Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Our photographer, Cheese, on Trek with Alpha 7

I was greeted at the pier by a tanned and relaxed looking Alpha 7. Their pre-trek week on dive island had clearly been productive. However, in a few days their tans would be replaced by mud, and that relaxed feeling would be superceded by tiredness and the odd muscle cramp.

The journey to the jungle started with a 2 hour bus ride from KK to Sipatang where we refuelled…at KFC. There we met the convoy of 4x4s that would take us on the second leg of our trip, a 4 hour off-road drive to Long Pasia, the kampung marking the start and end point of the trek.
In 12 days the sight of the brightly coloured houses, stray buffalo and inquisitive children wouldn’t just be a talking point, it would be a huge sigh of relief and realisation that everyone had finally completed what would probably be their toughest challenge on Raleigh.

But for now it had just begun. Our first task was to erect the team tarp and secure the static hamocs. From now on we would be moving everyday, and instead of setting up camp after 6 hours on the road it would be after 6 hours trekking.

The following morning everyone was up at the crack of dawn, eager to get a day’s trekking under their belt. Camp was cleared, group food and kit packed away, and it was time for our guide to lead the way into the jungle.

Final preparations before beginning the trek.
And we're off!
Nooh, 'The Jungle King' and our guide.

The mist was still rising over Long Pasia as we waved goodbye to civilization for the duration of the trek.

We forded a couple of rivers, scrambled up a bank or two, paranged our way through thicker areas of jungle and arrived at Bamboo Camp. It had been a relatively gentle two hour trek and a pleasant surprise for the group.

We had a leisurely lunch, a cup of coffee (someone left the tea bags behind), a rinse in the river, and a chance to learn some camp craft. Although, rather than the Bear Grylls-esque skills I was expecting, we learnt the art of bracelet making.

Soon though it was ‘longs o’clock’ and we all dutifully changed and smothered ourselves in deet. The cooks whipped up some of the finest Raleigh rations on the campfire and we carbo-loaded like nobodies business. The evening was passed with a game of mafia and some stories of the jungle spirits. I soon became much more attached to my newly whittled bracelet, which I hoped would act as a jeemat with plenty of obat to ward off the bali saleng.

After a night of strange noises, mainly Aydan’s snoring and Ben’s flatulence, I was woken by the familiar sound of the hornbills whooping from the canopy of the forest.

The daily duties started with stoking the fire, boiling water for porridge and taking down hamocs and tarps. The less glamorous jobs come after breakfast and include filling in the long drop (with soil) as well as burning the loo roll, which was a favourite for Flic.

Yes Flic, you love it!

Gentle stretching was followed by thunder, lighting & the storm…not inclement weather but some bizarre bonding exercise introduced by Joe White (if any friends or family members could shed any light on the origin of this it would be greatly appreciated).

The morning group stretch.

It had just gone 8am by the time we left camp. A few hours of the usual jungle scenery passed and we came across a clearing and several flimsy looking bamboo structures, we had made it to the next camp. Our new home for the night was set up in increasingly quick time.

The guides took us foraging for river fern before dark, which was cooked in a traditional recipe for the evening meal.

With energy levels replenished it was a unanimous decision to have a longer trek the following day. The guides agreed our team was strong and had coped with the first couple of days well. They suggested a challenging trek to a camp near the Indonesian border, which only two other Raleigh groups have been deemed fit enough to do in the past. Naturally, Alpha 7 accepted.

The trek was tough. Eight hours ascending into the Kalimantan hills took its toll on our bodies but most of all our will power. It tested everyone’s physical and mental limits but we all eventually made it to camp unscathed. The heavily chlorinated but still slightly stagnant smelling water wasn’t going to stop anyone enjoying a well-earned cup of mylo.

Thunder, lightning and a storm came that night…a real one this time. Despite some people’s efforts to ignore the deluge, determined to sleep off the day’s exertions, they were forced out of their waterlogged hamocs.
A night on the forest floor under the communal tarp wasn’t the best preparation for another hard day of trekking but there were no complaints...well not many.

We descended from the ridge where we'd camped using climbing ropes and sticks to support ourselves on the steep slopes made slippery by the heavy rain, which had started again.

It was the toughest day I had on trek and I know most of the group felt the same. It was made worse by the leeches lurking on every leaf since the rain had coaxed them from their hiding places. I’d like to say that everyone dealt with them with courage and maturity but I’ve been told I’m not allowed to lie on the blog.
A meticulous leech check.

By now the daily duties had become routine and the team worked together like a well-oiled machine. Everyone’s tarps were taut and it looked like the hamocs had been tied using a spirit level. I’m not sure whether this was a case of practice makes perfect or whether people had just taken extra care for fear of another rainstorm. Either way, the camp looked immaculate. I made the most of my perfect hamoc and had an early night while the others continued to pick leeches from their boots, not the usual evening entertainment but satisfying nonetheless.

The following day was my final one with Alpha 7. It was another long trek to camp where I said an emotional goodbye, wished the team luck for the rest of their journey, and left them setting up camp while playing the usual game of ‘would you rather…’.

I was off to meet Alpha 8 for their homestay, but that’s a different story…


leighanderson said...

Hi Brett,
Hope you recevied Dads letter thought it was time he wrote one. Well Dad phoned Sam Taylor and she was talking then she suddenly screemed out a cat had got in the flat but we did not knom how scared of cats she is well she was running around screeming down the phone it was funny, Dad will dine out on it for years lol.
well not lontr to your trek and dive bet you are looking forward to it know. Miss you loads love you always
Mum and Dad

Emily Arthur said...

Paul Choat!!!
I just checked Aberdeen results(what am i coming to!?)and realised that they haven't won since you left!!! Thats either cause they miss your undying support....orrr, cause theyre a little bit rubbish! Away to the pub later for Paddy's day with your chums, will have a pint for you!! :P
Hope you are writing and emailing soooooon, miss you super bajillions. I'm already VERY excited for you coming hooooome. I'll even agree to a kasbah ;)
Love and missing-ness. Hugs will be allowed once you are less stinky :P

Anonymous said...

Hi James Davies (Alpha 6)!
How are the leeches? It's St Patrick's Day today and it appears that all of Ireland has gone to Cheltenham for the races (+ lots of Guinness too). We actually saw the sun yesterday and had our warmest day since mid-November but only 12C. The Daffodils are not even out yet. I took your Mum, Grandma and Gareth to see Ailsa in Oxford on Sunday. We had a fantastic lunch and William put in a surprise appearance. The 6 Nations is sadly going as planned - Wales were truly terrible against Ireland and England could only get a hard earned draw vs the Scots. I hope the reforestation facility is coming on a pace and that it's not too far to the local B & Q to get new materials (eg marble, Portland stone, radiators...).Have a great week. Cheers, Uncle Rog.

Chris Trickett said...

Hi Laura (Crockwell)
You are looking fantastic darling. Great to see some more pictures of you and your team. You sound like you've been trekking very well. Get you, one of the only groups ever to master the challenging trek through the Kalimantan hills. Nothing to worry about. You're fit!
Im just sitting here finishing off one of my assignments. Got a big rugby match later. The last one of the season. Thinking about you a lot darling. Especially today. Two years baby!
Speak to you this weekend.
Love Chris
x x x x

The Henderson Family said...

To Felicity-Rae
Gr8 to see your still happy and healthy. Gr8 to see your broad smile again. Hope the leeches did give you to much greif. So proud to see that you are living your dream. We all miss you so much and can't wait to see you. All our love. ooxxoo

Anonymous said...

Lieve Kyra (alpha 9)
Ben zo ontzettend benieuwd hoe het met je gaat heb veel aan je gedacht
duiken en trekking, dit moet absoluut een wereld ervaring zijn maar tevens een aanslag op je conditie. Lieverd laat gauw wat van je horen misschien kunnen we skypen!!!
Volgens mijn berekening kom je ongeveer 19/20 maart weer in de bewoonde wereld dus je begrijpt zit de hele dag met mobiel in mijn handen.
Hele dikke kus Isis



Trek looks AMAZING! But tough! Did you get leeched?

BREAKING NEWS: 'The Eye' is going to have a mini Eye...!!! :\


Ali White said...

Joe [Alpha 7]

Well 'family of Joe White' cannot enlighten you on origins of strange bonding game/rain dance. We lay the blame on too many rugby tours, though hopefully you got an edited version. Looks like the rain dance part worked though.
You all look so well and happy and well done for doing such an arduous trek. Not long til changeover and a bit of r and r. Lots of love from all of us Joe, your cousins say hi too. You may get a rude blog from Tom so beware. xxx

Anonymous said...

E. CHAPS!!!!(ellie chapman)
look me years to find finally how to leave a now you're probably so at one with nature and a jungle jane you'll forget about this blog!!
miss you e. chaps...when you come back you need to build us a fire and tell all the'll probably canoe your way home!
hope you've had a wikid time and i'll be back from rainy manc to see you finally when you get home!!
lovelovelove katie xxxxxx

Mike Ray-Jones said...

Looking forward to reading more about Alpha 6 (only mentioned in passing in the recent loop blog). In the mean time, Happy Birthday in advance to Helen (Alpha 6) - we'll be thinking of you on 3rd April (even more than every other day!)

All our love
Mum & Dad xxx

Danielle said...

Beaver in the Jungle (Alex B Alpha 4):
That is the name of the link on my internet browser. You are doing what all good beavers do. Build stuff. And you're doing it for the cute sunbears. That makes you #1 in my list. Love you and miss you! I hope you are safe and happy (i was also going to say clean, but we both know that is not going to happen.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Tory (alpha 7)

Leeches; 8 hour treks; sleeping in tropical storms - what adventures!!
Alpha 7 looks like a great group and its lovely to see you on lots of photos and having such a brilliant time. We are really looking forward to seeing you soon and hearing all about what must be a life changing experience.
Take care; keep safe.
God bless, love Mom and Dad x

Anonymous said...

hey bub.....took us long enough to connect! but looking at blog, not as long as those LEECHES!!! :)
how big do the little suckers grow?

Can't wait to hear your tales over toasted marshmellows while around campfire...

Until then,'miss quality poo controller',( glad to see that no task is too great for our wee girl haha). keep up the good work, love from Mum & Dad

huz said...

Hi Ant,
This may be the last one before I see you in person, so hope you get it. You look well and it sounds like a hard trek but congratulations on surviving the leeches, long treks and sleeping in storms. You must be looking forward to sleeping in a warm bed and watching some TV. I like the sound of the would you rather game-would you rather wash up or help with the shopping ha ha!
Anyway, am really really looking forward to seeing you-work is very stressful at the moment so am a bit irritable-it will be lovely to have you back to hear your tales and take my mind off things. they even blocked me checking this blog!
Anyway, enjoy the last few days-hope to hear from you at the weekend-if not then see you at Heathrow on Monday.
A massive hug to you- love you loads

Anonymous said...

Hi,Michael(alpha8)hope the dives are going ok it was great to hear from you on Mothering Sunday(Mum&Nan were delighted). Keep well,loveyou&missing you.

Elizabeth Tucker said...

Hello Christina (Alpha 5),

Just a quick update from home to say that we will almost certainly be driving you home ourselves from LHR early on Sunday. I'll send another message to your hotmail account tomorrow which you might manage to log into at KK. It would be good if you could let us know either from KK or Kuala Lumpur airports that you've checked in but even if we don't hear anything we'll be there at T4 to meet the plane.

In the meantime, enjoy your final day in the Imbak Canyon and have a good trip back to KK!

much love, Mammy

Anonymous said...

hi paddy

how are you just a little note to say happy birthday from mum dad channy kieran maryann and mark and family hope to see you soon love and miss youmark said are you taking loads of pictures xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Anonymous said...


Getting a bit worried as I post these comments but never see them published!! I hope you are getting them. I am now back from Kenya, but no photos of you on the blog whilst I've been away. Masses of Mike (mostly cooking or eating!). I'm hoping that 'the loop' will be going to see you soon. I'd love to hear how the diving was? Hope it was great. I think you might now be treking? Dad off to high level conference in Ecquador (he'll be passing through Sasha Lodge - I wonder if Shaha is still there, remember him?). He's away for about a week. Poor Linda Baillie has broken her leg badly skiing and had a big op in the Radcliffe. She's got to be on crutches for 6 months! I said I would be her personal Swinbrook flunky! Going to see her tomorrow. Got to go and take Purdy out, she's been crossing her legs ... then taking Tom out for lunch at Bangkok House after the dentist. How is your composite thingy? By the way, got your email from the dive centre, thank you! Gave me quite a fright! Did you get the packages I wonder? Lots and lots and lots of love from us all here. M x

Jenn said...

Hey Nige,

Memorial people have sent you an email today...again. They want to know where you stand as far as the symmposium.

I hope you got my last blog post. I've sent you a letter with the email enclosed. I have also elaborated an email from myself standing in for you explaining why you haven't been able to reply and how it is very unlikely that you'll be able to attend but will still like your work to be presented and to send me details of how this might be possible. I haven't sent it yet I'll wait till Monday if I haven't heard from you I'll send it off. I think your next changeover, if I'm not mistaken might be this weekend, but then again that might just be my misundertanding. And if it is gosh the past 3 weeks have gone by fast. Anyway, I hope you read this soon and I hope to hear from you very soon too. Love you lots xoxo

carol harvey said...

Hiya Tiff (alpha 5)

Got your message, i am coming to pick you up if you want, Gran has work so won't make it :-( i will just come down myself awwww that means you have pleasure of my company....just like the ole army days!! Ang said she left you a message on bebo she spoke to me today!!
Enjoy your last few weeks
Love Mum xxx

cbu said...

Matt (Alpha 8)
Hope you found some post on your return for changeover and read the letters in the right order! We're looking forward to hearing some news and seeing photos of Alpha 8 on the blog!!
All our love

Anonymous said...

Hey Apie Ed of Alpha 7!!!

I can see 7 really is your lucky numver! You're looking tough in your jungle outfit :)! Nice tan too! Hope you are enjoying this new phase even more than the last one!!
The pictures look really cool, how was diving this time? No need to rescue someone I hope?
I'm doing great as well! I have two (!) new jobs, one for learning and doing what I like most (writing and charity stuff) in Amsterdam and the other here at Hogeschool van Utrecht, for the money.. An excellent combination!!

Hope you are ok and enjoy your river fern and self roasted coffee!


Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah ( alpha 3 ??) hope you are well. Not long now until you are home. Going into town with Clare tomorrow,the nights are getting lighter but have given out rain for the end of the week.I sound like the weather man ha ha. Take care m xxxxxx

Anonymous said...

Hey Em!
What an amazing time you are having! Great to see all those photos of you. Did you do a shift of loo-roll burning...?
Yes, Jess's news is correct!!
Phone us soooon.
Love you loads,
M and D

Werner said...

Great Pics Joe (White)

I can't shed any light on the bonding game either and I have been on a few rugby tours.

Well done to you and all the group.


Anonymous said...

Hi Joe (Joe Francis Alpha 6)
David and Andy's bithdays today - you have lots of presents to buy when you get back! We have just got back from the birthday meal .... the Kennards send their love - Matthew is loooking forward to hearing about the leeches... are you ready for them?!
Enjoy changeover and have a fantastic time on the trek and diving phase
lots of love Mum and Dad xxx

leighanderson said...

Hello Brett (Alpha 3)
Thank you for the Mothers day card and present it was lovley hope the weather is good we had the sun out all day the other day wow and it reached about 12 degrees at least the snow has stopped now phoebie is now walking and getting faster lol
love you loads
Mum and Dad xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Belinda Scott said...

Hope you're having an AWESOME time! looks like you are haha you better be taking lots and lots of photos! lol i cant wait to start travelling :(
hope the leeches dont suck all your blood! haha

have fuuuuun!

love bel :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah ( alpha 3 ??)Will Tom be coming for you, can you let me know.This will be the last blog i send. Looking forward to seeking you + the washing. Have a safe journey back and enjoy your last few weeks. All fine here, spoke to Nic yesterday still having alot of sickness takes after me. Love M xxxx

Hazel Duckworth said...

Hi Carys
(alpha 5 at the second phase but changing this weekend)
Picked up your comments on facebook. Good to see you`re having a great time. We'll send a letter this weekend which should arrive before you depart but I think after that we'll try and post more on this blog or text your phone. I hope you've got the ones I've sent. We've had some trouble with our land line which is temporarily fixed by unplugging the bedside phone. So if you do phone in the middle of the night we won't hear it unless you use the mobile. Visiting Chris in York tomorrow. Andrew's cat disappeared for several days but returned home yesterday. I'm on leave for a fortnight but I think we're mainly de-cluttering ready for some long-overdue decorating.Stay safe .love you loads. Mum and Dad.xxxx

Anonymous said...

Hi Fliss.

Glad you enjoying your big experience and still smiling. See you soon.
Love AK.
xxxxx ooooo

Dad said...

Hi Hayley (Alpha 3). Hope the changeover went well and this project is as much fun as the last. All well here. You would have enjoyed France 12 England 10 - we deserved to win ! You might get 5 similar msg's from Grandpa - he kept sending because he didnt get an email confirmation !! Enjoy ....luv Dad XXX

Anonymous said...

Hi Em, Hilight of our day is to check blog for news of you. Fab to see pics too. You are having the most amazing time in a beautiful place. Lucky, lucky you. Mum says you are now in Alpha 1 so we will be excited to read all about your next adventure. If the camera is snapping please get your face to the front - lots of back views of you last time!! Stay safe. Lots of love, Pam and Bill xxx.

channy said...

hey bubby (alpha 7)
good to see you enjoy burning the poop paper :D were the leeches scary?? is it true u have to burn them off? your hair is getting so long, i reckon that photo of the poop paper fire should be your new display pic. the jungle king guide looks like a cool fella. i can't believe how fast the time has gone. Remember when me and abby went to camp quality adn you couldn't come and you got upset? well now abby and i feel the same! the photos are so cool and it looks like your having such a good time. did you sing the miley cyrus song its the climb when becoming delirious after walking for so long? i would've. proud of you for taking on the world and doing something for it! love you cant wait to hear all about it xoxoxo chan

Anonymous said...

To: David Lau (PM - Alpha 3)

Hi Bro

Hope you are well. Just received your latest postcard and it was great to read up on how you've been doing. Car insurance renewal is 420 and will automatically be renewed. Hope you are enjoying your final phase and can't believe you will be home next month!.
Take Care

Alice x