Story of Achai and 10 Weeks of Raleigh
Three months ago, I embarked on an once in a lifetime experience that would change me in many ways for the good.To be completely honest I was actually looking to be away from home for 10 weeks just to be away from my parents nagging but how wrong was I at that time. I remember waking up at 4am for the earliest flight to Sabah. Upon reaching Kota Kinabalu International Airport, I was picked up by Ivy (host country staff) along with another HCV in a 4x4, which they called it Bravo, to Field Base at Lintas. When we reached Field Base, we were greeted by the local Sabahan HCVs. After having lunch, we were sent to a sports centre for our swim assessment and later sent to Base Camp at Kiulu. The next day, all the international venturers arrived and we were assigned to our Delta groups. I was in Delta 4 with 8 other venturers and 2 Project Managers(PM). The activities we did during induction week were Raleigh Olympics, medical training, learning to set up the radio and a practice trek. We also had a brief talk by some of the Project Managers about the projects in hand for this expedition and I really wanted to do trek first. However, after the practice trek, I started to be a little worried about trek as I was not used to carrying a heavy bag. On allocation day, I was assigned to Alpha 5 which was the trek group with 12 other venturers and 2 PMs. I was a bit nervous about having trek first but when we shared our hopes and fears in our Alpha groups, I realised that most of us had similar fears.
On the first day of phase 1, we stayed at Base Camp for leadership training. The next day we had to wake up very early to get to our starting point of our 17 day trek. Our trek guides were Hanry, Ken and Andron. The first day of trek was the worst as all of us were not prepared for a heavy rain that lasted for more than 10 hours and there were a lot of leeches on the way to the camp site. As many of us were not prepared for the sudden heavy rain, most of our things were wet including our hammock and sleeping bag. That night, all of us were freezing. As days went by, we were getting used to trekking with a heavy rucksack. We were even told by the trek guides that our pace as a group was very fast as we managed to reach a viewing point of Mount Kinabalu faster than any other groups in the previous expeditions.
The guides told us that there were a few camp sites where we could see beautiful sunrises. However, everytime we decided to get up early to watch the sunrise, the views were mostly blocked by clouds although the scenery was still really nice. After a few days, one the guides gave me a nickname, Achai, which means young man in Mandarin. Ever since that day, I was always called Achai by the other HCVs and some of theinternational venturers. One of the many things that we looked forward to on trek was having rest days. In the 17 days of trek, we had 3 rest days and we could sleep in to recuperate our energy and do anything we wanted to. On the 9th day of trek, Bravo dropped by out camp for resupply and we had the opportunity to treat ourselves soft drinks and snacks. We were also given messages and letters from friends and family members. It was a really nice and warm feeling when I received the messages. It was also on the same day when Hanry had to leave and his younger brother, Fam came to take over. Throughout the trek we also learned how to make handcrafts and how to survive in the jungle. By the end of the trek, it was quite saddening that we had to bid goodbye to the guides after spending so much time together.
It was delightful to see everybody again after 2 and a half weeks as well as meeting the new batch of 7 weekers that joined us. Now the Raleigh Borneo 17A expedition family is complete. While on changeover we had to perform a skit for everyone about the things that happened on phase and my group did an act and a remix of a song. Same as induction we were allocated to our new Alpha groups one day before Phase 2. This time, I was allocated to Alpha 3 along with 14 others and 3 PMs to go to Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA).
It was an eight hour bus journey to the Lahad Datu town and another one hour on 4x4 into DVCA. The road to DVCA was quite bumpy and I felt nauseous by the end of the journey. On this phase, we were all fed really well as we had extra food from the previous Alpha 3. As for the work at DVCA, we had to bend metal rods into squares and transfer buckets after buckets of gravel up a hill for majority of the time. Although the work there was unchanging, there was definitely some interesting moments as well. We saw some wild animals such as orang-utans, snakes and macaques and had a six hour trek to Purut Camp where the camp was really close to the world’s tallest tropical tree and a stunning waterfall. We also did camera trapping and managed to get some photos of animals in the wild. Besides that, we had a night walk and a trip to watch the sunrise. When the loop came to visit us, we did a Las Vegas themed night. Other than that, there were a lot of my ‘best friends’ a.k.a the tiger leeches in Danum Valley. Those little slimy bugs are really annoying as it stings when they bite unlike the normal leeches on trek. While we were at Purut Camp, some of us went to clear the helipad while others went to clean up a nearby gravity fed water system. On the last day at DVCA, we had a farewell party with the staff at DVCA.
This changeover was one day shorter than the previous one and on top of that my Alpha group was the last to arrive at Base camp.It was a bit hectic as we didn’t have much time to do our laundry and settle down to have a break. However, it was amazing to see everybody again. The next day was our allocations and this time I was placed in Alpha 2. It was a rather small group consisting of only 6 venturers and 3 PMs.
With community being my last phase, I was actually glad that I have done trek, which was the hardest part of the expedition and is only left with the more relaxing one. Before going to Kampung Kemburaon, a lot of venturers told me that the villagers there were very nice and when I reached there, I was not disappointed at all as what they said were spot on. The villagers were so welcoming and nice. They often bring us fresh fruits, something we didn’t get often during the other phases. Since the other previous Alpha groups has already completed most of the work, we had a lot of spare time and we were invited to visit the villagers’ houses from time to time. We also played football with them and very often the villagers also visited the place we stayed to chill with us. Unfortunately, towards the end of the phase I got really bad infections on my legs and had a fever which made me got sent back to Field Base to get a blood test at a hospital. I was sad to leave the village but I didn’t have a choice. While at Field Base I thought I would miss the opening ceremony but luckily enough I was in a better condition by then and I headed back to the village for the opening ceremony and help out with some of the last minute translations for the speeches. At the end of the opening ceremony, I had to leave the village once more as my legs were not fully recovered.
Looking back at what I did for the entire 10 weeks at the Borneo 17A expedition, I feel really happy as I managed to learn new skills, gain experiences, become more confident and get to know more people of different backgrounds who I not only call friends but also family. Throughout the entire time there, I have learnt important lessons especially about the world that we live in.