A Frustrated First Outing from Paluang Cove
Well, we set off into the thick jungle and up the steep hills after a successful landing at Paluang. Skipper Dick stayed with the boat as Powell and I hacked our way (gently, mind you) into the brush. Vines hung from the dripping trees and the ground was covered with a soft moss, making progress slow.
We moved as quietly as possible and kept our eyes peeled for any movement from something larger than the thousands of bugs, frogs, birds and other small wild creatures that filled this steaming, verdant, claustrophobic paradise. We were on the hunt for the Molokanesian Spotted Dragon Lizard, and although they're said to frequent clearings, you never know....
The first morning and afternoon were spent in constant awareness of our surroundings while trying to keep a steady pace. Powell made the occasional sketches of interesting species, and all seemed to be going fairly well. The heat was intense and we'd stripped down to our "essentials," but Powell is a good fellow and I didn't suspect any "funny business" other than his occasional wise-crack about the color of my skivvies (a gift from my previous girlfriend).
All seemed to be going fairly well until the rain set in. At about 4 p.m. it came down as if the sky had cracked open an enormous bathtub full of hot water. We were quickly swept down the hill we were climbing and into a gully that was immediately filled with everything else that had washed down the hill. Up to our necks in water crawling with a thousand snakes, Powell was screaming like a little girl and thrashing like hell for a large tree trunk. I followed, and we climbed that thing like a couple of spider monkeys, ending up on a thick branch about 15 feet above the swirling torrent.
It was then that I heard branches cracking above me through the roar of the rain, and, trying to peer up as the raindrops slammed against my eyeballs, I caught a glimpse of something huge leaping from our tree to the next. I couldn't see but a dark shape, but I held hope that this was our prey. Unfortunately we were stuck. The rain continued its incessant downpour for the next 12 hours, and we clung to our branch as best we could, the gully below us now a whitewater hell with the occasional python head snapping out of it. It was a long night to say the least.
When the rain finally stopped and the water below us drained towards the sea, we wearily climbed down from our perch and fought our way back to the cove. Empty-handed but hopeful, we headed back to the ship.
I'm now readying our gear for a more concerted effort, waterproofing everything!