Saturday, 31 January 2009

Staff Inducted at TAC

Hello hello, time for another update on the chronicles of the volunteer managers for the Raleigh 09B Expedition!

After two days of talk about what the wild Bornean jungle will be like and how to survive in it, the excited crew finally set off to jungle camp on day three. 

We arrived at the very beautiful surroundings of TAC, which stands for Traverse Adventure Centre, oohed and ahhed over the lush greenery and then and set up our bashers under the hut next to the Kiulu River. 

The group got divided into three Tango teams spent a day and a half being given more basic training about the hows and whats of trekking and living in the jungle before having to embark on their journey to a campsite on the next day. The training included

1. Food allocations: What, and how much to bring.

VM Georgina a.k.a George, checking out the yum-yums allocated for her Tango group

2. Medical sessions. The staff are given some training on what to do in likely medical situations, which covers anything from insect bites and stings to broken bones. 

VM Sarah Y shares her story about how she became very, very close friends with about a dozen leeches on her last expedition. The rest, save Ben, look amused. 

3. Radio Comms. While Mac had demonstrated how the radio works back at Fieldbase the day before, the Tango groups got the chance to get their hands on their radio units and simulate radio conversations with fieldbase. 
Medic Simon has a shot at talking on the radio. 

4. River crossing. Getting to project sites may require crossing some rivers and so part of the training includes an exercise on how to get across rivers safely. 

After succeeding on their first attempt at safe river crossing, Matt, Elda, Daisy and Lorna decide to do the conga to celebrate. 

5. Camp craft. We had none other than the parang (pronounced pah-rahng, the local word for a machete) expert himself, the amazing Floyd, to demonstrate how to set up your own little jungle hotel comprising of a basher (where you sleep), a long drop (your loo) and a lounge area (the lounge area) with pieces of tarp, bamboo and some string. 

Note to all: Floyd makes it look easy. 

After a lot of useful input, the teams finally get packing and cracking for their journey into the jungle.  

George and Dave, trying on the communal tarp on for size. 

Over the bridge and into the wild...

"If it ain't raining, it ain't training" - Mac McCarthy, 
CPM Raleigh Borneo

After trekking for about two hours with the campsite still a while away, the groups hear what sounded like a raging river nearby, except that it sounded it was approaching us rather than us appraching it. Our guide in Tango Two slowed down and paused, took a look at the heavens and turned to us saying, "Ok, itu bunyi hujan. Tidak lama lagi!" or "Ok, that's the sound of rain. Not long now!" and sure enough about a minute and a half later, it starts pouring like nobody's business! 

The rain added a little more challenge to the trek, turning the already slippery slopes into mini streams of mud and fallen leaves. We all reached the camp site safely, albeit soaking wet! 

Tango teams One and Two arrive at the site, and plan their next steps. 

We set up camp, built our bashers, somehow got the fire going, had food, etc. etc., (and it was still raining) and climbed into bed at about 10pm (wayyy past jungle bedtime, but we wanted to squeeze out as much fun as we could in one rainy night!)

Elda, our volunteer finance manager. "Dave please take a photo of me, otherwise no one will believe I did this!"

Soon enough, morning came and it was time to trek back to TAC. 

"La la la la la... We love carrying this huge piece of tarp. Can't wait to do it again!"

But really, the only thing on their minds besides a nice shower when they get back, was the moment when they would find out where they'll be working for 10 weeks: Allocations! 

Read all about who got which project in the next post!

Monday, 26 January 2009

More and Merrier!

Well it's been a while since the last post, and much has happened since. 

After a week of excited anticipation, planning and preparations, fieldbase team finally saw the day that the volunteer project managers would check in to fieldbase. Although the new arrivals were tired, jet-lagged, hot and sweaty, everyone was all-smiles and absolutely thrilled to see some familiar faces and at long last be on Bornean soil. 

Wendy, one of our medics, welcomed with open arms by volunteer project manager Ben. 

Once everyone arrived and found their own little nooks for belongings and a bed, the fieldbase team gave the newbies proper introductions to fieldbase and fieldbase practices. 

Sarah Y unravels the mysteries of the Door of Destiny

Logistics volunteer, Steph, explains the workings of the 3-bowl System. 

Come grub time, it was time to line up and put what they learnt into practice. Instead of washing their plates and cutlery at the sink, the team is required to get used to using the 3-bowl system to get them germ-free. 

It may feel strange to be doing this at first, but come the last day of expedition, you'll wonder what you'd do without the 3-bowls!

Val and Ben Cocks, the mum and son duo, grab some grub. 

Induction continued on day two, which included  radio training from the radio pro himself, Mac. 

The radio is the most important means of communication on expedition, as most of the project sites are without telephone or mobile phone services. 

The two-day induction also included herding to the local haunt for some delicious local food for dinner. The team ate their own weight in fried noodles, fried rice and an array of roti, and at the same time tried to learn and remember food vocabulary, high on the priority list of words to learn in any language. 

Stay tuned for updates about day 3 - 5, spent at jungle camp, where the team went through a crash course of jungle survival.