Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Allocation Time is Here Again....

We at Field Base can hardly believe the second phase of Expedition 11B is nearly at an end - it really is true what they say about time flying when you're having fun!

To whet your appetites while we are away at Base Camp, and because we're conscious that we've mainly been updating you on the static sites on this blog, we thought we'd post a few pictures of the trekkers/divers from phase one, as well as a few recent pictures of the current trek-dive-trek group that Helen managed to catch on her trip to Dive Island. Enjoy!



We'll be back to reveal the third and final (sob!) phase allocations very soon....

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Loopy Sabah

Chris Beer, our intrepid Logs Manager, went out on the Loop this phase to visit all the static sites. Here's how he got on out in the field...

When deciding to take part in my second consecutive Raleigh expedition (and 5th overall… a proud venturer from 1986 am I), riding the loop fantastic was one of my much anticipated highlights.

The ‘Loop’ occurs once each phase, when a crack team of field base staff set off in a mighty Bravo Land Rover. Our mission is to visit all the static projects around this fair island. We deliver equipment, munchies, mail (and yes mums, we collect it for posting too… if it’s been written!) and see how everyone is getting on. This exciting episode of the loop consisted of myself, Chris (Logistics manager), Chris (Finance manager) and Caroline (DPM). It also incorporated a Raleigh trustee, Andrew Clay, who was here to check up and snoop (only joking) on how the Raleigh philosophy is implemented in the field. We few, we happy few, we band of loopers, also have the honour of judging each alpha’s attempt at providing dinner and entertainment, as they try to win the coveted Raleigh ‘Come Dine With Me’ competition.

The Loop Team
‘Avez-vous Le Cuppa?’ - The Bravo climbed the steep track and parked up at our first stop last Thursday afternoon, in the village of Toboh Pahu . Loaded to the sills, this motley crew and cargo were treated to a raucous chorus from 10,000 grubby local children (well about 40), all chanting “welcome loop, welcome loop”. We had arrived at Alpha 3. Their gravity water feed project is no longer a pipe dream, despite a slight planning error when a plastic water tank miraculously did two trips down and back up a mountain. Highlights of Alpha 3’s French restaurant themed evening were the angry French chef and the smarmy waiters, together with the Parisian style decor and games galore. The competition to show off special personal talents such as dancing eyebrows and limb contortions, made a few loopers queasy. The party snacks bags we were gifted on departure were also a welcome addition to the next day’s long, long drive, right across the third largest island on the planet.

‘RIP Rocky’ - Alpha 5 are based deep in the jungle in the south of Sabah, about 8 hours drive from Alpha 3, so the weary loopers pulled in to be met by a wonderful massage and mud spa treatment. Apparently the venturers here had been preparing themselves by having several mud fights in recent days, however work went on as well, with an amazing amount of rocks being moved up to their water storage tank site. And I do mean a lot of rocks… these venturers are machines! Best not tell them the sand and cement still have to go up! An amazing surprise for dinner was fresh BBQ tuna steaks with baked potatoes, which went down very well. The RIP sign on the table to commemorate all the individually named rocks, sadly dropped and lost while on their way up to their work site, was a little disturbing though. Sleeping in a hammock by a gentle stream was an ethereal experience for me and a definite step up from the granitesque floorboards of Alpha 3.

‘Monkey Business’ - Alpha 4 are at Sepilok, where I took a chance to do one of our many checks on the Bravo, ensuring the vehicles are in tip top condition and safe for the arduous driving conditions of Borneo. Meanwhile the venturers of Alpha 4 were working hard, building and repairing boardwalks at the new sun bear sanctuary. They have to walk 45 minutes each way at either end of the day so it’s tough work for these guys. They had, however, prepared a really fun evening for us with a big game of ‘Would I lie To You?’, which followed on from a great visit to see the orangutan feeding and a viewing of Mr. Wong’s sun bears. I will forever remember the wake-up call at 0545 however, when we experienced a dozen venturers, still in their hammocks in the dark, belting out the rap song, ‘Every Day I see My Dream’ - Truly inspirational, although it was commented that it did sound a little like ‘Every Day I Clean My Drain!’

‘Following Che’ - Next destination on our slightly wonky circumnavigation of Borneo, was a visit to the mountain region of Pitas, oop North, and a look around the site at Alpha 1. Although not geographically embarrassed, we enquired about directions at a snack shack a few miles away and a man decked out in a Brazil football shirt decided to take us under his wing. He had mischievous eyes, a full grin and was riding a motorcycle and led us along the rough dirt tracks to the village, looking a bit like an Asian Che Guevara. He spoke little English, made a point of counting how many of us were in the vehicle before we set off (we have no idea why) and stopped to point out each of the churches along route, until the ever increasing depth of mud finally engulfed his scooter, nearly toppling him spectacularly. The Alpha 1 gravity water feed project looks excellent, despite a tree fall over the pipe work and they have a great camp location, in the rolling foothills, near a minestrone river. The group has been getting on well with their community and the local kids are really helping keep morale up when exhaustion strikes. The evening’s entertainment was a speed dating event for loopers, PMs and venturers combined, and the uneven ratio of boys to girls created a surreal but very funny atmosphere.

‘Starry, Starry Night’ - Early afternoon on day five saw four weary loopers boarding the ferry for our 2 hour crossing to Maliangin island, to meet up with Alpha 2. This paradise island is, however, not all lounging around and we were very impressed with the hard work they have put in, getting five compost toilets started around various parts of this lovely isolated community. A swim in the crystal blue waters was followed by a tour and a lovely relaxed dinner, with a beautiful hand written menu, individually presented on dried leaves. After dark we were treated to an amazingly clear, starry sky, with fireflies darting between the branches of the trees. The taste of fresh brochette was almost prize winning in its own right but the sight of our departing committee the next morning, waving us adieu as we sailed away from the beach in our tiny boat, will always stay with me.

‘School Dinners’ - Our final visit was back into the mountainous Northern region of Borneo, where Alpha 6 hide out. Their project is to sneak around the jungle, tracking animals and birds around the village of Mongowou. The drive into the village is very demanding but our heroic Bravos can handle the tough tracks, easing past lesser vehicles in the mud. A big surprise awaited us as we arrived, when a group of venturers created an arch of palm leaves to welcome us to the village with a traditional blessing. The local theme continued all evening as we were treated to local delicacies of tapioca, dried fish soup and local chicken. We also drank from freshly opened coconuts, tried sago with a spicy salsa and pancakes (well it was Shrove Tuesday!) Absolutely none of these foods tasted anything like school puddings! At evening’s end a brilliant song was performed on guitar by Lee, with backing harmonies by the whole group. It was written by them about the village they have already fallen in love with. There was not a dry eye in the house.

‘Closing the Loop’ – With six gruelling days of hard driving under our belts, we returned to field base with our loop theme tune ‘Walking on Sunshine’ blaring out of the speakers and high fives all around. Our venturers all have their post, sweets, fizzy drinks, football scores and news from their friends and families (if you’ve commented on the blog of course… hint, hint!).

We, the loopers, have emptied our smelly vehicle, cleaned our clothes and ourselves and all that’s left is to decide who will win the coveted ‘Come Dine With Me’ chocolate cake prize, at changeover. It’s going to be tough to decide so perhaps I’ll just eat it myself!