Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sepilok to Deramakot - Day 4 and 5

I am going to combine two days into one report today.  I just don't have that many pictures for these two days for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Today (Day 4) would be our last day in Sepilok as we were transferring to Deramakot.  But, since this wouldn't happen until after breakfast, I did manage a walk around the grounds.

Plantain Squirrel:
Plantain Squirrel

One of the cool things about the Forest Edge resort is that the owner, Peter, is a big time bird photographer.  So, he has set up a few blinds around the grounds for Pitta and Kingfisher.  I didn't actually use any of the blinds but I took advantage of the pond that attracted Kingfishers.

A Blue-eared Kingfisher hung out there a lot but I have better pictures from later in the trip.

However, I did get good looks at a Stork-billed Kingfisher and a couple other birds hanging out:
Stork-billed Kingfisher

Pacific Swallow:
Pacific Swallow

Brown-capped Woodpeckers:
Brown-capped Woodpeckers

And with that, we had to say goodbye to Sepilok.  Unlike our last trip, we really felt we saw the best of Sepilok this time. The weather cooperated and we saw some great wildlife between our visits to Labuk Bay, the RDC, the Orangutan Sanctuary, and of course the grounds of the Forest Edge Resort.

Our trusty transfer driver Eric was right on time to drive us the two hours to Telupid.

Prior to the trip, we had requested the same Deramakot crew from last year.  This meant we would enjoy the guiding prowess of Mike (the hardest working guide in the business), the cooking of Gidi (I gained at least a pound a day eating her magnificent cooking), and Lang (the best off-road driver in Borneo).

So, it was great to arrive in Telupid and see Lang and his familiar 4x4 trucks.  After lunch we loaded into the familiar red and white 4x4's for the 2.5 hour drive to Deramakot.

Besides seeing quite a bit of elephant dung on the way in, the drive to the camp was pretty uneventful.  We arrived around 4PM and settled in after saying hi to Mike and Gidi.  It was good to be back but I forgot how steep the hill was up to our rooms.  It feels like more than a 45 degree angle towards the top but it probably isn't and the hill has the added benefit of helping me burn off Gidi's cooking.

At dinner we talked about the plan for that evening.  Since the weather was good and I was really keen to see Tarsier, the group decided it was a good night to do a hike looking for them.

So, when 8PM rolled around, I was really excited to get going.  I slid into my big rubber boots, slung my camera with 200-500mm lens attached over my shoulder and went to glide down the stairs from the restaurant towards the truck.  Unfortunately, I didn't glide at all.  Instead, I tripped when my boot caught on a stair and I went down head first.  My left hand and left knee landed first followed by my camera.  The crack of the camera landing wasn't that loud though.  I quickly took inventory...

Of course, the camera check came first and it looked OK and worked fine.  The lens cap and UV filter took the brunt and I don't think it hit that hard in the first place.  I ended up having no problems with the camera the whole trip...phew

However, in the dark I could see a hole in my pants and some blood on my pant leg. But, it didn't really hurt so how bad could it be?

I decided I needed to clean up a bit before heading out so we took a quick detour in the truck up to our rooms and I went in to inspect the damage.  I knew right away that it was a pretty bad gash.  There was quite a bit of blood on my leg and pants that got on the walls as I cleaned my leg in the sink.  Blood is one thing I am pretty good with though...barf not so much.

Luckily, we did have some large band-aids with us that just fit over the wound.  I cleaned up my leg as best I could and put on the band-aid.  But, it was obvious that going for a night hike in the jungle now was not a good idea.  So, reluctantly I let everyone know that I thought a drive would be better and that's what we did.

I felt really stupid for tripping and just wanted to put the whole thing behind me.

Luckily, we didn't have to wait long for something exciting to happen.  In fact, it was the first sighting of the night drive...a Binturong:

It was high up in a tree so the picture is not great, but it was a new mammal for us and one we really wanted to see.

Next came a Buffy Fish Owl:
Buffy Fish Owl

Then a Sambar Deer:
Sambar Deer

That ugly looking sore on its neck is some sort of gland used during the mating season.

The last photo encounter was with a Striped Palm Civet that would not stop moving its head:
Striped Palm Civet

We also saw an Island Palm Civet, both the Thomas's and Giant Flying Squirrels, more Sambar Deer, another Buffy Fish Owl and an Otter Civet.  Although I only saw some black fur disappear into the grass so I will take Mike's word for that last sighting.  Finally, we also saw a Leopard Cat that was too skittish for pictures.  All that in 3 hours!  Welcome to Deramakot!

While on the night drive, my knee had bled through the large bandage and we only had a couple left.  So, I didn't sleep very well as I too worried about what I should do about my knee. And then irrational thoughts about the worst case scenario took over; infection or who knows what.  I am not sure why we do things like that to ourselves but it seems to happen more as I get older.  As if ear hair wasn't bad enough!

Thankfully, we had a 5:30AM drive planned so my bad night's sleep didn't last long.  One thing I did finally decide between tosses and turns was that I needed to do the smart thing and go see a professional since I likely needed stiches.  So, before our drive I told Mike that I needed to see someone and during the drive he pondered the options since we weren't that close to civilization.

The goal of the drive was to find some Gibbons.  We struck out on Gibbons last year and really wanted to see them.  But, that meant an early start since the Gibbons only call early in the morning..hence the 5:30AM departure.

The drive itself was done in a spooky morning fog.  It was quite eerie and that was only magnified when we had our first sighting of the day...the dreaded  HEADLESS Orangutan!  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Headless Orangutan!

Actually, it did have a head but this was the best picture I could get.  There is no mistaking what creature that is when you see that silhouette though.  There ended up being a mother and young Orangutan but they were really hard to see through the fog and pictures were basically out of the question.

Next we heard some Gibbons. Is there a better jungle sound than Gibbons calling?  They were in some trees up the road but were very hard to see with the fog and back lighting.  But, we all did get looks of them swinging through the trees.  They are extraordinary to watch since they move so fast through the trees seemingly effortless movement.  We had officially seen our first Gibbons and we weren't disappointed despite the lack of pictures.

We also had a sighting of our first ever Rough-necked Monitor lizard on a far off tree and a couple birds.

Asian Fairy Bluebird:
Asian Fairy Bluebird

Rhinoceros Hornbill fly over:
Rhinoceros Hornbill Flying

After the drive, Mike and I talked options.  There was a group leaving at 9AM on their way back to Telupid and there was room for me.  Telupid should have a clinic, if not, we would have to figure out a way to get me all the way to Sandakan which was 4+ hours one way.  That second option wasn't good.

But, then Mike realized that one of the drivers was training to be an EMT and he could take a look.  Once they located him, I took off the bandage and he immediate said "stitches" and that was that.

Luckily, he confirmed there was a clinic in Telupid so I wouldn't have to go to Sandakan.

So, I left with the group departing at 9AM and was dropped off at the clinic in Telupid.  Now, in the US a visit like this would have to be done at an urgent care facility. It would likely involve waiting for hours, reams of paperwork, prescriptions slips that would take additional hours to fill and hundreds of dollars.  Here is how it went in Borneo:

- 11AM: Sign in by presenting passport, nothing to fill out or sign
- 11:10AM: Called into Drs office.  Dr speaks perfect English
- 11:25AM: Leave Drs office after getting the wound cleaned, stitched (8 of them) and bandaged
- 11:30AM: Leave clinic with pain killer and antibiotics since the dispensary was onsite

Total Cost = 150 MYR which is less than $50.

Talk about efficiency!  I was dumbfounded.  It really illustrated how bad our healthcare system is in the US.

A driver had stayed with me this whole time and then dropped me off at the usual restaurant meeting place.  Mike was coming into town to pick me up and do some shopping.We had lunch, headed to the market, and then headed back to Deramakot.

Unfortunately, Mike's truck was having clutch issues and just as we entered Deramakot it pretty much went out.  After some tinkering, Mike figured out a way to to keep us moving.  Since I have no idea how to drive stick, his driving skills were lost on me but I know that for a while we only could drive in 3rd...then for a while it was only 1st.  He was worried about getting up the steep hills so he would floor it before getting to one just to be sure we made it to the top.

Now, if this didn't make the drive interesting enough, we put Mike's ipod on shuffle and had some great selections come up during the drive like some Scottish music complete with bagpipes and Led Zeppelin.  So, my memory of this drive is a great one because here we were driving through pristine rain forest with bagpipes and then Stairway to Heaven blaring.  I think the forests actually "echoed with laughter".  It was quite surreal.

I must take a moment to thank Mike and the AA Borneo drivers.  They all went out of their way to take care of me and ensure my knee was fixed up.  Never once did they seem like they were put out by any of my requests and didn't ask for anything from me to compensate them for their extra time.  It was truly great service in a time when I needed it.  The AA Borneo staff came through for me.

We were back to the camp around 4PM and I realized that I didn't have a key to our room. Karen and the others were out on a drive so I hoped that she might have left it around the common area so I looked in shoes and elsewhere but couldn't find it.  Luckily, one of the three rooms in our "chalet" was unoccupied.  Unluckily, there were no sheets...just a bed.  But, I was exhausted and didn't care and proceeded to nap on the bed anyway.

At about 6PM I woke up and decided to walk down to the restaurant for some coffee to help me wake up and get hyped for the night drive.  As soon as I got there I saw a note that said "Gidi has the key".  Dang it!  Karen had left the room key for me after all but I didn't know it since I didn't go to the restaurant until now.  Oh well, I got a nice nap in anyway so it all worked out.

At 6:30PM, the gang pulled into the parking lot and joined me in the restaurant so I could hear about their drive.  It turns out that they got rained on quite a bit and didn't see much except for another back lit Orangutan, some Pig-tailed Macaques, and a Paradise Flycatcher. So, I didn't miss much.

The plan was to start our night drive at 8:30PM tonight since I needed another day before doing a Tarsier hike.  We ended up being out until 1:15AM and did see a lot even though I don't have many pictures to show for it.

We saw a Culugo, 2 Leopard Cats, Island Palm Civet, Striped Civet, various frogs, 2 Thomas' Flying Squirrels and a Horsefield's Flying Squirrel that actually flew.

At one point, something zipped across the road and Mike yelled out "Pen-tailed Shrew!".   Tim and I ended up seeing it clearly since we were higher up in the back row, but the girls didn't.  I am still counting it though 😊.

The only photos I have from the drive is of a very cooperative Thomas's Flying Squirrel.  My best photo of one to date:

Thomas's Flying Squirrel

And with that, these two days were over.  Not only was I happy to put Day 5 behind me when I was there but I am happy to put it behind me in the trip report too since I still feel so stupid for tripping and causing all this unnecessary fuss.  I promise, more pictures and less writing going forward.

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