Thursday, 23 July 2009

Alpha1 - Human Wack-A-Mole

Alpha1 having some fun while building the kindergarten with a game of human "wack-a-mole"

AJ getting a little tired after the constant appearing venturers (or moles)

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Trekkers return in one piece and move onto diving!

After an intense 12 days of crossing rivers, fighting leaches, and setting up camp in the jungle every night, Alpha 6 aka The Hard Cores have successfully completed the trekking phase of their adventure challenge, and have now moved onto the more relaxing diving stage. Here are some photos from their adveture, collected by Toria the medic/jungle superwoman.

What lies ahead? The "Hardcores" are ready for a take off

A few blood-thirsty leaches were collected but successfully detached during the trek.

Alpha 6.. leaving it all behind.

Taking a quick break before crossing one of Sabah's many rivers

A local experienced guide helps venturers to cross the river safely

One of Sabah's endless beautiful vistas Alpha 6 came across

The area's unique flora is world-famous - here's a carnivorous red pitcher plant.

Safety is absolutely vital to trekking where many crossings are part of the game

Local guides and Alpha 6's PMs looking hard core.

Stuck in the mud: the Loop

by Elda du Toit

At time figures 06:00 on date figures 16/07/09 Mac, Sophia and Elda departed for the first 09E Loop to visit project sites and deliver their mail, and a chance to buy some goodies from the Raleigh shop.

First stop was Alpha 3. The site is very remote and we trekked for an hour to BBC Camp. However, it was worth it. Imbak is lovely and a great privilege to visit. We received a warm welcome and enjoyed a refreshing wash in the river before dinner. Gere cooked and dinner was served on real plates - no mess tins at the luxurious BBC Camp that is home to Alpha 3!

Unfortunately, the Loop cannot stay at one site for long and we were trekking out with Omar, one of the rangers, early the following morning. A bouncy ride back took us back to where our trusty Bravo was patiently waiting to take us to Alpha 4. There was a bit of a trek to get to their camp site, but fortunately nothing close to getting to BBC Camp. Alpha 4 were still "roughing it" while building their static bashers, so we put up our own bashers among the trees. But the team has done a great job clearing the area and we stayed in relative jungle luxury. Katherine prepared a great tomato, vegetables and sausages pasta.

The next morning at dawn the Loop, now with the addition of our photographer Dom, headed off to Alpha 2. A long drive took us to the other side of Sabah. Sadly, unforeseen circumstances prevented us from reaching them in time!

Only the main roads in Sabah appear on maps. Smaller, unsealed roads are numerous, new roads appear regularly and the muddy road network is always changing. The route we originally had was no longer valid, so we drove around for some time, trying various routes. We decided on a particular trail and managed to get stuck in the mud only a few meters on. And the worst part of all was that it was not even the right road – it was a dead end.

Stuck in the Mud at 17:35

Mac and Dom went up the hill to get assistance but we had to wait till the following morning. Luckily we found an abandoned hut next to the road and after a thorough risk assessment declared it safe for use.

The Loop team make the abandoned hut look cosy.

After a dinner of Pasta Alfredo and chicken frankfurters cooked on a trangia, everyone fell asleep. Early the following morning, Mac arranged a tractor to pull us out while Sophia and I trekked up a very steep hill to get mobile reception so we could inform Fieldbase of our precarious position.

Even more stuck in the morning due to a nearby stream..

..and still smiling.

A helping hand, but just not enough power by the 4x4 and 10 jumping local workers.

Mac taking a break after some muddy hand-digging.

The tractor arrived around 09:00 and pulled the Bravo free. What a sight! Thereafter we went to our initial starting point (again) and tried a route we’ve not tried before. At last this was the right one and we arrived at Alpha 2 just before lunch. The team were excited to get the mail and made a dent in the Loop shop stock. Unfortunately, there was no time to stay, and after checking that everyone was safe and sound and a quick dip in the river, we had to leave for Mapan Mapan (Alpha 1), with our communications officer Ed joining the Loop.

Staying firmly on track this time, we arrived at Alpha 1 before dark. There we had a quiet evening after a delicious beef curry, prepared by the team. Taking off early the next morning, we arrived at Fieldbase before lunchtime.

The loop team ready to be on their way to Alpha2, after 16hours in the mud.

Alpha 4 update on Phase 1

by Dom Edwards

Alpha 4 saw the start to the new "Sun Bears" project. Their objective is to trail-blaze through the allocated area of the jungle and build a camp from raw material such as the very heavy “ironwood”. This camp will then ensure the second and third 09E phases and future Raleigh groups have somewhere to live whilst working on the "Sun Bears" enclosure next to the Sepilok Orangutan sanctuary.

The proposed jungle camp site was situated approximately 500metres from a local logging yard. PM Tom presents to the team how they would be entering the jungle and trailblazing through the vegetation to make way for a 500m water pipe and 200gallon water tank to help keep everyone thirst-free when at the camp.

After a few days the Alpha4 team were making good progress, hacking their way though the jungle to reach a good position for setting up the accommodation block. Tools are ready as everyone diggs in to help get the job done.

A highlight was a young local bearded dragon carefully guarding her eggs. A wild orangatan was also seen swinging in the trees early one morning. Snakes and spiders also liked to make an appearance on site at the jungle camp.

Alpha 4 made easy work of clearing the dense jungle at the Jai Ho camp to make way for the ironwood and timber delivered to the local logging yard.

Sophie, Gwen & PM Ruthie demonstrating their construction skills as they show off the new mess tin and water bottle holders built to make the camp more homely.

The second delivery of all the timber needed to make the accommodation. Steven, Phil & Gareth all help out to unload the packed flatbed truck.

The Alpha 4 team enjoying the local scenery and a little break at the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) on the 10ft canopy walk.

It was a great opportunity for everyone to see the opening ceremony of the Sun Bear project. A number of local guests and volunteer groups attended the opening. Several High Priestesses from the Kazadandusun tribe, the main enthic group in Sabah, performed a traditional blessing of the Sun Bear Conservation entre by sacrificing a chicken.The Centre will help with preventing the sun bears from becoming extinct, and will eventually have the facilities to accommodate over 40 sun bears, a visitor's area, and a natural walkway.

Finally, after nine days of hard work the Loop arrived with some much needed supplies of extra energy, equipment, and some refreshing soft drinks. It was time for me to move onto Alpha 2 to view what was happening.

Phase 1 - Alpha 3 update from Imbak Canyon

by Sarah Young

Alpha 3 - Dropped off with all their kit, food and equipment at Telupid, the first leg of their long journey to reach the remote Imbak Canyon.

A quick stop off, on the 5-hour 4x4 journey to the Rangers' camp

The following day, Alpha 3 trek into the Canyon, and after almost 3 hrs they are rewarded with this glorious view crossing the suspension bridge over the Kangkawat River on the final approach to the BBC Camp - their home for the next three weeks.

As there is no alternative route into this Camp, the next few days were spent on supply runs - trekking to and from BBC Camp down to Rangers Camp to collect all the equipment including spades, saws, a pick-axe, a cooking stove with gas bottle, plus three weeks worth of food for the whole group! Maintenance and repairs were also carried out around the camp to make it a good safe home for all the groups coming to Imbak in this expedition.

Work gloves were then in high demand as the group, accompanied by the local rangers, got down to the tricky and heavy task of ferrying ironwood from where it was being cut to the edge of the bridge. This wood will go towards continuing infrastrucucture works which Raleigh are helping with, such as building a viewing platform looking over the Falls, and gathering all the materials needed for a second bridge to be built over the Imbak itself just above the waterfall. Many exhausting days were spent unwinding 300m of steel cable from its drum, which will also need to be moved into location for the suspension bridge. But with such a beautiful river as their daily shower, the team's stresses and strains are easily forgotten!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Pipes, parangs, and peanuts in Pinapak

by Ed Ptilidi

Kampung Pinapak, in the Pitas District, was the second project site I was scheduled to visit in Phase 1, and after spending a week with Alpha 1 in Mapan Mapan, the expectations were high. You could not help but compare the two sites, the teams, and the projects they had been handed.

I was lucky enough to catch a lift to the site with Drew Boshell from the Asian Forestry Company (AFC), Raleigh's project partner for Pinapak. While enjoying the air-conditioned ride to the kampung, I was filled in by Drew on the details of the project. The gravity water feed system in this kampung would be the first one of 54 that AFC were looking to support with infrastructure development and land rights issues, as the company plans to set up sustanable forestry operations in the area. Raleigh would be involved in subsequent projects, so it was important to ensure Pinapak's success.

Tasked with managing the job were PMs Tony Adamson and Bobby Rebeiro. Joining a team that has already been working together for a week could have been difficult, but the Alpha 2 guys made me feel really welcome, and I was basically involved in everything the team did.

What struck me about this project was not just the planning that it required, but its sheer physical demands. Shovelling river rocks and sand into bags and taking them hundreds of metres uphill to the dam site, or moving the bags of concrete and the water pipes that Drew and his team had delivered on their trucks - it was not easy. It made you sweat, a lot. It made you run out of puff half way up the hill.. It made most of your muscles ache the next day. But at the end of the day, you felt like you'd definitely earnt your Raleigh rations dinner, or that swim in the river, or a game of soccer with the locals (who were unavoidably better at the game, but team spirit and enthusiasm always ran strong in Alpha 2). There was also the joy of consuming numerous deserts that T&T aka Trusha and Tom would create and unleash onto their ever-insatiable team mates every night.

It was also obvious that the team and their project were on target and perhaps ahead of the schedule. In the second week of the phase we finished the concrete dam, started on building the site for a massive water tank which would create enough water pressure, and laid the pipes between the two sites. With the work being so physical, it was much easier to work in the morning, take a reasonable break over lunch, and then work for another couple of hours in the afternoon.

But perhaps what struck me the most in Pinapak was the relationship between the project team and the locals - they were like two good neighbours living side by side. Alpha 2 venturers would teach English to the kids at the school and play games during their breaks. A local woman, who has lived in Pinapak all her life, took us to plant some peanuts on her land, and then to harvest some of she'd planted a few weeks earlier, and prepared them for us in a traditional way by boiling them with some sugar. Alpha 2's glory had crossed the kampung's boundaries and we were invited to a wedding at a nearby Christian village. They were people we did not know, but they nevertheless invited us in like honoured guests, and then offerred us a meal which consisted of a soup with pork fat and rice. Many villagers turned up to a meeting that Alpha 2 organised to tell them what Raleigh and their project were about. Luckily, we had Yeinn who could speak Malay and translate, and also taugh us a traditional Malay song we sang to the villagers at the end. By the time I had to return to Fieldbase, the PMs were also in the process of organising homestays in the Kampung for the venturers to experience the traditional Sabah way of life.

The second week of the phase had disappeared, and it was time to leave Pinapak and Alpha 2 with the Loop vehicle. I have no doubt these guys will complete their project on time (I am looking forward to the official opening of the water feed), and get the most out of their time with Raleigh.

Here are just some photos Dom and I have taken while at Pinapak:

4x4s deliver hundreds of meters of water pipes over the Pinapak bridge

Bobby gets caught in a water pipe bundle

Fun with concrete: Alpha 2 building the water dam

It's not just peanuts: venturers learn how to plant the nuts in a traditinal way. Who knew they don't grow on trees?..

Yeinn and Jack are being shown how to harvest the peanuts by a local woman

Children help to wash our harvest in the river afterwards

Alpha 2 girls playing a game with the school kids during their break

Dareeana and myself surrounded by Pinapak's school kids.

Drew from AFC explains to the team how their project fits into the big picture

Moves afoot in Mapan Mapan

by Ed Ptilidi

Mapan Mapan is a remote rural community of Sabah's Pitas District. The sleepy village, nestled on the warm shores of the Sulu Sea near the border with the Phillipines, has a mostly Muslim population who just manage to get ends meet through fishing and subsistence farming.

But for the last two and a bit weeks, a team of Raleigh's venturers and two project managers have commenced something that will undoubtedly bring about an positive change to this distant place. Sponsored by Nestle with support from the local authorities, the team have been busy working on a project that will see a kindergarten built for the children of Mapan Mapan.

It is a requirement of the Malaysian education system that to be accepted into primary school children must possess a certain level of literacy and numerical skills. While this idea is completely sensible, it often works against remote communitites such as Mapan Mapan with no kindergarten of their own, with the nearest one located many kilometres away. As a result, many children end up not getting through the early education system, so when the time comes to attend primary school they are put at disadvantage. This is why the kindergarten project is so important to the Mapan Mapan community, its children, and its future success.

I've spent almost a week working on the project with the volunteers, after deploying from Likas on July 9, to gain a much better insight into the intricacies of the project and the challenges the team had to face.

Five hours of travel on the bus and four-wheel drives, and we arrive into Mapan Mapan. The first hurdle to overcome - the keys to the unused building arranged as our accommodation for the duration of the project cannot be found. After some lengthly discussions with the local village chief where we go in circles in both Malay and English, it turns out we can use the building but needs to be thoroughly cleaned first. However, the team needs to stay somewhere for the night so we negotiate to set up our tents in the local nurse's backyard. Success.

The following day was spent setting up our lodgings and looking around the site. It is hot and sweaty, as expected. But come evening, and Mapan Mapan turns it on. Looking over the sea from the "Baywatch Tower" near the primary school, nearly every night one can witness a lightshow consisting of distant firestorms over the sea, fishermen on their boats nightfishing, and fireflies circling the trees.

My week in Mapan Mapan disappeared in a flash. In between clearing of the project site with our parangs and unloading the building materials for the site, I've visited a nearby island with Sandra, one of the PMs, and two venturers. A ten-minute boat ride away, the island is good for swimming if the team decide they want to relax and spend the afternoon in bath-warm Bornean waters. The villagers are also keen on football, so that is another way for the team to relax after a day's work. And of course there's always the fun of making all sorts of culinary delights from the Raleigh rations.

I had to leave Alpha 1 at the end of the week to visit another project team. But I was lucky enough to come back to Mapan Mapan with the Loop vehicle on our way back. The progress the team has made was astonishing. It was clear the team and the PMs have been getting stuck in that week. The building site was cleared and marked, the massive holes for the extremely hardy belian wood posts were dug, and many of the the posts were already standing upright. These guys have not been wasting any time. From what we hear, they have also been taking advantage of the local produce, with fishermen supplying them with freshly-caught fish and even lobster! Nice one. Everyone looked happy, with people telling me they did not want for the phase to finish. It also looked like the team had also really bonded over the last two weeks.

Below are some of the photos myself and Dom managed to collect while in Mapan Mapan.

Welcome to Mapan Mapan/Alpha 1's home.

The kampung houses, in accord with the local tradition, are built on stilts in the water.
The kindergarten site before the team cleared it for the building.

Building supplies arrive..

..and everyone gets stuck in with unloading the trucks!

Precision, precision: the team putting up one of the bullion wood posts that will hold the building.

Jesse is all business holding one of the posts.

A stick in the mud? Mike gets stuck compressing the soil.

Dom the photographer gets roped into helping.

Perfectly aligned: Alpha 1 spring into action at their project site.