Monday, 26 July 2010
The End of Phase One
I don't quite know where the last 3 weeks has gone. I deployed with Alpha 1 to the village of Maliau Layung in the Pitas district on the 8th July and here I am just about to deploy onto the second phase of this expedition to the island of Maliangin Besar.
Three fun filled weeks later, i'm problem solving what kit to take with me for a weeks stay on the island, followed by an ascent of Mount Kinabalu on the 10th August. My personal kit won't be a problem, but I will need the peli case throughout the journey, although I don't envisaged carrying it up the 4,000m peak.
The last three weeks were really challenging, and for different reasons.
The village of Maliau Layung is a beautiful place. Tucked away in the middle of prime rainforest, centrally placed in the sparsely populated district of Pitas. The village lies on a 60 plus KM 4x4 track, which is really poor in places, (more of that later). At the end of the track a 300 meter foot suspension bridge over the river Bengkoker must be crossed to reach the village of Pinapak. Maliau Layung lies a further 5 kms walk over undulating ground.
Because access to the village is not good, outside influence has been minimal and there is no doubt that the arrival of the Alpha 1 group of young venturers caused some stir in the village.
Indeed for the time that I was there, it felt like life in a goldfish bowl, with us on the inside. I don't think that I have attracted so many stares!
There are no shops in the village. Life exists on a subsistence basis. If the village wants food, it must grow it. It was noticeable that various tracts of land that had been forest had been cleared to provide space for agriculture and the village also made some income from selling wood.
Indeed, the Alpha 1 project to build a Kindergarten from scratch, is being supplied with the required wood from the village. The village head (JKKK) is sourcing the wood and is cutting it to size from the locality. No doubt at a profit.
The children in the village are wonderful and provided me with a host of great portrait opportunities. My only difficulty was trying to catch them when they wern't playing up to the camera. I think I got some great shots, including the girl with the frog on her head!
For me life at the village was very good. I was very well looked after by Alpha 1, who made great strides into their construction, and by the time I left, they had almost finished putting in the foundation posts for the 40' x 30' school.
My extraction from the village was not as straight forward.
A loop vehicle, which is a Land Rover Defender 110, Call Sign Bravo 3, came to resupply the project. The plan was for the Bravo to take me with it the following morning.
All went well with the extraction, until the Bravo left the road and went into a ditch on the nearside of the 4x4 track. Unluckily, I was seated in the front passenger seat and took the full force of the impact as the roll bar on the Bravo struck a rock, which stopped the vehicle in its tracks. I dread to think what would have happened had the Bravo not hit the rock and continued to roll.
Of the 5 people in the Bravo, I was the only one injured, and my left shoulder took a bashing which necessitated a visit to the hospital in Kota Kinabalu (KK). I was grounded for a week by the doctor, and underwent daily physio in an effort to prevent my shoulder from freezing up.
So instead of a week on the island, I spent a week at Field Base in KK where I kicked my heels and caught up with my pp work.
I was given the all clear to continue and on Tuesday 20th July I caught a bus to Sepilok where I joined Alpha 4, at their Sun Bear project.
Alpha 4 are building a boardwalk around the exterior of the Sun Bear enclosure and the site is not blessed with good light, as it is in dense forest. I was impressed by the amount of work that the team had carried out, and some of the work which involved sorting good wood from rotting wood, must have been particularly mundane.
I must make mention of the Alpha 4 camp, which was built by a previous Raleigh expediton. The camp which has a kitchen and a separate basher is very comfortable and boasts a fresh water tank and three showers, which provide a refreshing end to the day.
My Alpha 4 bed!
Sarah is not part of the deal!
Because the Alpha 4 site is fairly close to civilisation (unlike Alpha 1), they have access to fresh food, and not surprisingly the food is a cut above the usual Raleigh rashions and I was very well fed.
I stayed with Alpha 4 for four days, during which time I saw Sun Bears, Orang Utans, Pigmy Elephants and Long tailed Macaques. The highlight of the trip must surely be the visit of a wild Orang Utan to the campsite.
Exchanging glances with a wild Orang Utan at a distance of some 50m must go down as one of my life's most memorable moments so far. A fantastic moment, for me, if not the Orang Utan!
So we are now on the eve of our second deployment. Because I missed the island due to the Bravo incident, I am travelling there on Thursday at 6am with Alpha 2. I am really looking forward to my stay.
The plan is for the loop to extract me again, I hope it is a little less eventful this time around.