Day 15 – Last explorations in the caves… Before the loss of equipment

When we woke up, Antoine, Ime and I set off to explore the cliff just above our camp. Using machetes to clear a path, we went along the cliff to the right and then to the left, but we didn’t find anything at all.

We came back to the camp, and we’d asked Jamyl and Bagus to pack up the tents and prepare to leave, but they hadn’t done anything. Jamyl’s feet were really hurting and he couldn’t move, and Bagus’s feet were hurting too and he wanted to settle down.

We went straight to the other side with Antoine, Ime stayed at the camp, we ate a cereal bar and set off again. We crossed with the packrafts, climbed up opposite and went to see the cave I had seen the previous evening and two other entrances further down, about thirty metres deep, with horizontal developments and some small ceramics. The upper entrance is much larger and higher, longer and deeper. It went down 6-7m. Then there was a whole horizontal network underneath that required you to be in caving mode, to crawl, it was very narrow. But we weren’t in the right conditions so we did what we could, I went to look in all the passing holes and then we came across a babi skeleton at the very bottom, it must have fallen into the hole without managing to get out again.

We also came across a tarantula corpse. Cavernicolous crickets, species of enormous cavernicolous spiders too, with very large legs and two front legs that are like pincers. Bats, of course, and above all the ceramics, pestles and shellfish in the rivers that people eat raw or cooked. Traces of charcoal, and therefore fire, on the ground and a small trace on a wall of charcoal, but which didn’t represent anything in particular.

After several unsuccessful attempts at exploration, we had lunch on a pretty little sand and pebble bank. A higher cliff looked interesting on the right-hand side this time, so we went back to the boat for a while, then I stopped and climbed back up the whole slope, which was 100m down. You always have to cut the path a little. From the moment we left the camp in the morning, I was on my own, exploring the area, making forays left and right to see what I could find.

I didn’t have much luck, I came across a few sites including one where there were millions of shells, indicating that people had lived there for many years, it was amazing, you walked on piles of shells to wait for the cave. There were some very recent paintings, like “Romeo + Juliet” but in Indonesian, or just someone putting their first name because they were happy to have been there, but nothing interesting. Then more caves left and right, but the clock was ticking.

After a while, we decided we needed to move on a bit more, as we’d only planned to spend two days exploring this area. It was exhausting doing everything on my own, my feet hurt like hell because of the fungus, the chafing between my thighs because of the damp, the walking in the heat, all of which made it not very pleasant, and it was never completely reassuring to go poking around on my own.

We decided to sail for a while and had to stop at 5.30pm. We stopped on a sandbank, but it was a bit late and night falls really quickly in the forest, so we barely had time to empty our boats and set up everything before it was already pitch black. We took a quick shower in the river and then there was a monumental downpour from 6.30pm, so strong that Jamyl didn’t have the time or the courage to put up his hammock, so we each took refuge in our tents.

We thought it wasn’t going to last very long, but in the end it lasted all night until 3am. We more or less nodded off, but we didn’t have dinner. That’s why I couldn’t check in last night, because I’d left my phone outside in its waterproof bag hanging from a tree.

That’s why I couldn’t check in last night, because I’d left my phone outside in its waterproof bag hanging from a tree.

Unfortunately they didn’t take it seriously and left their belongings on the sandbank, 80cm above the water. They left the boats like that, with their waterproof bags, shoes, paddles etc. What had to happen happened. The huge rainfall caused the river to rise by a staggering 2m. At 3am when we went to look at the bank, there was nothing on it except my boat, which was underwater but still attached. I had everything, except that my backpack was on another boat.

It was a potentially serious rookie mistake. If we hadn’t been so close to the finish, it could have been a big, big, big mess. You can’t do anything with just one boat for 5 people. I was quite angry with them, I didn’t sleep very well. I was annoyed that they hadn’t listened to the instructions, because it’s a lot of money to lose three boats, plus the backpacks we’d been offered by Lafuma but which weren’t made to be lost in the water. It was a huge waste. The third reason was that it took us out of our last day of exploration, as we didn’t have many days available to explore the caves and cliffs in the area. But this archaeological exploration was essential for me and it was one of the reasons why I abandoned the idea of visiting the village in the Matarombeo wetlands. I thought it was too short to do that and the archaeology. I’d opted for the archaeological expedition to be with everyone else, and in the end I was all alone when I did the explorations. On top of that, with no shoes and no gear, we were condemned to finish our exploration a day early.

It was a terrible night, with a huge amount of incessant rain and a dinner of two cereal bars and a bit of water. It rained so hard that the water ran under our tent. The base canvas of the tent rippled between our two air mattresses.

Keep reading

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

sixteen − eight =