Friday, 6 November 2009

Zero - Changeover is Over - Over

Venturers have all completed phase one and have returned to Kota Kinabalu for changeover! Almost as fast as they arrived, they have all transported through a conveyor belt of round robin sessions and packed off onto buses again for phase two.

The changeover period is as hectic as it is fun, with groups spending two days in a hotel preparing for the next phase and meeting up with the expedition as a whole to share stories of their first three weeks in Borneo. On day one, washing (themselves and their clothes) were high on the agenda, as was buying some much missed chocolate from the Raleigh shop, set up by Jill. Teams spent time as a group de-briefing and discussing their project with Country Programme Manager Mac, which helps expedition teams gain insights into how the projects can move forward in the next phase with even greater success.

A lot can happen during three weeks on project, so in time honoured Raleigh tradition, the groups performed skits to let everyone else see what they've been up to out on phase. I haven't seen skits as good as this since, well since the last time I saw some skits. The evening saw alpha 1 performing a parody of a commercial break, rounded off with a very enthusiastic rap and 'sister act' musical mix.

 Alpha 5 demonstrated some live voice over with James and Katie, whilst the rest of the team improvised along to their dialogue. Alpha 3 showed dedication with a mix of live performance and their own video of a wildlife documentary featuring the venturers as water habitating animals, that hunt crackers and Tom Scarr as the nature fanatic with a cardboard moustache. Proving that isolation in the jungle can send you a bit barmy, the skits were all suitably bizarre and very very funny! Fieldbase judges Elda, Nicky, Anna and Jill had a guest appearance from Country Director Jim and proclaimed alpha 1 and alpha 3 joint winners.

After a luxurious nights sleep with the air-con on and the pillows fluffed, teams started the day with a full expedition meeting and launched straight into their new allocations. Waving farewell to their companions of the last three weeks, everyone waiting nervously to find out where they would go next and who with. The allocations for the next phase are as follows.........

Alpha 1 who will be continuing the amazing progress on the kindergarten in Minusoh are, Sam Morris, Heidi Owen, Abigail Forsyth, Thijs Klinkhamer, Kenji Nicholas, Megan Hinks, Sally Tyldesey, Angus Hannah and James Dicks. They will be working alongside PM's Chi and Julia.

Alpha 2 is Alastair Parry, Jack Pikia, Ron Monigot, Nick Oldroyd, Mick Ford, Floris De Vos, Lottie Humber, Tessa Rushton, Vicky Murphy, Amy Stirk, Libby Hadrill with PM's Nicki, Stan and Ced will all be completing the work started on Tampasak's gravity water feed.

Alpha 3 who are heading up to Imbak Canyon Conservation Area to work on the suspension bridge will comprise of, Floris Verleisdonk, Julian Aronowitz, Laura Peck, Matthew Mitchell, Joshua Sykes, Katie Sharman, Nicola Moran, Sharon Moyo and James McGovern with PM's Bruno and Nat.

Alpha 4 will be taken to Sepilok to support work on the new Sunbear Conservation Centre with PM's Leon, Jessie, Nicky and Gill. The team are Celine Chin, Daniel O'Neill, Taylor Dodds, Joel Silvester, Andrew Thomson, Sabine Hamer, Tom Eaton, Cat Andrade, Lloyd Southam-Sebire and Adam Watts.

Alpha 5 are the dive followed by trek group. Gordon Brown, Richard Teh Swee Aun, Sam Richardson, Maartje Min, Gupreet Virk, Leonora Neale, Alexia Austin, Christina Meikle, Jess Canbas, Alex Dennis, Jamie Moore, Gavin Doig and Emily Branson will be led by PM's Emma and Andy.

Alpha 6 will be trekking then diving afterwards. PM's Craig and  Vicky will be taking Folkert Van Der Linden, Shari Venter, Richard Shuttleworth, Roenol Raymond, Mike Adey, Bryony Crutcher, Aydan Al-Saad, James Pellatt, Emma Godden, Lisa Hoong, Charlie De La Haye, Boqian Du and Andrea Laverick into the jungle for 12 days.

Last but no means least we have Alpha 7 taking the team into Kampung Nibang for the first time to reconstruct an ailing community hall are Ruthie, Sophia and Zara. The group are Courtney Wayne, Tim Van Der Hoek Eklund, Bethanie Ayerst, Rolien Van den Hoek, Ali Jaini, Rebecca Clare, James Whelan, Aman Rakkar, Tom Scarr and Andrew Mcphaden.

The new teams then had some time to get to know each other and start sorting all their new kit with another busy morning for the logs team. It was time for everyone to relax and catch up that afternoon though with some scheduled fun otherwise know as Raleigh game time and a few hours in the pool! The games kicked off with a relay swim race, teams nominated 4 swimmers who had to complete a lap but not until the rest of the team had dressed them in full safety swimwear consisting of, swim cap, Mr Splashy arm bands and pink goggles resulting in a serious amount of cheating and shredded swimcaps.

Next was the passing of water balloons between knees and under chins but the high point for me had to be the 'three bowl your face' game. After spending the last month dipping all plates and cutlery in a series of three washing up bowls full of bleach, water and detergent solution, in place of a washing up sink, it was time to take it to a new level. Teams three bowled their faces in green water, porridge and flour in a messy attempt to fish out sweets for their team.

After the respite that is changeover we waved goodbye to our teams this morning with 6 am buses and lots of sleepy faces as they headed out into the field - stay tuned for updates of their new projects!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Loop Goes On Tour!

Working as Communications Officer with Raleigh definitely has its perks - in the first phase I get to pay a visit to all the projects sites, spend a night at each camp, meet up with all the venturers and catch up with all the gossip across the expedition.

After spending 10 days in the spectacular Imbak Canyon, I was collected by the loop vehicle full of field base staff and continued on with them to Minesoh, Tampasak and Sepilok. It's hard to convey in a short blog the kind of experiences that 110 Raleigh participants, across 7 projects sites are having in Sabah right now. Day to day life on expedition is varied! You might spend one day digging a 10 foot hole in the rainforest next to a huge waterfall, the next baking bread for the first time over an open fire. Maybe you've got a 2 hour trek ahead of you each morning just to get to your work site but in the evening you'll be washing off the dirt and sweat in a river whilst playing with the local children. A day off might include a trek to a hollow tree you can climb inside or a 'painful on the ears' talent show organised by your Alpha group.

For venturers and staff, an hour stringing up antennas and shouting into a crackly radio has replaced a quick chat on the mobile phone. A route card and a compass now replace a car sat nav system. A six by two foot section on a wooden floor is now called 'a bed'. Cheese and crackers on tinfoil are considered to be 'canapes on a silver platter.' A tarp and a bucket of cold water are named 'the shower'. A hole in the ground with a plastic bag next to it is 'the toilet'. It is no longer considered uncool to tuck your trousers into your socks.

Sometimes day to day routines out here are similar to back home just with a few new challenges. Often life is a thousand times removed from anything people have experienced before. Here is a round up of the Alpha groups and what they've been up to.

Alpha 1 are the crack team working on the new kindergarten, the photos speak for themselves - the progress has been amazing. This team live in a community hall which is a vision in pink, although a little cosy it is one of the most organised camps I have seen, so a big gold star for them! They have a short walk round the back to the work site with the villagers who are working alongside them. They have a fantastic relationship with the community there and have a great time down at the river together at the end of a hard days work. The loop were treated to a 3 course dinner and an eventful night of "Borneo's Got Talent' with some amazing performances by Emma Godden, Charlie and Drew as "Crackers for Porridge," Gordon and Folkert as "The flying Dutchman and The Evil Scotsman" and Christina, Celine and Laura as, well basically 3 girls giggling on a stage! Other activities at Alpha 1 include a night of Blind Date and some ankle whipping bamboo dancing with the villagers.


Alpha 2 in Tampasak are soldiering through their epic trek to the work site. Unfortunately a gravity water feed does need gravity so much of this is uphill. Originally a 2 hour walk in, laden with tools, they have improved the trails by cutting in steps and as I arrived two days ago they had shaved an hour of their commute time and were feeling pretty impressed with themselves. They are currently building a dam and transporting huge pipes up to the site. Tampasak is hours from a main road through labyrinthian palm oil plantations and up roller coaster dirt tracks. They have been keeping themselves looking fresh and lovely with Bryony and Taylor's Spa - with the girls subjecting all the males of the team to dubious oatmeal face masks and facial plucking. They have built a sturdy table for al fresco dining and have a great noticeboard to record all the humorous going's on but also to leave anonymous compliments and thanks to other team mates.


Alpha 3 in Imbak take the top spot for the 'room with a view award', with the most stunning location on expedition. This team drive up a gravel track through the jungle for 2 hours then arrive at rangers camp, where a 2 hour trek awaits them until they reach BBC camp - you may have seen this in the 'Expedition Borneo' series shown a few years back. Working alongside Imbak Canyon rangers these guys are a work hungry bunch. Two 6ft square holes, 10 foot deep have been completed forming the foundations of a new suspension bridge.The group are hoping for a few dry days so they can cross the river to start the foundations on the other side. Digging a hole may sound a little monotonous but when the air is filled with faux french accents, the irrepressible celebrity name game and shouts of "baku-uuuul!" as buckets are heaved up and down full of clay, the work day passes pretty quickly. Alpha 3 are responsible for some inventive cooking. When Lakshmi isn't throwing her own Diwali meal on the floor and Nick and Jess aren't chargrilling the calzone there are some tasty dishes on the offer. Waterfall swimming, daily proverbs and games round the table are all part of the Imbak experience.


Alpha 4 are very enthusiastic about their project, working on the fencing for the new sunbear sanctuary, which is currently underway. Living in a jungle camp built by Raleigh's last expedition consisting of a hammock basher and kitchen / dining platform, the group have a long walk to work but have exceeded expectations by completing twice their expected workload and are now planning more projects. The work is sited next to the famous Sepliok Orangutan feeding centre and they have had visits from "Edna " the orangutan and several cheeky macaques at camp. Don't leave your stuff lying around too long here or the primates might whisk it away from you. This is also a top spot for a leeching or two.

Alpha 5 and 6 are the trek and dive groups and although I don't get to visit these teams we do get daily reports over the radio. Alpha 6 are now on the dive island after completing their trek and Alpha 5 have completed their week of diving, gaining a PADI and are currently nearing the end of their trek. Both groups have made it to Maga Falls during their trek, spending the night camped in this fantastic location in Long Pasia. At the end of trek they spend a night in a homestay, sleeping in the homes of one of the villagers and eating traditional Malay food often with their hands and served kneeling on the floor. By now they'll all no doubtedly be ready for a shower and some clean clothes after trekking for 12 days, setting up camp every night and sleeping in their beach basha for 5 days.

Alpha 8 are in the North of Sabah. Already on their reforestation project they have drained off the land they are using, created a sapling nursery for indigenous trees and set up netting to catch coconuts, to prevent damage to their new saplings.They are also working on a beach clean up. Venturers are religiously watering their saplings at 4 o'clock before swim time and are keen to observe the progress of their fledgling trees. The project is idyllically located adjacent to two beaches and they have set up camp in tents along one stretch of sand. Evenings are spent dining on the beach, and playing football and volleyball, often with passing fisherman who pull into say hello. 


So in a flash, the first phase of Raleigh 09K is nearly complete! Groups will soon be preparing for their return journey back to KK for what we call 'Changeover'. Which basically is what it says on the tin - everyone arrives back, gets mixed up and changed in to new groups. During this time there will be lots more logistics, kit dished out, new allocations, skits about the first phase, debriefing and feedback sessions as well as plenty of swim time at Sabah's very own hotel of Eden -  'Borneo Paradise.'

Before the loop sets off we print out the blog and its comments and take them to the Alpha groups and read them to the team over dinner or round the fire. Whether it was an embarassing note from the parents, a girlfriends message to one of the lads or the Dutch messages we read out very badly, everyone loved hearing the comments and even more so, loved recieving one of them. It means alot to get your messages in the middle of the jungle and so far from home.So click the box below and send a message to your friends and loved ones out in Borneo!