Sunday, 29 July 2012

A Day on Trek with Alpha 6

The day begins at the ungodly hour of 6am – a time that most of us Venturers did not even know existed pre-Raleigh. Wanting to avoid any form of unnecessary contact with other human beings this early in the morning, we all busy ourselves by packing away our hammocks and tarps. We sleep in hammocks suspended between two trees and are protected from the usually heavy rain by a supposedly waterproof tarpaulin, camouflaged against the jungle greenery. After a standard Raleigh
Rations breakfast of porridge – it is amazing how it grows on you – we set about breaking camp before heaving our packs onto our backs to begin the day's trek.. I wonder why it is that no one ever wants the delightful job of filling in the long drop?!
Our fantastic guide gets us started with the infamous words “Jalan, jalan!”, which means “walk, walk” (or as it soon became “Get a move on!”) and we take the first steps.

Over the course of the next four to five hours (our daily average), we trek through pristine and untouched Bornean jungle, stumbling over roots and fallen logs, pushing past dangling vines and overhanging branches. Shouts of “Watch that log!”, “Watch the roots!” and “Not another ruddy leech!” echo around the trees, as our group picks its way towards the next camp.

Packets of peanut brittle, iced gems (a type of biscuit) and dried banana are all considered to be the snacks of gods and keep us going whilst we compete for the coveted position of “most leech bites in the most outrageous places”. Today, it was a close call between a lip, in the hair and on the face.
Finally, we make it to our camp for the night, but the day's work is by no means over. There are jerry cans to be filled and the water within them purified, the group tarp needs erecting and the radio has to be set up. We also dig slops pits for the leftover food and a luxurious long drop, of course. A fire needs to be started, too. Everyone mucks in and, as the saying goes, many hands make light work... except perhaps for the radio. We must suspend a fourty metre dipole (aerial) between two trees, pointing towards field base situated in Kota Kinabalu. This should not in theory be a problem, given the general tendency for rainforests to contain the odd tree or two...

However, the other trees have an uncanny knack of getting in the way, and being several hundred kilometres away from field base does not help either...!

Our record for the longest time it took to put up the radio was about 4 hours. Lunch is always a hugely exciting concoction of dry crackers and corned beef or even chocolate spread, after which the team splits into buddy pairings to put up individual hammocks and tarps. At the start of the trek, this could easily take up to a few hours, but by the end we were virtually doing it blindfolded.

However, that is not to say we rushed it, as a poorly tied hammock can lead to a sore back and at worst an undignified collapse onto the insect-covered jungle floor in the middle of the night (and yes, this has happened!).

It is around this time that the heavens usually open and we get drenched. Over the course of the trek, we had some pretty spectacular storms, which really put our tarp-erecting skills to the test. Let's just say, we learnt the hard, and wet, way.
The final activity before the sun says farewell for the day at about 6 o'clock, is usually a quick dip in the river, if the location of camp site allows it. On some days refreshing, on others downright freezing, this is always an amazing experience, as the group, grimacing as one, gradually lower themselves into the water.

The groans and squeals echo off the river banks, as we do our best to wash ourselves and our clothes. The prospect of clean clothing to change into at the end of the day, becomes more and more idolised with every passing day.

By longs-o-clock, i.e. 6pm, most of us are sipping hot drinks around the fire before the evening meal is knocked together over the leaping camp fire flames. Noodles featured pretty frequently on our menu (no wonder, given logs had issued us with no less than one hundred and fourty servings of the stuff) and were generally kept company by the contents of one of the countless cans of Raleigh rations.

Before our supplies ran out, a post-dinner cup of Milo (a malt chocolate drink) was always a great end to the day, and if we were feeling really indulgent and in need of spoiling, we might even splash out and have a slither of dried pineapple each.
If we were lucky, out guide Noor might join us by the fire for a story-telling session. Thankfully, his tales of jungle spirits were never too terrifying and certainly did not stop us from sleeping like logs (PMs included!) after a tough day trekking in the jungle.

After trek we got to spend six days on Mamutik Island where we had the chance to snorkel or dive and help with conservation work including litter clean up and coral planting.

Alastair Graves, Alpha 6, Phase 1


Anonymous said...

Hi Nikki -Alpha 3

Mum here :-) Just received your postcard (via Bath) - so pleased for you x Severe weather here last week - caught out in a gale force 10 - glad P was at helm. Bimminie went as did tender (latter recouped in "man-over;board" drill :-) Damages now fixed here in Zante

Much love Mum x x x

mum said...

Amy Edwards

More pics and updates of you and yours...!!! Great to see... :)!! Lesley been here for 2 nights and we saw lew yesterday...gave him your laptop:) so hopefully that will be improved for your return..!!
Dana now have another little,very little, black rock look-a-like called brutus!! big name for wee pup lol!!
really cute tho..
half and half face has appeared out the back field looking very grown up now but still cute..

love you potssweetiepie, have fun and stay safe as always...

mum xxx

Anonymous said...

Cecilia Carnell
LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU! Hope you are having a wonderful time, coping with heat, blisters, mozy bites and leeches... Saw a pic of you in the pool looking very cool and happy! Off to Finland with Claudia soon! Will show this site to Mamma and Tuua! Seb has got a job at Knole, Gus enjoying Florida, ducks, dogs, fish, lizard, hamster doing well! Mr Rumley called to see if you got a prize at Cranwell ;) told him you got reprimanded for being too polite! Seb and Claudia also signed up for Padi in August. Work hard and have fun! LOVE & KISSES Aiti, Daddi, Seb, Claudia XXX

Anonymous said...

Dear Cecilia (Carnell 12I)

How are you enjoying Borneo so far?!
Back here, we are watching the Olympics almost 24:7!!! The opening ceremony was amazing!There was many different stages and there is quite alot to explain so i wont do it now :) i hope you are enjoying yourself in Borneo!
love you lots
Claudia xxxxxxx :D

margaret walker said...

Hi QB (alpha 3)

Hope you are enjoying your kindergarten experience and relieved at not being woken every morning to the sound of chest thumping and shaking of your bed.It looks to be a most fantastic experience for you all and one to remember for the rest of your life. Sun has been shining here Auntie Rachel gets stronger each day !Hoping to go up to Scotland for Gp's b/day. LYB xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx gma

Anonymous said...

Hello Cecilia Carnell, 12I. We saw a pic of you in the pool grinning away and looking very happy! Seb is wishing you not to get the runs... and hopes you have a great time! Off to cook a BBQ with Daddy in the rain!Team GB has taken off to a slow start with the Olympics - 1 medal so far on women's cycling. No medals for Team Finland. Kazime has to go and visit a dentist, he cracked his fang when sneezing :( Work hard and don't forget to have fun! Love, hugs and kisses from your big brother Seb XXXX

Liz Troman said...

For Lucy Troman, Alpha 7

Hi Lucy - at Didier's watching some Olympics (swimming). The opening ceremony was awesome. Was pleased to see a pic of you in your new group at changeover and to see from other group pics what you will be up to next. We have decided to go and see Helen this week ,- hope it doesn't take us too long to get there. I think it's hotter there than here. anyway doesn't seem long til you'll be back now. I have booked the treat for Charlie's birthday and told George :) Anyway better stop hogging Did's ordinateur! Love Mum xxxxxxxxx Me xxxx

AV Martin said...

2Comment for Siena martin 12 A/D??

Siena, We are all missing you loads. Flossie Daddy and I have just spent the weekend in Cornwall boogey boarding for hours at a time and really missed having you there in the waves with us. Rupert had a good birthday, we went punting and did champagne and fish and chips on the backs. We wished that you had been with us but know that you are having an amazing time. Can't wait to see you and hear all your tales. All of our love

Anonymous said...

Hi Rebecca,

Hope its all going well out there and you are enjoying yourself. Don't get bitten too much and I hope you are enjoying the porridge and Corned Beef!




Siany said...

For Charlotte 'Lettie' Ezaz.
Fantastic to see updates and photos all looks amazing! grumbles back from oz now and all well. hopefully you r getting letters from everyone in oz. have sent 4letters so far from me and Za. Luv u lots n lots x

Anonymous said...

For Alastair Graves
Great newsy blog. We'd guessed the author by the end of second paragraph. Good to see pictures of you in action, particularly showing your prowess at fire-lighting. We are bit worried about your five a day though! Look forward to reading the Alpha One blog soon!
Slovenia has been fantastic - done our usual fill of hiking, cycling etc. Canyoning was VERY cold, 6 degrees but we were fully neoprened from head to toe. The guides were lovely and put up with my refusal to jump more than 1 metre! There's lots to tell and we'll write when we get home.

Russell Thomas said...

Hi Rachel Thomas - ex of Alpha 6 now on Kindergarten project. Loved seeing the pics of you on the blog. Off to the Olympic Park tomorrow with Mum, Matt (using your ticket) and June. Olympics going well but not the GB medals. Such a shame you will not be with us but I am sure you are having a better time. Dad x

Dervla said...

Fiona Bailey

Hi Fiona,
the latest blogg post was great, with lots of pictures and some information on the day to day life of you Venturers, we blogg followers lapp it all up!
That big yellow ball has shown his face in the sky every now and then but it's chilly for July, just 18-22 though it's even worse in Ballycastle, 13 degrees todag brrrr. We've been to see Carl Von Linneas wedding stuga today, not wildly exciting but the coffee and tosca cake exceptional :-)
After that it was a swim in the lake and some grogg on the jetty.
Take care Sweetie,
Love Carl & Dervla

Richard Aldridge said...

For Alice Caldwell

Hello Little One! Those photos from Alpha 6 look amazing, if you're doing anything similar I'm sure you'll be having an incredible time.

You missed a cracking Opening Ceremony, even the Queen featured in it! Rupert got us ground tickets to the Olympic Park today, so I spent the afternoon watching the Games on the big screen. It was fun.

It's Don and Jo's wedding this weekend, I've managed to sort a personalised signed shirt from Russ and the Norwich team - it'll be the best present they get!

We're all missing you loads, have seen Em & JJ, Abs and Charlie, Hayley and seeing Saintes crew on Thursday, so everyone is sticking together.

Have no doubt you are running things by now, don't forget to come back to us though.

I love you. xxx

Una Crosby said...

Hi Harriet alpha 6. How are things? We are now in Crete 1st day so hard to judge how it's going to go. Very hot which is a nice change. Dad disappointed that we haven't got Olympics on the TV - the opening ceremony was amazing. Not doing so well on the medals front but fingers crossed. Wish you were here. Love mum x

Sue Thomas said...

To Rachel Thomas
Alpha 6 on first project and now helping to build the kindergarten
So brilliant to see photos of you on the trek and to read what you had all been up to.
So wonderful to chat last week - i have missed hearing your voice SO much!
We are looking forward to hearing all about your adventures and I hope you are still having an amazing time.
Love you loads and can't wait to give you a big hug. Mum xxxx

Anonymous said...

Hi Amy and Emma,
Great to see your smiling face Amy in the photos- looks like a real adventure. Can't see Emma's -is she camera dodging? Have been thinking of you both, wondering how it is all going. Looking forward to hearing all about it when you get back. Olympic fever here- very exciting, even if GB are 21st still, Cheers and Good Luck! Roz x (and Jonny & Oscar & Rowan)

Mrs Outerbridge said...

Hi Raleigh Bermuda group.
I dont know many of you, but wishing you well. Hoping your first phase was successful as you enter your second phase. Dont see it posted as to your grouping.
Are you teaching the villages English, as you learn Malay. Malcolm had great fun there on 11D and made lots of friends. I'm sure he's watching over all of you especially his cousin Jermae. all the best.

Sue Thomas said...

Hi Rachel Thomas Alpha 6 first project and now building kindergarten
Just arrived back from the Olympic Park. Simon came too
using your ticket!
Jo coming to lunch tomorrow and picking up Nan to be with us too.
Hope the kindergarten is coming along really well. Can't wait to hear all about it. Many thanks to Alastair Graves for his fab blog and photos on Alpha 6-we have LOVED it. Loads of love Mumxxxxx and of course Alfie

Anonymous said...

Alister Graves
Much enjoyed reading the day in the life of a trekker and to better appreciate the challenges beyond fighting off leech's! There must be a Ray Mears fan in your midst to be able to lite a fire in such damp conditions! Read the blog in an alpine hut whilst dodging Thunderstorms and drinking pivo. Was 27 degrees in the valley and today 34 degrees in the capital. At least we've access to ice cream and cold showers unike you lot!

Anonymous said...

Helen Green

Hi Helen, I love reading the blogs & seeing your photo was lovely. The dive trek looked amazing. I have been busy with Sonja & Wilfried staying. They have been up to London 5 times to different Olympic venues. I went to see the Tennis at Wimbledon. It was a great day. We are off to Wales on a short break - I hope the weather improves as we are looking forward to some long walks along the coast. I hope my letter has arrived in the post.


Lots of love

Mum xxx

Anonymous said...

Helen Green
Hi Helen,
Your mum showed us the blog photos when we were up last weekend meeting Sonja and Wilfred, looks like you are having an amazing time! Have a great birthday - is there much chance of any cake in the jungle?!
Much Love
Pete and Clare