nBOSS deployment diary: week 3

It was lovely to wake up to a cool and sunny morning in the jungle. After breakfast we set off from Nepenthes camp back towards Agathis camp on the edge of the basin. On our way we took a short detour to check on the station we’d installed the previous day – everything was working well which was good. The route down retraced our steps from the way up – initially it was fairly flat, and thankfully had far fewer leeches, and then quite steeply down. Brandon’s knee was causing him some pain, but he battled through and made it down. We returned to the field centre and had lunch and showers. While we waited for Felix and Epip to return from Kota Kinabalu with the new kit, Nick, Simone and Omry dug the hole for the seismometer.
When the van arrived we installed a seismometer in a fenced area where there was also a weather station. It was interesting to see how people from other groups went about various bits of the installation, and quite amazing how we’d all developed our own distinct routines in just over a week. Just before we finished the final checks, heavy rain started so we had to try and finish up quickly. The rest of the evening was fairly relaxed, sitting around in the reception area making use of the wifi there – the phone network we were all on had no signal at the field centre. Omry went out for a walk and returned a short while later reporting that he’d been sitting at the seismometer site when he noticed an elephant just the other side of the drainage ditch only a couple of meters away! We then decided to see if we could see any more elephants – from the safety of the car – and found the herd not far from where I’d seen them a couple of days before!
Beware – expensive dogs!
On Monday morning we had to wait until after 8am for the office to be open before we could leave – in retrospect a bit too late. All the teams were heading to separate sites again. We drove for a while on the mostly tarmac road – there are many stretches where it’s heavily potholed and gravelly – before turning off to head to the school in Saliku. We knew it was a gravel/dirt road and that we had a river to drive through, however we hadn’t quite anticipated how far and how bad the road was. After the first 10km it did improve briefly for a while, but then got much worse again. It was around 1pm when we finally arrived at the site! The school was very nice, but empty because it was the start of the holidays. We wanted to make sure we were off the bad road before dark, so this gave us about 2 hours to install the station. At the start of the deployment this would have been a tall order, but we were now much more efficient and more-or-less managed it. Omry, being more experienced at 4×4 driving, and so faster, drove all the way back to the main road, and we made it just as the sun was setting. I then drove to the lodge in Sapulut where we were staying for the evening. This was a lovely place to stay, and we were treated to a traditional meal which included a delicious pinapple curry. The others had also had some adventures, including Team 1 getting stuck in the mud and having to be towed out!
The next morning Epip went with Emily and Nick to see if he could make it to the site they hadn’t managed to get to the day before. We had another long drive down a dirt road to another nice, but empty, school. The road wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the previous day which was a relief. We managed to be quite efficient in our installation and were finished in a couple of hours again. This meant we got to Keningau quite early, well ahead of the van where our bags were! While waiting I went to get a very nice lunch in a vegetarian restaurant – it was good to actually get some protein! There was a big storm that evening with some very dark clouds, but this passed in time for a spectacular sunset. Our final site on this loop of Sabah was another school, about half way back to Kota Kinabalu. We were fortunate to have some very skilled gardeners to dig our hole for us – it was probably the one that was the deepest and most quickly dug of the whole trip. The school very kindly gave us some food and drink for lunch, and then we went and sat in the river to enjoy some fruit before heading back to Kota Kinabalu over the misty mountains.
Thursday was a day off! I started off the day with a run up and over signal hill, passing Nick on his way back. Me and Emily then headed out to the pier to get a boat to Manukan Island, while the others stayed at the hotel. After just a 15 minute speedboat ride we were in a tropical paradise. We started off our adventures with a walk through the jungle about 1.5km to the far end of the island then back along a paved walkway, and then spent the afternoon taking turns to swim in the sea. I surprised myself with how far I was happy to swim out, ignoring any potential sea creatures that might be lurking in the water…all to soon it was time to get the boat back to KK – a much bumpier ride than on the way out. I spent the rest of the afternoon joining the others in the hotel gym and pool before we had some pre-dinner cocktails at the hotel. We all went to the vegetarian place in the mall for dinner then went to a cafe/bar called El Centro for some much better cocktails.
The next morning we were back out on the road. After picking Louvis up at UMS, we drove to a homestay near Papar to install a seismometer. There were so many more buildings there compared to when we’d scouted the site in August and it looked like it could be quite a nice place to stay on future service trips. We had help digging the hole from the people there and were given a tour around, with our photos being taken a lot – I suspect we will be appearing in some advertising material! Omry went for a swim in the river, which did look very tempting, then we continued south to Sipitang where we were spending the night. I spent a frustrating couple of hours trying to get the motel wifi to upload some photos and then worked out my frustration by doing some running sprints in the carpark before we headed in to town for dinner. After eating we did some shopping, getting some snacks for the long day ahead of us, and, possibly to the bemusement of the shop owners, some bolts for the seismometer stand from a hardwear shop that still happened to be open.
We were on the road by 6am the next morning, in time to see the sunrise. We had a bit of a drive on the tarmac before turning off onto a good gravel road. We arrived at our first site by 7:30am – possibly a bit early for people in the village – and selected a site near the small library to install the seismometer. We once again had help with the install from people in the village who were very interest in what we were doing. Even though I was spending some time getting film footage we were done in just 2 hours. This was good was we still had another site and lots of driving ahead of us. It was about another hour and half drive along the dirt road to the next site in the village of Long Mio. At the house we installed the seismometer people were drying and bagging up rice, something I’d never seen before. Our install was pretty speedy again and we had time to have a bit of a rest and some fruit while we waited for the concrete to dry. Because we’d managed to be quite efficient we decided that, despite it being quite a lot of driving, we could make it back to KK that evening. Omry drove the first bit, back to the first site, and then I drove the rest of the way. We finally got to the hotel in KK at about 8pm. Rather tired and hungry I headed to El Centro for dinner with Omry and Connor. Taking our order we were told that it was quite a lot of food for three people – we reassured them it wouldn’t be a problem, and it definitely wasn’t!

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