These are alan batu (Shorea albida) trunks, which are hollow. They reach a height of 60m and have extensive buttress roots. Elsewhere in the peat dome, the same species has a solid trunk and no buttresses, when it is referred to as alan bunga.
Trunks are taken out of the forest by rail, sawn into lengths, have their bark removed, and are then rolled into the river down the slipway on the left. They are then ‘shepherded’ downriver to the point where they can be transported by road.
The railway. This was our way in. Navigating one’s way along this was quite challenging, as the gaps between the logs on which the rails sat were quite wide, and a misstep into the swamp a meter or so below would not have been pleasant! During the first part of the survey in March, the team had seen some good birds here, and even mammals, as Folhert’s blog narrates here.
Black-and-white Bulbul was also present, but not nearly so obliging, so no photos. The birds were slightly disappointing, but perhaps this was a result of the building humidity. The weather had been dry since my arrival, but now it was obvious that a thunder storm was brewing.
Our accommodation – note the lack of air con or fans! In the heat of the day we sat or lay under the zinc roof and prayed for the slightest breath of wind on our sweat-drenched bodies! The river was a short walk away, but I was a bit concerned about crocs, having seen so many of them. The landing/bathing area was a water-level raft of planks from which the men fished in their spare time. With the added attraction of fish, it seemed the perfect spot for a croc to atttack. After many assurances that it was safe, the unbearable heat got the better of me and I sat on the edge of the raft, legs dangling in the water and took a very fast bucket-wash! By the time I walked back to the hut I was sweating just as much as before, so I just sat down and tried to move as little as possible.
Despite threatening to, the heavens did not open, so in the late afternoon we went out along the tracks again, intending to stay till after dark and do some spotlighting. It was so humid we had to almost suck the oxygen out of the air, and after a while we opted to stop walking and adopt a wait and see tactic!
Watching night fall. In the end we aborted the spotlighting, as the rain seemed imminent. It started as we made our way slowly along the rickety railway, and I was glad to make it back to the shack without incident. When we got to bed it started to bucket down, and by early morning we were shivering with cold!