We finished our expedition last week on Thursday. What a great trip! It has been several years since I have been able to spend such a long time in the forest, and this experience has reminded me of how satisfying the ‘field life’ can be. To be able to focus on one thing at a time, and to have only a few types of tasks to accomplish, feels so much healthier than the overloaded, email-driven, multi-tasking life that I lead most of the time. Ironically, I spent a lot of time behind a computer while at the site (until 10:00pm most nights), matching the images of our trees, but the timely completion of this activity was only possible because of a lack of other computerized demands. There is no way I could find time outside the forest to match images of nearly 1,000 trees!
I also fell in love with this particular patch of forest. Leaving our camp was sad. On departure day, everyone was awake and busy before sunrise. We packed up camp in just a few hours, and burned the poles we had used for construction, to prevent the site from being used by hunters. We had requested five extra porters to transport the specimens, equipment, and tarpaulins out, and I let the large caravan of backpacks go on ahead. I then enjoyed a couple hours alone, tending the fires, taking some photos, enjoying one last dip in the sun-dappled river, and picking up odd bits of trash. We did a pretty good job cleaning up, with little to mark our stay other than the areas cleared of seedlings where the tents stood. Eventually, I had to force myself to saddle up and get going, since we had planned for a truck to be waiting in the village at 3:00pm to take our gear back to Sukadana.
Even though I’m back in the village now, there’s much more to say about our trip, and so there will be some more posts about Lembah Palung (‘Palung valley’) before I switch to describing the analysis of our collections and data.