(Expedisi Kulamba, Universiti Malaysia Sabah)
The camp has twenty-one people, researchers, lecturers and assistants and university students. We are aided by boatmen from the village, glad enough to earn more than they can get from fishing.
[Me, and some students, birding]
This is not the Kinabatangan of the well-heeled tourist, or even the young eco- backpacker. This is the end of civilisation where even the fishermen rarely trespass. There is an old logging road, and a logging camp, for – alas – even paradise has its snake. We use the road to explore the forest. The mud is gluey and I still haven’t managed to get my feet clean. (I am thinking it’s time I get a pedicure for the first time in my life, except it seems so horribly decadent. I’ve just spent a week with fishermen who earn less than $US 70 a month.)
There is a generator at night for a few hours – long enough to recharge batteries. We sleep in canvas cots under a roof – but the tropical rain often proves too much for the “roof”. One night I had to climb into my bed from an ankle-deep muddy pool - complete with resident frogs. Another time there was an ominous crack and one of the support beams broke under the weight of the water collecting on the canvas.
That's the village headman standing next to my husband, fro the water village down at the mouth of the Kulamba. The villagers built the camp for us - and my husband reckons that must be why the canvas cots are all so short...
The mosquitoes are ferocious and persistent. The earth churns into mud. We wash in water pumped up from the river and cook with water filtered from the Kinabatangan.
But, oh, the scenery along the rivers of this wetland.