Saturday, 3 April 2010

Return of the Loop

Nicki (Logs Manager) and myself (Sarah - Deputy Programme Manager) have just returned from an incredible 7 day road trip around Sabah.  We visited each of the 6 static project sites and were wined and dined with great food and fruit cordial at all of them.  We returned exhausted but overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of every person we met and excited by how close we are to finishing each project.

Our journey started on the beautiful beach at Kudat.  On arrival, we were greeted with garlands and hand-made shell necklaces.  Kirsty, Laura, Liam and Big Joe were keen to take us straight to the worksite, where the longhouse is in it's final stages of construction as the atap roof is laid.

We returned to the beach where a team of chefs were busy preparing our dinner of bean burgers and pitta bread followed by home-made donuts with condensed milk.  When we could not eat any more, we laid back under the almost full moon and gazed at the stars.  Unfortunately none were shooting tonight though.

As we left Kudat behind we made our way to the Pitas district and Alpha 3 in Kg Vunui Locos.  We received the best welcome of the trip at Alpha 3 and think this should have been a sign of the events in store for us that night.  This group can only be described as Loco by name, loco by nature. 

The group were out in force to wave the Bravo onto their site and warm, fresh donuts were waiting for us (I think they needed to soften us up before they gave us our elephant costumes for the evening!)  You will be pleased to hear they were happy to look as silly as us and must have put an immense amount of effort into each costume ready for the jungle party, led by Chief Muupungaa.  Some of the other guests included Sophie the frog, Steve the dinosaur, Theo and Freddie the two birds, Hayley the lion, Dave the parrot, Rachel the stray dog, Briony the hedgehog and Paul the bee.  Some of the costumes were very creative, others were very funny and some, well it's the taking part that counts isn't it?

An evening of games and hillarity ensued as Team Sarah and Team Nicki fought for the winners spot.  Once again we also feasted well on an amazing dinner of fresh salad, burgers in buns and a delicious chocolate brownie for dessert.

The team were up early despite having the next day off and Paul showed us up to their dam sites before accompanying us and some of the group down to their nearby river for an envigorating swim to gear us up for the drive to Alpha 1 in Kg Sulit Paitan.

Alpha 1 lived up to their reputation as excellent hosts and on arrival gave us a grand tour of the newly built Kindergarten.  The building is in it's final stages and it's almost impossible to believe that 10 weeks ago there was nothing here but an empty expanse.  The Kindergarten looks huge and will play a vital role to the local children.  The construction is complete and now we are waiting for the creative juices to flow as the group get handy with the paintbrushes.  I can't wait to see the final outcome as we witnessed real genius preparation for the evening entertainment.

As we were handed our ponchos, fake moustaches and mini sombreros, the mexican theme became clear.  Arriba, Arriba!!  A smorgasbord of activities lay ahead including table football, pin the sombrero on Sanchez and a homemade Pinatta full of a variety of sweets, although maybe the corn flavoured ones lost them a few points!  Dinner was once again amazing and we realised this competiton was going to be a close call.

The following morning we waved Adios and drove the exhilarating mountain drive to Alpha 4 and the Sun Bears in Sepilok.  The group were hard at work and very excited as they had just found out they will be able to lay the planks on the bridge they have been working on, so will actually be able to walk all the way across before they finish.

Once again, a night of gorging on delicious food (including one of Morna's special cakes) fun and games were upon us.  The group were in high spirits and made us feel incredibly welcome, providing comedy entertainment at all times.  It was great to be a part of and see such friendships as in their evening review each person thanked someone else in the group for something they had done that day.  This however was soon forgotten once a game of Mafia began and accusations were being thown left, right and centre.

As the morning sun streamed through the canopy cover and hit a peaceful Sepilok jungle camp, we packed up for our journey west to Alpha 2 in Kg Kopuron. 

A hive of activity was taking place in this kitchen on arrival.  I now know better than to ask, as we are always told to "wait and see".  As ever, the food was worth the wait.  Lentil daal with garlic bread was on the menu tonight and tasted every bit as good as it sounds.  For dessert the group concocted a chocolate "suprise" on the spur of the moment.  Leaving things to chance may be risky but this group pulled it off perfectly.  As if we had not had enough chocolate, gallons of milo were then served, just to give everyone enough energy for the games of Spotlight and Cheat that followed.

The next morning we had just enough time to visit some of the houses in the community and witness the installation of taps, which will give the people of this village fresh filtered drinking water.  The first complete system of it's type in Sabah!  The group were kind enough to let me try out my plumbing skills and following careful instruction from Kim and Rosie, the church now has a tap too.

So on to our final destination, the beautiful Imbak Canyon.  The whole group trekked out to meet us a Rangers Camp and after we re-filled them with sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks and of course lots of stamps and envelopes so they can write to you back home, we trekked the hour long route back into the heart of the Canyon and the Alpha 5 home. 

We were fortunate enough to get to swim under the Imbak falls, as there has been little rainfall and the river was at a safe level, then we were given the grand tour including the brand new multi-gym built by Harry and Greg.  Each piece of equipment has been carefully thought out and will be left with detailed instruction of use for future Raleigh groups when this one leave.

In celebration of Alex's 19th birthday, the group had prepared a fantastic tea party complete with fruit punch, Paddy's fresh bread, cheese and pineapple on sticks, pizza crackers and popcorn - who says Raleigh rations arent good??

Paddy and Eddie had prepared an evening of entertainment, starting with a scavenger hunt to get us in the compeitive spirit.  This was followed by twister, apple bobbing and pin the tie on the bear.  In fact, there were a whole load more games but we just didnt have the time to get through them all.  The evening culminated in our final feast of the loop; pasta bolognaise, pearoffee pie and a 3-tier birthday cake made by Ashleigh and Harry.

We left the group early the next morning and were fortuntate enought to catch a glimpse of some gibbons swinging through the trees on the way out.

Both Nicki and I loved every minute and wish we could have spent longer with everyone.  Thank you to all the groups for opening up your homes and sharing them with us.  Every group was outstanding and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

For those of you at home, thanks for all your letters and blog posts.  These really do make all the difference when you are away from home and living without your usual comforts and are always the first things that people ask for when we get there.  Just one thing, when these guys get home and tell you they can't cook - they are lying!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Girls on tour and photos from phase two

Hi and welcome back to the Raleigh expedition 10A blog.

It seems like no time at all since the beginning of expedition, but field base is very quiet as two of our favourite girls are out on tour.  Sarah Hoare (deputy programme manager) and Nicki (logs manager) are half way through the last loop of 10A visiting all the static sites delivering essential supplies, mail and messages from the blog.

Sarah and Nicki with the loop handbag also known as a dry-bag

The loop team are once again making sure they are well fed while out and about,  by holding a come dine with me competition. Groups will vie with each other to see who can host the best evening in terms of both  food and entertainment.

This loop have already visited three project sites with three more to go as follows:
29th March - Alpha 4, Sepilok
30th March - Alpha 2, Kopuron
31st March - Alpha 5, Imbak Caynon 

The winner of the competition will be revealed at Endex

Off on the road


During the last changeover the comms team collected photographs taken by venturers from all alpha groups, so you could see some more pictures of their adventures during phase two. We've selected some of our favourites below, and had much fun doing so. Not wanting to hog all the fun, we thought you, the blog readers, might like to choose your favourite photo too. It might be a flattering picture of a loved one, an emotional photo of life on expedition, or a stunning shot of the scenery. Whichever one catches your eye just simply write a comment on this posting including the name of the photo you'd like to choose and why. The photographer of the winning shot will receive a pat on the back for their achievement so get voting.

Alpha One
The one where everyone's lying down.
The one with the digging.
The one in the stocks.
The one eating lunch.

Alpha Two
The one playing volleyball.
The one at the weir.
The one on sports day.
The one carrying the pipe.
Alpha Three
The one in the water tank.
The one with the rucksack.
The one with the battered hand.
The one with the fetching umbrella.

Alpha Four
The one through the window.
The one on the balcony.
The one by the lake.
The one with the giant tree.
The one on the bridge.
The one on Nigel's birthday.

Alpha Five
The one with the butterfly.
The one without your arms.
The one with all the smoke
Alpha 6
The one at the longhouse.
The one with the tents.
The one on the beach.
The one with the land rover.

Alpha Seven
The arty one.
The one by the camp fire.
The trekking one.
The one in a cave.
The one with the view.

Alpha 8
The one with the parang.
The one with the pretty clouds.
The one at Maga Falls.
The washing up one.
The SCUBA one.

Alpha Nine
The one in the hamoc.
The shampooing one.
The one on dive island.
The one watching the sunset.
The one on Briony's birthday.