Friday, 28 October 2011

A day in the life of Alpha 6

Alpha 6 have just arrived safely on Dive Island after 12 days trekking from the village of Long Pa'Sia. We won't have any photos until we catch up with them until changeover next week but we did get sent a report for the blog from Jamie.

Here's a day in the life for Alpha 6.

06:00: Wake up call. Whole camp start sorting out everything - take down bashas and hammocks and pack bags. We all enjoy a gourmet breakfast consisting of porridge, raisins, honey and the extra luxury of banana chips and pineapple.

07:00: Leo the lie-in joins us. 

07:30: Take down the group tarp, dismantle the radio and distribute the group kit.

08:00 The next adventure begins and we start trekking, guided by Nooh - Long Pa'Sia's King of the Jungle. 

10:45: Short stop to compare leech bites and split Nature Valley bars. For the Dutch contingent Barend and Eva this meant Krohets and Frikalel.

12:00: We are here at our next jungle camp! Before lunch starts we go and collect some water, fill a jerry can, add a chlorine tablet. The girls set up the radio.

12:30: Still setting up the radio but the water is ready. The radio is quite an intricate process, where we hang up a dipole between two trees at the right distance apart to get the correct frequency and hope we can establish a connection with fieldbase.

Now the water is ready we set up three bowls to get lunch ready - a bowl to wash, one to rinse and another to bleach all our mess tins and cultlery. Our lunch is four crackers (usually dusty from jungle life) and a choice of spread - peanut butter or chocolate. 

13:30: Finally establish communication with fieldbase and notify them of our location, then start to set up jungle camp. With the indispensable help of host country venturer, Chia we learn jungle skills and craft from Nooh. We have learnt a lot from project managers King Julian, James the Beaver and Calamity Anne who make sure we are ok to wash in the river next to jungle camp. We have to check the health and safety of the area we arrive at every day. All clear! And we go down to the river to wash out our jungle funk.

16:40: Radio check with fieldbase and we let them know what our plans are for the next 24 hours.

18:00: Longs O'Clock - trousers, shirts, insect repellent. For our more glamorous members Meg and Cloe they sport designer PJ's fully tucked into socks. We've been told that this trend is creating a storm in Milan, Paris and New York.

19:00: Feast time! Pasta, mushrooms and mushrooms and mock duck seasoned with chilli sauce.

20:00: Reflections on the day and choose a day leader and then retreat to hammocks for a well deserved rest. Hammocks snap quite easily as we found out on Day 4!

Welcome to the People's Republic of Danum

View over Danum Valley

We are half way through the first phase of expedition, and a new country has been created. The People's Republic of Danum (PRD) is now in control of the Alpha 3 environmentalal project, continuing construction work on a satelite camp at the PRD's capital, Ulu Purut - 8km into the primary rainforest.
Flying the flag: PRD's first citizens are Shaun, Bobby, Wiestske, Carrie, Jean, Olivier, Lilien, Jonathan, Sophie, Alex, Ed, Mat D and Dr Cookie (Mary).
The Danum Valley Field Centre already attracts scientists from across the world and the Ulu Purut camp will mean that research can be carried out deeper into the primary rainforest, helping to promote the importance of the area and protect it.

To get to the field centre is a 2 hour journey by 4x4 vehicle. Ulu Purut camp is an 8km trek from there so before any work could start on the project, a quarter of a tonne of cement, food and camp supplies and personal kit had to be trekked all the way to Ulu Purut.

Under construction: the satellite camp.
Looking up and ahead

The first day at Danum gave the team a chance to learn more about their new country at the field centre and climb 40m into the canopy - preparing for the task ahead.

40m tree climb: the canopy at Danum is up to 70m high.
At the top: Carrie, Shaun and Oli.

Day one team photo at the bottom of the 40m tree climb.

A tale of two camps

Getting to grips with the eccentricities of jungle life - Alpha 3 based themselves at the field centre's 'Menagris Camp' for the first few days while they trekked supplies half way to Ulu Purut.

Mengaris camp: built by Raleigh International in 2004.

The bedroom at Ulu Purut camp
Jean tries out the Alpha 3 handwasher.

PM Ed with the team's supply tracker - they trekked 1/4 tonne of concrete and 18 days worth of food to Ulu Purut.
Jungle fashion
Jungle fashion must: the Kampang - everyone in Alpha 3 has a pair.

Mary and Ed's leech socks
On with the trekking

Shaun and Bobby help Lilien and Wietske 'ninja turtle' themselves for round two of supply trekking.

Ed, Jonathan and Alex river crossing.

Half way: the team left supplies at a huge tree half way to Ulu Purut.

Oli and Carrie  storing the food supplies at the half way tree.

Jungle VIPs

Alpha 3 have met a lot of jungle VIPs - scorpions, bearded pigs, mega millipedes and leeches got a good feed on almost everybody.
Oli and a mega millipede

Not so tasty:  unappealing Sophie and Katie try and coax a leech to bite them. Jonathan, Mat and Wietske get the awards for being the best leech food.

And more jungle VIPs arrived at the end of the first week when the loop came to Danum in time to trek to Ulu Purut with Alpha 3.We'll put a special loop report later this week.

In the meantime, latest news is that Alpha 3 have trekked all their supplies from the halfway tree to Ulu Purut camp and are well and truely getting stuck into work on the satellite camp. Watch this space!

A taster of Ulu Purut camp life: Alpha 3's shower.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Under the boardwalk with Alpha 4

Hello from Alpha 4: watch their video message here.

Alpha 4 at the entrance to the Sun Bear Sanctuary.
A week into expedition and Alpha 4 are making great progress building a boardwalk at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok and have completed two posts to hold up the walkway already.

With project managers Ted, Kirsty and medic Fern are Evelien, Sophie, Tarnya, Seb, TG, Rowan, Maurits, Siger, Sara and Lydia.

At work

Alpha 4's boardwalk will link the Orangutan and Sun Bear sanctuaries and mean anyone visiting the Orangutans will be able to see the Sun Bears too.

The work at Sepilok is hard graft - preparing hard iron wood with a chisel, making sand, mixing cement, and shifting huge posts - all in the tropical heat.

Tarnya making sure the measurements are right.

All set! Rowan reveals the first Alpha 4 post.

TG chisels through iron wood to make the posts.
Ted and Rowan mix cement.
Visiting Katie digging a hole for the second post.

In between two posts: Alpha 4 celebrate the second completion.
News in this morning is that the 3rd and 4th will be done by the end of the week.
Sepilok is on every tourist's 'must see' list (number one on the Lonely Planet top ten for Borneo) and Alpha 4 are here, working behind the scenes - a bit like being on a film set. The orangutan stars of the Sepilok show make an appearance every lunchtime, along with cheeky macque monkeys desperate for their share of Raleigh crackers and peanut butter.

Guard your crackers.
The Orangutan/Macque double act have made attempts at Tarnya's nuts and DEET (thanks to TG who chased and got them back), the group's jerry can and even one of the team - Sara.

At home 

A forty minute walk from the work site is Alpha 4's 'jungle camp' - a really cosy jungle camp complete with three bucket suite showers and a cosy kitchen area that is home to the best cup of milo on expedition (thank you Sophie).

Alpha 4's wildlife experience doesn't stop at work. A full set of animal friends have been named by Sara and Siger provides continuous soundtracks, with Nessun Dorma and 'karma chameleon' (in Dutch) being the favourites to get Sally the Scorpian, Jemima the Rat and Jimmy the Cockroach to sleep.

After receiving help from avid blog readers Bridget McGrath and Duncan Kingan, the bear related puns reached their peak at Sepilok with.....
**** 'what kind of cheese can get a bear down from a tree?'

Alpha 4 are now in danger of running out of them and we couldnt bear to let that happen - post any you have and we'll pass them on.
Home sweet home: Sara, Lydi and Sophie in the Alpha 4 bedroom.

Alpha 4's group contract
Sophie and Lydia keep up with jungle style.

Each group plan their meals so that Raleigh rations last them for a whole phase (three weeks). To the dismay of Ted, Kistry and Fern, Alpha 4 have introduced a strict four/five cracker quota on lunch - and that's before the monkey duo get hold of anything. Evening meals have been a treat here though - Evelien's Spaghetti Bolognese and Maurtis' extra spice additions have been firm favourites.
When logs manager Nicki visited last week she made doughnuts and keeping up the baking this week, Ted made banana bread, accompanied perfectly by Rowan and Sophie's custard.
It was all yellow: Rowan and Sophie's custard.

For the loop's visit Alpha 4 were getting custard, cake and a movie night prepared. We'll have a full report up on the blog from the loop's tour of Alpha 1,2,3 and 4 when they return tomorrow.

Grand Designs at Alpha 1

After her visit to Alpha 2, photographer Isla headed to check out the second Kindergarten Alpha 1 are building at Kg Alab.  On arrival she found the group had completed the ground work but they were awaiting the delivery of cement.  No one sits around doing nothing though. The group used the time to furnish their spacious house with hand crafted benches.

With the arrival of cement the group sprung into action.  In a couple of days, with local help, the 16 posts were cemented in and the building started to take shape.

Cement arrived and it was all go
Water levelling
Carrying Belian wood posts

The Grand Design Takes Shape
Sunday marked a day of rest from building. The group soon got stuck in the mud, planting rice as the mist rose above the paddy fields.

Alpha 1 get stuck in
The community are keen to be involved in games of football, swimming, building and learning English.  Hannah has been busy planning a teaching Rota.  Plans for sports day, next Sunday, are well advanced and posters will soon be going up in the village.

Hannah chatting with the neighbours
An Italian  feast was rustled up for Paige's birthday comprising of; garlic bread, risotto, and a variation of banoffe pie.

The last evening was spent at a neighbour's house with a cultural exchange of dancing.  We joined in the bamboo dance (Magunatip) which was traditionally performed to welcome headhunters back from the hunt.  The Scots got all involved in Strip the Willow.  There was disappointment in the English and Dutch contribution with their well known traditional dance the Macarena, although everyone joined in.

Evening Dance Entertainment
The latest news from Alpha 1 is that the first floor construction is underway and floorboards are being laid.