Raleigh Malaysia Phase 1
Oct 26, 2007
|On October 8th, 60 or so participants and project managers left Likas, just outside of Kota Kinabalu (KK) in various buses, to six project sites (Alpha 1 through 6) around Malaysian Borneo, whilst the fieldbase team returned to Lintas to run the support network through the phase.
I've kept busy here, because I AM busy with my 'job' (!) and I consider myself very lucky to be one of the drivers, so take every opportunity to head out in the Landrover to run errands and see more of the surrounding area. I went driving off-road with our Country Director, Rory, who gave me the thumbs up to be able to drive 'The Loop' the week after 'deployment' (all these Raleigh terms!) to visit the project sites. As in my last entry, to be honest, it's best written up in the Sabah Sun article "Ladies of the Loop" so forgive me for not re-typing it here...check out the article and the latest entries which will give you a feel for what it's all about!
However, to add my own recollections and reflections...the purpose of the Loop really is to check in with three of the six sites, take out additional equipment and food supplies as needed, deliver much loved mail and set up a little shop out of the back of the landie....great fun!
Laura, our expedition leader, and I drove 1200km in four days over rough and unforgiving terrain. Every site offered something different. Our first stop was to 'Alpha 3' in Imbak Canyon, a full day's drive (we only drive in daylight and it's dark by 6pm) from KK. The project managers and participants were having a hard time keeping themselves busy and motivated over the "Hari Raya" (translated literally to mean 'day of celebration') Muslim holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, as all the local rangers and project team were off work! To add to their woes the river regularly cuts off the site completely and we ourselves had to wait until the morning after we arrived to get across to them (my first genuine river crossing!). For those of you in the UK, you may be familiar with this site, as the Raleigh Team are actually living in the BBC camp, set up during the filming of a documentary on Borneo last year, which was subsequently broadcast as a series.
Next stop was 'Alpha 4' in Danum Valley, which has also featured in the UK recently. Check out the attached article from the Daily Telegraph (thanks for sending that onto me John), which, like the Sabah Sun, says as much for it as I could!
This is a magical place, a research centre set in the middle of no-where and I feel lucky to be one of the relatively few people to have visited it. Danum was also to always be remembered as the first of my three (so far) LEACHINGS!!!! Yes, I've been bitten, sucked and scarred for life! They really are strange creatures who inject a little anaesthetic into you as they latch on, so for the most part you don't feel them...until 45 minutes or so later in my experience when they are so full of blood they fall off and thanks to the blood thinner they also inject, you then gush for quite some time and literally make the most bloody mess all over the place! The most embarrassing was on my b.u.m. which caused me to rip my shorts off when I found it...in front of everyone on the trek...I'm not exactly Jungle Jane!
I've been hugely impressed by the 'culinary expertise' of the participants, considering the food we supply them, and along the way we were treated to various great dishes - fish cakes, a wonderful curry, and a delicious rice dish (for breakfast, in addition to the obligatory porridge which I'm actually now quite fond of...and which is probably contributing to my ballooning weight)
We packed our rucksacks, sleeping bags and mats, mozzie nets and wash bags once again to make the drive to 'Alpha 2', Batu Puteh, a community project on the Sungai (Malay for river) Kinabatangan. This is Malaysia's longest river and has been devastated in many areas by the effects of logging, but in 1999 the World Wildlife Fund declared stretches of it protected and Raleigh has become involved and is currently assisting with building an eco-lodge by the village of Mangaris, which is due to received it's first guests in 2008. We took a very early boat ride along the river to visit it and along the way saw an amazing array of wildlife, including whole families of long-tailed macaques (small monkeys) and in the distance, Orang-utans. By 7am they had all taken refuge n the forest for the day and were no-where to be seen.
After a fairly soggy night by the river we got back into the Landrover for the drive home, stopping off on the way again at Kundasang to see a very moving War Memorial, which remembers the 1,800 Australian and 600 British soldiers who died on or along the way during the 'Sandakan Death Marches'. Sandakan was the site of a Japanese prisoner of war camp, and on realising that their troops could not prevent a potential rebellion, the Japanese decided to reduce rations and then forced their prisoners to move inland on foot...through some 250 km of almost impenetrable jungle. Only six men out of these 2,400 prisoners survived.
We returned to fieldbase for a few days, then I was out again to see 'Alpha 1' in Kampong (Malay for village) Ambong for the day to see how they are progressing with their project to build a gravity water feed system. They have integrated amazingly into the community and the energy I felt when I first visited has been maintained. Over Hari Raya the team were invited into eleven houses in the village for meals in just one day of celebration. I'm really looking forward to joining them in two weeks time.
The experience of catching up with all the participants, seeing where they are living and what they are doing has helped to put this whole project and the work Raleigh does into great perspective. No-one is out here to 'change the world' - if they are they will be sorely disappointed. Raleigh is a youth development charity first and foremost and the progress we've all seen with some of the participants over such a short period has been fantastic. Add to that the links forged with communities and research projects out here and there are many happy faces all round.