Saturday 1 November

(magnify) Group photo at Camp Five

I awake with the dawn after a full and refreshing night’s sleep and sit watching the river for a bit before breakfast.

The walk to Buda Camp today begins along the Head Hunters’ trail. We cross the suspension bridge from the camp and enter the forest, following a well-trodden path for the first 6 km.

Presently we reach the “monkey bridge”, a rope suspension bridge across a large river. It is a bit swingy, but we all cross safely, and then stop on the other side to change into long trousers. Chris has told us that the narrow track we are about to use passes through leech-infested swamps, so we carefully tuck our trousers into our socks and apply plenty of DEET.

Bridge at Camp Five Leaving Camp Five
Monkey bridge The monkey bridge

As we set off, single file, down a barely discernible track, it is quickly obvious that we must abandon any idea of keeping dry feet. The first real test is a log bridge across a swamp. The only trouble is, the log is about six inches below the surface of the brandy-coloured water! Roland is nominated to stand waist-deep next to the log to give us a helping hand across, and amazingly we all make it without falling off.

Trail The trail to Buda Camp
(magnify) Rob braves the leech-infested swamp

We continue like this for a couple of hours. Progress is stop-start, as we have to remain in single file, but we come at last to our lunch stop in a slightly more open area in the shadow of a cliff face.

As we prepare to leave, suitably refreshed, I notice my rucksack seems to have become much heavier. Closer inspection reveals a large rock tied to the bottom. Chris must think I’m not working up enough of a sweat.

The track takes us up a gentle slope that seems to follow a rising ridge. After descending the other side, we come to a wide river that we must ford, and shortly after, we emerge in a large clearing where a pick-up truck is waiting to ferry us the final distance to the campsite.

(magnify) Fording the Medalam River
(magnify) The pickup awaits

We arrive at Buda Camp, at the confluence of the Buda River and the Medalam River, and just off a logging trail. Apparently it looks like something off the TV serial MASH. (I wouldn’t know – I’ve never watched it.) A wooden frame holds up a roof part corrugated iron and part flexible sheeting. There’s no flooring, but the beds are stretcher-like arrangements set in two rows either side of a central gangway. And waiting for us at the far end next to a long table is Mr Lin with the most delicious banana cake I have ever tasted.

(magnify) Buda Camp

It hasn’t yet rained today, but the first few drops are just starting to fall as we head down to the river to wash. I won’t need my boots again until Kinabalu (over a week away), so it’s a good time to give them a thorough wash in the river. They are wet to start with, so I’ve nothing to lose. Engrossed as I am in this task, I almost miss seeing four wild boar crossing the river just downstream of us.

The open walls of the camp provide no privacy and it can be quite hard to get changed with just a small hand towel. The next challenge is to thread up a mosquito net. It comes out a bit low and I will have to be careful not to touch it during the night.

As we eat dinner, the rain increases in intensity, lightning flashes, and thunder rolls. It becomes clear that the last two day’s rain were merely rehearsals for tonight’s extravaganza. Underfoot, the rainwater turns the ground into a heavy sticky goo.

We think we’ve finished dinner but then Chris proudly reveals his pièce de résistance – barbecued wild boar! I would have eaten less of the previous course if I’d known. It’s chewy, but quite tasty.

After dinner, we play cards. At 8 pm I decide it is time for bed.