Can you imagine what life would be like if you were stripped of the four main and most basic needs: food, water, shelter and clothing? In today’s world, we make those most basic needs look like it is a list from some history text book about the needs of the cavemen era; big houses with more than enough rooms, luxury cars for each members of the household, mineral water bottles seen left everywhere and anywhere even if there is still some water left, clothing that could cost one-hundred fold the meal for a day.
We have all committed the sin in taking all these blessings in our life for granted. With this in mind, this became the main drive for Camping Trip I organized for my badminton team members; that is, to bring them out of their comfort zone into a place where they lack the basic necessities of life, hoping that by the end of the camp, they would realize how blessed they are.
DAY 1: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
The first steps towards the journey of their life. For some, it would be the first time they have ever stepped foot into a boat.
Upon arrival at the Camp Headquarters, we were given a briefing by our guides. The students listened on attentively, not knowing what really lies ahead of them.
So they set out for their long jungle trek, and before they even broke any sweat, their first obstacle was upon them; to walk (and in) across the Mutong River.
We cut into the jungle, with Apai, the oldest and most experience guide leading our way, chopping and hacking his way into the deep dense jungle forest.
STEP 1: Walking in the jungle, going through thick forest
STEP 2: Climbing up steep slopes, catching our breath every few minutes
STEP 3: Just when we thought its over, we start going down hill again
STEP 4: Get down, into and walking in the river
STEP 5: Repeat Step 1
And this was the way it went, over and over again, for 6 grueling hours on the first day.
How creative of them; the guides made this hat out of just dry leaves and twigs when we were resting.
Photo (left): Apai, the oldest and most experience among the 8 guides that we had with us the whole time. He shows the leaves that when crushed with water, would produce what we know as… soap. Photo (right): Sharon smelling the soap-like smell produced by the leaf once crushed with water.
“Are we there yet?”. Timothy taking a long needed break from the long and tiring trek, was so tired that he did not even bothered to take off the backpack from his back.
Tin Lin pauses a moment to take in the pain on her shoulders from the heavy load of her backpack on her back while Siaw Yuen checks to see if she is still able to continue on.
Nicholas had running nose through the first day in the warm and torturing jungle. The extreme climate from going through the warm jungle air then into the cool river water and then back and forth into both extreme worlds.
As we reached the foot of Bukit Lutut, we began to set up our camps. The students had to figure out how to put up their tents as this was a new experience for most of them.
Yun Hung, Soon Wang and Edward taking a short well-deserved break after setting up their tent and helping the others with their tents.
At night, the students had a scavenger hunt in which they are suppose to search for all the items that on the list that the local guides has prepared.
Of course, just like any activities in the camp, should a group fail to achieve the goals, due punishment in the form of pushups are carried out. In the picture shows students doing the pushups in the middle of the jungle in the middle of the night.
The area at the foot of Bukit Lutut where we set up camp was not really the best camp site. The nearest water source which was a small little stream which was no bigger than your average house drain, was about a few minutes hike away and was down by a steep valley which was a challenge by itself to get to. By now, most of the students had already exhausted their supply of water. They had to settle for drinking water from the small stream and this would be another first for them. Other than that, the ground of the campsite was not really flat. For some, they had to settle for sleeping at a bit of an angle which for others, they had to settle for sleeping with a root of a tree under them.
DAY 2: ONLY THE STRONG WILL SURVIVE
The highlight of the whole trip awaits us on the second day of our camp. It is the climb up to the peak of Bukit Lutut, which stands at an attitude close to 1,500 metres, in which she should promise a beautiful sunrise. The challenge would be to reach the peak at the breaking of dawn, in time for the sunrise, which means that we will have to start our climb at 4 am in the wee morning. We under-estimated the difficulty of the climb and made the mistake of not bringing any water with us. Needless to say, it was a difficult climb, but we were glad that we left all our gears behind, guarded by a few guides who stayed back to guard the campsite.
Off we went, up the steep face of Bukit Lutut, in the middle of the night in pitch darkness equipped with only our headlights (silly of us for not bringing our water!). We stopped to catch our breath every few minutes; as I always tell myself, slowly but surely!
A promise kept; and indeed, Bukit Lutut fulfilled her promise to us for a beautiful sunrise. Spectacularly breath-taking, but ironically, for us, it was finally time for us to be able to catch our breath!
Giant tree trunks was a common sight throughout our trekking; our path was constantly blocked by one.
Our second campsite for Day 2 was another 5 hours away, and the terrain even more challenging than that of Day 1. The jungle trek was riddled with many fallen tree trunks and gigantic roots while the river trek was deeper. Our pace was much slower than the first day as we had to be more careful and observant each step that we took.
Our capable guide, Magat, pauses at the bottom of the ravine where there is a small opening enough for sunbeam to rush in to fill the valley. The guides are told that this is an educational camp for the students, therefore they should only provide assistance when necessary and not spoon-feed them.
Fallen tree trunk that suddenly becomes our catwalk across very thick forest densely populated by low growing trees and shrubs mingled with epiphytes, insectivorous species and other similar plants which share a symbiotic existence.
Some parts of the trek were so steep that it would be safer to just slide down (as demonstrated by Yun Hung in the picture) rather than slipping and falling on the buttocks.
In any group activity, there would always be some individuals that would stand out and shine. These individuals would glow a radiance of leadership that would usually not be seen under normal circumstances. Edward for example, stood out among the rest of his teammates by showing his leadership skills in directing and assisting his fellow mates who are struggling, even to the point of carrying their heavy backpacks in additional to his own, plus the sleeping bags and tents of others; all in all, carrying a burden more than half of his own weight!
We reached one point of our trek where it ended with a cliff atop of a waterfall. The only way was down, and that was where we had to abseil down the cliff. Our very capable guides secured a rope for our abseiling and was there to assist us to ensure our safety every step of the way down.
Just as the last of us was done abseiling down to the bottom, it started training. Cold wind started to hit us and the waters of the temperature of the river started dropping. We started shivering from the cold but had to keep pushing on.
As if the rain was shower of blessings, it cleared away giving way to the sun. The sun in return lit up the bed of the river, enabling us to see the rocks underneath and allowing us to go faster.
However, even with the sun helping us along the way, there are still parts which are treacherous to cross, especially if the current is strong. We have to be careful so as we do not lose our footing on the slippery rock bed.
Even when we were not in the river, we still had to be careful on the rocks and stones as they are extremely slippery when wet, especially after the rain.
The students found themselves clinging to each other while walking as it seems to be the safest way to not slip and fall. In the picture shows Yun Hung literally giving Tin Lin a ‘helping hand’.
Blisters are a normal occurrence among us, especially since we spent so much time walking in water and walking on surfaces that are not flat.
We finally arrived at our campsite for the second day, almost close to sunset. It was a sight to rejoice because the area was situated right next to a clear river with moderate current.
The first order (after setting up camp) was undeniably to get a proper bath! Sounds of laughter filled the jungle air as we happily cleansed ourselves from all the dirt and soil collected on our bodies these two days.
Picture (left): Delicious corn beef cooked in standard issue military cooking pot. Picture (right): Apai introduced us to the Nibong tree that can be found in the jungle, in which he collected the leaves to be cooked for us that night. It was definitely one of the most delicious dish I have ever tasted! Even better than the corn beef and the curry chicken next to it.
For our last night of the camp, sat around the campfire and shared our stories and experiences throughout the whole long journey. For many, the whole journey was well worth the effort as they had experience what life is with just the basic necessities. Most importantly, whatever difficulty that we face, we had faced it together, and this has indirectly created a bond of trust between each one of us.
DAY 3: GRADUATION
It was finally time to go home. For many of the students during the first and second day of the camp, they were wishing that time would pass faster so that they could get back to the comfort of their homes. But when the final day was upon them, they suddenly realized that although they had suffer one way or another throughout the camp, they actually had a lot of fun too. They would be back to their normal everyday life with their usual routine with nothing exciting to expect. My only consolation to them was a promise of another camp in the very near future.
Breakfast next to the river. A hot cup of coffee or tea definitely taste better in the middle of nowhere. Not even Starbucks can beat that feeling.
Picture above shows me serving the students for the last time during the duration of this camp.
Still hanging in there. The terrain was this torturing, even for our shoes. Many shoes started to crumble and fall apart. Some had their outsole ripped away from the shoe. Some had their shoes suddenly growing a ‘mouth’ like the one shown in the picture above. We had to use a string to tie the ‘mouth’ in place.
Happy faces knowing they will be home soon. Yun Hung and Nicholas strikes a questionable pose for the camera.
Yun Hung and Nicholas still at it striking questionable poses before starting our trip home.
Throughout the whole journey, there were a lot of interesting, never seen before sights, especially unique variety of flora and fauna. As it was a camping trip for the students and not a photography trip, I could only take a photo whenever convenient, otherwise I would slow down the whole group.
The pictures above shows the many variety of bracket fungi that can be found along the way. The top-left picture shows the Angel Wings (Preurotus Porrigens) which is usually white in colour and has gills, probably has been growing for a few days and has started to rot, hence the yellowish texture. The top-right shows the Turkey Tails (Trametes Versicolor) with its unusually thin leathery bracket with concentric rings of varying colours. The top-centre shows the Red Belted Conk (Fomotopsis Pinicoloa) which is reddish brown, thick, woody with new growth on edge white.
The picture shows a cross section of a fallen tree trunk which has been in inhabited by a colony of termites.
As Apai was cutting his way through the jungle with his faithful parang, I could not help but notice that one of the plants actually oozes what looks like blood from the cross section of its branch.
Picture (left): With the presence of salt and water, the riverbank has the perfect conditions for crystals to form. Picture (right): One of the main hazards of trekking in the virgin jungle. These very painful thorns, one caught on your skin, are actually very painful to remove.
When trekking in the jungle, I always remind my students to be very careful of where they put their hands on, or where they grab. The picture above shows a centipede hidden in a small crack of a branch that we had to crawl under.
Picture (left): While we stopped by a river, a beautiful blue damselfly came by to rest with us, allowing me to be able to snap this picture which is virtually impossible if they were in-flight. Picture (right): Fresh-water shrimp can also be found in some of the places where we rested. If only we had a container with us, we could have caught these shrimps and cook them with our maggi for dinner!
The group picture of the participants of this camp; first strangers, now a big happy family as they hold each others shoulders as a sign of friendship and trust.
As the view of the Basecamp came into sight, our hearts jumped with happiness. All tiredness was forgotten for that moment in time as we rushed towards the ‘finish line’.
The mosquito coils were given one per student at the beginning of the trip and they were told to look after it as if it was their babies. The idea was to train them on responsibility. Only Soon Wang and Edward had their coils still in one piece. The others behind them looks down in shame.
What is training without punishment? The students were given a severe 50 push-ups as the punishment for killing their ‘babies’.
After the formal proceedings, finally the students were allowed to let loose. Some went to take their bath in the washroom with proper clean water, while others headed back into the river to have one last fun!
This photo was taken from a failed shampoo advertisement.
This photo was extracted from Willow Smith’s Music Video “Whip My Hair”
This photo was taken from the audition of the movie “Liang Po Po”, which means lovable old granny in Chinese. NOTE: The candidate failed the audition.
Nicholas tries to feel how it is like being a floating plane while Siaw Yuen sits on the plane with her thumbs up ready to take off.
Timothy tries to be Superman. Apparently, Superman forgot to wash off his shampoo.
Yun Hung shows the real meaning of rejoice; in this case, the Rejoice Shampoo in his hand, while he poses so professionally for the camera.
Yun Hung stretches his muscles for the audience while Tin Lin could not believe her eyes.
“I will count to 3 before I snap the picture, okay?” 3… 2… 1… FLIP! (I secretly told Yun Hung to flip the tyre after the countdown)
Into the water they fall, which makes for a very nice picture don’t you agree? 🙂 Ironically, Sharon (the one seen to be falling into the river) was nicknamed Sea-Horse.
The girls had their revenge on Yun Hung when they ganged up and attacked him. Apparently, the girls had special water style jutsu powers in which they could summon up wave of water, as seen in the picture.
One for the album as the students together with the teachers poses for the camera with their certificates. A big thank you goes to Mr. Leslie Chiang of Borneo Guide and all his very capable and undeniably skilled guides: Didee, Fariz, Dillah, Apai, , Sulaiman, Commando, Udin and Magat.
The students uses each others shoulder to rest in the boat, on the way back to civilization and back to their comfort of their homes.
To sum it all up, although the whole adventure was a torturing and tiring one, it was all worth it. Where else could we have experienced an adventure like this, yet it is so close to our own ‘backyard’ in nearby Temburong. If I were to put forward a question to the students at the start of the camp asking them to imagine they were in a sinking boat, and there was only one lifeboat that could hold four persons, who would they choose to survive among them, I doubt they would have been unable to give an answer. However, if I were to ask them now for those four names, I’m very sure they would have no problem identifying among themselves who would be the ones that would be worthy enough to be saved.
The beautiful sunrise, the first-time experiences, the first-hand knowledge, the trust and friendship forged… is priceless.