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Borneo World Challenge 2017

Saturday, 12 August 2017

This summer two groups of students went on a World Challenge Expedition to Malaysian Borneo, accompanied by Mr Walker with Team One and Miss Chapman and Miss Gregson with Team Two. The expedition was a month long and everything from the itinerary to food to accommodation and accounting were all planned by us students. Throughout the month we did trekking in the Borneo jungle, a project in the local community, snorkelling and so much more.

Our journey started at 4.30 am at school, all packed and ready to set off. We then had three long flights into Borneo, flying into the capital city, Kota Kinabalu, and the other group flying into Miri, another major city in Borneo. The first couple of days were spent finding our feet in such a new environment and sorting out all of the money and accommodation for the next few days. At night we enjoyed exploring the famous night markets of Kota Kinabalu where they sold lots of interesting street food which some of us tried.

Soon after, we were travelling to the Crocker Range where we did our first trek. It was our first jungle experience and we found it hard carrying our massive rucksacks while walking for 5 hours in 35?C heat. However we were in the good hands of our three local guides Ed, Roni and Chris who helped us along the way. Soon our three day trek was over and we survived our first two nights in hammocks. We then arrived at the Adventure Centre where we stayed for the night and our guides told us stories about their experiences of the jungle, and about some of the local culture and traditions.

After a good night’s sleep in something slightly more stable than a hammock we waved goodbye to our guides and headed north to Sepilok Orang-utan and Sun Bear Sanctuary. We all found the orang-utans so beautiful, but the reason why the sanctuary had to be built got some of us thinking about the issues that the rainforest is facing. Logging, deforestation and the palm oil industry has meant that animal habitats are shrinking, evidently meaning that some of Borneo’s wildlife is decreasing in numbers and some species are even in danger of extinction. We all wanted to do our bit to try and combat these issues so after we travelled to an Eco Centre for a few days. Here we helped to plant trees after a forest fire destroyed lots of the rainforest a few years ago, and we cleared an invasive weed from their lake that had been driving away other species. Early each morning and every evening we had boat rides along the river. Here we saw loads of wildlife such as Proboscis monkeys, hornbills and crocodiles. Also we had guided night walks when we saw a very rare Western Tarsier.

We then made our way back to Kota Kinabalu where we spent a day snorkelling off the islands just off the coast of the capital. It was so nice to have a break from travelling to relax and explore some of the marine life that Borneo has to offer. But shortly after we started preparing for our main trek, and left in 4x4s to the start of our trek. Here we met the other group who had just finished their main trek. We hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks so we caught up about what both groups had been up to. That day we also met our guides Kenny, Petrus and Lian. It was a restless night sleep for most of us as we were so anxious and excited about what to expect. The next morning we said goodbye to the other group and started on our trek. There were far less hills than the first trek but a long day of trekking still took its toll, so when we arrived at camp we were ready for a hearty meal cooked on an open fire by the food team. After three more days at trekking we arrived at our guide’s house where we stayed for the night. They prepared us a wild boar and some people helped to kill and prepare a chicken. That night we had a celebration for my birthday and some of the team even sang me a birthday rap. It was nice to finally sleep in a building, even though there weren’t enough mattresses for everyone so it was quite cosy.

The next day we set off again for the final day of our trek to the village where we did our community project, Bario. Finally after 8 hours of walking we arrived at our homestay in Bario. The owner of the homestay cooked us a chicken curry, which some of us helped to cook. Our last week or so was spent at the primary school in Bario where we painted a mural and built a shelter for the children and parents to wait after school, because Bario is situated right in the middle of the rainforest so the weather is often terrible. After we had finished working we were able to play with the children. We were all so impressed as to how good their English was, and we taught them the hokey-cokey and ring around the roses. Unfortunately after five days in Bario it was time to say goodbye to the children and make our way to Miri. We boarded a tiny plane which took us over the rainforest and into the city. The next day we decided to visit the Niah Caves that were so beautiful and there were old paintings on some of the cave walls.

Our final few days in Borneo were spent exploring Miri, and buying gifts for family and friends, until we set off again for two long days of travelling back to London. It was very emotional coming through the doors into the airport lobby to see our families waiting for us after a month of little contact.

We all had such an amazing time in Borneo and made some great new friendships. People described the expedition as ‘life changing’, ‘Bewildering, slimy, tough, exhilarating, varied’ and ‘sweaty, muddy and eye-opening’.

Written by R Stewart, Year 11