Friday, 25 February 2011

To Changeover......and Beyond!

It’s Changeover at last, and the staff at Field Base could not be more excited about seeing everyone and hearing all about their first phase out on project!
Before we head off to meet them all, we thought we'd update you with the news that our seven week 'Explorers' arrived yesterday - the lucky people even got to spend a night at Field Base and sample Loli's delicious cooking before being deployed!
First to arrive were the Sam C, Sam K, Joe, Ashleigh, Kate, Catrin, Max, Johnny, James and Fred. They came back to Field Base for some training sessions to get them up to speed with the rest of the venturers on the expedition, as well as playing some name games to get to know one another (see pics below).
In the evening the Explorer group was completed with the arrival of Akram and Jenny, after which everyone made sure they got an early night in preparation for this morning's 7am swim test!
Now it's off to Base Camp, where all of the venturers will be put into new groups and assigned to different projects for the second  phase. Exciting!
Check back here on Monday to see who is going where.

Meanwhile, ,here are some pictures of our Explorers.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Loop: Phase One

And so to the first loop of Expedition 11B, which this time consisted of Sarah, Martin and me (once they’d picked me up from Alpha 5)!
After a visit to the Death March War Memorial, which commemorates the deaths of approximately 2,400 allied troops in the Second World War as they marched from Sandakan to Ranau, the first site to be graced with the Loop’s presence was Alpha 3, in the foothills of Mount Kinabalu. The group, progressing well with the dam for their gravity water feed, had pulled out all the stops for the Loop, with freshly baked bread (courtesy of Sam), chicken from the local village and a delicious banoffee pie.
The Death March Memorial Garden
Memorial for the British servicemen killed in the Death March
Alpha 3 tuning into the weekly 'Raleigh Radio' broadcast
The cheeky Alpha 3 team tried to convince the Loop they'd made these!
Stunning views of Mount Kinabalu - lucky Alpha 3!
Next up was the Sun Bear group at Alpha 4, who had been working on steps and boardwalk at the Sun Bear sanctuary prior to the Loop’s arrival, and doing their best to fend off the cheeky orangutans who repeatedly tried to steal their crackers!! After a lovely evening together, the Loop left early the following morning for Alpha 5, leaving the group to spend the day on camp improvements.
The Alpha 4 team relaxing over lunch
Getting to work on the steps!
A moment of quiet reflection!
The static basher where the intrepid Alpha 4 team sleep
Our lovely expedition artist, Helen, hitched a ride with the Loop to Alpha 5, where she was to stay for a few days to work on art projects. The team impressed everyone with their efforts; making place settings and bow ties out of leaves, preparing canapes using crackers with luncheon meat and cheese, and even following our guests to the toilet and offering them hand sanitizer and DEET as they came out! PM Stu did a sterling job of making cream for the pearoffee pie, and Stu challenged the Loop to match up facts about the venturers of Alpha 5 with the venturers themselves.
Donning our leaf bow ties in preparation for the Loop's arrival
No dinner party would be complete without elaborate place settings!
Jenny taking canapes too far by serving Will's head on a tray!
The Loop's Martin sampling the 'canapes'
Catching up on comments from the blog
The following morning we were up early to make our way to Alpha 1; a journey which took nine hours (with only two brief toilet stops!)! We arrived around 5pm and had to walk up a near vertical slope for an hour to reach the site. Sarah and I were thrilled to find they had a water pipe where we could wash; sitting for hours in a Land Rover in the baking heat is not conducive to good personal hygiene! After we'd washed the group cooked a lovely dinner, which we ate in the chapel where they are now staying, and put on 'Alpha 1's got talent,' which was hilarious.
The boys of Alpha 1 introduce 'The Oracle'
Camilo blew everyone away with his singing
Another cosy night in at Alpha 1
The girls singing their hearts out!
Alpha 1 on their project site
After a brief visit to Alpha 1’s work site the next morning, the Loop drove into Kota Marudu and on to the kampung of Monguwou, where Alpha 6 (the biodiversity project) are located. We struggled to get the Land Rover up one particularly rain-damaged patch of terrain, so eventually were forced to give up and trek an hour into the site with our rucksacks, leaving the shop and other items for the group in the vehicle for collection the following morning (much to their disappointment!) The high altitude has meant bad weather conditions, but the group is making the best of it in spite of rain repeatedly damaging their tarpaulin! The girls made fresh bread and Rosco cooked up a storm with the Raleigh rations. After dinner we played a game of ‘Mafia’ in the hut where they are staying, before getting an early night ready for the final stop of the Loop, Alpha 2.
The Loop arrives at Alpha 6
Beautiful views all around
The boys playing 'takraw' with the locals
One of the species the team found as part of their survey
The Alpha 6 team
We were up bright and early the next morning to drive back into Kota Marudu and onto Kudat, where we boarded a ferry to Banggi. On arrival we were met by Doni, who took us on his small boat to the beautiful Maliangin island, where Alpha 2 are building their composting toilets. After three days of constant travelling it was an absolute pleasure pulling up to the shore and being greeted by the group on the beach. We had a quick swim before being given a tour around the island and then being treated to an elaborate five course feast, complete with Tom's delicious Virgin Colada drink! As an absolute sushi fiend, I was particularly impressed with the cooked tuna sushi rolls, though it’s hard to choose a favourite between those and the other courses (Lee’s chicken and sweetcorn soup, Paula and Gorgeous’s pasta dish, Becky’s delicious trifle and Ryan’s jam roly poly pudding).  After dinner we relaxed and lay in hammocks looking out over the sea before bed: Beautiful.
The Loop's Sarah and Martin preparing to board the boat to Maliangin island
The welcome party greets the Loop as they approach shore
Sushi, anyone?
Becky's trifle was just sublime!
The Alpha 2 team enjoying a beautiful sunset on Maliangin island - lucky things!
The following morning we were up at 5.45am to get the boat back to the mainland and head back to Kota Kinabalu, where the Field Base staff were eagerly awaiting our arrival. It was an exhausting few days, but absolutely brilliant, and so nice to see in person how everyone on the static sites was getting on.
Now we’re back at Field Base, and there is LOTS to do between now and Friday, when we go back to Base Camp for Changeover. It’s hard to believe the first phase is nearly at an end – it’s true what they say about time flying when you’re having fun!
More updates (and pics!) to follow!

Update from Alpha 5

Belinda Whitehead, Expedition 11B’s Comms Officer, spent the first half of Phase one at the environmental gravity water feed project in Taliwas.
After weeks spent preparing for the venturers’ arrival, I was so excited to finally meet them all and get out to a project - and what a project it was! On the day of deployment from the hostel at Likas, I boarded a coach with PMs Stu and Pete, and venturers Nell, Joe, Matt, Avril, Charlotte, Ceira, Bobby, Will, Simon and Jenny. We were bound for the environmental gravity water feed project at Taliwas, a nine hour drive away. When we arrived, we were shown by Kai, the head ranger, to our accommodation; a large wooden structure with a big tarpaulin strung up over the top, underneath which was a row of static bashers on the left and a long wooden table on the right. We set to work sawing wood and getting the hammocks strung up, then sorted through all the food and prepared that night’s dinner.

Arriving at the Elephant Camp
Getting to work on camp improvements
Possibly the most beautiful bathing area in the world?
The lake near to camp
On the second day we had torrential rain which meant the main tarp started leaking all over our beds and we had to frantically leap into action stringing up smaller tarps to redirect the rain; by the end of it the place looked like a giant spider's web, but thankfully from then on the rain didn't trouble us TOO much (others might disagree!)

Our daily schedule on Alpha 5 generally consisted of getting up at 6am, having breakfast (porridge) and getting to the work site by 7.30am to meet Kai and his team. The work site was spread over two locations; the water source at the top, where we had to build a dam, and the tank site down below, where we had to get two enormous 20,000 litre water tanks up to. Kai had estimated it would take several days to get the tanks up alone, but he hadn’t reckoned on the legendary spirit of Alpha 5, who managed it in under 24 hours. Once we'd done that we finished getting the pipes up (including a massive iron pipe that needed all of us to lift it) and set to work on the dam. Given my total lack of propensity (and control) with tools, I was absolved of all responsibility on the tank site and spent most days lugging 20kg bags of soil, gravel and cement up and down to the water source. It was hard work, but also really rewarding, as we could see the progress we were making day by day.

Celebrating getting the tanks up the hill
Messing around in the tanks!
Carrying the iron pipe up to the water source
Group pic at the dam site
Preparing to carry gravel to the top
Ready, Steady......GO!
We also engaged a lot with the local community, made up mainly of rangers and their families. Most nights, the boys would play ‘takraw’ (a cross between football and volleyball) or ping pong with the rangers, and on our day off the girls did some drawing with the local children.
On my last night at Alpha 5 we had our 'come dine with me' evening with the Loop (more on that later), and the group presented me with a leaving card, which brought a lump to my throat! Having spent the best part of two weeks with them, I really felt part of the team, and I was sad to leave them behind. Alpha 5: Thanks for the memories, you’re the best!
Drawing with the local children
Will with his 'Hero of the Day' award - looking pretty pleased!
The Sunday fry up was a high point of my stay - Simon was ecstatic!
Sitting around the camp fire on the boys' benches