Chicken bum & the jungle

A slightly bizarre name to a blog post yes. Chicken bum refers to my 2nd experience at the philipino market last week where I was told I simply must try the chicken bum. Basically like chicken breast but with hard bits in it. A tick in the box for sure. Not to my taste…


Well I have only been here two weeks and already I feel like I have been here ages and done so much. The philipino market was great fun. Right along the waterfront of Kota Kinabalu. Every night of the week they set up the food market where you can either buy fresh produce or sit and eat freshly cooked food. There are rows upon rows of fish stalls and meat stalls. You can buy 5 chicken satay skewers for 5 ringit which is about £1. To drink we had a bizarre combination of hot and cold water in a plastic cup with lots of sugar and lemon inside. Once stirred it creates my new favourite drink. You should probably try it. When the venturers arrive the whole expedition becomes non alcoholic right up until the 14th December when they leave and we go on a 2 day holiday to a beautiful island (where they filmed the first ‘survivor’ reality series apparently) so after our noodles and meat we strolled further along the waterfront to a cocktail bar where it was happy hour. So two for one on drinks. Again these two cocktails cost me about £5 in total. Probably a good thing there is an alcohol ban eh….

The taxi on the way back to Raleigh  house/field base was a delight. There was a karaoke machine inside. The driver pulled down the passenger mirror and there was a mini screen displaying words to the most ridiculously cheesy songs which we belted out at the top of our voices on the way back to Raleigh house. Absolutely hilarious. The Malay appear to be a tad bit obsessed with karaoke. In fact it would appear we are all having a karaoke night next week before all the venturers arrive. 



In our karaoke taxi. The driver knew all the words.





Fish everywhere



Walking through the market




Noodle soup and chicken satay skewers




Our two “leaders”. We of course followed.


As I feared/hoped the food has been incredible. Loli our cook is incredible and we have the most incredible food. Our schedule for the rest of the week included a fair amount of eating out. Wednesday Thursday and Friday was spent getting our heads around our job roles. A lot of spreadsheets to get to grips with along with counting stock food and equipment. We had to do checks on the vehicles (the land rovers we use are called ‘bravos’) They are a lot of fun and next week we get an off roading lesson. 


Basically there are 3 phases to each Raleigh expedition. (For the venturers) the first phase starting second wk of October. Each phase is 19 days and in between each phase the venturers return to base camp (in the jungle) for 36 hours before going not the next phase. Each venturer will do an environmental phase, a community project phase and an adventure phase. On this whole expedition there will be about 60 venturers that make up 6 alpha teams of about 12 venturers. Each alpha group then has two/three PM’s ( project managers – they arrived a week after us) so in total there are 6 projects going on every phase.


Alpha 1 – kindergarten project. We build a kindergarten in one expedition (over the three phases) for a village. This is a community project and the team will live in the village for 19 days sleeping in a building and getting to know the village. 


Alpha 2 – gravity water feed construction. Again another community project. A bit more hard work. This is again something that through the phases we will complete in 10 weeks. A lot of trekking up and down a hill to set up water tanks and then place the piping all the way back down to the village where eventually smaller pipes run off into every home so they have fresh water. 


Alpha 3 – Imbak canyon building an entire new suspension bridge. This is in a very beautiful part of Borneo some hours away into the jungle where they will be building a bridge across some falls in order for researchers to get across to the other side. This isn’t trekking but when the venturers are on phase there they will be sleeping in hammocks in the jungle!! 


Alpha 4 – Danum valley another environmental project. Only doing two phases here. One to collect tools left there from the last expedition, and the second phase to complete/repair part of an existing suspension bridge.


Alpha 5/6 – These are the adventure phases. Dive/trek or trek/dive. Basically they will spend a week doing a dive course where they will also be doing reports on the marine life and coral etc. and then the second part is an adventure trek sleeping and living and trekking through Borneo’s jungle. 


On each phase the logs team (my team) get to go on ‘loops’ to each site (apart from the trek teams) to bring out the Raleigh shop and replenish any equipment or food. So other than that I will be mainly based in the city. Apart from at changeover when everyone is at base camp.


On Friday we had to go to base camp (just logs team) to go and do an inventory on the container there where there is equipment and some food left from the last expedition. It was cool to go and see base camp first before anyone else. It’s like a scout retreat centre. Obviously lots of other people go and use the facilities and the surrounding jungle for events, training and even corporate retreats etc. it’s a beautiful wide open space of jungle with a river at the bottom. There are static bashas set up ( basically tarp and hammocks already there ready for us to sleep in on changeover and training days) 


On Saturday we had a day off to do what we wanted. We decided to go as a group to a shangri-La about an hour out of the city. This is a resort that has a baby orangu tan sanctuary. It also happens to be where will and Kate stayed when they came out here last year. It was literally stunning. We lazed on the beach all morning and then walked into the jungle to see the orange monkeys 🙂 really incredible.




Relaxing on the beach
















The only issue that has somewhat marred my first week is that I got incredibly sunburned on my lower legs. Despite putting on masses of suncream, the malaria tablets I am taking make my skin extra sensitive to sunlight. Within 24 hours my legs and feet were swollen to double their normal size. And to this day ( currently a week later) they have only just gone down. So I have not been a happy bunny. I was only in the sun an hour sunbathing which is incredible. But it did mean that I didn’t get sunstroke or dehydration etc. I did feel incredibly uncomfortable though the first night and didn’t stay long out…


On the sunday the PMs arrived into the country. I had to do an airport run, and our field base team saw the house double in population in less than two hours!! The next two weeks will be pretty full on training and preparing for when the venturers arrive. On the first night we went out for food together in Lintas which is the area of KK in which we reside! Then a few beers afterward. This is when I left early due to pain and being uncomfortable. I couldn’t believe the reaction my body has had to my malaria tablets. It is genuinely like a degree burn. 


Anyhow. Once the PMs arrived there was a lot of similar evening entertainments. We went to the market again, and then we spent the days prepping for the jungle training. This was 2 days out in the jungle and staying at base camp one night too. For logistics this is a very busy time getting to grips with rations and splitting everything into teams ( we split into two teams for the PM jungle training) 


We left (logs) on Wednesday morning at 6 am to drive to base camp and set up equipment etc. and then all the other PMs arrived by bus later. Base camp really is stunning and our first night in the static hammocks was really awesome. Jungle sounds and the sound of the river. I thought that was awesome, but then on day two we trekked out into real thick jungle where we had to set up our own hammocks in the trees. With tarps over the top of us and mozzy nets and backpacks full of equipment and food. We set up a communal area too where we ate. There was a small stream right next to us where we bathed and washed. I have never perspired so much in my life trekking into that jungle!! 


The idea of jungle training is mainly for the PMs to learn and for us to learn and appreciate all the things we will be doing with the venturers. On the adventure trek there will probably only ever be about 3 hours of trek simply because of the procedures that happen either side. You have to set up camp by dark, so mostly you would arrive wherever you are staying the night by 3pm to set up everything, this includes making a long drop, collecting water to purify, setting up personal tarps and hammocks etc. it was a really good insight into what the venturers will be doing. And I get to do another night of this on the venturer induction week.


I can’t explain with enough description how incredible it was to sleep/not really sleep at all in the jungle. It hammered it down with monsoonal rain all evening. It was even raining when we were in the stream. The hammock you lay on (which is a mission to get into) sways in the wind and with the movement of the trees. I was petrified of waking up to find a snake in my hammock. So much so that I barely slept and just listened to the (VERY noisy) sounds of the jungle dipping in and out of sleep. At one point I woke up to a pressure on my right leg. I honestly thought it was a creature of some sort and after about 10 minutes decided to switch on my head torch to face the beast! It was however my water bottle…. I think the jungle plays with your mind. In fact the locals here believe in the jungle spirits and there are very strict rules of behaviour in the jungle, as well as legends and myths that the believe so strongly and have taught raleigh over the years. I was day leader the next day and therefore had to wake everyone up at 5am to take down camp and trek out of the jungle and back to base camp. The lower half of my hammock was swarming with ants. (Do ants swarm?) it was not nice. 


Most definitely type 2 fun; the type whilst during the activity you wonder why on earth you are there and thinking of a warm cosy bed with air con and cleanliness and soft pillows. But then after its over it takes you about two seconds to realise how incredible of an experience you just had. 


 Anyway this is a long blog. I shall write more often and less from now on…. 





Dim sung breakfast before the PMs arrived




All the new PMs and field base staff out at the markets




Base camp bamboo hut








Cook off at base camp with Raleigh food rations. Our team won!! 




Drumming session at base camp




Static hammocks




Off on trek




In the jungle setting up hammock and tarp! 




Dinner time




Bathing in the river




Nap time!! Exhausted!!




Inside my mozzy net hammock 












So! I have arrived in Borneo! 

The flights over to Kota Kinabalu (the main city of Sabah Malaysian Borneo) were not the most pleasant. When I boarded at heathrow the pilot explained that the last four hours were going to be full of turbulents as we would be going through monsoon storms over the Bay of Bengal.

The first leg was fine, the plane was one of those double decker panes: huge. But as promised the last four hours felt like we were on some sort of crazy rollercoaster. The lady next to me was obviously a frequent flyer as she just continued watching something that was apparently very funny and kept laughing every now and then. Which was I suppose relatively comforting but actually when I thought about it rather weird. I was very happy to land in Singapore where as soon as you step off the plane you can feel the humidity sinking through your bones! 

After an hour and a half wait I boarded a 2 hour flight to KK. Much smaller flight, and it was daytime so at least you could see everything. However again there were turbulents. I finally landed at about 11.00am KK time and the day looked to be a good one. Blue skies, sunshine and stunning scenery as we came into land. Kind of felt we were going to land in the water as we literally didn’t touch the ground until what appeared to be about 10 meters from the water!

But I made it! A huge sense of relief and then a moment to get my head round the fact I am here for just over 3 months and that the next few weeks are going to be fully packed with training and learning.

I met philli the rep out here at the airport where we waited for another girl zahna and her flight to arrive and then the three of us headed back to field base in one of the famous raleigh land rovers. 

Field base was far more than I expected. It is basically a house in a lovely suburb and is rather huge. The main offices are based here along with our bedrooms, living areas, big room with a projector/cinema room. Lovely outdoor space, air con, kitchen (where Loli our cook makes delicious food for us everyday) and there is wi fi! So a lot more glam than I had originally thought it would be.

We met all the other advance team, there are 9 of us in total. We are basically the team that remains at field base the majority of the time. In my team of logistics there are two others, Natalie and Alister. Everyone seems really lovely. The in country host is called mac and he’s been living out here for many years, and then the other in country rep is a guy called Chris who had just come from another Raleigh project in Tanzania, and at the beginning of the year had done this Borneo one too, so this was his third expedition on a trot!! 

After a tour of the field base and then being able to get changed (jeans were proving pretty stifling by this point) we then had lunch together. At about 3pm we had a health and safety briefing followed by watching a few intro videos to show us what our time in Borneo may be like. I found it pretty hard not to fall asleep. After this I got to have a power nap before we all walked a few blocks away where we were to have dinner. This was at a open plan bar restaurant serving Malaysian style food. We were give water to drink which had sugar and lemon in it and was very refreshing. I will have to keep on top of my water intake here. At least 5-8 litres a day. Pretty hot I tell you! We ate such things as rice and noodles and meat all prepared and spiced in a totally foreign way and delicious! I hadn’t really eaten anything on the planes. Call it nerves. So I was pretty hungry. After food we went to a bar called the brass monkey where I had a tiger beer. It wasn’t a late night we were all pretty exhausted and so back to field base for sleepy time.


Every morning we have a meeting at 9am where each member of the field base team runs through what they are doing for the day. We then do an energising warm up and crack on with the day. My first day consisted of reading the previous end of expedition reports. Basically this outlines the logistics role and what order and when we should be doing things. There is heaps to do and a lot of this advance week is really for us to get our heads around it all before the rest of the VM’s arrive (volunteer managers) Loli made us lunch and dinner which was again delicious. In the afternoon myself, Natalie and Alister (logistics team) had our driving assessment. Those land rovers are pretty bulky loud and heavy machines to operate! We each took turns to drive around the city and as well as getting a hang of the vehicle it was to orientate ourselves of local spots we will be visiting a lot in the next few months. Thankfully in Malaysian Borneo they drive on the same side of the car and road to us so its not too hard to pick up. But the local drivers are nuts. Literally NO signalling, cutting in all over the place and generally just a nightmare. Apart from within the city we are not allowed to drive at night. No roads are lit up and there are no cats eyes. It’s pretty dangerous and due to a Raleigh fatality a few years ago at night it is now a strict part of Raleigh code not to drive at night. Quite understandably. And in all honesty I am relieved about this. Day time is crazy enough! 


After dinner me Natalie and Alister ventured out on our own to drop Loli (the cook) back to her home on the sea front (one of those houses on stilts) however it happened to be Malaysia day. I believe this is the celebration of the Sabah region in Borneo joining the rest of Malaysia. Once we got downtown we were at a stand still for 40 minutes. Even in the evening it’s pretty boiling and we were all still pretty exhausted too! Loli eventually got out and walked home with a friend she had spotted, and eventually the traffic moved so we could u-turn and make our way back to field base. 


Here we then ate dinner altogether, chatted and eventually we all decided to watch a movie together. We chose ‘life as we know it’ funny rom com. People began to drop to sleep, and when the film finally finished at midnight I was definitely ready for sleep!! 


Today, Tuesday, has been pretty busy making to do lists, reading through literature, all 3 of us LOGs team went out separately at different points to run errands for people. My brain is literally fried!


Tonight we are going to the Philippine market where we will eat dinner and then head to a bar to chill out with a few beverages before returning back to FB. So much to do!! 


Over and out x



View from the girls bedroom balcony




Driving long the waterfront in the city




Bravo 1 (there are 3 bravos/land rovers)




Looking pretty tired drinking sugar water 1st night




More interesting venue names to follow. Some are very rude….




View from the other side of the balcony at back of the house




Tiger beer








Driving around the city




Monsoon weather about to kick in…