Pagan: 14 July 2010
At the first hint of sunlight, sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 am, the flies reappeared. Mike and CNN left even earlier to begin their quest to get inside the volcano crater. I was really glad the CNN ended up coming with us to South Pagan and took my place on the journey to the lost world, I’m pretty sure there is no way I could have made that hike with Mike and been able to get back down to the pick up spot by 5:00 pm. The new plan now was for the rest of us hike back up to the upper plateau and cross the saddle to another cliff line where there was another megapode transect. Evidently there was also some decent forest there, and on some earlier snail surveys some of the biologist supposedly found some native snails in that area (you can find an account of the snail surveys in a blog called “Tropical Depression” by one of the snail biologists, or rather, malacologists, I should say).
We got a pretty early start also, around 7:30, so it was much cooler and the steep climb up to the plateau was not nearly as bad as the day before. We also took a better route up this time. I forgot to bring my GPS, and I was wishing I had it, but that’s another story. We all made it up to the plateau without too much difficulty. Unfortunately, to get to the transect we planned on sampling, we had cross a kind of valley that was choked out with overhead sword grass. It was nasty stuff – seemed more like saw grass than sword grass. Jess had told us the best way to get through that is to look for an animal trail and just follow it as best you can. I found what looked like a little trail, so I tried that and charged ahead through the grass. I only got a few feet in when I discovered that I had plowed into a paper wasp nest. I didn’t really see the nest itself, but one wasp was stinging me on the stomach near my belly button and I saw another 4 or 5 buzzing around my chest. I don’t recall screaming or anything, I just remember dropping my net and running, and falling, and then running a few more steps. I don’t think the other guys really knew what was going on until I explained what happened. Fortunately I was only stung once.
After that incident we were all a little apprehensive of plowing through the sword grass, so we decided to look for a better way across the basin. We ended up finding some high ground a little farther down that minimized our time in the sword grass and made it across to the base of the cliff. I believe this was transect 11. We collected on it for a few hours, and then headed back. At one point, around 10:00, Mike radioed that he and CNN had made it to the crater. We arrived back at camp at around noon, had lunch, took down the tents, and got all the gear to the pick-up site by about 2:00. Unfortunately, our boat wasn’t coming until around 5:00 so we had some time to kill. The flies were very, very bad around the campsite, so I think we were all kind of rushing to get everything ready. We were hoping to hang out in the water and wait for the boat, but it was like an oven down on the black rocks. Some good fortune finally came our way, however, because as we were waiting, a boat came up and dropped Scott off. Scott was looking for monitor lizards. They said they could take two of back to main camp and then another bigger boat would later, closer to 5:00, to pick up the rest, including Mike and CNN. It was obvious that Christa had to be one of the folks on the first boat since she seemed to be losing her mind to all the flies. Stephan and I kind of debated a little bit about which one of us should go with Christa. I ended up going, and I felt a little guilty, but Stephan had the radio and said he had to stay. The trip back was a little slower, but I was happy nonetheless to be getting back to the luxuries of Main Camp. Once we made it back, I soaked in the ocean for what seemed to be almost an hour. Relaxing in the ocean was the only thing that would bring some relief to my heat rash. Eventually everyone made it back to camp and we took the rest of day off. Mike had some really cool stories about the crater. He and CNN climbed down in there about 300 ft and then had to use a rope for the last 150 ft. It was filled with a variety of ferns, but the only bummer was that there were a few goats in there.