Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Road Trippin' With the Loop - Part 2

Welcome back to the official Raleigh Borneo 10A blog!

As promised we're back with more news from the Alpha groups, brought to you by Yolanda of the Aydan and Yolanda loop team.

After a brilliant night at Imbak Canyon, Aydan, Claire and I, together with our ranger Jack trekked out early on Wednesday morning. Our hour-long trek was delightfully interrupted when Jack pointed out a group of gibbons swinging in the tree tops above us! Groups have trekked through the Canyon numerous times without having seen these elusive primates so we felt very lucky indeed. 

But anyway, on we went to Alpha 2, only about 2 hours drive away from the Imbak river, but not before picking Charlie our beloved photographer up. We arrived just before they were setting off for work, lucky us, so while Claire and I sorted out the blog and shop, Aydan and Charlie set off with Alpha 2 to do some trail clearing. Charlie proclaimed it to be the best welcome he's had since deployment, saying that they had a nice swim in a river and then had fresh coconuts! 

Alpha 2's awesome dinner was made by HCVs Petronella and Gilbert. They pulled out all the stops when they served banana fritters with chilli soy sauce for starters, mains were a pineapple curry with sardines and then vegetable tempura for dessert!

We very much enjoyed being with the lovely Alpha 2, but we had to leave very early the next morning to attend a meeting with a village chief of the future Alpha 3, before meeting up with the current Alpha 3. 

The drive in to Alpha 3 was the toughest one of all, but with Aydan's skillful driving, we got there safely just after lunch. Claire and Aydan almost immediately set off with Alex to see their weir while I pulled the blog out of our treasure box.

The view from Alpha 3's home on top of a hill was simply stunning, overlooking the hills and valleys beyond. My favourite thing about their location was the refreshing cool temperatures - for once I didn't feel like I was melting, and putting on longs didn't feel like such a sweaty grind.

For dinner the 19 of us sat snugly around the dining table that would normally just about fit 15 people. Alpha 3 also had some stunning dishes to impress us with. Salad for starters impressed us for sure, and the beef curry and egg fried rice were scrummy! For dessert, we had oatmeal cookies, which were so, so good.

We couldn't believe that the last day of loop was upon us as we made our way to Alpha 6. Again, it was another 2-hour drive away, and the approaching view of one of Kudat's stunning beaches, where Alpha 6 is camping on, melted our tiredness away.

Soon after arriving, Alpha 6 showed us the beginnings of their traditional long-house, which will eventually be accommodation for future volunteers of the Metre Of RainForest (MORF) reforestation facility which Raleigh is helping to build.

We played games on the beach, read the blog, and then for dinner Alpha 6 spoiled the loop by serving fresh barbecued fish with coconut rice and/or egg fried rice. For dessert, we had swiss rolls with custard, which sent many sweet toothed Raleighites to heaven.

After dinner, we played a thrilling 40-40 in the dark, which is a version of a hide-and seek game. It certainly brought back childhood memories!

We also had a quiz that night, which my team won for the prize of a bag of peanut brittle because we hadn't eaten enough that night. You know I'm kidding. But we did win a bag of peanut brittle and shared it with the whole team.

The last contest of the night involved laying on the beach and counting as many stars as possible. I kid you not, there were so many stars it looked like a blanket of tiny fairy lights had been hung from the skies. It was absolutely beautiful and to top it off, we saw at least two shooting stars that night.

In short, we had an amazing time on loop. We'd like to thank all the community and environment groups for a wonderful time and for all the fantastic food they made.

Unfortunately, the loop doesn't meet the trek teams who are out in the jungles of Borneo. While on trek, Alphas 7, 8 and 9 are unreachable so we're not able to get much updates and photos from them. We will, however, definitely give you updates on these hardcore teams when we meet them at changeover. Thank you for all the messages and shout outs to the trek teams!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Road Trippin' With the Loop - Part 1

Hello all, it's me Yolanda, this time bringing you the first part of news about our three community and three environment phase groups which the Loop has managed to visit in the past week. 

Alpha 1 - Kindergarten project in Sulit Paitan

On the Loop this time were Aydan, one of our three volunteer logistics managers, and me. We first set off to Kampung Sulit Paitan in the district of Sandakan, which is about 270km (or 4 and a half hours) from Fieldbase in Kota Kinabalu. Alpha 1 is building a kindergarten for the remote community there which will provide pre-school education for about 20 children in and around the village of Sulit Paitan.

A happy Alpha 1 met us at their humble abode, which is a kindergarten by day and a communal area for the group by night. After a quick welcome, Aydan and I whipped out the comments from the blog which they pounced on like cats on mice. 

Alpha 1 did a fantastic job that day keeping us fed and entertained. To put us in a romantic mood, PM Laura presented everyone with a rose made out of a stick and some plastic. Then for starters we had tapioca chips (absolutely amazing), meatballs and pasta and stir-fried cabbage for the mains (superb) and because it was Valentine's Day, the scones we had for dessert were heart-shaped (genius). Alpha 1 made the evening even more special by presenting everyone with secret Valentine's messages, even the loop received their own love-ly messages!

For entertainment, the group first had a boys vs girls performance.

The night progressed into a most amusing game of Speed Dating, followed by fantastic performance by Carys and TJ, who sang 'Something Stupid' in impressive harmony. 

We had an amazing time in Alpha 1 but had to leave early the next day for a long journey to Alpha 4, about another 240 km away (about 4 hours on the road). Charlie the photographer joined us this time and we picked Claire the communications officer, up from Telupid to make a team of four for Alpha 4. 

Alpha 4 - The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre project in Sepilok, Sandakan

We arrived in sunny Alpha 4 and were welcomed by PM Donna who brought us to the rest of the team were working hard on the foundations for the bridge and walkway that will connect the orang utan sanctuary to the sun bear sanctuary. 

As you can see, they had a clear system going on to fill the foundations that day. The first team mixed the cement, which was then passed on to the chain who brought the cement to Billy, (the architect helping out with the sun bear sanctuary project) who will then put the cement in to form the first layer of cement. 

We headed back to Alpha 4's jungle camp after their day of work and soon it was dinner time. Alpha 4 presented their simple but delicious dinner of coconut rice, fresh veg and curry sauce on banana leaves which we polished off in no time at all! 

Alpha 4's entertainment scored top points with the loop team, with their Sepilok's Got Talent show.

Another amazing night came to an end after games like Mafia and Who's the Man were brought to the table. Sadly, the loop, together with Claire had to head off to Alpha 5 early the next morning. 

Alpha 5 - Infrastructure Construction, Imbak Canyon 

3 and a half hours later, we arrive at the river where rangers from Imbak Canyon would pick us up in their trusty 4x4 to take us into rangers' camp. We climbed out of the 4x4 to be met with all of Alpha 5! After lunch we trekked into BBC Camp and made a beeline to the Imbak River for a quick wash under the waterfalls. 

Look at us all looking so glamorous after an hours trek! We're sitting on a viewing platform built during a previous Raleigh expedition.

The viewing platform overlooks the stunning Imbak Waterfalls

The pile of rocks Alpha 5 has had to carry to fill in the foundations for a second bridge. 5 tons done, 5 more to go. For the first hole. 

For dinner the team made a us rice and beans and amazed us with a very yummy mock chicken jerk recipe. For dessert we had scrumptious chocolate cookies, all of which were gobbled up within a minute. 

The dessert chefs

For entrainment, Alpha 5 first serenaded us with a group singing performance.

Next in the programme was a show demonstrating how some of the venturers' bodies could do amazing (and WRONG) things, like Kim here, who can twist her arm around at a full 360 degrees. 

We then had a limbo competition which Adam and Ching won with their super flexibility and balancing capabilities.

The group then played Mafia well into the night and then it was bedtime again.

 The loop had Alphas 2, 3 and 6 left to visit, but that's a whole other blog post! Watch this space!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Visit to Alpha 2 - Kampung Kopuron

The last two weeks have been busy for the communications officer here on expedition 10A. Claire has been on a one week visit to Alpha two in Kopuron before spending a week on the loop. Today she has written an update on the the group's first week installing a new gravity water feed system in the village.

"Alpha two and I left Likas early on the morning of the 7th to be given a warm welcome by the villagers. The group were extremely excited to learn they would have lights for the next two and a half weeks.

Meeting the villagers

On day two we trekked to the pool that will feed the new water system and looked at where the new pipes and filters will be. This walk usually takes around 40 minutes but lasted a lot longer as the group kept stopping to taste jungle delicacies including tarap, chillies and sago worms!

The weir

The group checking out the filtration site
Gilbert trying a sago worm


On days three and four the group created a map of all the houses in the village, planning the location of the new pipes and system. We were also treated to an amazing dinner cooked by villagers to celebrate Rosie's 19th birthday. Sadly our after dinner singing did not meet the high standard set by the local community. Perhaps Bohemian Rhapsody is not supposed to be sung acapella.

Plotting the new water system
Rosie's birthday dinner, courtesy of the villagers of Kampung Kopuron

 Rosie looking very pleased

On day five the group finalised plans with the villagers and began the collection of materials (stones and sand) for a dam, weir and bridge. On day six we spent the morning transporting all the materials needed to build a new dam and weir. In the afternoon the team built the dam and also begun construction of new water channels needed for the gravity water feed system.

Figuring out transportation and beginning the dam

Finishing the dam and constructing the new water channels 

Sunday marked day seven, and a day off! The team spent the afternoon playing football and volleyball. Luckily the villagers took pity on the Raleigh team and decided to play in mixed teams of venturers and villagers so the Raleigh team were not creamed again!


Conor and Serge

Since I left Alpha 2 the team have continued with the construction of the weir and bridge. The team has also taken delivery of pipes, storage and filter tanks, and are almost a phase closer to completing their project."

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Charlie Hoare On Tour

Charlie Hoare our resident photographer travelled around five of our static sites to see what all of our Alpha groups were up to...

Charlie deployed with Alpha 6 and travelled North to the sandy beaches of Kudat and the Tip Of Borneo. He helped them to set up camp and dig their long drop, a feat which Ben described as “The proudest moment of my life...”

They met with local fishermen who gave them a delicious catch of the day, fresh Sea Bass. Charlie also taught the group a number of games including Werewolves and Mafia. If only he knew the rules...

As Alpha 6 started work, Charlie felt his time there was done (Quel surpise!) and set off in search of Alpha 3. Unfortunately his transport plans became slightly lost in translation and he ended up in Kudat – well it does sound really quite like Kota Marudu doesn’t it? At this point he had to get a bus to Kota Marudu, so that he could get a lift the rest of the way there with project partner Drew. Five bus tickets later and the bus driver agreed to set off!

Landing on his feet yet again in Kampung Lingka Bugan 2, he arrived with a delivery of fresh food and was spoilt by a tasty meal. For once he got his hands dirty and helped Alpha 3 to dig a trench, although one must be careful as a photographer not to do too much, a damaged finger may end a photographer’s career. 

The next day he got a lift back to Kota Marudu with Alpha 3, before staying overnight in a “luxury” hotel... well, it did have running water! After an early start he took a boat up river to Alpha 1, keeping his eyes peeled for the local crocodiles.

Alpha 1 was perhaps Charlie’s favourite group. Possibly because he arrived on a day off (typical)! He was spoilt rotten and treated to pancakes and speed dating on Valentine’s Day. Charlie proved yet again that he is not just a pretty face and made heart shaped scone cutters from a Sprite can. Who says that romance is dead? He further excelled himself with fifty meatballs made from corned beef, which were devoured with gusto by the group.

Sad to leave, with a tear in his eye, our Charlie set off with the Loop to Alpha 4. He was welcomed with a musical extravaganza, played on biscuit barrels and water bottles, a spectacle that he described as the best entertainment of all time.

The following day he yet again broke the habit of a life time and did a bit of heavy lifting of sand and gravel. Always observant to the core, a few hours later he realised that he was working right next to the sun bears! I guess it’s just a good job that they were not the crocodiles at Alpha 1...

Following a two-kilometre walk, Charlie received the best welcome of all at Alpha 2, with a swim in the newly built dam and fresh, delicious coconuts.

The Loop also arrived and a tasty meal of fried plantain followed, however desert was slightly harder to swallow... In what was described as a “Chilli Off” – members of the group raced to see who could eat five mini chillies in the quickest time. Rosie was the fire eating champion! That night however was Charlie’s most uncomfortable night’s sleep on his tour, involving the hardest concrete floor in the universe, with the thinnest roll mat, beneath a fluorescent flickering strip light, with no light switch... Still, the next day when there were sand bags to move, Charlie was very sad to move on.

His arrival back at field base was hotly anticipated, with perhaps the most elaborate signage to date and I think that the welcome party costume speaks for itself!

p.s.: Hi to Charlie’s Mum x x x x x x x love Kathryn x x x x x x x