Wednesday, 4 July 2012

An Eventful Stay with Alpha 4!

Training is over and expedition life has well and truly begun! The Alpha groups all made it safely to their project sites.

I (Kate) had the pleasure of joining Alpha 4 for their first four days in Sepilok, and am happy to report that they have all settled in well, and are getting down to a lot of hard work in the Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). Here is how they are getting on so far: 

After a six hour bus journey which included a stop for lunch at a local market and an on board movie(luxury!) Alpha 4 arrived in Sepilok at 1pm, the hottest part of the day. Jungle camp is not too remote compared to many other project sites, but when it’s 31 c and very humid, a fifteen minute walk carrying heavy kit seems like at least 10 miles! However, Alpha 4 teamed, and sweated together, and got their entire kit(which included food, tools and their own bags) to jungle camp in under an hour. With longs-o-clock approaching it was a race to get hammocks set up, the long drop dug, food organised plus showers! By 5.10pm camp has been set up and the team decided if they all had very quick, and precise 3 minute showers everyone could get washed before 6pm and spend the night feeling refreshed! The showers at Jungle Camp are of the bucket variety, i.e. one bucket, one scoop and slosh! At first the V’s were a little daunted by these showers, but over the next few days everyone was looking forward and professing their love for the bucket shower!

Sunday was spent improving Jungle Camp and making it feel like home, followed by a meeting with Ypak,  the Head Keeper at BSBCC and Adam, who is an intern with Arkitrek, an architect company that will be assisting with the design and construction of the bear refuges. We all got a tour around the centre, and even got to see some Sun Bears on our very first day!

 As well as Sun Bears, we also saw a group of Makaks, including some very cute baby ones. However, we were warned that they are very mischievous, travel in packs and will approach if you have any food with you. For this reason we were advised to stay together in a group, and if approached by any, call the rangers- we were no longer saying “awwww” at this point! 

Work started straight away on Monday with everyone getting up at 5.30 in order to get breakfast, do a radio sitrep(situation report)and get to the BSBCC, a fourty minute walk away by 8am. The team were divided into two groups in the morning, one to reclaim wood and the other to start clearing a path in the jungle where another bear enclosure would be.

Within the first  hour, Alpha 4’s first leeching occurred, with Bernice getting one on her stomach! By day’s end she had definitely made a few firm friends, getting 4 leeches in total, with Nas following close behind with 3! The wood clearing group also had their fair share of creepy crawly surprises, coming across alot of ants, scorpions, centipedes, some stunning butterflies and a giant stick insect!

By 2pm, huge progress has been made, with a long stretch of the jungle path having been cleared by Jermae, Josh, Berniece, Lucy, Nas and Euan. It went from this:

To this:

After lunch it was time for a team effort. There were two very heavy bits of wood stuck in the wood piles that required a team effort to get out(the tug of war practice from Raleigh Olympics came in handy here):

After removing the heavy wood, everyone moved to the jungle area to help remove a log that was blocking the path. The path that had been cleared was very boggy so we needed to come up with a way to lift it rather than drag it.  After a bit of trial and error with the rope, Alison came up with the successful idea of rolling the log onto a curled rope to let everyone get a hold of it. This worked a treat, and the log was removed in minutes to the pile of wood that would be used for the bear refuges.

The work continued on Tuesday, with everyone ending up in the Jungle, and much to Charlotte’s disgust, pretty much everyone experienced a leech or two!  The day got quite exciting when the team spotted a snake, and then an orangutan,  just metres from where they were working!

According to Nick, it was 'the most eventful day of his life', and this is why; the events just kept coming...

·         a few celebrations for Euan’s 21st birthday;

·         A mock casevac, in which I pretended to injure my leg to see how the team would react, and to ensure that if something happened to one of the PMs that they would be able to manage.

·         One amazing curry with fried rice made by Nas and Josh
·         A birthday cake, with chocolate AND jam, made by Charlotte and Harriet
·         And to top it all of a tropical storm just as we were heading to bed!
A truly eventful four days with Alpha 4!
I’m off to Alpha 3 next, so will have the next update from there very soon!

Monday, 2 July 2012


So after everyone had returned safely from a night in the jungle where they tested out their new knot-tying, basha building, perang wielding, trangia cooking, long-drop digging skills, allocations were almost upon us.

There have been tears, laughter, lost bags, excitement, frustration but mostly anticipation about where everyone will be going for phase one and the next 19 days. So, the grand unveiling and just who is going where?

Alpha 1 Building a kindergarten in Kg Komborongo with Project Managers Simon and Phili.
Ben Allon-Smith, Brandon Martin, Cassie Wright, Charmaine Kakaga, Chris Eustace, Gareth Jane, Hannah Hamilton, Katie Fairburn, Ornella Anderton, Peter Mardle and Shaelay Saltus

Alpha 2 Constructing a Gravity Water Feed in Kgs Lalapakon and Mansiat with Project Managers Adam, Connor and Candice.
Christopher Thomson, Deanna Green, Dwayne Ryton, Emily MacNeill, Ezra Davies, Jaclyn Kennedy, James Doble, Li Ying Chia, Peiyun Zhang, Petra Dimitrijevic, Rayanne Brangman
Alpha 3 Construction of Concrete Water Tanks at Danum Valley Conservation Area with Project Managers Nick and Nikki.
Amanda De Silva, Amon Butler, Bethany Pearson, Letty Ezaz, Christina Buchmann, Elizabeth Anjun, Euan Archibald, Freddie Dunphy, Joe Rowntree, Lucy Trowman, Michael Smith, Ruairidh Parker.
 Alpha 4 Infrastructure for Enrichment Programme at Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok with Project Managers Emily and Lucy.

Alison George, Amy Sedghi, Anthony Howden, Charlotte Roper-Marchand, Clarke Dodd, Euan Judd, Harriet Crosby, Jermae’ Paynter-Smith, Josh Bligh, Nas Radzi Nasrah, Nicholas Wright , Pui Yin Lam.

Alpha 5 Dive/Trek with Project Managers Max and Emma
Annie Moss, Anthony Copeland, Elsemieke Kruseman, Emma Hay, Fiona Bailey, James Russ-Silsby,
Lisa Jacob, Michael Dunlop, Umit Utku

Alpha 6 Trek/ Dive with Project Managers Matt and Emily

Alastair Graves, Alex Roberts, Amy Edwards, Bryony Hutchinson, Claire Tolcher, Helen Green, Jodie Stephenson, Matthew Haussrer, Rachel Thomas, Shin Ng Shea
Alpha 7 Trek/Dive/Trek with Project Managers Sheila and Ian
David Campbell, Hannah Todd, Barry Richardson, David Williams, Sabrina Thomas, Siena Martin, Victoria Hutcheson, Yanlin Su, Zoe Lea

It was all go as soon as the allocations had been announced with new friends to get to know, names to learn, equipment to check, tins of food to count and bags to pack. Less than 20 hours later all groups would be be rising bright and early to load buses and head out across Sabah to their project sites.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

It's Training Time

On Saturday afternoon 7 Delta groups were welcomed by the PMs and HCVs who had been at Basecamp for 24 hours already, by a bamboo dance, and welcome signs in both Malay and English. We got straight down to training by showing everyone how to set up their mosquito nets in their bashas, and how to 3 bowl (cleaning system that stops the spread of bacteria and infection).  After an expedition meeting and dinner, at which there was a competition to finish off the spring rolls (the girls definitely beat the boys!), people where pretty much falling asleep at their tables  so it was off to bed at 8pm. Some Vs had been travelling for over 24 hours and so sleep was the only thing on their minds.

Training continued on Tuesday, with team bonding, medical sessions, learning how to assess and cross rivers safely, setting up and using HF radios and campcraft.

The day ended with the famous Raleigh Olympics, a test of physical and mental strength and endurance. It also included getting completely soaked and an awful lot of fun!!

Delta 3 were the ultimate champions, winning the tie breaker Bravo push.

The participants also got their own back on the Raleigh Olympic Committee Team by surprising them with a soaking.

Wednesday and Thursday saw the Delta groups venture into the jungle to practice their new skills and get an idea of what trekking and setting up camp would entail. The groups all made it to Jungle Camp with impressively fast times and got their basha’s set up in time to have a dip in the river; always a lovely end to a tiring day.

Allocations are eagerly anticipated on Friday morning as soon as Deltas’s 2, 4 and 6 return from Jungle Camp, so tune in tomorrow to see who’s going where!