Saturday, 20 October 2012

Alpha 3 get down to business in Danum

The day we all left Basecamp it was Alpha 3 who had the longest way to go, setting off on a 10-hour journey down to Danum Valley. It would definitely be worth it though – Danum is home to one of the world’s oldest rainforests and is a feast for even the most fairweather of any wildlife lovers.

Here’s a bit about what they have been getting up to so far, thanks to Gemma:

Once upon a time and in the midst of Borneo, Alpha 3 woke up at 4am to catch a bus. Having outwitted the grips of hypothermia due to severe aircon conditions, we finally arrived at our destination: Danum Valley.
Gemma and James assess the steps...

... while Laura ensures the ceiling is spick and span!
Setting up the radio

Dionne gets to grips with the dipole!
Time for lunch, courtesy of James and Jamie, aka J-squared
 The next morning we awoke to find Boris – the friendly neighbourhood boar (bearded pig) – tucking into our last and only packet of chicken soup.

The imposter beats a hasty retreat!

That was just the start of the wildlife spotting of the day, with an orangutan and her baby, deer, a monitor lizard and hundreds of different bugs. We also ascended 40m into the treetops to inspect the canopy and were masters of all we surveyed.  

A few mornings later everyone woke up to find a rather large orangutan crossing the camp. When Steve the photographer, who was staying with us for a few days, tried to capture the moment, the orangutan decided it would much rather take up photography and lurched straight into Steve’s basha for the camera! Luckily Steve skillfully dodged out the way to see it scurry into the jungle!
Angharad (one of the PMs) then introduced us to Cluedo Alpha 3-style. This involves all the Venturers and PMs having to systematically ‘murder’ each other with a variety of things like a tin of sausages and Love toilet roll by handing over the particular object in locations like the meeting room, the sleeping quarters and the comms area. Keval is so far in the lead, having ‘murdered’ four of us so far... the contest continues!
It's fair to say that it's pretty hot and sweaty in our new home (so it's important to walk Sabah style – ie, nice and slowly – if you don't want to get too sweaty!). So we were all really grateful to discover there's a nearby river to cool ourselves off in.
Richard and Theily keep an eye on the swimmers from ashore
Sweaty work!
Time for a rest
We haven't intended it to all just be fun and games so far, but unfortunately when we wanted to start work on the water tank construction it was revealed there was no cement yet! So instead we decided to spruce up the floor of some of the staff quarters.... got to keep on the right side of those PMs!!

Alex, Angharad and Keval... still smiling!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

One wedding, 200 rocks and a lot of digging with Alpha 2

With allocations done and training officially over, it was an early start for all the Alpha groups as they set off to their various destinations. I (Anna) decided to invite myself along with Alpha 2, who would be working on the Gravity Water Feed system in Kampung Nuguh, for their first couple of days on project.
By the time our coach arrived at its switchover point, where we were due to continue our journey in 4 X 4s we were already pretty starving. So imagine our delight when we discovered that the meeting point also happened to be right next to a rather lovely restaurant on the seafront (good planning there by PMs Nat, Simon and John!). Here we also met Eddie, from our project partner AFC, who will be working with us on the gravity water feed.

After a hearty lunch (albeit rather early at only 11am) and learning a bit of Malay from HCVs John and Kenly we loaded all the tools and rucksacks into the 4 X 4s and set off on our way. Unfortunately about 20 minutes in we had to stop for a tyre change on one of the vehicles, but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits as Laura and Meghan got us all into a game of Ninja straight away, much to the amusement of people driving in the other direction!
A half-hour’s bumpy drive later and we all arrived at what would be Casa Alpha 2 for the next seven weeks. On first glance it may have just looked like a half-finished house, but closer inspection revealed a fully-operating roof and the perfect sleeping quarters upstairs... okay, it may not have any exterior walls, but with 360-degree views like this, no one was complaining!
A room with a view

Everyone got started on making it more homely, and all the arduous but necessary jobs, like digging the long drop, were completed. Jake got down to digging the slops pit and getting the downstairs in shipshape order, while Kenly quickly proved himself to be a maestro with any tool he came across, as he built tables for the cooking area and the three bowls, a shoe rack, and even started chiseling a Home Sweet Home sign.

Kenly the carpenter extraordinaire

Jake gets to grips with the slops pits

Sorting out the bedroom
Simon and Barnaby set up the radio
Given that what seemed like many many hours of hard work had passed since lunch, we were all pretty famished and therefore ecstatic when Kate and Steffi cooked up a delicious first-night meal of pasta Napolitana, and it was early bed for all.
The next morning, after waking up to a beautiful sunrise, it was time to test out the shower (a pipe a little bit further down the hill from the house, very powerful and with another great view – the best way to start the day!). We all had to be fresh and beautiful as we were due to attend a rather special event – Mr Masrin, the head of village, had invited us all to the wedding of his daughter Alinah to Jamal. It was a bit of a sticky and muddy half-hour walk down to his house, but we tried to stay as smart as we could in our Raleigh T-shirts.

 Everyone made us really welcome at the wedding, giving us our own table and treating us to a delicious meal of buffalo and rice. It was a great way to meet all the villagers in one go and they soon had us up and dancing with them.


We even got wedding gifts!
Then Jamal and Alinah appeared after their formal wedding ceremony and were presented with various gifts – including their very own Raleigh T-shirts by Simon and John!
The happy couple... plus Simon and John...

...and a few more!

After all that partying, the next morning it was time for the serious work to begin. So, following breakfast and a few games of ‘Darling, I love you’ (where you have to go up and say the aforementioned words to someone in your funniest voice to try to make them laugh – Barnaby and Boudewien had the straightest faces by far), Eddie came and talked us through the project and then we all went on a little tour of the water source from which the work would be starting.

The water source
The water tanks

We then walked down to the village, past Mr Masrin’s house (where the remnants of the wedding were still being tidied up) and then up and down, up and down and up and down lots of hills towards the river.
By the time we got down there everyone was raring to get their legs wet, and after a safety assessment to check the river was safe to enter we all piled in and started on the first main job of the project: collecting lots of stones and rocks of different sizes to use as a base for the concrete foundations of the water tanks.
Thijs, Laura and John check the river is safe
Nat is ready with the throwrope


Steffi cools down!

Kate in action

It’s fair to say that the villagers who had come down to wash up from the wedding were very amused by what we were all doing. It’s amazing to think that once Alpha 2 are done with the water feed that they’ll no longer have to take all their washing down to the river and will be able to do it in the comfort of their own homes instead.

A few hundred rocks later and the pile was pretty impressive. Luckily Eddie was picking them up in his pick-up truck, rather than us having to lug them back up and down the multitude of hills!

Then everyone enjoyed a much-deserved swim in the river before trekking back up and down the hills to Casa Alpha 2 to listen to Radio Raleigh, which is broadcast from Fieldbase every Sunday afternoon. Thijs has proven himself to be quite a radio pro already, thank heavens, so when we realised we only had about 10 minutes to spare before action his radio set-up skills meant we were all still sitting comfortably in time. After the latest sports, entertainment and world news updates from the Fieldbase team, all the Alpha groups then reported on what they’d been up to, and everyone sounded like they were having a lot of fun settling in!
Our posh new kitchen area
As that night was my last with Alpha 2, myself, Nat, Simon and John treated everyone to a quiz to make sure the grey cells were still functioning as well as the muscles. There was one killer question that no one knew the answer to from John’s round, so he would not reveal it and is still waiting for someone to come up with it:

Which one London Underground station does not contain any letters from the word “mackerel”?
(answers on a postcard, or the comments below if you’d rather!)

The next morning it was time for me to say goodbye. Luckily my car turned up on time, as it was clear that everyone was raring to get started with the next day of work, building a fence around the water source and then starting to dig the base for the water tanks. All in all it was a happy and highly enthusiastic Alpha 2 that I left, so we look forward to seeing what they get up to over the next few weeks.

Next on the travel agenda is Alpha 1 and the kindergarten in Kampung Terian, so watch this space!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Allocations...who's going where?

Once everyone was back from Jungle Camp and as many showered and rested as possible, it was time to reveal where all the Venturers had been allocated to for their first phase of projects. So, without further ado, here are the Alpha Groups for Phase 1 of Expedition 12K!

Alpha 1: Kindergarten, Kampung Terian
With Annabel & Lisa:
Dominic Sanders, Hong Kai Tan, Felice Majinul, Iona M Bate, Cornelie Glasbergen, Madeleine Newton, Philippine Eijsvoogel, Annebel Moolhuijsen, Sam Cooper, Matthew Herring, Emma Porter

Alpha 2: Gravity Water feed, Kampung Nuguh
With Simon, Natalie & John:
Laura Liebenberg, Kuan Jon Lee, Meghan Broadbent, Barnaby Williams, Catherine Skidmore, Thijs G Wessels, Boudewien Teeuwen, Kenly Jakly, Steffi Collaco, Jacob Dauncey


Alpha 3: Water tank construction, Danum Valley
With Angharad, Keval & Alex:
Alain Lifmann, Gemma Fox, Anna Court, Laura McDonald, Theily Peuji, Yin San Woo, James Grace, Dionne Annink, James McGeorge, Richard Macnair

Alpha 5: Dive/ trek, Mamutik/ Long Pasia
With Jayne & Erin:
Rebecca Powell, Veerle M Van Der Togt, Pei Yinn Lim, Freddie Sayer, Yie May Goh, Cosmo Sparshatt, Lara Pladet, Al Mahrum, Catriona Birley, Ruben J Van de Water

Alpha 6: Trek/ dive, Long Pasia/ Mamutik
With Joe, Andrew & Komal:
Stuart Joce, Elena Ciucci, Wang JenHor (Ben), Annmarie Kramer, Tom Boon, Eleanor Moroney (Lucy), Dewis Jarius, Dorien Van Linge, Sarah Cusack, Noah Cohen