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Published: August 23rd 2011
There's a public car (a share taxi, if you will) that leaves from Palu's Terminal Petobo for Wuasa at 9am every morning and costs 40,000 rupiah. I thought I'd better get there early just in case so arrived at 7.30. but was told that in fact the car didn't leave till 10. So I got some breakfast then sat around for a while. At 8.45 a chap comes up and says they are leaving now -- but it would cost 150,000! Now, on my first trip to Indonesia in 2009 I was pretty staggered how expensive the country was in relation to most other southeast Asian countries. Almost everything was two, three or four times more expensive than what was stated in the then most recent Lonely Planet (although it has to be said that in terms of accuracy the Indonesian Lonely Planet isn't exactly top-notch), and this time round almost everything is even more expensive again, which doesn't bode well for my wallet! Still, I could scarcely credit that the price of getting to Wuasa had almost quadrupled in just two years.
"We are going now, and the cost is 150,000", I'm told.
"But I was told 40,000", I
say (as I had been when I first got to the terminal)
"No no, 150,000: we go now. If you go at 2pm it is 40,000"
"Wait, what? Its 150,000 in the morning and only 40,000 in the afternoon?" -- something wasn't kosher there.
"Yes 150,000. Only price. We go right now"
"That is very expensive"
"No not expensive"
"No, I'll just wait for the 2pm one then" -- I didn't really want to sit around waiting till 2pm but I wasn't going to get ripped off by that amount!
The guy sort of shrugs and wanders off, and then another guy who had been sitting on the sidelines the whole time stands up and says "OK Mister, I go to Wuasa now: 40,000"
So there you go, there's some sort of lesson there! (None of that was actually in English of course, I just made it more understandable for my readers).
In Wuasa I stayed the first night at the Sendy Inn where I had stayed last time I was here. I had forgotten how good the food was there. (I had also forgotten how steep the Anaso track could be, but I wouldn't find that out again
until the next morning). It seems that despite my unclear thoughts on whether the track is in the Lore Lindu National Park or not, it turns out that it is because you need to get some cheap permits to be there, but one doesn't need a guide which was good. Apart for the pigmy tarsier, one of the animals I would be looking for in central Sulawesi was the Tonkean macaque. There are six (or seven, or eight, depending on how one splits them) species of macaques in Sulawesi, each with separate distributions. Last trip I'd seen the black crested macaque and the Heck's macaque but failed to find any Tonkean or moor macaques. So that first afternoon, one of the local guys who knew the paths around the village took me out to look but of macaques there were no signs. One patch of forest we entered had name labels on all the trees ("Nunu - Ficus benjamina", that sort of thing); it was very weird, like some sort of abandoned Botanical Gardens in the middle of nowhere.
Early next morning I got a motorbike ride to the start of the Anaso track which climbs up to 2300
Fiery-browed starling (Enodes erythrophris)
terrible picture but it was taken from the hip, as it were, and it does show how pretty a bird it is.
metres above sea level or something like that. On the road on the way there we spotted a white-bellied imperial pigeon which I was pretty pleased about because I managed to miss this common species last trip, and its one of the best-looking pigeons around. In the lower part of the Anaso track is a deep rift (I prefer to call it a chasm) where slips and rain have over the years dug out a massive barrier crossed only by a narrow strip of track. Last time I was here I thought it wouldn't be long before the way became impassable, but as this track is actually a local connection between villages and not solely for the use of overseas birders (!) the way has been shored up into a sort of bridge -- although the remains of earlier bridges can be seen at the bottom of the chasm. Just above 1800 metres I spotted a tarsier sign on a tree which had to be a good sign. These signs became more frequent as I climbed; there must have been at least ten of them. They all said exactly the same thing: "Habitat Tarsius (Tarsius sp) Home Range 100m". I'm
not sure of their actual significance because as far as I know the researchers had only found that one family group of pigmy tarsiers, and its hardly likely that even if they had found multiple groups they would all have their home ranges within 100m of the track! One of the tarsier signs was right next to the anoa poachers' lean-to shelter we used to get out of the rain in 2009. If they were in fact the shelters of anoa poachers as Idris had told me, then I figure the anoas have all gone now because the shelters have almost fallen apart from disuse.
I set up my tent at the campsite at the top of the Anaso track. There were yellow-flanked whistlers playing in the trees nearby; so much nicer looking than their depiction in the bird guide! The site is called Puncak Dingin ("the cold summit"), and after dark I set off up the track that leads from there to the summit of Mount Rorekatimbo. After several hours with nothing being seen, not even a rat, I got a bit disillusioned and decided to try down the Anaso track instead. Within about twenty metres I spotted
a dwarf cuscus in the top of a tree, which perked me right up. Sulawesi is as far west as Australasian marsupials get, and there are just two species here. The bear cuscus is the largest possum in the world (I saw one on the lower part of the track in 2009) and the dwarf cuscus is the smallest cuscus in the world. While I wasn't too confident in the purpose of the tarsier signs, when I reached the first one I headed into the forest along a little trail. Once in there it is seriously dangerous going by torchlight with the mud and rotting logs underfoot, and sheer drops hidden by moss and ferns! No tarsiers were found. I wasn't helped by the ever-present fog which could be so thick that it would absorb the torch-beam so effectively that I couldn't see the trees more than ten or twenty feet away.
Camping at the top of Anaso is great stuff. You can be up there at dawn without the hassle of actually climbing the mountain! Not that I actually got up at dawn, despite the birds urging me to do so, because I'd been up most of the
night searching fruitlessly for impossible primates. If you're just after birds then camping down the bottom of the track makes more sense because there are more down there, but of course if I'd done that then I'd have long walks up and down every night to get into the tarsiers' altitude range and I couldn't be bothered with that. When I did get up, around 7.30, I decided to try my hand at birding on the far side of the Anaso track rather than the "normal" side which worked out quite well because I saw a Sulawesi thrush, a rather elusive if drab bird that I hadn't seen before, as well as one of my all-time favourite Sulawesi birds, the malia, which is all chestnuty above and yellow below, and charges through the tree-tops in groups yodelling like Swiss idiots. I also found a little waterfall to top up my water supply when needed.
This second night I forsook the Rorekatimbo trail and went back down the Anaso track as the previous night. I found a second dwarf cuscus which sat staring at me until I got my camera ready, then it vanished like a wraith. The only other
the campsite at the top of the Anaso track
animal I saw that night was a tree mouse exactly the same size and colour as a pigmy tarsier. In fact I would have said it was one if it hadn't scampered away through the branches like a mouse would rather than jumped like a tarsier would. That is, unless someone can tell me that there is no tree mouse of such a size and colour on the mountain, and that pigmy tarsiers do in fact run rather than jump. That would be good. These two nights I had been thinking what a stupid thing this was that I was doing, trying to find a mouse-sized tarsier at night in the depths of a forest, but a mouse is mouse-sized and I found that! I am going to pretend that means something.
The weather's pretty wild up on top of the mountain. It is usually good all day until about 4 or 5pm and then the rain lets rip and absolutely hammers down for about an hour, then it all clears up again. On this day, my third on the mountain, I thought I'd go all the way back down the track to the road where most of the
view from Puncak Dingin
you can't see all the way down because of the clouds, but its very nice
birds are and spend the day finding them along the road and at nearby Lake Tambing. The plan was to wait out the late afternoon rain in the abandoned building at the lake, and then look for owls along the road and continue spotlighting for owls, cuscus and tarsiers all the way back up the track to my tent. What a stupid idea that turned out to be!!! I did find lots of nice birds down there, not as many as I'd have hoped for but they included two new ones for me, the piping crow and the citrine flycatcher (the latter one of those really common birds that you just cannot find, but when you do finally find one suddenly you see them everywhere!). The rain came down as predicted at about 5.30 and petered out after an hour. I waited a bit till it got dark then began owling. It would no doubt have been spectacularly successful, but on this night the rain came back again and didn't stop. What a jip! All that I got was a miserable three-hour trudge back up what was now basically a waterfall to get to my tent. Anyone who's been to
Anaso will know what I mean; anyone else, just use your imagination. Hiking up a mountain in the dark in torrential rain is a lot more exhausting that doing it in the daytime with lots of nice birds to look at. Needless to say, I saw no animals that night.
There aren't too many endemic birds on the Anaso track that I haven't seen on either this trip or last, but one of those I was most missing was the Geomalia. The name means "ground Malia" but it bears neither relation nor similarity to the Malia. Its quite a sneaky terrestrial bird and mostly its seen as it dashes across the path from one patch of impenetrable undergrowth to another. In other words, you're either lucky or you're not. I spent the first half of the fourth day on the part of the track leading down the other side of the mountain where the lack of birds was more than made up for with the multitude of leeches. This was rather surprising as I had never before seen even one leech in Sulawesi and the "normal side" of the track seems devoid of them. In fact, just the day
before I had been musing to myself on the apparent lack of leeches in Sulawesi given that there are a lot of fairly large mammals native to the island such as babirusa, anoa and macaques. Anyway, I found no Geomalia (or much of anything else), so for the second part of the day I intended staking out a stretch of track on the "normal" side and hoping one popped out. Unfortunately the rain started early that day, at 2pm, so that put paid to that idea.
At night the plan had been to head back down the other side to where I'd found a fruiting fig tree and see what turned up to feed -- who knows, perhaps pigmy tarsiers are partial to figs or the grubs of fig wasps? -- but that way had got flooded from the rain. The only animals I saw on my last night were a group of mountain rats foraging round the campsite. Very cute they were but very skittish and although I tried for a couple of hours to get some photos for identification later I had no luck. I sort of wish I had some collapsible live-traps for when I'm travelling,
but I really have too much stuff to carry as it is.
The next day I hiked back down to the road and hitched a lift in a truck to the Sendy Inn where everybody expressed great surprise that I hadn't found any tarsiers because apparently they are very common up there!! Every local person I ask says they have seen them. I'm not quite sure what to think. Perhaps they are
seen regularly around the campsite up there as Idris had told me in 2009, and I should have just waited by my tent with my camera instead of trudging round inside the forest. The other tarsier species found on this side of Lore Lindu is the Dian's tarsier which I had been hoping to look for as well on my last night, but Wuasa must be a touch too high for them because I was told there are no tarsiers in the forest round the village. So I didn't find a pigmy tarsier but I did find a couple of dwarf cuscus which I'm happy with. Actually I should admit that all the times I've mentioned "pigmy tarsier" I was just getting my words muddled and I
dwarf squirrel (Proscilliurus sp)
not a very good photo but they never stop moving, and are usually not close enough for good photos anyway.
actually meant "dwarf cuscus" -- making the quest a complete success!! (And that's the story I'm going to stick with for now!)
I had one free morning in Wuasa before the car back to Palu, so of course I used it to go for another look for Tonkean macaques. It was the same story as in 2009 -- look in the afternoon, no macaques; look in the morning, no macaques. I mean, come on! Macaques aren't supposed to be hard to find!! We did find some horrifying-looking monkey traps though, with several sharpened bamboo stakes fixed to a trip-loaded branch that whips up between two upright poles to impale any macaque that had the misfortune to take the corn bait. I guess the Tonkean macaques will just have to wait for another trip to Sulawesi.
Lots of photos for this entry! There's 25 of them so keep scrolling down because there's more under the text. And I've added some to the other entry too (not the previous one but the one before that, so check it out).
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