Tolkien Ponderings

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep…that have taken hold.

J.R.R. Tolkien

So… During my time at field base during phase one, I have been delighted to get engrossed in several tv series and movies. Most excitingly being the extended versions of The Lord of the rings trilogy of which I have never seen before and have just finished watching tonight.


I am a big fan of the movies. Having read the books I can safely say that unlike countless other book to film adaptions, Peter Jackson has excelled in bringing the genius of Tolkien’s written word to life. And just like that sad and bizarrely lost feeling that may assemble within ones self at the end of reading an incredibly good book; this feeling is replicated -for me anyway- at the end of watching these interpretations and adaptions of such great literature. Not something that can be said for many films I have watched that have been adapted to screenplay from books.


I highly expect that for every book there are millions of interpretations. Differing from one person to another. Ideas of characters that form in your head so clearly that the reason you are so disappointed when it comes to watching the adapted screen play is because they never quite really do your own imaginations justice. I know this is stating the obvious, but even now, beyond 10 years since the fellowship of the ring was released into your local movie theatre, I continue to be amazed at the films’ sheer brilliance in matching so many of my own portrayals of characters within them.


I’m not intentionally doing a review here. But it has to be said that the extended versions do piece together a lot more of the story. Admittedly there are parts that are still missed: Saruman being killed off too early, Frodo and sam returning to the shire that is seemingly untainted by the other goings on around middle earth…


….And this is what got me thinking. Not just about the movies, but about life, and the inevitable changes and the inevitable parts of life that stay the same and what happens when we come home.


Particularly it got me thinking about the situation I am in. Being far from home, on an adventure of my own, seeing and experiencing new things every day.


I vividly remember (having experienced travel during my gap year and last year of uni) telling anyone who was about to go travel for the first time, and in particular to my brother Sam who has just returned from living in Chicago for a year; that they are to make the most of it, don’t miss home too much! embrace the new world, as upon arrival back home not much seems to have changed when you return. Within a week you’ll be back to feeling like that last period of your life/travel is so far away and feels almost like it didn’t happen. Or that at the least it suddenly feels like a very short space of time in which you were away.


I think I mentioned in a previous blog from America this sense/feeling that everything and nothing changes all at once.


As soon as you land back home you are transported back to the last time you were there, the last time you saw your friends down the pub, albeit a month or a year; suddenly that space in between is squashed. No one at home has had that same experience as you, you can talk about it, sure, but really you’ll be back to talking about life as you/they know it. Who’s going out with who, what happened last Saturday etc etc


The same feeling occurs whilst you are actually away. You may be experiencing and doing all these new crazy fun things but when it comes to contact with home and friends and loved ones, you tend to talk about the last time you saw each other, or even, bizarrely start planning for the next time you’ll see each other.


Those people at home cannot always relate to what you have experienced and therefore can only contribute by filling in the gaps of what’s happened while you have been away.


The truth is, or rather, what I have realised is that everything really has changed. Predominantly because you have changed. The depth of change can be subtle and even take a long time to reveal itself in your habits, lifestyle or indeed physicality and thoughts.


At the end of the return of the king movie you see samwise stroll up to Rosie (who he has fancied since the fellowship of the ring – if not before) and pretty much marry her. Something that he had not the strength nor courage to do before. We see Frodo leave the shire, a longing adventurous spirit that has always been there, but perhaps he has always felt held back by family duties and the fact that he has such great friends in the shire. We see Aragorn go from the little confidence in himself due to the failings of previous members of his bloodline to then becoming the king of all men on middle earth. All because of the building up of experiences they had whilst they were away.


I’m not saying I’m going to return to the UK and with a new found sense of confidence and courage seek out prince harry -who i am obviously destined to be with- who will fall madly in love with me and marry me so i become a princess….but what I am saying is that being away from your norm, from your routine, from the expectations of your ‘world’, well it personally makes me feel really alive.


Never do you feel your mortality as much as you do as when you are away from the normal perhaps task based existence of your day to day life at ‘home’.


I tend to look back a lot on my life, like what I could have done, what I could of said, what situations I would have avoided if I could go back. Therefore when I look forward I tend to want to know what is coming. Planning and scheming in my head a perfect picture of how things are going to pan out.


I can’t really do that here. A good reason being because i don’t yet have a return flight or have figured out where I am going next!

Certain situations arose before I left that left me confused and with a lot to think about. When I spoke to a friend out here about this, he listened and then said to me that I can’t be in two places. If my body is here and my mind is somewhere else, then really I am not doing this experience justice. Nothing can be done about left behind situations or perhaps dilemmas until they come to fruition once again. IE there is nothing I can do about what happens when I return right now. Even planning and talking about it leads to dissatisfaction, impatience and to be honest non realistic future intent and gestures.


I am here, present in Borneo. And here I must absorb.


How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep…that have taken hold.


This quote from the film end by Frodo is what set me up on this blog rambling. I don’t associate many things from home with hurt or regret. And those that I do i have learnt from and would never put myself in those situations again. But I can relate to the ‘no going back’ part. For the context in which I return from whatever new experiences I have in life (not just travel) back to home mean that I will never quite be the same or back to who I was before.


It’s probably the middle if the afternoon back in the UK and this is the deep ramblings of me, the other side of the world at 11pm, tired and having just been thrust back into the reality where hobbits, rings of power and elves don’t exist.


So with not wanting to sound too much more like a complete lord of the rings geek, which I wouldn’t say I was…


I’m not sure if there is really a conclusion to this one. To conclude would be to conform to the fact that these thoughts of mine are over. But really they are happening all the time.


My brain hurts. I’m going to sleep…


It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.



Surprise Visit

Tomorrow I am going on an unexpected trip up to the north of Sabah to a town called Kota Marudu. 


I am accompanying/driving a lady called Zed who is out here working for Raleigh on the future developments, strategies and visions of Raleigh Borneo.


We shall be attending meetings tomorrow afternoon with local partners and then staying overnight in a hotel in Kota Marudu. 


On Friday we are being driven by a local guide called Eddy to see previous project sites where Raleigh have worked specifically constructing gravity water feed systems. After this we will go to visit and stay a night with Alpha 2 (where Tim is!) and see the progress of their work in a very small village where they are also constructing a gravity water feed system!!


I am excited and privileged to be given this opportunity to get more of an insight into the future of Raleigh Borneo, and also to get out of the office and see Tim!


The loop team have already visited Alpha 2 and they got very stuck on the roads coming both in and out of the village. So much so that they had to come back tofield base  as the back of the landrover had a window smash!! Was all a bit of drama but they seemed to have found it a fun experience and we waved them off to Aloha 3 at 6am this morning for the final leg if the loop 🙂


Looking forward to this unexpected trip and will report back in at the weekend!!



The returned landrover. Alpha 2 and the locals had to come and help dig it out! 




The smashed back window!



The loop team for phase one ready to leave again this morning at 6am with related and cleaned land rover and smiles all round!!  

Borneo Fact Time

So I am sat in a cafe called ‘red plaice’ that doesn’t particularly smell or show signs of selling fish at all… But I am waiting for one of the landrovers to be fitted with 4 new tyres (can take up to 3 hours) and thought I could do a little blog on Borneo and interest you (potentially) about its history and general facts… So here it goes…


Political divisions of Borneo


*Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the largest island of Asia.


*The island is divided among three countries: Brunei and Malaysia in the north, and Indonesia to the south.

*Approximately 73% of the island is Indonesian territory. In the north, the Malaysian states of Sabah (where i am) and Sarawak along with the federal territory of Labuan make up about 26% of the island. The sovereign state of Brunei, located on the north coast, comprises about 1% of Borneo’s land area. Borneo is home to one of the oldest rain forests in the world.


*Borneo is surrounded by the South China sea to the north and northwest, the Sulu sea to the northeast, the Celebes sea and the Makassar strait to the east, and the Java sea and Karimata strait to the south.

*To the west of Borneo are the Malay peninsula and Sumatra.To the south and east are islands of Indonesia: Java and Sulawesi respectively. To the northeast are the Philippines.

*Its highest point is mount Kinabalu which you can see from our field-base house and it has an elevation of 4,095 m (13,435 ft).

*Borneo has significant cave systems. Clearwater Cave, for example, has one of the world’s longest underground rivers. Deer cave is home to over three million bats with guano accumulated to over 100 metres (330 ft) deep.

*Before sea levels rose at the end of the last ice age Borneo was part of the mainland of Asia, forming, with Java and Sumatra, the upland regions of a peninsula that extended east from present day Indochina.

*The South China sea and Gulf of Thailand now submerge the former low-lying areas of the peninsula. Deeper waters separating Borneo from neighbouring Sulawesi prevented a land connection to that island, creating the divide between Asian and Australia-New Guinea biological regions, known as Wallace’s line.


True-color satellite image of the island of Borneo on 14 May 2012


*The Borneo rainforest is 130 million years old, making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world.

*There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants with 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of terrestrial mammals and 420 species of resident birds in Borneo.

*There are about 440 freshwater fish species in Borneo (about the same as Sumatra and Java combined).

*The Borneo rainforest is one of the few remaining natural habitats for the endangered Bornean orangutan.

*It is an important refuge for many endemic forest species, including the Asian elephant, the sumatran rhinoceros, the Bornean clouded leopard, the Hose’s civet and the Dayak fruit bat.

*In 2010 the world wide fund for nature stated that 123 species have been discovered in Borneo since the “Heart of Borneo” agreement was signed in 2007.

*The island historically had extensive rainforest cover, but the area was reduced due to heavy logging for the Malaysian and Indonesian plywood industry.

*Half of the annual globaltropical timber acquisition comes from Borneo.

*Palm oil plantations have been widely developed and are rapidly encroaching on the last remnants of primary rainforest.

*Forest fires of 1997 to 1998, started by the locals to clear the forests for crops and kept going by an exceptionally dry El niño season during that period, further reduced the rainforest. During the great fire, hotspots could be seen on satellite images; the resulting haze spread and affected the surrounding countries of Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Early history


*According to ancient Chinese, Indian and Javanese manuscripts, western coastal cities of Borneo had become trading ports by the first millennium.

*In Chinese manuscripts, gold, camphor, tortoise shells, hornbill ivory, rhinoceros horn, crane crest, beeswax, lakawood, dragons blood, rattan, edible birds nests and various spices were described as among the most valuable items from Borneo.

*The indians named Borneo Suvarnabhumi (the land of gold) and also Karpuradvipa (Camphor Island).

*The Javanese named Borneo piradvipa, or Diamond Island.

*Archeological findings in the Sarawak river delta reveal that the area was a thriving trading centre between India and China from the 500s until about 1300 AD.


Dayaks, the natives of Borneo in their traditional war dress. headhunting was an important part of Dayak culture.


*By the 14th century, Borneo was under the control of the Majapahit kingdom based in present-day Indonesia. Muslims entered the island and converted many of the indigenous peoples to Islam.

Dutch and British control

*The Sultanate of Brunei granted large parts of land in Sarawak in 1842 to the English adventurer James brooke as reward for his having helped quell a local rebellion. Brooke established the Kingdom of Sarawak and was recognized as its rajah after paying a fee to the Sultanate. He established a monarchy, and the Brooke dynasty (through his nephew and great-nephew) ruled Sarawak for 100 years; the leaders were known as the White rajahs.


A large log being placed on a railroad car at Batottan, British North Borneo in 1926


*In the early 19th century, British and Dutch governments signed the Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1874 to exchange trading ports under their controls and assert spheres of influence. This resulted in indirectly establishing British – and Dutch – controlled areas in Borneo, in the north and south, respectively.

*China has had long historical trading links with the inhabitants of the island. Some Chinese beads and wares have been found deep into the interior of Borneo. The Malay and Sea Dayak pirates preyed on maritime shipping in the waters between Singapore and Hong Kong from their haven in Borneo.

*The British north borneo company controlled the territory of North Borneo (present-day Sabah) from 1882 to 1941.

World War II

*During World War II, Japanese forces gained control and occupied Borneo (1941–45). They decimated many local populations and killed Malay intellectuals.

*Sultan Muhammad Ibrahim Shafi ud-din II of Sambas in Kalimantan was executed in 1944. The Sultanate was thereafter suspended and replaced by a Japanese council.

*During the Japanese occupation, the Dayak played a role in guerrilla warfare against the occupying forces, particularly in the Kapit Division. They temporarily revived headhunting of Japanese toward the end of the war.

*Allied Z special unit provided assistance to them. After the fall of Singapore, the Japanese sent several thousand British and Australian prisoners of war to camps in Borneo.

*At one of the worst sites, around Sandakan in Borneo, only six of some 2,500 prisoners survived.

*In 1945 the island was liberated by the allies from the Japanese.

Recent history

*Borneo was the main site of the confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia between 1962 and about 1969.

*The British army was deployed against the Indonesians and communist revolts to gain control of the whole area. Before the formation of Malaysian Federation, the Philippines claimed that the Malaysian state of Sabah was within their territory. They based this on the history of the Sultanate of Sulu’s leasing agreement with the British North Borneo Company.

*The demonym for Borneo is Bornean or Bornese.


*Borneo has 19,800,000 inhabitants a population density of 26 inhabitants per square km.

*Most of the population lives in coastal cities, although the inner land has small towns and villages along the rivers.

*The population consists mainly of Malay, Banjar, Chinese and Dayak ethnic groups.

*The Chinese, who make up 29% of the population of Sarawak and 17% of total population in West Kalimantan Indonesia; are descendants of immigrants primarily from southeastern China.

*The religion of the majority of the population in Kalimantan (indonesian borneo) is Muslim and some indigenous groups continue to practice animism. But, approximately 91% of the Dayak are Christian, a religion introduced by missionaries in the 19th century.

*In Central Kalimantan is a small Hindu minority. In the interior of Borneo are the Penan, some of who still live as nomadic hunter-gatherers.

*Some coastal areas have marginal settlements of the Bajau, who historically lived in a sea-oriented, boat-dwelling, nomadic culture.

*In the northwest of Borneo, the Dayak ethnic group is represented by the Ibam, with about 710,000 members.

*Since the 1990s, the indigenous Dayak have resisted encroachment by migrants. Violent conflict has occurred between some transmigrant and indigenous populations.

*In Kalimantan, thousands were killed in 2001 fighting between Madurese transmigrants and the Dayak people.

*Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Malaysian Borneo has a population of 651,658 people.


There we go. Special thanks to Wikipedia and other random websites for the above collected information!


I want to do a separate blog with regards to the palm oil industry here and the deforestation of Borneo too. the palm oil industry is something that we discussed and debated about purposefully at the beginning of this expedition in order to get more of an idea of local/Malay point if view; and for me, not knowing a lot about the palm oil issue it was an education. Upon learning about it I am now trying to construct my own opinion on the matter based on facts given to me! So watch this space for a blog about palm oil…


Cabin Fever…


Venturer induction week done, and onto phase one!

Phase one see’s me at field base in the city. I’m not due to go anywhere this phase, so its 19 days in the house, and perhaps a few occasions to drive around the city on errands. Mainly I will be organising for phase two. Ordering the food, getting together any more equipment requests for each project group. Each project group (apart from the two trek groups) are visited by the loop that left 2 days ago. So up until they left each project group got a chance to ask for more equipment, food etc.


Some of the requests were increasingly frustrating. Extra food (they can’t seem to ration properly they had more than enough food!) equipment that they didn’t foresee needing and now need. But this is the whole point of the loop, so we just have to get on with it! The loop also take around the shop, so we had to go shopping for more bits and bobs before the loop left. Then they also take personal blog posts and general post out to the venturers and PM’s.


The day after we got back from base camp was Kris’s birthday, so field base staff arranged an evening of ridiculousness. This included cake, party games like; sardines, wink murder, hunt, musical chairs, pass the parcel, consequences, and our very own version of pin the tail on the donkey. Our own version was called ‘THE FINISHER’ Kris is renowned for finishing off peoples food at field base. For instance a take away pizza I got had mysteriously vanished from the fridge. Well the box didn’t, just the pizza in it. Like seriously, who puts an empty pizza box BACK in the fridge. Its almost like putting an empty milk carton back in the fridge back home (mum I can now sympathise) Kris has also finished bread, cookies and all sorts. Debs and I have to come up with names for the PM’s by the end of the expedition. These names will go on their t-shirts. So Kris’s is the first name thought of. Due to his reputation we made him eat the remainder of his cake with no hands. This we got on film and I will put online soon 🙂







Me and Nat had a day off together on the monday, and so we disappeared to the waterfront where we had lunch at the meridian hotel and i got a 90 minute full body massage. Really needed after all the heavy lifting and tiredness fo the last week or so!! Afterwards we wondered around the markets and bought a few bits and bobs. The day before – Sunday –  we had had a chilled out day of Sunday TV viewing. this included a David Attenborough episode, some of the IT crowd and then a detective 2-part series. Was just like being at home!!









On the Tuesday i spent the whole day blitzing the logs food store. It needed a serious clean and ruthless sort out. It felt good to throw lots of things away and clean the whole place out i tell ye!! Then i did an inventory of all the food at the same time and worked out what food we needed to order for next phase, and then ordered it!



 So relatively on top of the game with regards to LOGS duties.


Managed to speak to Tim over the radio on a confidential comms. Think he was just having a hard time adjusting to yet another new environment. And probably testing the water to see if i actually was just at the end of the radio….bless him. Big exciting times for him!! Hoping he is learning a lot about himself and really getting involved!


So the loop left on Saturday morning for Alpha one. On the loop was Kris, Debs, Nat and Alistair. So i am the only logs person left along with Jen our medic and Linda, who had just returned from her week with Alpha 3 in Imbak Canyon. So just the three of us here at field base!!! Its very quiet, and I feel I may get cabin fever…. Mac the country director comes in every day to work in the office, and stays slightly later in the evenings now there are only 3 of us here. Its quite fun!


On Sunday we had a day off and I decided to cook for our little gang. A ‘Becky salad’ for lunch, followed by steak and chips in the evening. Then we watched the first lord of the rings extended edition before doing radio Raleigh. Every Sunday at 4pm we do a radio Raleigh. Essentially all the project groups tune into the radio and field base feed them with the latest news, sports news and entertainment news. Then each alpha get a chance to give us an update on their news too. Its a fun thing to do, and we spent the morning trying to find out the most random bits of news we could find. I also did a stupid facts section. It went as follows:


  • Did you know that more monopoly money is printed each year than actual real money all over the world?
  • A pregnant goldfish is called a twit
  • If one places a tiny amount of liquor on a scorpion, it will instantly go mad and sting itself to death. (wish i’d known this one after the blog the other day….)
  •  The capital of Canada is Ottowa
  •  Most American car horns honk in the key of F. 
  • The name Wendy was made up for the book “Peter Pan.” 
  • No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver and purple. 
  • A giraffe can go without water longer than a camel 
  • There is approximately one chicken for every human being in the world
  • Only female mosquito’s’ bite and most are attracted to the color blue twice as much as to any other color. 

So there we go, so random useless facts….

After radio Raleigh we had another Sunday night viewing including more of the IT crowd and also a 3 part series called Exile. Worth the watch!!

Also managed to face time my mum and dad who are somewhere in the south china sea after leaving Ho Chi Min City in Vietnam. Its bizarre thinking they are probably within a couple of hours of where I am! Me and Tim here and the other boys all back in the UK. It feels bizarre that we are all so spread out. Mum and dad go to komodo island next on their cruise and then finish off there cruise in Darwin Australia in about 5 days time! Can’t believe the time is going so fast!!