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SOS Rhino : In the News: : Articles : SOS RHINO BORNEO VOLUNTEER REPORT 1-14 AUGUST 2002
 

SOS RHINO BORNEO VOLUNTEER REPORT 1-14 AUGUST 2002

  Claire Wilkinson

DAY 1-3
Spent at the base camp, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, trying to acclimatise to the overwhelming heat and humidity. Met the rangers and Lane, affectionately known as "The Boss"!! The night before "going in", we had a team meeting, Lane showed us how to use the cybertrackers and we prepared our rucksacks for the next 10 days. Having packed mine and decided it was far too heavy for a weed such as myself, I was almost in tears when Nimrod (my Team Leader) then told me I had 10 days worth of rice to carry. Thankfully he took pity on me and the rangers split it between them and carried it.

DAY 4
Come to Borneo, they said. Hike 5-10 km a day, they said. What they didnít say was that before you could do that, you had to walk to the camp at kilometre 17 with all your supplies!!. Thankfully, Lane gave us a lift to kilometre 4, which just left the 13km to go, in the searing heat. Was pleasantly surprised to arrive at kilometre 17 about 4 in the afternoon (was pleasantly surprised to arrive kilometre 17 at all!!!!). As the night drew in I was almost overwhelmed by the beauty of it all ‚ the incredible sense of tranquility; the beauty of the stars; the fact that I was in some of the most unspoilt rainforest in the world!!!

DAY 5
Today the two groups parted company and our group, Nimrod, Tinju, Samson, Yoktan, Frederick and myself headed off south at kilometre 21. Now I really found out what hiking through the rainforest was all about!! Boy, was it hard work. When we arrived at our camp, we found very little shade or water. However, the rangers did find some palms, that we stripped and ate fried with onion and garlic. Absolutely delicious!

DAY 6
Silly me! When Nimrod said that we were going to follow the river, I foolishly thought we were going to find a path that followed the river. No, we were going to walk through the river, rucksacks and all. Not so easy when youíre only 5ft3in tall. Still, we did see a darter fly out in front of us and a family of bearded pig feeding on the bank opposite us. Got my first leech bite today; I did think I might suffer from the copious blood loss, but the rangers assured me that I would live to survey another day. They were, of course, right!

DAY 7
Today there were definite signs of human encroachment. We passed quite a lot of refuse on the old logging path, including dead batteries, a shoe and a used shotgun pellet. We could also hear voices and the sound of lorries as we were making camp that evening; we were closer to the edge of the reserve than I had realised.

DAY 8
Possibly the hardest day so far. The vegetation was so dense in places that we were literally only moving a couple of paces at a time. We were also jumping over stream beds with our packs on ‚ not something I ever thought I could do!! During the day we passed baby elephant tracks, bearded pig wallows and samba deer tracks. The rhino remained elusive!

DAY 9
A very short day today, again walking along a river bed. At camp in the afternoon, the rangers were larking about in the river when we heard voices. Four men with shotguns were walking up the river ‚ apparently going fishing. My greatest contribution to the survey so far; they took one look at the orang puti (white person) and left very hurriedly!!!

DAY 10
A short dayís hike today ‚ or maybe Iím finally getting used to it?! A number of hornbills were nesting in a tree above us and I could have spent hours watching them, flying squirrels and a pygmy squirrel. The weather was threatening all day and at night we had the most amazing storm. Thanks to the construction of the camp, we were able to watch the rain in relative comfort!

DAY 11
Returned to the camp at kilometre 17, again following a river. Only I was prepared this time!! Got leeches inside my trousers, not quite sure how, and ended up looking like an extra from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Thankfully the bites look worse than they are; theyíre not painful, just not particularly attractive!

DAY 12
Met up with the other group, who had managed to site some rhino prints. It was great to see Tracey (the other volunteer) again and meet up with all the other rangers. Quite a party atmosphere prevailed.

DAY 13
Back to base camp today. Unfortunately the gate was locked so we had to hike the full 17 km. Still, after 10 days in the rainforest and with a virtually empty pack it was a mere hop, skip and a jump down the logging track. I was still the last to make it back though, and was greeted by the site of Lane and the Landrover (oh, joy!) and cheers from the rest of the team.

This was possibly the hardest 10 days hiking Iíve done. Although my team didnít see any evidence of Rhinos, it wasnít particularly surprising as we were very close to the edge of the reserve, which is surrounded by plantations. However, it was a magical experience and I would heartily recommend it to anyone with a sense of adventure and a desire to help protect the Sumatran rhino. The rangers are the kindest people you could meet, even if they did spend quite a lot of time laughing at me and my efforts at hiking through the rainforest, and they made it a very memorable time for me. If I was asked, I would jump at the chance to do it again.

Terima kasih SOS Rhino!!

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