Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Loop visit Alpha One

Sunset in Bonor Sook
We started with a comfortable journey down to Keningau on tarmac, but were then confronted with a long and winding road through the heart of palm oil plantations. After two hours of enjoyable off-roading under a sweltering sun we arrived at Kampong Bonor Sook, the home of Alpha 1. 

We jumped out of the car to be welcomed by a choir of schoolchildren, who announced our arrival in style with a traditional song, along with the Venturers and Project Managers Beth, Jude and Ian. It was a truly unexpected moment and one that will always remain with us.
Alpha 1 singing

After a rendition of “Guide thee my Great Redeemer” sung by Alpha 1 (with some unexpected harmonizing from Freddie, El, Corinth and Fiona) to welcome us further into the Community Hall, we snacked on popcorn and caramelised nuts whilst we were shown around the kindergarten building site. We had to walk all of two steps to arrive at the worksite from their sleeping quarters…. what luxury!

The school was really taking shape now: All the frame of the building had been completed, the roof was on, and the supports for the floor were ready and waiting for boards to be laid. Very impressive considering all the challenges that have been met (and overcome) so far.
Alpha 1 at the radio
To cool off after an extremely hot day driving the Bravo, we were escorted down to the river where we had the most enjoyable experience of washing off the dirt of the day, alongside absolutely manic kids from the village who found everything we did hilarious! Was great to play volleyball with Peter, Eva, Daniel, Elfira and the children. We definitely needed to chill out back at the community hall after all that mayhem though.

Bonor Sook is a delightful Kampung situated in the Keningau region of Sabah, with the Kampung (village) on small hills surrounding a football pitch, on which the locals play on a nightly basis. We had the pleasure of watching a local Derby that evening between the neighboring Kampong. However so many goals were scored we lost count!
Sleeping quarters

Dinner that evening consisted of a duo of pizzas, each meticulously made, followed by a beguiling combination of pineapple, peanuts and stir-fried rice.  It was a taste sensation Sabah style – all created by our two head chefs Caspar and Charlie, with help from Chelsea and the rest of Alpha 1.

Finally Nathan hosted a round of ‘Would I Lie to You’, with team captains Steven and Freddie. He did an excellent job of comparing what was a crazy affair, but one full of laughter and of course very full stomachs from all the meals that came before. We rolled into our sleeping bags soon after for a welcome nights sleep in a peaceful Bonor Sook.

Progress so far

Raleigh Borneo: The Harlem Shake

We might be living in the jungle but we haven’t missed the latest craze sweeping the internet. The Harlem Shake. Raleigh Borneo 13C performed our very own version of the internet phenomenon during the first changeover.

Watch it and share it. Let’s see if we can get the Raleigh 13C Harlem shake trending by the time the ventures all get back to the world of You Tube.

Friday, 29 March 2013

The Loop Visit Alpha Six

Jeremy, Sjoerd, Holly and Josefien buying treats from the shop

Our journey to Alpha Six began at Kota Marudu. The road winding through the mountains was idyllic with the blue sky contrasting with the green rainforest as we drove deeper in towards the conservation center. 

Josefien running down the hill was a welcome site as we realised we had reached our destination.

Refat, Bec and Joesph checking the bird nets
A steep trek up the hill to camp and we met the rest of the team. Some of the boys (Christian, Sjoerd, Jeremy and Jake) had kindly given up their bashas for us. They were sleeping in the gazebo - a hut slightly away from the main camp where the venturers can hang out and also the place to identify the animals and birds they catch.

Trekking back down the hill to set up the shop we attempted to count the number of steps carved into the hillside. The number varies depending who's counting but there are around 144 steps so everyone's managing to keep fit! 

Back up the hill just in time to check the nets for birds. Refat and Bec delicately freed two birds unfortunately one flew off before we were able to identify it though! 

Being on a static site they have great cooking facilities which they are taking full advantage of. Rob made some delicious pineapple fritters as a snack when we got back from the nets.

Alpha Six chefs

Watching the sunset 

Flat bread and garlic butter dip was our starter served at the bottom of the hill overlooking the rainforest.  The clouds had rolled in so the sunset wasn't as stunning as the group had seen the previous night but it was still really special.

Carefully picking our way along the river, eyes peeled for frogs hiding under rocks or in the water. It was so much fun being out at night catching glimpses of the moon through clearings in the trees. We saw some huge spiders - one that the ventures had named Aragog (from Harry Potter.) The Loop were blamed for bringing bad luck to the frogging as we only caught one frog (they usually catch about ten) but we were just really pleased to be there and be part of their daily routine. 

And then one last treat to end the day... As we returned from frogging we were handed a freshly cooked fruit crumble and a mug of Milo. The perfect end to a lovely day! 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Update from Maliau Basin (Alpha 4)

After a long journey we arrived in the beautiful conservation area of Maliau Basin. When we saw our accommodation for the next three weeks, everyone was over the moon to find out that we were going to live in such a beautiful area.

We promptly started building a gabion wall near the main building of the conservation area. We are working on the wall to stop landslides from happening and to protect the area. Putting the awkwardly shaped rocks into neat piles was not as easy as it seemed, but after trying several rock placing techniques we got the hang of it and we are making great progress. On our way back to our accommodation we even saw our first wild hog that seemed to be lured by us singing Hakuna Matata!

The day the loop came we made a lovely three course dinner that included fish cakes, rice noodles with a fresh veggie sauce, pineapple cake pudding and watermelon. After our feast we even had a game of life-size monopoloy. We really are having an amazing time here in Maliau Basin.
Filled with beautiful nature, animals, hard work and an enthusiastic group, Maliau Basin conservation area is a huge world heritage site filled with the most amazing things – elephants, orang-utans , gibbons, clouded leopards, waterfalls, rivers, huge trees and after we finish our wall, we are hoping to go on a four day trek through the park from camp to camp and then make a start on repairing the skybridge.

*Work is going really well and the group are having a fantastic time in the beautiful Maliau Basin. I look forward to updating the blog with photos of their phase when we meet up again at changeover this weekend.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Loop Visit Alpha Three

Tom, Alex and Steve reading letters from home
Alpha three are putting in a gravity water feed for the village of Borobi . A short off road drive from the market town of Pitas and we saw the cultural centre house and church that has become their home over the past few weeks.
Tash reading a letter from home

Greeted with big smiles from the ventures and PMs we quickly set up the Loop Shop and handed out their mail. It was lovely to see them so excited to open letters from home and read all of the blog posts.

 Fueled by cans of coke and chocolate they took us down to the work site. We trekked through a rubber plantation with the sun beaming through the trees, and then through the jungle across lots of mini streams to the water source. We were dripping in sweat in the late afternoon sun - it must be hard work carrying the bags of cement and sand down!
They had been hard at work that morning cementing the damn and are on track to finish the project supplying water to the village. An excellent achievement!

Alpha three showing off their hard work
A great team of chefs were behind the delicious dinner. Steve's spring rolls should be a new addition to the Raleigh Recipe Book! Izzy, Emma and Dan also created a masterpiece of a pie for desert (and who said lumpy custard was bad..?!) 
Dan and Emma were in charge of the evening entertainment which was absolutely hilarious. Taking inspiration from a Dutch game show they dressed up as the presenters, Dan in a beautiful dress and Emma sporting a moustache and beer belly. The funniest game was 'Murderer' which is a cross between Chinese Whispers and Charades.
Everyone was in great spirits so it was lovely catching up with fellow PMs and the whole team.
Our accommodation for the evening was a first; a church! Setting our mosquito nets up by the alter and Christmas decorations (we're not sure if they are a permanent feature..) was quite amusing. I must say it wasn't the most comfortable nights sleep but Kat waking us up with a cup of coffee in bed was perfect! 
Alpha Three

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Loop visit Alpha Two

Alice in Wonderland in the Jungle...

Lou, Sabrina and Jonny

One of my favorite and most bizarre 24 hours on Raleigh was visiting Alpha Two on The Loop.

As we drove up the dirt track to Aunty's house we were greeted by Sabrina dressed as a rabbit; fluffy tail and all... Then Tweedledum and Tweedledee (aka Jonny & Lou) greeted us with their big round bellies held in by duck tape braces and lead us down the track to their camp. 

Sabrina skipped along the track with lush green plants glistening in the bright sunshine. suddenly she dipped down the hill and then out came Harry - another rabbit this time with a strong Northen accent urging us to hurry up for an important meeting...

Joesph and Jodi cutting into the jam tart

Totally bemused we followed him down the hill to see Eline, dressed in a blue and white checkered dress (the perfect Alice costume) wandering around looking lost. As she shared her snacks and drinks with us we caught glimpses of a Welcome to Wonderland sign at Alpha Two's camp.

What a welcome we got with the March Hair, Queen of Hearts, Guards and all of the other characters inviting us to their tea party. Jimmy played The Mad Hatter character brilliantly directing the proceedings as tea and jam tart was served.

Then for a (slightly rigged) quiz between The Loop and The PMs. As the loosing team we were put in chains (Awas Tape) and the guards marched us through the jungle down to the dam site to be beheaded by the header tanks (see what they did there..?!) 

Jonny and Joesph
The venturers described all of the work they had done with such passion it was clear to see how committed they are to the project. The dam is built and the piping being laid with the aim of the first tap being fitted and switched on by the end of this phase. There's a lot of work to do but with such a great team behind it we're confident we'll get there. Especially with the support from the village and the determination to equip them with clean safe water, something the ventures had taken for granted until now. 

Back to their beautiful camp with bamboo roofing over the dining area and a well kitted out kitchen where they prepared our Wonderland Feast.

And what a feast it was... 
In keeping with the Mad Hatters Tea Party the meal was served backwards. Bonoffee Pie for starters - absolutely delicious! Then for the main of duck brain curry (lentil and veg..!) To finish we were treated to mock turtle soup (winter melon and vegetable stock) with homemade flatbread.

We were Completely stuffed and super impressed with how much effort the team had put into their costumes, cooking dinner and making sure we were thoroughly looked after the entire day.

Then there was one last treat in store for us when we entered the Wonderland spa. Fantastic massages around the camp fire from Sal, Shirley, Harry and Sabrina were much needed after so much time in the bravo over the past few days.

The Loop and Eline

The stars even joined in the party shooting across the sky as we stargazed in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. 

As if the incredible effort they had put into our visit wasn't enough they proved just what a hardworking team they are as we joined them for a mornings work the following day. 

Coinciding with World Water Day they were letting the dam fill for a ceremony with the village in the afternoon. The morning was spent laying piping and clearing the tracks. With such a sprawling village it's hot, hard work but they work together brilliantly. Splitting into three teams to be the most productive they can at a times.

It was time to leave but I could have easily stayed for a few more days (weeks, months..!) but it was time for us to hit the road again to Alpha Three. I'm really looking forward to catching up with everyone at changeover to see the progress they made and hear more about the beautiful village of Bulud Batu.

Alpha Two

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Loop visit Alpha Five

The Loop visit Alpha 5...

Up bright and early we leave Fieldbase as the sun rises over Kota Kinabalu. What a stunning drive! Sweeping up the mountain roads past Mount Kinabalu with the Bravo stocked full of materials for the projects and a mini shop so the Ventures can get a sugar fix mid-phase.

A few more hours of driving and it's time to go off road.... Lots of fun bumping around the dirt tracks as we drove deeper into the rainforest. The vegetation was awesome with trees looming above us and getting denser as we neared the camp.

Alpha Five's camp is in the depth of the jungle so we put on our hiking boots and trekked in to find them. Even in the evening sun it was a hot and sweaty trek.

Jodi, Alyrene and Joseph and their Imbak welcome sign

Trekking in to Raleigh Camp

The welcome we got was well worth it though! Alex, the Day Leader was there to greet us and set up our beds. She then directed us to Imbak Falls so we could wash before dinner.

Joost, James, Alyrene, Connor, Jodi, Sarah, Joseph, Daniel,
Sam, Zino, Nicky, Dwana, Alex & Hatty

The falls are even more beautiful than on the pictures and getting into the water was like stepping into a refreshing warm bath.

James, Sam and Zino then showed us the progress they're making with the project. Raleigh has been working in Imbak for years; building bridges and board walks. This year the group are again assisting with the construction of a suspension bridge between two research camps.

So far they have laid the wiring between the camps and begun winching giant logs across the river. Joost proudly showed us the video of the first log being swung across the ravine. It was amazing to see the fantastic and tiring work they are doing.

As well as all the hard work constructing the bridge they also made time to plan a magical evening for us.

We were asked to walk down to the observation deck which overlooks the magnificent falls around dinner time for a candle lit picnic.

The orange glow of the candles as we reached the falls was beautiful and the moonlight reflecting on the water, magical.

As for the food. It was more of a banquet than a picnic! Daniel as head chef excelled again. Homemade in the camp oven we had flat bread with hummus and garlic mushrooms for starters.

Loopy cooks Daniel, Alex and James
Then for mountains of a delicious curry and rice as we caught up with the Venturers and PMs sharing stories and catching up on each others news.

As the clouds drew in hiding the moon and threatening a storm we headed back to camp for the third course of our feast. A mouth-wateringly good crumble curtosy of the lovely Hatty.

With very full stomachs we whiled away the rest of the evening playing games and hearing about the groups most embarrassing moments (which we'll not divulge on here..!)

Dwana, Nicky, Daniel and Sam

Going to bed in the hammock to the sound of the jungle we felt incredibly lucky to visit such a hidden place and be welcomed so wonderfully by Alpha Five.

Stay tuned to hear how the rest of the Alpha groups are getting on in the rest of the Loop update which will follow soon. So far Joseph, Jodi, Sam and Alyrene (the phase 2 Loopers) have received fantastic welcomes to the project sites and I am looking forward to sharing more of their experiences soon.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Alpha 2 update

Helen's week with Alpha 2

I was lucky enough to spend just over a week with Alpha 2 in the beautiful village of Bulud Batu in the Pitas district, which is in the north of Sabah.  Alpha 2 are installing a gravity water feed system into the village, which will provide clean drinking water to over 100 villagers who currently get their drinking water  through rain collection. In a very dry climate the supply of water can be very inconsistent.

The head of Bulud Batu is a lady called Rhodia (affectionately known as Aunty). It’s very unusual to have a female head of a village as this role is usually passed through the family to the eldest male. However, in this case Rhodia was democratically elected by her villagers because of her passionate desire to protect the land in her village.

The weir

The gravity water feed in Bulud Batu involves the building of a weir around a stream which will collect the water which will supply a water feed through a series of pipes to the homes in the village. The water source is higher than the houses and uses gravity to force the water through the pipes.  During phase 1 the group did a great job of constructing the weir and installing header tanks which will collect the water and build up pressure to feed it through the system.

In the first week of phase 2, Alpha 2 have been finishing the weir using concrete, as well as digging trenches around the header tanks for the outlet pipes which will take the water down to the village. They have also been working hard to distribute the pipes around the village that will eventually be rolled out to cover almost 2km to take water to the furthest parts of the village.
Cementing the weir

The header tanks
On Wednesday they began unrolling the pipe.  With a length of 100m for each roll this takes a lot of team work to get it in the right place. However, the group has already managed to cover 300m of the pipe route and this was a very rewarding task as it brought the idea of delivering water from to the weir to the houses closer to reality.

The pipe

Walking the pipe route

As well as the work on the gravity water feed, Alpha 2 have also been working on their camp, building a radio shack so they don’t get wet when it rains, seats around a campfire, and a shelter for the PMs to meet in, which we loved.

Alpha 2 listening to Radio Raleigh in the radio shack
It hasn’t all been hard work though. Last Friday we held a Jungle Black Tie dinner, with fancy dress, canap├ęs (thanks to Asher for the flatbreads), mocktails and dancing, and on Saturday we held an afternoon tea for Aunty’s birthday.

Jonny, Lou and Helen in jungle black tie

James, Sabrina, Jonny, Lou and Aunty
as she was presented her birthday cake - made by Helen and Shirley
I’m looking forward to meeting up with Alpha 2 at the next changeover to hear what they have been up to. They are hoping to be able to start to turn on taps in the first few houses this phase so I hope that they manage to do it.

Alpha 2 - Harry, Jonny, Davin, Salman, Mitchell, Asher, Shirley, James, Eline, Sabrina,
Helen, Catriona, Lou and Morgan