Researcher Rusty Describes his Take on the Journey to Base Camp


The Founding of Camp Foyle

My watch tells me it’s Friday the 10th of December, but if it wasn’t for that I’d have no idea. The last week has been an amalgamation of loading, boat rides, unloading, reloading, truck journeys, unloading, reloading, boat rides and so on and so forth. Each stop is met with more communities more and more quizzed by our presence in their isolated part of the world.

However, today the advanced party founded Camp Foyle, and the rest of us are waiting in Tumbang Tohan, the closest village to it with the intention of meeting them tomorrow with the rest of the gear, ah, meaning one more load and unload, smashing!

The journey so far has been met with various obstacles, each with patience, persistence and lots and lots of negotiating by Martin, our excellent Indonesian counterparts, and a crazy Dutchman, have been overcome. It’s raised some interesting points and important lessons have been learned.

Expeditions – Good for the Mind!

Exploration, especially in uncharted territory such as this, seems to be an excellent way of firing the synapses, each of the team learning and thinking at 100%. I find myself thinking about what it must feel like to the locals whose hospitality we now enjoy, and it should be said, this village has been, for want of a better word, the hardest to deal with. Life here is very simple.

If you have a boat you occasionally travel to the nearest village, Naan, down river by about two hours, assuming you don’t lose your prop on one of the many submerged tree systems. If you don’t have a boat, you hunt, fish and stay in the village, dinner is whatever you happen across.

And then one day a boat turns up, carrying an Indonesian student and two people from England, and then ten minutes later another slightly bigger boat turns up carrying more people from England, Wales and Holland, sporting lots and lots of food and equipment; to say there was a stir is an understatement.

Gaining Trust and Down to Business

So instead of spending the night and darting off like we planned we found we had a lot of work to do to get this village on side, and therefore pushed our plan back by a day. For the expedition, this is the most important village, we need guides from here as well as regular boatmen, also we’re leaving a radio so should the worst happen we have another line to the outside world, and should something catastrophic happen and the cigarettes run out we can get more.

However, after lengthy discussions with Elders, boatmen and guides, we seemed to have reached an understanding. Terms and prices have been agreed, but most importantly and after a particularly long meeting on a comfortable classroom floor with those from the village who wished to attend, we have communicated our intentions and who we are and what we represent. With this done the mood of the village has changed, suspicion has turned to trust and a distanced view has turned into a helpful hand, once terms are agreed of course.

What we gauged from the meeting last night is that people are concerned for their way of life, as one particularly vocal and forward thinking villager said, “all we have is hunting, all we know is the Forest”. A woman was worried that we might stop their activities, such as hunting, fishing and wood collection, others wanted to know what we could provide them; and after a couple of hours we seemed to satisfy them, and now we look to move into our winter home, and really get down to business…