Indonesia is typically upwards of 80oF during the day and similar at night with a humidity of 80% of more, but not up in the mountains!
We left Bogor July 13th with a new batch of UNAS (our partner Uni) students and made the adventurous trek to Halimun and other than the amenities which I described in my last post the first thing we noticed was the temperature. As the night rolled in we rolled out the layers as the temperature dropped to around 55oF which after especially hot weather a Tuanan was a physical shock. Comforters abounded that night as we snuggled up in our five person rooms.
Early the next morning we got up in the pitch black ate some Mei Goreng (fried noodles) and hiked out behind the research station. Hiking in this jungle was a lot more of what I was used to hiking wise compared to Tuanan. At Tuanan the peat moss forest meant you always sunk in to the flat ground as you stepped and often encountered muddy pits making tall rubber boots a necessary addition to any forest outfit. At Halimun there were a lot of ups and downs on the solid ground which meant sneakers were far superior to rubber boots. We headed out quickly and quietly on the trail following the research assistants at Halimun. These research assistants, like at Tuanan we locals from the neighboring village, but unlike at Tuanan these assistants had been eco tour guides for Halimun National park before the research station was ever there. This means they provided an interesting perspective on the relationship between the environment, tourists, business and research and their whispered commentary as we walked was much enjoyed by all. We met up with the Gibbon team led by Rahayu who completed her undergrad in Indonesia and studied abroad in South Korea for both her masters and PhD. She now heads research at Halimun with her focus on Gibbons but began there as a student just like us visiting for the weekend during her undergrad.
When we met up with her team, she was excited to show us the gibbons especially since a very rare phenomenon was occurring. The team here regularly follows three family groups of gibbons (group A,B and C) and each group has a very well established territory. Group A and B have somewhat overlapping territory and group B and C have somewhat overlapping territory but for all three to be in the same place at once happens extremely seldom. But when we got there that was exactly what was occurring and while it made us excited I made the Gibbons uneasy. The female released many whopping calls to alert the other groups (only the female gibbons sound in the forest) and they were so close at one point the males from each group tried to chase each other off. This was probably the most incredible thing I saw at Halimun because to watch a Gibbon brachiate (scientific term for their movements) through the tree tops you get a sense of just how well suited they are to their environment. Sure you can see a bit of this in gibbon enclosures but the enclosure is only so big so watching the gibbon just swing on and on at tremendous speeds taking more than 50 ft leaps in pursuit of the gibbon in front of him.
We stood with our heads up and mouths gapping for almost an hour following group A as the moved way from B and C. At this point we all split up and followed different groups of gibbons after another hour our assistants led us all back to their homes in the villages where a couple of the village women had cooked us lunch. The tempe as this lunch was soooo good! Is was cooked in a teriyaki like sauce with peppers and chives and I had so much; following gibbons through the mountains makes you hungry!
After lunch we got to walked back to the station and got to experience one of the ecotourism attractions the park service has created: a 20m up canopy trail. The trail itself isn’t more than a half mile long but it was still incredible to wander through the tree tops with the slight sway of the bridge beneath you feeling just a little bit like a gibbon yourself.
The afternoon ended with a little walk down the road to a waterfall where we all took at rinse of in the pool below. The mountain stream was freezing and refreshing and made for the perfect end to a long & exhausting but happy day.
Next morning we were up a little later and spent the majority of the morning out on a bird watching walk. The unskilled birdwatchers among us, aka myself, didn’t see too many birds but watching the mist rise of the tea plantation was just as enjoyable. The bird watching walk concluded with another trip up into the canopy trail and ad splash in the river to cool off our feet.
That afternoon was hardcore class work business since it was the last opportunity we would have to use a projector n Indonesia. Among the presentations was my own on the follow data we had collected in Tuanan from Kerry and Ketambe as well and a presentation on Erin (our leading professors research). It was fascinating to learn about the variety of studies Erin has tied into her work about a variety of primate nutrition habits as well as human metabolic rates as well as impacts her research has on the proper diets for Orangutans in captivity as well as but eating methods for our own species.
After these presentations and dinner we wandered out in the forest to spot some bio luminescence fungi and then on the road to the tea plantation to lay back and watch the stars for our last night in the jungle. It way cloudy at first but as the clouds cleared we saw a whole new sky of stars none of us had seen before (the southern hemisphere has different constellations) and we stared in awe at the sparkling sky.
Some mischievous members of the crew found the dark surroundings to be a perfect atmosphere for their trickery and there were several shrill screams that rang out through the jungle that night as on more than one occasion many, including our TA Rebecca popped out with a “boo!” from behind a bush. It was quite amusing as long as you weren’t the target audience of the scare!
The next morning we said sad goodbyes to Halimun and the researchers there as we began our longest travel day for the whole 3 weeks. With a 7 hour bus ride back along the treacherous cobble stone mountain roads and then a plane ride to Yoga Jakarta fishing off with a short taxi the hotel we were all happy to flop into real beds once again and sleep soundly all the way through till morning. Today were off to see some temples and I can’t wait to update you on our adventures! Good bye fore now!