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MikeL

Borneo Palms in Habitat

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bgl

Mike,

 

Outstanding thread! :) Excellent photography and I really enjoyed your informative and sometimes humorous commentary. Definitely looking forward to the Biennial in June! :)

 

Bo-Göran

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MikeL

Thanks Kim and Bo and everyone else for the kind words. I'm also getting psyched up for the biennial.

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MikeL

All of the places I’ve shown so far are pretty accessible to independent travelers; we either hired a driver or boat to take us into a park and then asked to be picked up a few days later. But to get to the heart of Borneo – the rugged interior of the island where there are still few roads – we knew we needed some help and so signed up for a trip with Borneo Adventure, the same company that is helping with the logistics of the biennial. Our little excursion – traveling by canoe, visiting a longhouse, meeting the Iban people, pretending to be an explorer – was the highlight of my time in Borneo. But be forewarned: Palm-hunting was not high on my priority list, and consequently, palm pictures get scarcer from this point on. Feel free to bail out of this travelogue at any time. Or just skip ahead. I still have one or two interesting palm pictures to show.

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MikeL

Like I said, there is a dearth of roads in this part of Borneo so canoes are one of the two main means of transport. The other is walking. I rather prefer the canoe.

BOR1306_UpStreamInBoatB.jpg

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MikeL

The guy up at the front of canoe guides the man running the motor at the back. Here’s a  video clip to give you an idea about how he uses that big stick.

 

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doranakandawatta
35 minutes ago, MikeL said:

The guy up at the front of canoe guides the man running the motor at the back. I'm not sure if this will work, but here’s a (low-res) video clip to give you an idea about how he uses that big stick.

Where is the video clip ? 

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MikeL

Carrying a big stick up front isn’t always as glamorous as it seems. When the river gets shallow you hop out and pull the canoe upstream. Not me, of course; I just sat in the boat. These crappy videos weren’t going to shoot themselves, you know.

 

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MikeL
4 minutes ago, doranakandawatta said:

Where is the video clip ? 

It's in the previous post. Just took me a little while to hook it up.

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MikeL

Our destination was the Nanga Sumpa longhouse. Here’s Mary and our guide, Paul, entering the common living area of the longhouse. Paul is an Orang Ulu and is long way from home; this longhouse is home to Iban people who were once renowned for the headhunting prowess. It’s unlikely that someone like Paul would have just strolled into an Iban longhouse a century ago. It’s even more unlikely that he would have walked back out with his head still attached.

BOR1306_MaryPaulLonghouseB.jpg

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MikeL

I can’t pretend that I learned all about how people live in this part of the world. Or maybe I can. The old folks and women spent much of their time at the longhouse itself where they looked after the smallest children. The older children were at a boarding school downstream during our visit. As you might guess from the photos, Iban women are accomplished weavers.

BOR1306_Mom2GirlsB.jpg

BOR1306_MomWeavingB.jpg

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MikeL

The men at this longhouse seemed to spend a lot of their time on the river, either on boat-building, boat maintenance or actively ferrying supplies and people. I’m not sure what the health and safety regulations are in this part of Borneo but they apparently don’t cover smoking near a gas can.

BOR1306_BoatMaintenanceB.jpg

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MikeL

Across the stream from the Nanga Sumpa longhouse the locals have built a lodge for tourists. The second picture shows me in our room. The place doesn’t have a lot of 5-star amenities like glass windows or room keys, but I thought it was comfortable and welcoming. And they cooked for us, too. I think that the income from this modest tourism operation is what allows the families in the longhouse to remain in their traditional home a long way from the traffic and bustle of big cities like Kuching.

BOR1306_NangaSumpaBridgeB.jpg

BOR1306_MikeSumpaB.jpg

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MikeL

What palms grow in this part of Sarawak? Well, the most conspicuous is Eugeissona, which was especially abundant near human settlements. Our guide, Paul, referred to it as wild sago and explained that it had been harvested for centuries for its starch. It seems that the local people don’t actually plant the trees but do encourage them.

So which species of Eugeissona is this? The default answer is that it’s the same species that grows near the coast, E. insginis. But it seems possible to me that it’s E. utilis, which is reported to be common in more inland locations. Regardless, I thought these palms were quite lovely. Take a look at these pictures and see if you agree.

BOR1306_WildSagoHillB.jpg

BOR1306_EUtilisStackedB.jpg

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MikeL

Eugeissona die after they flower and you can see that in the first shot that the flowering stem is starting to wither. You can also see younger members of the clump waiting to take the place of the dying stem. The second shot gives you a close up from a different tree of the rather strange looking inflorescence.

BOR1306_EUtilisInfB.jpg

BOR1306_EUtilisInfCloseUpB.jpg

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MikeL

I think I must have ridden up and down the local streams for days before realizing that there was a palm growing in plain sight along the river bank. Dransfield described two species of water-loving Pinanga in Borneo: P. rivularis and P. tenella var. tenella. I think this might be the latter since Dransfield said that P. rivularis branched between nodes and I couldn’t see any such branching on this palm.

BOR1306_RiverPinangaSideB.jpg

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MikeL

Don’t believe that previous plant was actually a palm? Here’s a blow-up of part of the previous photo. The leaf scars, miniature crownshaft, and shape of an old inflorescence all point to this being a palm. Another reason I think this might be Pinanga tenella var. tenella is the angle of the dried up inflorescence which matches the orientation mentioned in Dransfield’s paper.

BOR1306_RiverPinangaCloseUpB.jpg

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MikeL

I still have a few more palm pictures from this area to post. I'll get to them as soon as I can.

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doranakandawatta
1 hour ago, MikeL said:

I still have a few more palm pictures from this area to post. I'll get to them as soon as I can.

So much looking forward to discovering your next pictures. THANKS.

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bgl

Seeing how people live, and especially in a place like Borneo, is always fascinating. I hope you have more non-palm photos (as well as palm photos! :) ). And that Pinanga - wow, that sure is different! Neat little thing! B)

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Jeff Searle

Mike,

   Did you happen to notice any elderly men with a tattoo on the back of their neck? And the history behind it........

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MikeL

Jeff, I only saw a handful of people older than 40 at the longhouse. I don’t really know the significance of that; perhaps some of the older people have moved to a less remote place. So I didn’t see any elderly men with unusual tattoos.


As you can see in this photo, though, tattoos are still a big part of the Iban culture. My understanding is that only a man who has reached a certain age and stature sports a full complement of tattoos, covering arms and back. In the old days attaining that respect might have entailed taking a head or two, but everyone swears that hasn’t happened since World War II.

BOR1306_DinnerPrepB.jpg

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MikeL

Leaving Nanga Sumpa and its fancy generator behind, we continued pushing on upstream, or at least, our boatmen, Nawang and Inju, pushed on. We sloshed along behind. By this stage of the thread you might be able to pick out the gracefully arching leaves of a Eugeissona palm in the background.

BOR1306_LalangPolingB.jpg

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MikeL

Walking upriver was actually kind of nice and a good way to stay cool. I was pretty impressed how these guys could maneuver their boats through rapids and up such shallow streams. Here we’re just outside of Batang Ai National Park hard on the border with Kalimantan, Indonesia.

BOR1306_MaryWaterHikeB.jpg

BOR1306_DelokPushB.jpg

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MikeL

And here’s our destination: Lubok Kusai, a place our guide, Paul, called a hunting lodge. No generators but what its lack of modern conveniences was more than offset by the kind of peacefulness that is darn hard to find in the world.

BOR1306_CampMaryB.jpg

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MikeL

Mary and I were the only guests during our stay at Lubok Kasai but there was a small crowd of boatmen and other Iban there as well as an ex-pat American photographer named Ch’ien Lee who took this shot of Paul and us working on our bird identification skills. If you’re not familiar with Ch’ien then I recommend spending a little time browsing his website, Wild Borneo. It’s loaded with fantastic photos of Borneo including some shots of palms. Ch’ien is also an accomplished naturalist and leads occasional field trips in Borneo and beyond.

BOR1306_KesaiBirdLookupB.jpg

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MikeL

The Iban guys jumped at any chance to get in a little fishing. I’ve got to admit that I didn’t expect to see someone trying to spearfish in such a shallow stream. This seemed like a good time for me to stay high and dry on the bank.

BOR1306_SpearfishingB.jpg

BOR1306_NetFishingB.jpg

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MikeL

Turns out that the boatmen also knew how to cook although they had needed a little coaching from an older man already at the camp. We had brought along the chicken which the men then steamed inside locally harvested bamboo stems.

BOR1306_KasaiDinnerPrepB.jpg

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MikeL

I realize that photos of palms have become rather scarce in this thread. That’s because there were too many other things going on for me to spend much time hunting palms. I recommend checking out Jack Sayer’s thread for palm pictures from this area. He and Lindsey had been tracking orangutans in this same area (and with the same guide) only a few weeks before us.

Here’s a lovely Licuala from the area although I have no clue to its species.

BOR1306_SumpaLicualaB.jpg

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MikeL

As mentioned previously, there were a lot of rattans around but they were hard to photograph because of the way the weave in and out of the foliage as they climb. Here I took a different approach and shot several close-ups of Daemonorops formicaria, so called because its interlocking spines create formicaria, i.e. homes for ants.

BOR1306_DFormicariaStemB.jpg

BOR1306_DFormicariaTopB.jpg

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MikeL

If you look really closely you can see a cirrus extending from the rachis of this leaf of Daemonorops formicaria. This might not be the most cuddly plant in the world, but its fruit are really cool.

BOR1306_DFormicariaLeafB.jpg

BOR1306_DFormicariaFruitB.jpg

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MikeL

Here are some more rattans emerging from the forest. I have no idea what species these are but you come across scenes like this a lot in the wilder parts of Borneo.

BOR1306_CalamusAiB.jpg

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MikeL

And here are a couple of clear shots of Oncosperma horridum along a river bank. This is supposed to be a clustering palm but I occasionally saw more than a single stem. The first shot is from one of those occasions.

BOR1306_OHorridumClumpB.jpg

BOR1306_OHorridumAiB.jpg

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MikeL

The last picture from this part of the heart of Borneo: a gratuitous shot of riverside beauty.

BOR1306_DelokPoolB.jpg

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Jeff Searle
3 hours ago, MikeL said:

Jeff, I only saw a handful of people older than 40 at the longhouse. I don’t really know the significance of that; perhaps some of the older people have moved to a less remote place. So I didn’t see any elderly men with unusual tattoos.

 


As you can see in this photo, though, tattoos are still a big part of the Iban culture. My understanding is that only a man who has reached a certain age and stature sports a full complement of tattoos, covering arms and back. In the old days attaining that respect might have entailed taking a head or two, but everyone swears that hasn’t happened since World War II.

 

BOR1306_DinnerPrepB.jpg

Mike,

  I asked this because when I was there and spent a day with an Iban guide near Kapit up the Rajang River, his stories were many. But he explained that back in the day when there was much more tribal fighting going on, if a life was taken, the gentleman was then rewarded with a special tattoo on the back of his neck.

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jdapalms

Mike, your pictorial tour makes the upcoming trip even more exiting.

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Pando

Beautiful pictures, Mike!

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rick

Amazing pics Mike! I can't wait till june.

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Kennybenjamin

Excellent thread with many great pics!!!! I really enjoyed it!! Thanks for taking the time to post

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Cindy Adair

Mike these are great! I am sitting in a freezing cold (from a/c) fast food restaurant in Puerto Rico specifically to look at your photos larger than on my little iPhone! Well worth having to wear a sweater and put up with the annoying far from pastoral background music!

Besides all the great commentary and amazing photos, I took note of your attire. I saw your water shoes suggestion.

Anything else you are glad you brought or that just took up space in your backpack/suitcase? I will be packing for five weeks of travel with just a carry on...

Thanks!

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MikeL

Thanks everyone for the compliments and encouragement.

Cindy, I've read the itineraries carefully for the upcoming tour and biennial and think that our organizers have really done a good job to make sure our trip will be relatively comfortable. The biggest problems that we're likely to encounter are heat, getting dehydrated, getting drenched, and possibly leeches. With that in mind I really favor modern, quick-drying fabrics. I remember being soaked with sweat within 15 minutes of heading outside in the morning and other days being soaked in by rain most of the day. When we were in a hotel I often washed some clothes at night but even the quick-dry fabrics would barely be dry by morning.

The only thing that I brought but never used was a light sweatshirt. I think this time I will take only a long sleeve shirt and then will double up with a t-shirt on the off-chance we encounter some chill. Apparently we might bet a little cool weather at Borneo Highlands.

You can see how the water shoes came in handy when we were hiking up streambeds. The local guys went barefoot but they're a lot tougher than I am. (Of course, they can't avoid injuries completely, either.) I don't think we'll be hiking up streams on this trip but I'm taking some Teva-type sandals anyway and use them as my evening shoes.

I do tend to go a little overboard on the pharmacy kit I take with me. Most of the stuff is just the usual over-the-counter medicines that you should be able to buy in most Malaysian cities. But I carry my own supply so as not be slowed down to much. I also carry some antibiotics and some anti-inflammatory meds. I suspect you know more than I about which meds to carry.

The only other unusual thing I carry on these kind of trips is some backup camera gear like extra batteries and memory chips. The chips are especially valuable since they weigh practically nothing.

David Tanswell and Philip Arrowsmith have certainly traveled in Borneo a lot more than I have and I'm sure they'll have some good advice for use.

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