Saturday, 14 July 2012

3 Cakes and a little bit of Madness at Fieldbase

Fieldbase and the five week PMs enjoyed a lovely evening celebrating Nicki (logs) birthday. Loli made Nicki's favourite meal of peppered steak and chips (yum!) and went all out with 3 amazing cakes!

After a lot of food, and a a good few attempts from Nicki of blowing out all of the candles we were eventually able to dig into dessert- one being a delicious chocolate orange sponge cake, and the other two were my personal favourites- the Hummingbird cake (walnut).

With such variety, we of course had to try a slice of both, just to make sure no one was missing out. With stomachs full of steak, chips and a vast quantity of cake there were a lot of 'food baby' bellies, and not much packing for Jungle Camp from the 5 week PMs!

12 hours later, with some very lethargic packing and a good bit of digestion the 5 week PMs were off with Sarah, Nicola, Laura, GQ and Nat to Basecamp for some hard skills training, and their first night in the jungle.

The Loop have also left for Alpha 3 in Danum Valley with Petr, Nicki and Lou. They will be visiting Alpha's 1 - 4 with the shop, post and blog comments before returning on Sunday 15th July with news from all the teams!

This has left Fieldbase feeling very empty with just myself, Ernie, Karen and Dan here. We were all up by 7am to wave everyone off and then were left to our own devices....

Of course we got straight down to work, taking advantage of a quiet house to get a lot done, but by lunch-time the left over cake we had eaten for breakfast had poured enough sugar into our systems to send us a little bit mad!

There must always be three people in Fieldbase at any one time in case of an emergency coming through over the radio. So instead of going out for lunch one at a time, we decided to raid the fancy dress cupboard, draw moustaches on our faces and eat more delicious cake!

With a fair bit of energy left we finished up lunch with a combined game of cricket, rounders and baseball, polishing off our throwing, catching and batting skills!

The evening was finished with some self-defence lessons from Mac, which may come in very useful in the future, but caused a lot of laughter due to the look of absolute fear on Dan's face every time Mac asked him to be the 'attacker'!
A pretty productive day all in all, but we are very much looking forward to welcoming back the rest of the team in a few days time.

Alpha 7 is heaven!

So here I am. Back at Fieldbase for three hours and already missing Alpha 7 and the leeches. Well, perhaps not the leeches, but definitely Alpha 7.

I (Vanessa, the expedition photographer), had the pleasure of deploying for Phase 1 with Jack/Barry, Hannah, Zoe, Victoria, Dave, Sabrina, Ndavyah, Siena, Suzie, along with their PM dream team Ian and Sheila. For five days we ate, slept and trekked together – and what a memorable time it was.

Day 1 saw us off to a brilliant start on the Crocker Range with dry weather allowing good progress – until half the group was swarmed by a mob of angry wasps. Fortunately, Alpha 7 is made of strong stuff and nothing rattles our nerves or puts off our smiles quite so easily, not even when one finds leeches in the most unsuspecting places.

We set up camp and relaxed around the camp fire. The surprisingly loud “calm” of the night was only marred by Ian's hammock crashing down – with him still in it (much to everyone's amusement).

Day 2 saw the erection of an elaborate leech scoring system, where each team member scores points depending on the locality of the leech and the severity of the bite. The system is as follows:

1 point – leech on shoe

2 points – leech in shoe

3 points – leech on skin

4 points – for actual leech bite, proven by blood evidence

Although highly amusing, we soon lost track of our scores and decided to stick to a daily tally.

By Day 3 we had become dab hands at setting up hammocks and the radio, as well as digging long drops and slops pits at high speed. Our spare time was used wisely for group activities, such as our group contract and our fantastic guides Henry, William and Reiner treated us to some home made “jungle bling”, as well as teaching us valuable skills, including lighting fires, setting traps and how to carve pretty much anything you may ever need from bamboo.

The jungle never ceases to amaze, and we enjoyed exploring our surroundings whilst puffing up many “sexy bum hills” - so named as climbing up the steep slopes is a brilliant workout for the glutes. By now we had also been renamed to “Alpha Disco”, in hommage to the dancing earth worms we saw daily and as an indicator for many a song we trilled.
We had been incredibly lucky with the weather, and it was not until the last afternoon of the 5-day-trek that we were absolutely soaked through to the bone – naturally only seconds after we had all just had the first proper wash in days, in a lovely river.

But finally, we all made it onto the minibus back to KK and onto Mamutik Island (“Dive Island”), where the team has been enjoying a week of diving. Living on Dive Island is a treat indeed, lush beaches and palm trees are guarded by big monitor lizards and exotic butterflies.  

It's a tough life! 
After their stint at Dive Island, Alpha 7 will return to their trekking ways – we just can't stay away from the jungle for too long.  
So I’d like to say a big thanks to Alpha Disco for having me! I am already looking forward to hearing about their further adventures at Changeover.


Friday, 13 July 2012

The Mighty Musical Alpha 3

So the plan for me(Kate) was to go straight from Sepilok to Alpha 3 in Danum Valley. Unfortunately my tendency to get myself lost has followed me to Borneo and I ended up on a bus to KK instead of Lahad Datu. In Sabah, the locals do not like saying no, as it is considered inpolite; I forgot this fact when I asked if the bus was going to Lahad Datu, rather than asking ‘where is it going’ and so 3 hours into my journey I realised that the signs where all saying KK and had to make the call the Fieldbase to let them know I would be joining them for the evening.

So, with a few ‘good lucks’ behind me, and a very early start(to ensure I could find the right bus) I managed to make it to Danum Vallley. There I was greeted by 11 sweaty, muddy Venturer’s just back from the work site. I was lucky enough to receive a damp welcome hug from Dan and Freddie before insisting upon showers before any more hugging could ensue!

I have had a brilliant four days with Alpha 3; enjoying their enthusiasm, their endless singing and dancing, and the wild life that Danum Valley provides on a daily basis. I have brought back a blog entry written by Alpha 3's very own Freddie Dunphy, Beth Pearson and Euan Archibald. 
A Day in the Life of Alpha 3

In Alpha 3, the usual morning consists of what I like to call ‘Adult Hide and Seek’. A new tactic known as a ‘Snail’s Retreat’ is included, which involves Venturers crawling up in their sleeping bags to avoid the Day Leader’s 5.30am attempts at getting us out of bed.

Usually preceding the general awakening, PM’s Nikki and Dan wake around 4.30am to comment on the creatures of the forest as loudly as possible whilst shining their lights in everyone’s faces, angering the V’s greatly!

The girls are normally first out of bed in the morning, and after a little bit of coaxing (or a lot in Amon’s case) the lads slowly follow. As each V arises, different personalities from the night before can be heard, with self-acclaimed ‘Grumpy Lucy’ providing the most amusement to others.

The morning transforms as light streams through from the canopy above and Ruairidh’s music player is switched on to encourage the team to come alive. One can only imagine the shock a visitor would have, rounding the corner and seeing V’s dancing and singing irrespective of their capability in any field! This contrast is perhaps found when one compares Euan, our Scottish baritone, and Lettie, our opera-loving, classically trained soprano.

 Enthusiasm lacks in nobody which always makes for a wonderful breakfast with fine rolled oats, piping hot water, a selection of raisins topped with light milk powder and for the more daring V, a dash of milo or coffee. Following breakfast, morning preparations are made and we leave for work.

We head off up hill and down dale to reach the worksite. Already at this point we are hot and sweaty but fairly excited at the same time.

"Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go”

Our singing gets us in the mood for work on our ten minute walk to work. For a bit of added excitement we often take a short cut through the jungle to meet the morning leeches(much to Elizabeth’s disgust!) and arrive just in time to fill up our water and have a warm-up session. Our warm-up often resembles an All-Black’s stretching session, and we throw in a few energizer’s just to really get everyone going. Camp favourite is currently ‘Darling, I Love You’ which involves one person trying to get someone in the group to smile or laugh by saying the above in the funniest way possible. Most memorable moments from this game would definitely be Freddie pretending to do the Full Monty and Dan’s leprechaun voice.

We are greeted by Mus, a Danum Valley ranger who always wears a great smile. His English resembles Euans, in the sense it is difficult to understand, but the smile is always there. We then get started on work for the day, whether it is a Raleigh line transporting an endless pile of sand, perang-ing down jungle or pick-axing boulders more suitable for the World’s Strongest Man competition. Luckily we have the powerful hoe being taken advantage of by Amon which makes quick work of this. Two competitions usually run during the day; the Sweat-off, nearly always won by our PM Nick who seems to have brought his own English raincloud with him and Leeching. There has not been a clear winner for the Leeching competition however Elizabeth is determined to be the clear loser of this one, detesting the thought of a leech, never mind the sight of one!
At 11am we break for lunch. The temperature if we are lucky has only reached 30c and so we begin a sweaty walk back to Mengarris camp. At lunch we eat like kings, with delicacies such as fromage a la cracker to lightly braised beef doused with a tomato and onion jus,  delivered with perfect balance. Lunch is usually so satisfying that Venturers collapse into their bashas(beds) afterwards to rest through the afternoon heat. We also get our daily visit from Boris the Wild Boar, and have been lucky enough to see Baby Boris, and Boris’ lady friend who we have named Alannis Borisette.

Baby Boris

After the cat nap, we are back to work at 2pm. The walk back is usually exhausting, however it gets a little easier every time. Afternoon sessions are powered through with singing and games to keep the energy levels high. Before we know it 5pm has rolled around and we are back to camp. We gather our tools and head home.

If we are lucky, our daily rainfall occurs around this time, and it has to be said, showering as a group on the way home is one of the most enjoyable post-work activities. Who needs a shower when you’ve got rain! It is maybe only surpassed by dinner and our nightly games which so far include Mafia, cards and home-made Chess and Cluedo!

Sending love to all our families and loved ones,
                                                                             Alpha 3.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

It's a Hard Enough Life for Alpha 5!

Alpha 5 have spent their first week of expedition on Mamutik Island, diving and snorkelling and preparing themselves for the next part of Phase 1: trek. This part of the Adventure Phase includes a 3-4 day diving programme which will gain each Venturer a PADI Open Water Diver certification. This is then followed by conservation work collecting underwater waste and litter, and planting coral.

Annie Moss has written a blog entry to inform all of Alpha 5’s loved ones of how they are getting on:

We had a fantastic start to our expedition, diving in the warm blue waters of Mamutik Island. With our basha only five metres from the white sand beach, and the outdoor kitchen giving views over Kota Kinabalu and Mount K, the island has been the perfect place to rest and bond before trek.

The ample food supply- coupled with some fresh eggs bought from the local shop has not only fed us but enabled us to make bread, cake, flap jacks and popcorn.

Besides sunbathing and sea swimming, we have managed to construct a few sand sculptures, stage a treasure hunt, watch the sun rise and fall, play volleyball and play numerous games of cards. We have written dutiful letters home, taken many photographs, read our books and failed miserably at getting a good tune out of a guitar. Oh, and we squeezed in a bit of snorkelling and scuba diving too.

Underwater we have been fortunate enough to spot Rainbow fish, Clown fish, Star fish, Stone fish, Eagle-rays, and many more besides. James, who has completed his Advanced Open Water Certificate this week even spotted a Black-tipped Reef shark!

There was lots to see on land too, with regular sightings of Monitor Lizards, Giant Centipedes, and a playful litter of kittens next door.

All in all, a fantastic way to spend a week and we are sorry to be leaving.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The 5 week PM's have arrived!

It’s been a long wait, but finally they have arrived. The 5 week PM’s arrived on Sunday, full of excitement, and thankfully not too much jet lag.

Greeted by the few members of the Fieldbase team that weren’t out on project sites the 5 week PM’s were quickly introduced to Raleigh life, including shoes off at the door, three bowls and team-bonding games!

Most of the PMs ventured into KK on the first night, in search of somewhere they could watch Wimbledon, which much to their relief they found!

 The second evening included a trip to the Filipino market, which astounded many with the huge variety of fish, meat and fruit on offer. Andrew and Nico went all out getting a huge selection of fish to try. They struggled near the end, but managed to devour it all! Helen and Angela ate prawns the size of guinea pigs, and much to my disappointment no one was brave enough to try the chicken anus!

The 5 week team will have the same 2 week induction as the 10 week team had, starting with a refreshing swim assessment followed by soft skills training and then off on Project Planning Visits at the end of the week.  So I will be back soon with an update of how they are getting on with training!