In the past 3 months, Safuan, our architect intern from Arkitrek have been working on our long term plans for a more sustainable and environmental friendly /green building project by continuing bio-crete brick mix experiment on site apart from working on the final phases of the Community Centre at Camp Bongkud. At the final stage [...]
Last week we were lucky enough to host a group of students from Dubai American Academy in Borneo for a service project trip. They were with us for a week and got stuck into some hard work at our camp at Bongkud. The project work centred around the community hall which we are in the process of re-building and is now starting to near completion. The team were kept busy with mixing cement for the walls and floor, learning new skills from our onsite foreman and all the time working in very hot and humid conditions. It wasn’t all work and no play – the team had the opportunity to watch a cultural performance of dance and music from the local youth of the village before having the chance to try it for themselves, as well as trying their hand at some traditional cooking techniques. Thanks to the team for their hard work on the project site and of course your enthusiasm during all the other activities and visits.
The professional cement mixing team, happy in their work !
Jungle Trek in Borneo.
We have finally finished our jungle trek after 5 long hard days of walking, and with very few mishaps along the way! The start of our trek began at a new camp in Bongkud and there we organised our kit as well as the food we had to carry. The food included mash potato mixture and lots of cereal, noodles and biscuits! We set off around 3 and soon got to our first camp which was a basic long house, mosquito nets and beds were quickly assembled and a nice meal of beans and mash was consumed.
The second day of the jungle trek i saw us actually enter the jungle and it was also the hardest day of the trek. We started early in the morning and ended up trekking for around 9 hours! The jungle trek started off along paths and then saw us wade through rivers before entering the jungle. Walking in the jungle was an amazing experience but also very hard work, kit was shared out among the team as individuals began to suffer, notable contributions from “they call me 2 hammock Sam” as well as the girls who all took turns to carry kit, which was massively appreciated. The day ended as we finally arrived at our camp for the night, an open field with climbing frames dotted around and a nice river at the bottom. Hammocks were slowly assembled and then we descended on to the river for a wash, which was much needed! Another meal of mash and beans followed before everyone headed to their hammocks, thoroughly shattered after a hard days walking.
Day 3 saw a new approach to the trek from our team, we split into a fast and a slow group and this saw a much improved morale among both teams who could go at their own pace rather than having to go too quick or too slow. Despite leaving an hour and a half later than the slow group, the fast group showed fantastic strength to be first up the 2000 meter hill which was the basis of the days walk. The descent down the other side of the hill saw things start to go slightly off plan however, Mrs Langley was first up, taking a tumble and breaking a tooth. I (Chris) decided to follow this up with a fall of my own, which left me unable to put any weight on my left leg, not my best idea! Whilst the rest of the group stormed ahead to the camp, by now well into their rhythm and walking well as a team, I was stretchered back to camp by the team of guides. At the camp, everyone seemed to be in much improved spirits despite two very hard days of trekking and we moved on to a dinner of instant noodles, which made a nice change! Hammocks were once again assembled, most people took a dip in the small stream below the camp and an evacuation plan was made for Mrs Langley and myself for the morning.
Day 4 of the trek began early for Mrs Langley and I as we set off out of the jungle, after an hour or so of walking we reached our pick up point and were picked up and taken back to Bongkud for a couple of days of rest and to sort out our injuries. The rest of the group had a shorter walk than in the previous two days, around 2-3 hours, but still rather tough with many hills and slippery tracks encountered along the way. The trek concluded at the next of our sites, which were seemingly becoming ever more basic in terms of size and conditions. The hammocks were set up on a very steep hill, which made for a very interesting night’s sleep for many!
Day 5 was the final day, with the promised land of the Sabah Tea Long House being our destination. The first group were woken at 4:00 for a 6:00 leave from camp, whilst the second group had the luxury of a lie in until 6:00 for a 7:30 departure. Having been told that the walk would take a minimum of 5-6 hours, and potentially up to 8, we were all very pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Sabah Tea within 4 hours. We emerged from the dense jungle around an hour into the walk and then followed the track to the tea plantation, taking in the stunning views of the jungle through which we had just walked, as well as the impressive Mount Kinabalu. At Sabah Tea, we were treated to a wonderful BBQ, which was one of the highlights of a very enjoyable evening – everyone was very relaxed and particularly enjoying proper toilets and showers!
Today we are having an R&R day, having just visited the Death March Memorial, and currently in the town of Ranau for a little shopping. This afternoon we are heading for the Springs at Poring for a relaxing swim and ice cream!
The last couple of months, Natalie & Eva have consistently brought their stories of great experience and challenges to Gap year programme in Borneo through blogging. Eva did a very interesting topic on her previous blogs on Scuba diving, Camp Mantanani and more. This week brings you how Natalie and her team conquered Mt. Kinabalu, [...]
The following are 2 exerts written by students of their time in Borneo on a school expedition with Camps International: Ashford & Hanham Schools in Borneo
From the jungles of Batu Puteh: Currently sitting suspended in a hammock under a tarpaulin waiting for today’s rain to come. We moved to this camp (somewhere in the jungle) yesterday. It is about 15 minutes by boat from the nearby community, from which all our meals re being sent. The camp is very basic, with one “long drop” toilet and showers in the form of river water in a bucket. We have one small communal area in the form of a few benches underneath a big tarpaulin, but apart from that we really are very much in the heart of the jungle. As such, we have been lucky enough to see an abundance of wildlife, particularly on our early morning river cruises. We have been here no more than 24 hours and so far I have seen a couple of ocelots, a wild orangutan, a giant stick insect, a few crocodiles, kingfishers, stalks, all sorts of monkeys, big and beautiful butterflies and on our latest visit to the loo an enormous lizard (probably 1 metre long!).
The project work we are doing here (of which we have completed one day as I write this) aims to restore the rainforest through tree planting. So today we were using machetes to hack down grass so that we can begin planting 200 tiny tree saplings.
Our bus journey from Camp Bongkud took about 4 hours and during our stop en route we made an amazing discovery – Cadbury’s Dairy Milk! Finding such a brand far from home was an exciting luxury – even if it didn’t taste quite the same as at home! Our last night in Camp Bongkud was great fun with a “super heroes” theme. There were some very creative outfits given our lack of resources, although for the majority of people, underwear over the top of clothes sufficed.
From the beach on Mantanani Island – written 25 July - Hola! We have now arrived at Mantanani Island where we are spending 9 days doing our PADI Open Water diving qualification amongst other things. We arrived here at about 9am yesterday morning after an exceptionally early start from Kota Kinabalu. So far we have just been settling in really, messing around on the beach and a village orientation visit. This morning we have had an introduction to the camp Marine Conservation Programme for the surrounding area. One of the main issues is that a lot of the locals use the blast fishing technique which is destroying the habitat of the very fish they are trying to catch.
Our accommodation here is the best we have had so far (excluding hostels). We are staying in bunk beds on 3 tiers with mossie nets hung over the top. This camp also has a well stocked shop on the site and there are a couple more a few minutes walk away in the village. The Advanced Open Water divers started their diving very early this morning, but I think for the rest of us we are learning all about the kit this afternoon. The landscape here is, as expected, very beautiful – particularly at first glance. There are, however, issues with rubbish (mainly plastics) being dumped a lot, especially on the white sand beaches. Despite only 8 of us being allowed in at a time, everyone is enjoying the lovely, clear blue sea which at the surface is a very pleasant temperature.
Continuing my theme of summer preparations, today i want to talk about Camp Bongkud. Bongkud is our most visited camp during the summer months with most teams passing through at some point. Hence it has some pretty juicy projects to get stuck into. The camp is having a minor refurbishment with new roofing on the communal area and a new larger storeroom. We are also looking at putting in a reed bed system to filter some of the grey water coming out of the kitchen and wash areas. The projects are big too with the old favourites of the community hall construction and gravity water feed still needing plenty of work. In particular, we are currently working very hard on the community hall to get all the steel uprights and cross beams in place, as well as all the roofing, before the summer teams arrive. This is more technical work which is not suited to school teams, especially clambering around on the roof 20 ft up! Once the roof is up we can start the hard work of putting up all the interior and exterior walls. We have decided to make and use our own bricks for the community hall, saving money but also more importantly reducing our environmental footprint and hopefully demonstrating to the community that manually made and pressed bricks from local soil really do work. And guess whose making all the bricks? Yep thats right, the school teams – we are finishing off the hand press for the bricks as i write. We need about 8400 bricks we reckon, and there are 40 days of teams in the camp – so thats 210 bricks a day. We reckon we can do it but its going to be hard graft with perhaps the teams taking shifts on the brick press – we will probably have a daily competition to see which team can churn out the most bricks. Of course it won’t all be brick making – there will be brick laying which needs to be of a high quality to ensure the walls are straight and don’t fall down, some plastering and other general tasks. In addition the gravity water feed still needs a lot of work doing with drainage channels to be dug and wire cages (gabions) to be filled with rocks, and also the laying of a new concrete slab base – so loads of hard manual labour. We have also been asked by the chief of the village, who is also our project foreman, to assist with extending the existing kindergarten so it has 2 classrooms – this we obviously agreed to and will find the cash from somewhere – we reckon about GBP 1000 to do it and of course we will use our own bricks again – more bricks to be made! We have already made quite an impression at the kindergarten with various school teams adding a new toilet, a new kitchen area, more covered areas and a concrete path around the outside as well as some pretty murals and painting. By adding another classroom we will be able to really make a difference.
So all in all there is plenty of work to be done in Bongkud by the visiting teams. This will be interspersed with the usual dance lessons, musical instruments and singing practice, some traditional arts and crafts, english teaching, local cooking and some permaculture work. It’ll be a very busy summer for anyone going to Bongkud!