fell, visiting the waterfall later in the afternoon once, hopefully when the rain had stopped, but for now it just poured.

The view from the house was typical of these sorts of villages, shacks and plenty of dogs, chickens and rubbish.

Inside our fellow travellers tucked into the rice wine along with the locals.

Eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out and it became quite humid, this did though bring out the butterflies, and a few birds, we were visited briefly by an unidentifiable sun bird, 
 a pair of Verditor Flycatchers and this Red Breasted Sharma. 

As the rain eased the swifts came out, they are difficult to identify as they wiz by but this one was definitely a White-throated Needletail.

After lunch the drinking and dancing continued, but finally they brought it to a close, and our hosts then sobered up to take us up river to the waterfall in the long boats.  The river was still quite low, and the journey involved racing through the deep water, and punting and pushing through the shallows.

The waterfall was quite impressive, and must be an amazing sight when the river is high in the monsoon.

Paddling in the water small fish would nibble at your feet.  Leaving the waterfall and heading down stream was easier than going up, and we made good time cruising through a different river now that it was sun lit.  A brief glimpse of a Stork-billed Kingfisher was also brightened the journey.

Whilst the majority of the locals sobered up, one was left behind, and as we came back past the longhouse he was just beginning to wake up.

Back at the lodge there were no more birds, but a few dragonflies enjoying the sunshine.  The river too, looked completely different.

We then set off up the side of the valley in search or Orang Utan.  Our guide had seen the a few days ago, and was hopeful we may be able to relocate them, but apart from the now familiar nest platforms, we saw very little else.  As we walked back down the trail the sky looked black, with thunder rumbling away in the distance.  It was a cold shower, and dream of ice cold beer and a glass of wine, before dinner. Instead it was tea.  I know the first thing I will do when i reach the hotel tomorrow.

The night was again long, we had experienced similar situations in India, but in th jungle while the setting is impressive the view is not something you leap out of bed for at first light.

Through the night there had been lots of noises and at one point something gnawing at the roof, we survived though to daylight.

We had an early breakfast, and was on the long boat just before 8:00.  With all the ran the river had risen overnight, and had turned the muddy brown colour as a result of the rain washing silt and mud down the valleys.  The journey to the waterfall was not to difficult, and we had very few stops compared to the same trip up river.

At the waterfall we left the boat, and our main bags and then walked up the side of the hill.  Having made the journey once, and also the trekking yesterday we knew now what to expect, and it wasn't too bad.  We then watched our boat go over the waterfall, thankfully our bags were out as it filled up with a lot of water.  Once baled out and the bags loaded once again we were off.  The water now was sufficiently deep for us to carry on without stops straight to the boat jetty.  The journey took one hour and fifteen minutes.  In the initial stages there were house swallows and house swifts flying low over the water all around us, but as we reached the deeper water the wildlife dried up, and we the noise of the engine and the rocking of the boat had a soporific effect on me.

Off the boat and into the bus, the bouncing road, monotonous landscape and the fact that we were both exhausted continued with the soporific conditions.  We stopped for lunch at the same cafe, and then back into Kuching around 15:00.

We were staying in the same hotel with the same Tree Sparrows, Spotted Doves and Starlings.  The room was very welcome after the basic conditions of the jungle, the shower welcome, and the bar wonderful, the view from the hotel room quite impressive.

Tomorrow we are of to Kota Kinabalu, and the Shangri La resort, hopefully Sabah will turn up more birds.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.