Ashraf Sinclair's Raleigh Adventure
Did you know that our very own Gol & Gincu, Malaysian heartthrob, Ashraf Sinclair embarked on his Raleigh expedition dated in 1997!? We were very interested to find out and learn more about Ashraf's adventure back in the day, and we cannot be ever grateful for Ashraf for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer us a few questions about his experiences. So, thank you, Ashraf!
Without further ado, here's what the actor and director has got to say!
- What sparked your interest in embarking on your Malaysia 97C Raleigh Expedition?
I remember clearly how it all came about. I had just finished school and was sort of mulling about not doing anything, and my best friend, Iskandar, who had just returned from a Raleigh Expedition in Belize, invited me to a talk given by a staff member of Raleigh. They were looking for participants for the Malaysia Expedition. I took one look at Iskandar’s excited face and enthusiastic nods at the end of the presentation, and I signed up! I think I was not yet 18 at the time. I knew it would be challenging, but it was exactly what I needed to experience.
- In a Raleigh expedition, we typically have 3 phases to conduct community, environmental and adventure projects. What did you do for each phase and what was the most challenging thing you have endured in each phase?
We were based out of Kuantan, and the first part of my expedition was the Adventure Phase. We were the first group to deploy into the back of Taman Negara, at the foot of Gunung Tahan, and we had to clear the first phase of a new trail to the summit of Gunung Tahan. It was truly challenging because we had no fixed campsite and it was our first project. We had to carry all the gear we needed all the way through the trail. We had a sun bear chasing us down the path, had my hammock infested by red ants, and a wild boar running under my hammock in the middle of the night too (little did I know that I had strung my hammock over a wild boar trail so it was my bad!). We also saw a majestic waterfall that nobody had seen before other than the Orang Asli. It was amazing, we decided to spend the rest of the day swimming.
Our second phase was the Community Project. We had to continue the building of a clinic in a little village in the middle of Taman Negara. The only problem was that the first group that began the building had dug and poured the foundations facing the wrong way, so our task was to chip away the old foundations to the reinforcing iron bars and re-pour the new foundations in the proper orientation. This was a very frustrating process because all we did was chipping it away every day. On the plus points, we had daily games of football versus the locals and we had a Godsend in the name of Ming. He was Pele reincarnated in the body of a mild-mannered Singaporean. Needless to say, our team repeatedly took to school the local teams with yours truly contributing to the score sheet too! Then there was the exploding rice wine that some UK Venturer decided to make. And again, guess who was on kitchen and cleaning duty…. I'll tell you about that later!
Our final project was the Environmental Project where we tagged and measured a plot of trees in Cameron Highlands. This was a fun project but rather challenging due to the terrain. It was also the place where I had a near-death experience. Amongst all the other stories, this one is a heavy one that I remember vividly. We were tagging trees on a rather rainy afternoon. It had been raining for days and the ground was slippery and soggy, being in the highlands, this plot was on a steep incline too. As I finished tagging and mapping a tree that was a bit of a stretch to reach, I slipped as I was moving to the next tree. Tumbling forward, I grabbed onto a vine to catch my fall. The vine did as I hoped and I swung gently and landed on my butt. I looked up and there were Matt and Mayuko looking at me quite unconcerned. All things seemed normal but then, a split second later, I hear this huge crash right behind me, I feel the edge of my hat get clipped and I watch as a look of horror descends on my friends' faces. I turned around to see a huge piece of deadfall that had fallen out of the trees that must have been dislodged with my swinging. I remember the Project Leader at the camping 101 class we had before we left for the jungle voice “always check above in the canopy when you are choosing your hammock trees because deadfall is the most dangerous accident waiting to happen”. True enough, looking at the size of that proper log, it would have crushed my skull. That night the tears rolled down my cheeks as I retold the story to my most faithful friend, My Journal.
- When there are challenging moments, there must be times where things are going smoothly too. What were the best moments you have had in expedition and why? (Any funny stories you would like to add/share? Or tranquil moments? Anything!)
Wow, best moments? Its seems impossible to highlight just a few. As I look back in hindsight, every day on that expedition was a moment of history for me. A rite-of-passage, a tradition in growing up. I left home a boy and returned… still a boy but one that was sun-kissed, weathered, and now with the knowledge that I could do whatever I sought out to do. Here are my highlights as I remember them. Cooking Ikan Bakar with the rangers after catching the fish ourselves. Meeting so many amazing people from all over the world. Being able to sharpen machetes on rocks by the stream. Jumping into crystal clear river water after a long hard trek. Building the world’s best latrine, with the best views overlooking the rolling hills of Cameron Highlands, complete with bamboo sliding doors, over 6 feet deep, with a toilet seat too! It was the throne fit for Kings and Queens! Being able to build a fire drenched in rain. Receiving long letters for family and loved ones at home. The endless food eating competitions. The long chats when the nights are quiet and the hearts open. Learning to swear in 7 different languages. The friendships. The “Hello’s”… and eventually the “Goodbyes” too. And of course, Lips Boom Boom the only bar in Kuantan flooded by Ventures every ChangeOver.
- Just like every other Malaysian who had embarked on a Raleigh expedition, we had to endure porridge (or oats, as we’d like to call it) in the morning every single day. Did you really enjoy them? (No judging, if you do!) And speaking of food, there are many innovative creations the venturers had done with their food, to make meals a little bit bearable. We have made pizza and garlic flatbreads (out of a portable charcoaled oven), banoffee pie (out of fresh bananas and wafers) and more! What was the typical meal like during your time and did you had any bizarre food during your expedition?
For me, the porridge in the mornings was not that bad… But there was something that I just hated like no other. That was noodles and sardine. During the trekking phase, that was the staple lunch because we had no time to cool large meals. And that got me off eating sardines for a good year after coming back! I guess my most proud moment was cooking everybody a Nasi Tomato and Chicken Curry! Yes, we had banofee pie too, and like I mentioned earlier, somebody had the great idea to ferment rice to make rice wine, yeah… No, I didn't try that!
- Looking back on 1997, could you ever imagine not embarking on an expedition? And lastly, what has the expedition taught you in the years to come?
Doing Raleigh was a life changer for me. I learnt so much about myself that I still remember today. Even as I write this, the memories come flooding back. I still see the faces of my fellow Venturers. It was a defining moment in my life. And began the process of self-discovery and growth that I continue with myself up to this very day. I had huge gratitude to every Donator and Supporter and to all my fellow Venturers, to the Project Managers and the Staff. 19 years later. I am proud to be an Ex Raleigh Venturer
- Would you like to add in anything else? More stories, adventures, life lessons, etc from the expedition you would love to share with us and the youths of Malaysia? Let it be moments of revelations, moments of ridiculousness and innocence, proud moments or hardships?
I can't begin to tell you how deeply Raleigh impacted my life. The life lessons are truly ones that you will take on all your life. To all of you who are reading this, if by anyway this article or my answers tickle a little part of you, or you hear a voice urging you on, my say is, follow that urge, follow that voice, and embark on the expedition of your life!
Expedition 97C Malaysia
Hear what Ashraf has got to say? Follow that urge, follow that voice and embark on the expedition of your life! Do not hesitate, do not wait, and take action of the course of your life.
Once again, thank you so much to Ashraf Sinclair for taking the time out and painting us a story of his amazing Raleigh adventures, and we hope you all will be inspired as we are! Drop us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to find out more about who and what Raleigh Kuala Lumpur is and how YOU can join on an expedition of a lifetime.