( Continuing from Part I )
Second Day In The Jungle Camp
Waking up to the sound of a gentler stream flow, we saw that last night's muddy and aggressive jungle stream was already mellowed according to prediction. Thoroughly rested after a good night's sleep, both of us awoke fresh from our camp-beds. Swiftly, the night campfire was re-lit as cooking fire.
|Breakfast of champs - Pancake and Coffee.|
The Jungle Toilet
|A simple jungle toilet. All the bin liner used were taken out with us later.|
However, the morning felt very uncharacteristic - unlike a wet monsoon November morning as we used to remember. Tens of years ago, the mornings at this time of the year would normally be drizzling with chilly rain. I figured this must be one of the strange weather effects by the global warming phenomenon.
|The camp in the morning..|
After breakfast, we left some water slowly boiling at the camp and set out for our activities separately near the camp. The whole morning was filled with leisurely activities like river trekking, swimming, nature photography and fishing. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful during our fishing trip. Only a few very small fishes were interested on our bait. This is normal as fishes in this kind of jungle stream tends to feed only during early morning or evening time. After all, the stream was too shallow to allow for larger fishes that will feed at any time.
|One of my Nature Photography pics. Not awesome, but ITS MINE ~ HAHA!|
When I got bored of doing technical stuff and felt exhausted from my work, I took a pause and drifted away to see the beauty of nature and simply relaxed under the canopy of the stream. A few minutes later, I'd continue my work happily. Evening soon arrived and it was time to return to camp to prepare for the night. Though the weather was very pleasant and I enjoyed the activities very much, I began to wonder if I'd get my chance to photograph some activity done in wet monsoon jungle camping.
The "Tiny" Jungle Problem
On the way back to camp, I had a short bath at the river to clean up the trekking dirt before putting on my dry kit. Upon my return to the camp, I found my usually unflappable camping partner was curiously busy yapping around, scratching and moving the firewood stacked under our camp-beds all at the same time. The amused me, after being thrown a stick or two started helping and I immediately saw the problem - it was US, providing a habitat for some Semut Gatal or Tropical Fireant also known as Solenopsis Geminata - any myrmecologist or entomologist please enlighten this humble idiot if I'm wrong. We both forgot to heed one of the shiniest golden rule of Jungle Camping 101 - Don't keep anything lying on the ground! This is one of the reasons why we do not use a tent in the jungle.
The ants were already swarming under the camp-beds, complete with their version of miniature highways and road network. Looking at their incredible progress, I was surprised they didn't build a mini KLCC under my camp-bed. It seemed they moved their whole kingdom into our border and tried to conquer our campsite - all in a single night.
|Sorry ants, we have to give you an eviction without notice. Please relocate yourselves as soon as possible. Thank you.|
Solution was simple enough for this case, we simply removed the woods and repositioned them upright leaning to the flysheet pillars. Without the firewood or anything lying on the ground providing cover, the ants had no choice but to reestablish their utopia kingdom somewhere else. Though I pity the ants, there was nothing more irritable than having to scratch your feet every minute. So away they go. As I sit comfortably in my home now, I am waiting for court summons from the ants for the unlawful eviction without notice we executed (just joking la~).
The Last night In The Jungle.
The weather was definitely weird. All over the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia were ridden with flash floods and heavy rain but at our campsite, the sky over our campsite betrayed no sign of opening up. Hardly a drop fell on our flysheet for the whole second day. In a way, it was kind of a put off for me because I originally planned to show to my readers at JungleJournals.com about how successfully one may camp in the jungle even during wet monsoon season.
|The night campfire burned away safely while drying our socks and boots for the next day's trek.|
After writing some notes, taking more pictures, checking my bearing and pace table that I took for trail mapping during the inbound trek, I lie down to relax and savor the final blissful night on the camping trip quietly. Leaving the night campfire burning low for our safety, we tucked in our camp-beds and trekked away deeper into an unvisited jungle in our dreams.
Striking Our Jungle Camp
|Squeaky clean campsite. I didn't bother to sweep back the dry leaves to cover our tracks. In the tropical jungle, you just give it a day and it will be full again with newly shed dry leaves.|
Trekking Out From The Jungle Campsite.
I took back-bearings from the dead reckoning notes and table taken during the inbound trek two days earlier. This helped to satisfy me that the bearing and pacing table was correct and later it can be used to draw an accurate trekking trail on my topo map.
|"Recommending to alter course to two-oh-seven degrees, Sir!"|
|Hinsz! Hinsz! Uphill ho! Half dead climbing up the bamboo grove.|
But I still decided to finish mapping it anyway because practicing the jungle trail mapping, jungle compass marching and jungle dead reckoning are easily forgotten navigation skill sets. Leave it out of your head for a few trips and soon you'll find yourself scratching your head to remember a skill set you once mastered. Many of my fellow ex-serviceman who were considered experts with compass and map can no longer remember the skill after only two or three years leaving the service. So I decided, if I wish to pass this skill to my children, I better keep it fresh and to do that, the skill must be practiced often. Furthermore, a guide skilled with map and compass is few and far between in Malaysia. Some of them don't even know how to read a map or orient a compass.
|Clear trail on the hilltop. Obviously well traveled.|
However, leeches and mosquitoes are plentiful by the buckets on the trail, with some them racing at their top speed to catch and suck my blood to death. Miraculously, some of the leeches were successful on chasing me but to their disappointment, I was no easy meal. My boots, trousers and all exposed skin were covered with mosquito repellent cream that was also very effective to deter leeches.
|No wonder they abandoned this bungalow. Getting a CF should be impossible this close to a ravine.|
I recognized that most orang asal's jungle hut will never be built using wood exclusively. Orang asal mostly uses bamboos to engineer their hut and have some unique architecture depending on the tribe and uses. This hut is simply a normal jungle hut built using jungle woods and nails- not an orang asal's epitome of engineering and architecture of jungle shelter building. With nothing that interesting to observe, we moved on.
|Water level was much lower compared to the day we trekked into the jungle.|
Conclusion of Monsoon Jungle Camping
After the camping trip, I began to do a post mortem and try to see things in a skeptical way. There were some things I would do differently next time I camp e.g; the firewood stacking that caused ant problem and forgetting to build a jungle toilet before its needed. it was all just part of a jungle camping trip. There is always some old knowledge to refresh and new skills to learn.
But after all the trips I made including this one, I still maintain my opinion that no matter how a monsoon rain season acts - dryer or wetter, camping in the jungle will always be the same. Even in the dry season we'd always expect a daily dose of rain in the jungle. So rain is never a problem.
Of course, secondary problems resulting from the rain like muddy river, flooding, landslides, and inability to use electronics much outside the dry area do exist but if proper care are taken, so little is affected. And that does not take away the quality of jungle camping at all for me. I was still able to light firewood, stayed comfortably dry when I wanted to, go out to learn and practice skills and do most things a summer camper could do.
In the end, this trip only reinforce my confidence in doing jungle camping in any season. I hope, I did show some skeptics out there who read this journal to try out the right way to camp in the jungle during rain season, instead of being steadfastly sure that such activities are not doable at all. Half of tropical year is rainy season or wet monsoon. If a man only go out camping only in the dry season, he will surely miss the jungle experience the other half of the year. So go camp - responsibly and safely!