Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Endex to end all Endexes? (or Climb every mountain...)

It was an excited but slightly wistful group of us who gathered at the Borneo Paradise Hotel a few days ago. Excited because we were all getting together as a team once more after three weeks of hard work across the lengths and breadths of Sabah, but wistful because it meant that Expedition 12K was drawing to a close.
The sunshine greeted us and everyone made the most of the hotel's pool area to catch up with each other and also do a bit of relaxing. Skits were held (congratulations to Alpha 6, who finally won something!) and we all watched the official Expedition 12K music video (to Shakin Stevens' Merry Christmas Everyone, nonetheless).
Alpha 6: Skit winners

After two nights of sleeping in the hotel's comfy beds (some for the first time in 10 weeks!) we set off early to head towards the mountain and what would be the perfect way to end Expedition 12K - all 75 of us climbing 8.7km to the top of Mount Kinabalu!


The first day saw us climbing 6km to Laban Rata, a mountain lodge with the most incredible views. After being used to the 33-degree heat you could say we were rather shocked at the cold, but the sunset views over the lodge veranda made everyone forget any chilly fingers and toes.
Then it was off to bed at 7pm for the most ridiculously early morning start at 2am for breakfast, before we set off, armed with head torches and multitudes of layers, up the rest of the mountain.

It was a 2.7km climb to the peak. Some made it right to the top for sunrise and some enjoyed it on the way up. It's fair to say it was easier and quicker for some than others, but we at Fieldbase are glad to say that everyone is feeling the full effects on their legs now we've been down for a day or so!!
All in all it was the most incredible way to end the expedition.
Later that night everyone's stamina was tested to the limits as the closing ceremony and Raleigh 10-year anniversary took place at Kinabalu Park. Everyone was treated to a slap-up meal, courtesy of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Sabah, some pretty spectacular dances by the Sabah Dance Troupe and a 10-year anniversary slideshow showcasing Raleigh Borneo's 200-plus projects over the past decade.

Country Director Mac receives a gift from Datuk Jahid Jahim,
Assistant Minister for the Ministry for Youth and Sports
The next day we headed to the airport to wave off those who were heading home and, needless to say, there were some emotional goodbyes and see you soons.

Goodbye, and thank you for following the blog. We now declare Expedition 12K officially over.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Help Mac in his kindergarten mission

Mighty Mac, our Country Director, is about to take on a trio of challenges next week, all to raise money to build a kindergarten on the Spring expedition next year.

As if climbing Mount Kinabalu wasn't enough, next week Mac plans to first swim the distance from Mamutik Island to Kota Kinabalu - that's about 5km - and then cycle the distance between Kota Kinabalu and the mountain (a whopping 90K) and then take on the mountain!
Education is something we take for granted back at home, but a significant number of children in rural Sabah still do not have access to pre-school education. By sponsoring Mac on his challenge you can help to give them the best start as possible in life.
To make a contribution (small or large, all are welcome!), please visit Mac's fundraising page by clicking here.

Monday, 10 December 2012

And it's open!

On a sunny Borneo morning a group of slightly over-excited Fieldbase volunteers set off bright and early to attend the opening ceremony of the kindergarten in Kampung Terian.
It's hard to believe that just nine weeks ago there was just a patch of land and now there stands a fully fledged educational establishment. But, thanks to the immensely hard work of the Alpha 1 team and the villagers the vision has become a reality and it is now ready to take on its first little pupils.

PMs Lisa and Annabel standing proud
Unfortunately the Alpha 1 team from phases 1 and 2 weren't able to attend because they were busy trekking/ diving/ surveying mammals and birds/ finishing off a water tank, but they were definitely there in spirit on such a memorable occasion.
What a welcome!

The beautiful mural, courtesy of Dorien and Annabel

PMs Lisa, Annabel and Dan

Ready for the first lesson!

The Alpha 1 crew

Diana from PACOS, our project partner, talked about the project, followed by Mac, Raleigh Borneo's country director.

And, of course, no ceremony would be the same without bubbles, face painting and a good old sing-song!


Downtime on Mamutik...

After 12 days of hardcore trekking, the Alpha 6 crew arrived on Mamutik Island for five days of diving, so of course it was only polite to pop over and see how they were.
Everyone was very well and happy to be relaxing in the sunshine after living self-sufficently in the canopy of the jungle. Also they had all passed their theory exam, so were well on their way to getting their PADI Open Water.

Sunset on the island


A view of Mt Kinabalu... soon we'll be up there!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

A day in the life of Alpha 4

Hello and welcome to Coupe 1, in the Pitas forestry reserve.

We all get up by 7am and then the radio team reports into Fieldbase at 7.10am. Alas, our jungle camp doesn't provide any open space to get enough signal on the radio and so the radio team have to tramp down 150 steps to the clearing at the bottom of the hill....and then back up 150 steps for a well-earned breakfast... porridge, of course!
The first five days of our time here were spent making sure there was somewhere dry to sleep and ensuring our food was safe from ants, the jungle rats and the wet. Each dry morning saw a yet more ingenious way of arranging the tarps to keep the rain out, but at last all the hammocks were pretty much dry pretty much all of the time. We then settled into the survey routine.
At 8am the morning mammal trapping team leave to check the 34 traps. This involves about a mile's round trip, but the steep climb up and back down on a slippery jungle day means the process takes an hour and a half. Most days we return with some kind of shrew or rat, which we have transferred from the trap to a canvas bag to bring back to camp.

 We also check the mist nets that we've set the night before to see if any birds have been caught in them for us to identify.

The remainder of Alpha 4 will have been working on building the steps or improving the camp, and most of them will take a break to see what has been caught.

Rose, the local conservation expert from AFC with whom we are working, supervises the chloroforming of the little beasts and we then weigh and measure their sleeping bodies and take pictures to ensure we correctly identify them for the survey.

At midday we squeeze all 16 of us around the camp table on benches made from branches cut from the forest and enjoy our crackers, sardines and chocolate spread, often all in the same mouthful. This is usually followed by tinned fruit and pancakes for pudding if we're lucky!
Siesta time after lunch and then it's time to continue work on the grand staircase. Wood has to be cut from the forest to make edges for the steps and then pegs have to be added to hold it in place.

Then at 4pm the afternoon team set off to check the traps and the survey process is repeated. 6pm is Longs O'Clock and means that supper is on its way. There is great innovation by the cooking teams to provide us with soups and casseroles of all descriptions...and best of all, from time to time, doughnuts!

At 7pm the day leader for the following day briefs the team on what the next day will bring and then we settle down for the serious business of the day - a game of Mafia!