Stewart Island

I am aware I have not kept quite on top of this blog of late. Several reasons why but nevertheless I shall now endeavour to fill you in.

After the majestic and stunning doubtful sound, we made our way down to bluff. This is the town on one of the lowest tips of the South Island of New Zealand. We passed through Invercargill, stopping at a museum to see real living dinasaurs (genuinely) and from here headed to bluff for one night before departing by ferry to Stewart Island. The ‘anchor’ of New Zealand.

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Venturer Induction Work

So! After 3 weeks of hardcore training and fun, the venturers finally arrived to put all our lessons and training to test. For the logs team this is the busiest time for us. We had to set off to base camp early to meet ‘hin gen’ – who we ordered all the food off – and then the same morning we had organised for a flatbed truck to pick up all the equipment from field base and take to base camp. However the flat bed truck never arrived. Therefore we left without any equipment but arrived in time to get the delivery of food and load it all into one of the army tents for distribution into alpha groups later. 

 

At base camp there is a central bamboo hut where we all have breakfast lunch and dinner. During venturer induction week and changeover the mobile office and shop are based upstairs. There is also a container in which Raleigh keeps bits and bobs between expeditions and between phases. Things like gas canisters and stoves and kettles and tarpaulin. It is also up to logs to set up the bamboo hut.

 

So already tired we then greeted the arrival of the venturers. At this point I was really excited to see Tim!! He had been picked up with the rest of the venturers at the airport and taken straight to a swim test at the city swimming pool we use (also where the Malaysian team trained for the 2012 Olympics!)!

When Tims coach pulled up it panned round and we were all stood there waving. I was searching for Tim amongst the faces on the bus all smiling and waving, and then there he was! Fast asleep on the back seat of the coach!! Was very funny. When he opened his eyes he saw me and looked very confused!! 

 

 

 

Once off the bus we had many hugs over the course of the afternoon. I however had to disappear back off to field base for the night with nat so that we could be there for the flatbed truck at 7am the next day. We arrived back at field base having driven in the dark for an hour. First proper night drive. Pretty weird. No cats eyes and the weather was pretty miserable and due to be rain all week. So pretty exhausted we had a short sleep before waking up to load up the flatbed truck. We then waved the truck off and had to go to cerelins to pick up and order more equipment. Stop of at the city mall to pick up various other bits and bobs, and then headed back to base camp.

 

The week for logs consisted of separating all the food out into alpha groups, and all the equipment out into alpha groups. A pretty big task especially in the pouring down rain. I did get a chance with the other logs team members to pop into the jungle for an afternoon to visit 3 alpha groups doing their jungle training, including Tims group, and that was a really nice break from the hard work of lifting and moving heavy boxes and equipment. I think my arm muscles are already henched up and toned! I expect to be pretty buff upon my return to the UK next year!! 

 

Tim really mucked in with his group, and despite them all being exhausted, having been thrown into the jungle pretty much straight away from a long haul flight, they all seemed in pretty good spirits. 

At base camp we all sleep in static bashas. I was assigned to one delta team ( the venturers are split into delta teams for the first week, and then for the first phase split again into alpha groups, so they will always be with different people throughout the whole expedition) and so I slept with them in one static basha for the week. My hammock was particularly short and with that and the torrential rain every night and the constant mosquito bites I didn’t have masses of sleep at all. 

 

We did observe  the venturer Raleigh Olympics which was pretty fun. And when the venturers arrived the host country venturers (having already stayed me night at base camp) had prepared a traditional welcoming dance for them. 

 

It was a hub of activity all week. Morning meetings, evening PM and field base staff meetings, training for the venturers. During the week a man called Din and his wife cook lunch and dinner, and this gets collected by logs every morning and evening from a garage about 20 minutes away from base camp. Just anther thing on our daily to do list!!

 

At the end of the week we realised we were going to have to do one shift of driving equipment and leftover things back to field base the night before deployment on the Saturday (12th October) so Alister and I left base camp at about 10pm for field base. Arrived back at about 11.45pm, unloaded the vehicles and then had about two hours sleep before waking up around 3am to drive back to base camp. The alpha teams had been allocated the day before and they were all to set off at 6am. 

 

Tim is working his first phase in a remote village in the north of Sabah where there are about 10 villagers. Here he will be starting to make a gravity water feed system for the village. Exciting stuff for him! And apparently by far the most labour intensive community project… So with lots of hugs and farewells the field base staff waved goodbye to all the PM’s and the venturers for 19 days! The first phase! Tim had managed to dump a bunch of his belongings with me to look after for him, and indeed in return to field base a few of his belongings had also found their way to lost property… I am wondering what he actually has left with him!!! 

 

I am excited for him and I know he is going to have an awesome time. Really looking forward to seeing him at changeover and hearing all about his experience in the village.

 

Meanwhile for the rest of us it was back to base camp to unload and sort out an awful lot of stuff!! A very small group of us now living in the house. Just 7 of us. Then four of them go on the loop in a week so it will just be three of us left!! Weird!! 

 

To my wonderment and joy on return to field base Loli had prepared us a full English breakfast. My first bacon since I arrived!! I’ve never missed bacon so much!! Raleigh rations for alpha groups and in general are all pork free. So I was literally over the moon. Mainly because my diet at home definitely consists of bacon pretty much every day. I have found a store that sells it though so may have to buy some for my own breakfasts 🙂 

 

The next few weeks will be pretty steady for logs. Not quite so hectic as last week. Need to order food for phase two, spring clean and re stock on consumables. Do another inventory on food and equipment etc. and then there is radio duties and shopping and picking up/dropping off of Loli and laundry etc. 

 

Will blog again soon! 

 

 

HCV’S welcome dance

 

 

 

 

 

Loading up of the truck…

 

 

 

Visit to Hun gen supermarket to pick up some missing stock…

 

 

 

Drive to base camp

 

 

 

Raleigh Olympics!!! 

 

 

 

Their version of the wheelbarrow race 

 

 

 

Tug of war 

 

 

 

Tim and his delta team

 

 

 

Pushing the land rover!!

 

 

 

My view in the morning from my hammock

 

 

 

Arrival of food!!

 

 

 

Delta teams to pick up there food and equipment for their mini jungle trek experience!

 

 

 

 

Mini trek into the jungle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim setting up his bed for the night…

 

 

 

Trek back out of the jungle to continue with logs duties…

 

 

 

 

 

Plenty of time for French hair braiding!!

 

 

 

separating out the food

 

 

 

Logs dancing in the rain on completion of sorting out equipment and food for phase one into army tents! 

 

 

 

Phase one alpha team allocations!!

 

 

 

Teams arriving in the rain to sort through their equipment and food for phase one

 

 

 

6am getting all the food and equipment into the buses

 

 

 

Tall Tim!! 

 

 

 

Off he goes for phase one!!! 

 

 

 

Scorpion alert

Completely forgot to tell my scorpion story.

 

On return from jungle camp with the PM’s last week I was sat by myself in the girls dorm at field base talking on FaceTime to home when a scorpion just crawled out along the floor right next to me…. I wasn’t really startled, more intrigued. I think someone must have bought it back from the jungle in their bag or something. Anyways, because I am no killer, I decided to just trap the mini beast under a cup and leave it for a manly person to deal with later. A few hours later, Chris one of the PM’s is summoned into the girls dorm to remove said scorpion. Carefully placing paper under the cup and walking out the room, I am then greeted with praises from a few of the girls at my cool calm deliberation in trapping said scorpion. The proud moment did not last long however as Chris re-entered the room to exclaim that he was very sorry but there was no scorpion in the cup. Baffled by the fact that this scorpion had escaped said masterful captivation we then blitzed the whole room including bags to find the miniature beast in some dark place. It unfortunately was never found. And to this day is perhaps still lurking around in the girls dorm…. 

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