After the now celebrated daily indulgence of a coconut bun brekkie, we had after all got into the habit of securing Bario's single daily packet flown in from Marudi presumably at the expense of some bamboozled local, we decided to redeem our presence with another day trek. The prospect was a seemingly easily managable contrived triangular circuit first out along the rough vehicle track to neighbouring village Pa'Ukat.
To Roberto's delight we encountered quite a lot of birdlife in this endeavour, and though the originators of a myriad of contrasting calls proved elusive in the main as ever, we made a good team with Roberto's binoculars, bird book and evident expertise complimented by my 24X camera zoom. I also spied a cutesy inquisitive Tree Shrew before he darted off, a green tinted beastie which I had hitherto mistaken for a Squirrel species, certainly they looked for all the world like one. Then a large buffalo cowpat was an unlikely blessing in proving an irresistible draw for various insect species. Tiny vibrantly coloured crickets were contrasted by a lone black and green specimen a full 4 inches long, and butterflies and wasps added to the mix. Pa'Ukat proved to be an even sleepier haven than Bario, with the odd job of timber construction and paddy field tending being the only signs of life bar the sweet as you like kite towing kids. From there it was a contrastingly narrow forest encroached jungle trail in order to make the cross connection to neighbouring village Pa'Umor, though the poor mud and puddle troubled slog compounded by a full on downpour lasted much longer than anticipated. Having learned the hard way that my retro ski jacket gifted by old timer Steve in Bangkok was far from water proof whatever the promises, Roberto's quality gear proved similarly useless in defending us from a full on deluge. That eventually provoked refuge upon reaching a second telltale vehicle track mysteriously still short of the anticipated village.
A sign promptly promised Gem's Lodge however, a well known yet isolated country retreat where we ventured in search of tea and shelter. Devoid of further custom, James the owner proved a warm, engaging and soulfull host and it was our only disappointment in opting to eventually have dinner there under pressure of the persistent storm that he and his wife failed to join us. Though it was only a later realisation, I could only guess that having arrived unexpectedly in the middle of nowhere, they served us what should have been their own dinner. The conversation was good though as we hopelessly tried to dry out our boots and atire by the open fire, descending into flame defying darkness as the storm endured thunderously outside. Pa'Umor was relegated to the land of unfulfilled dreams then, and it was only under pressure from Roberto that I let the daylight slip and an ominous sodden trek home in the dark loom. Though surely unintentionally troubling, James' parting insight into our locale revealed his indepth knowledge of the forest by telling of the 8 Tarantula species pervading these parts.
We escaped into the jungle night to be enveloped by a world of intimidating sounds and mystery, redeemed mercifully by the vague glow of the talcum white track along which my faithful "Almond" torch proved itself more valuable than its weight in gold in allowing us to dodge the worst of the puddles. When you come across a herd of buffalo ahead of you in the pitch black it does tend to concentrate the mind, it has to be said. Miniscule Bario eventually rematerialised every bit as important an outpost of civilisation as it must seem to the locals.