Training is over and expedition life has well and truly begun! The Alpha groups all made it safely to their project sites.
I (Kate) had the pleasure of joining Alpha 4 for their first four days in Sepilok, and am happy to report that they have all settled in well, and are getting down to a lot of hard work in the Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre (BSBCC). Here is how they are getting on so far:
After a six hour bus journey which included a stop for lunch at a local market and an on board movie(luxury!) Alpha 4 arrived in Sepilok at 1pm, the hottest part of the day. Jungle camp is not too remote compared to many other project sites, but when it’s 31 ?c and very humid, a fifteen minute walk carrying heavy kit seems like at least 10 miles! However, Alpha 4 teamed, and sweated together, and got their entire kit(which included food, tools and their own bags) to jungle camp in under an hour. With longs-o-clock approaching it was a race to get hammocks set up, the long drop dug, food organised plus showers! By 5.10pm camp has been set up and the team decided if they all had very quick, and precise 3 minute showers everyone could get washed before 6pm and spend the night feeling refreshed! The showers at Jungle Camp are of the bucket variety, i.e. one bucket, one scoop and slosh! At first the V’s were a little daunted by these showers, but over the next few days everyone was looking forward and professing their love for the bucket shower!
Sunday was spent improving Jungle Camp and making it feel like home, followed by a meeting with Ypak,the Head Keeper at BSBCC and Adam, who is an intern with Arkitrek, an architect company that will be assisting with the design and construction of the bear refuges. We all got a tour around the centre, and even got to see some Sun Bears on our very first day!
As well as Sun Bears, we also saw a group of Makaks, including some very cute baby ones. However, we were warned that they are very mischievous, travel in packs and will approach if you have any food with you. For this reason we were advised to stay together in a group, and if approached by any, call the rangers- we were no longer saying “awwww” at this point!
Work started straight away on Monday with everyone getting up at 5.30 in order to get breakfast, do a radio sitrep(situation report)and get to the BSBCC, a fourty minute walk away by 8am. The team were divided into two groups in the morning, one to reclaim wood and the other to start clearing a path in the jungle where another bear enclosure would be.
Within the firsthour, Alpha 4’s first leeching occurred, with Bernice getting one on her stomach! By day’s end she had definitely made a few firm friends, getting 4 leeches in total, with Nas following close behind with 3! The wood clearing group also had their fair share of creepy crawly surprises, coming across alot of ants, scorpions, centipedes, some stunning butterflies and a giant stick insect!
By 2pm, huge progress has been made, with a long stretch of the jungle path having been cleared by Jermae, Josh, Berniece, Lucy, Nas and Euan. It went from this:
After lunch it was time for a team effort. There were two very heavy bits of wood stuck in the wood piles that required a team effort to get out(the tug of war practice from Raleigh Olympics came in handy here):
After removing the heavy wood, everyone moved to the jungle area to help remove a log that was blocking the path. The path that had been cleared was very boggy so we needed to come up with a way to lift it rather than drag it. After a bit of trial and error with the rope, Alison came up with the successful idea of rolling the log onto a curled rope to let everyone get a hold of it. This worked a treat, and the log was removed in minutes to the pile of wood that would be used for the bear refuges.
The work continued on Tuesday, with everyone ending up in the Jungle, and much to Charlotte’s disgust, pretty much everyone experienced a leech or two!The day got quite exciting when the team spotted a snake, and then an orangutan, just metres from where they were working!
According to Nick, it was ‘the most eventful day of his life’, and this is why; the events just kept coming…
·a few celebrations for Euan’s 21st birthday;
·A mock casevac, in which I pretended to injure my leg to see how the team would react, and to ensure that if something happened to one of the PMs that they would be able to manage.
·One amazing curry with fried rice made by Nas and Josh
·A birthday cake, with chocolate AND jam, made by Charlotte and Harriet
·And to top it all of a tropical storm just as we were heading to bed!
A truly eventful four days with Alpha 4!
I’m off to Alpha 3 next, so will have the next update from there very soon!