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World Challenge BORNEO 2017

Team 2 - Tuesday 15th August 2017

Following our R&R in Miri, the final major stage of our trip was our community project.

The rural village of Long Atip lay a four hour drive inland from Miri so it was an early start for team 2 as we loaded our rucksacks in to five four by fours outside the Lixion hotel. The journey was smooth for the first two hours, only interrupted by a river crossing that required a ferry to carry the cars across (a bridge was still under construction). Lunch was had in the nearest town to Long Atip - Long Lama: still some two hours drive from our destination.

The town was filled with offroad vehicles and trucks as well as school children from the local secondary school that caters for much of the surrounding rural area as well as the town itself. Stepping out from the cars, we were met with a wall of heat; the roads were baking hot under the afternoon sun and the row of four by fours that lined the dusty line of shops was reminiscent of a modern wild west. Lunch itself was a filling meal in a nearby café, although coordinating the group funds for food allowance that day proved difficult and required considerable patience by the finance team as they made sure the correct groups of people paid and received the right amount of money. After that, a brief visit to a small cornershop for some snacks was all we had time for before we heaved back in to the cars for the final stretch. The tarmacced road ended at Long Lama; needless to say, the remainder of our journey was a bumpy affair. Even our last offroad experience in Borneo seemed tranquil compared to the knee-jerking ride that the team endured: a seemingly endless battle between our bruised shoulders and the car doors. By mid-afternoon, we had arrived in Long Atip. Having been warmly welcomed in to the 44th home in the 100 door longhouse, the team enjoyed refreshments and the selfless hospitality of our hosts - a team of female family members that worked hard throughout our time in the village to ensure our wellbeing. The rest of the evening was spent tending to our mosquito nets and relaxing following the long journey that day in preparation for the start of our project work the next day.

The following morning, we woke early to start work. The local evangelical mission sat on a slight hill which had begun to erode due to the frequent heavy rain. Our initial task was to lay a concrete cover in the form of broad steps to cover the hill and protect it from future weathering. To start with, we began leveling the soil on the slope with hoes and shovels in order to provide a flat surface to concrete over. None of the team had experience with concrete so we faced a steep learning curve, not least due to the absence of a cement mixer; this made for a daunting day's work in the searing heat of the day. The concrete was made by assembling a pile of small gravel and cement; mixing this with shovels and then adding larger gravel together with water to make the final mix. The work was hard but rewarding as we toiled in the sun: shovelling and pushing heavy wheelbarrows up the slope to quickly cover a substantial portion of the hill in concrete where other team members levelled it. It was not long however, before the heavens opened and we were sent running for corrugated iron sheets to cover the slope, by the church pastor (our project supervisor). The rain persisted for the remainder of the day and through much of the night, causing the river to rise several feet. Although our work was halted prematurely, we still headed down to the church in the evening where we listened to a service in a mixture of Kayan and Malay before performing 'Amazing Grace' and 'This Little Light of Mine' for the congregation. The women of the church then performed a traditional dance for us using wooden claves whilst clad in colourful beaded outfits. The whole experience was fascinating as many of the village folk where older than Christianity in Borneo (which had only reached the island 70 years prior) so there was a strange mix of modern evangelism in 2 languages together with remnants of Kayan tribal culture- truly an eye-opening evening for the team.

The following day started with a trip to Long Atip Primary School to present to the 14 permanent students our English based lessons amd games that we had planned. With the whole school in one classroom, the team paired up with the students and we began to find out more about the children of Long Atip as we exchanged questions. This was followed by a spelling and grammar test as well as a game of hangman which went surprisingly well despite the mixed abilities of the students that ranged from age 7 to 12. We concluded our time at the school with an energetic game of duck, duck, goose and stuck in the mud which proved hilarious as we charged around the school field. Finally, we presented the children with a host of toys such as balls and diabolos as well as writing pads and pencils for which they were very greatful. We then headed straight back to the church were we continued concreting for the rest of the day until 4 in the afternoon which was more than enough time for one challenger to hoe their way through the village's main water pipe (although this was later fixed).

 That evening, we made our way back to the school for a football match against the children and teachers of Long Atip primary. Although the pitch looked perfectly playable, our own players were soon sent sliding on their rears as they discovered the boggy ground on the left wing; needless to say, this made for some hilarious improvisation from both teams on this side of the pitch. Although we had anticipated a game in which we would have the advantage of age and experience, we were soon put to shame by the opposition as we fell behind by two goals. It was then that the challengers (not to mention Jo, Emma and Paul) began to rigorously fight to narrow down the goal deficit. Credit must be given in particular to a challenger who already on the trip had excelled in basketball in spite of their vertical disadvantage, and who once more rose (literally) to the challenge of goalkeeping which they did so valiantly. The match ended spectacularly as a draw in the closing moments of the game as some persistence against the tireless Long Atip paid off to give us a glorious final goal to end the game 4 all. The evening was greatly enjoyed by all who played; even those challengers not accustomed to playing football proved invaluable against the unprecedented talent of the teachers of Long Atip and their students.

Day three was to be our final day of concrete work. During the morning and early afternoon we worked tirelessly to finish the base layer of the concrete steps for the slope, using up the last of the large gravel piles we had funded as we did so. We then returned after a lunch break to begin work on making wooden frames that were to act as moulds for some concrete slabs we were to make. This involved nailing together large pieces of scrap timber to form a square frame with many rectangular segments inside; these were later filled with concrete and were to be layed as a moveable pathway in and around the school during the rainy season when some areas of ground could be flooded. After work that day, we practised our songs for the following evening's farewell event and we also continued to play with the ever curious children of the village who, each day, would congregate outside our homestay and join in with card games and other activities. It was truly delightful to spend time with the children: learning their names and getting to know their personalities to a point were we became quite attached to many of them by the end of our stay. One 11 year old, Daniel, should be mentioned in particular for his outstanding grasp of the English language at such a young age together with his eager willingess to talk to all of us about life in Long Atip as well as being a group translator for the other children, many of whom spoke very little English. 

By day 4 of the project, the team was well and truly tired of cement, so it was with great relief that we headed down to the church to begin painting an outbuilding and the railings. Spread out around the perimeter, it was highly enjoyable chatting whilst painting and it made a nice change from the monotony of shovelling. Those who were painting the lime green outbuilding will know the fear of finding a 4 inch long scorpion hiding under some bricks, the kind of creature that only seems to exist in films but which became an all too vivid reality for those of us painting near it. Having disposed of the scorpion however, we made quick work of the painting and finished all the work in time to return to the homestay for an early practice and a well earned break before the evening's event. A few hours later and we had been led by Nawan (one of our hosts) to a rubber tree at the edge of the village, where he showed us how to harvest the latex using a grooved chisel to burrow beneath the bark of the tree. We then headed back to the homestay to begin the festivities. A short church service just outside our front door preluded a host of tribal dances which had the team beaming from ear to ear as we paraded in a circle to the raucous sound of the village gongs.  We then performed our group songs and three challengers showcased a song with solo voice, guitar and dance that was received extremely well. After that, we were given the opportunity to play the village gongs as the rest of the group, together with some elderly but lively village folk, danced. Although most became accomplished gong players by the end of the evening, one group were proclaimed 'rhythmically challenged' upon hearing their rendition. That night we were also given the opportunity to try our hand at a male warrior dance and a slow dance by the women of the village alike. As usual, this was a side splitting affair. The team also gave a thank you speech to show our gratitude for the utmost care that was given to us by our hosts and the willingness of the people of Long atip to share their lives and culture with us so openly. Finally, we received certificates and thanks from the villagers for the work that we had done, before taking part in some final group dances although by this point, much of the choreography was lost on us as we were all exhausted. After a lovely evening, we headed to bed to rest for our journey back to Miri. 

After some sad goodbyes to the friends we had made in Long Atip, we once more boarded the four by fours; this time for a bumpy ride back to Miri. With just two full days in Borneo left, the team were relieved to be spending our last nights in the 4 star Park City Everly hotel were we enjoyed the beds, hot showers, gym and swimming pool in between our shopping trips to the town centre and our visit on the final day to the Sunflower Center - a red crescent center that caters for up tp 120 children and young adults with mental disabilities in Miri: teaching them life skills and improving employment prospects for those who may otherwise never have stood a chance. After a tour of the small center, the team donated our hand knitted teddies as well as 600 ringit to the center in the hope that they would continue their good work there. Our last meal as a team that night was a blast as we filled our faces in the marina nearby to the hotel. Happy and contented, we all now look forward to our return home to tell our countless tales and share the incredible experiences we have had; until then, 

Team 2 - 13th August 2017

After arriving at our Gunung Mulu homestay and enjoying a very well deserved lie in, team two spent the next morning relishing in the heat. Some enjoying yoga, others taking part in a sweaty exercise class and the rest of the team sunbathing or swimming in the river. 

However, our relaxing morning couldn't last forever. A short walk down to Park HQ saw us meet our guide Jenny once again, and everyone was eager to continue exploring the national park. A quick 3km walk down the park's boardwalks presented us with our sights of the day- two magnificent caves, Langs Cave and Deer Cave. Each cave, although fairly close together, had its own unique features. Our particular favourite, Deer Cave, was not only classed as the largest cavern in the world, but home to approximately 2-3 million bats. It's safe to say the smell which engulfed the caves was not pleasant at all; and many team members were glad to leave after our 40 minute tour, just to escape the smell.

We left the caves at dusk, in just enough time to watch 'Bat Exodus'. As the day wore away, bats in spiralling lines left the cave to begin their night of exploration. The spectacle lasted for around 30 minutes, and many began to wonder if the line of bats would ever end. 

After what was perhaps one of team two's laziest days, our hungry appetite was met with some satisfying food bought from the Park HQ cafe.

Although the next morning was not as relaxing as the last, we all woke up fresh faced and ready to further explore all that Gunung Mulu had to offer. The activity lined up for us for the day was the canopy walk, a walk quite unlike any of the ones we'd done so far, as this time we would be high in the tree tops as opposed to having our feet planted firmly on the ground.We were all eager to get up there and see everything the rainforest had to offer, even those scared of heights. When we arrived at Park HQ, we were greeted by our guides for the day and embarked on the short walk to the canopy trail. Once the team arrived at the start of the walk, we had to climb up a plethora of steps in order for us to reach the height required to enjoy the views. At the top, we saw the wooden planked bridge that we were set to walk over. Our guide Imran told us to walk across two at a time so we all paired up and set off on our walk in the heights of the rainforest. Although we didn't encounter any monkeys we still enjoyed seeing the rainforest from their point of view, admiring the vibrant green trees and observing all the wildlife not otherwise available to see on the rainforest floor.

Once the walk was completed, we all returned to park HQ to have lunch. Following lunch, the team was faced with a difficult decision; should we embark on another trek or return to the homestay and enjoy an afternoon of relaxing. Unsurprisingly, the team unanimously voted for the latter. Therefore the rest of the day was spent chilling, playing cards and swimming in the river.

A short 20 minute flight took us to Miri. There are 3 flights a day from the small airport at Mulu. The airport had 3 rooms in total, the check in room, the arrivals room, and the room in which security was placed along with seats for us to wait for the flight. The aeroplane flew low and it was a clear day so you could see where the jungle ended and the palm trees had taken over the landscape in neat rows. The flight itself lasted all of 30 minutes. Nevertheless, the two flight crew on board still offered us a packet of peanuts and a nice cold milo.  

Our time in the resort city of Miri was largely spent with us preparing for the project phase, which was quickly approaching. We had a meeting with our in country agent Sampson who informed us on all that the project would entail. We dedicated an entire morning to buying snacks for ourselves and supplies and presents for the children of Long Atip. However, we had heard from the other team that Miri had an exciting public swimming pool that offered tonnes of fun. We therefore decided to all trek down to the pool that afternoon, only to see closed doors and an empty pool; it was closed on Mondays! The team had to think on their feet and we came up with a plan, we would find a hotel and pay to use their pool. And that's exactly what we did. Upon reaching the imperial hotel, our hopes of swimming quickly diminished as the consierge informed us of the price. So we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping in the mall and buying souvenirs to bring back to family and friends at home. However, there was a slight glitch in the day when a member of the team left a bag filled with theirs and others swimming things at the mall. Once it had been realised, the entire team needed to return to the mall, at which point a downpour decided to begin. Our walk allowed us to have a taste of what we missed earlier in the day as we swam through the streets of borneo, or at least that's what it must have looked like to the shoppers in the mall.

That night, we visited what quickly became our favourite spot to eat in Miri, Ming's Café. After a delicious meal, the waiters brought out a box filled with papers and we were about to try and win a t-shirt! Two members of the team pulled out the lucky piece and won! This was quickly followed up with a group picture for the staff at Ming's café to put up on their wall which is covered in pictures of previous challengers! 

We are now all preparing for our 5 hour 4 wheel drive up to Long Atip and are greatly anticipating all the work we are set to do on the project. Love to all, and we can't wait to see you all soon. 

Team 1 - 9th August - pm

Team 1 conquer Mount Kinabalu. 

We set of from KK on 7th August to the HQ of the Mount Kinabalu National Park. On arrival we were told there had been a mess up with our package and for the first night we had been upgraded into special chalets. We couldn't believe our eyes when we were shown our accommodation - 5* plus (one even had a jacuzzi) and furnishings in the style of a ski chalet. 

Sadly we had to set off early the next morning to climb 6km to our 'base camp' above the tree line. It took us just under 6 hours and it was a steep climb pretty much all the way - rough path and loads of steps - relentless. 

The 'base camp' provided us with a meal in the evening, bunk beds until 2am and then a breakfast before we started at 2.45 am. Heading up the mountain by the light of our head torches, we had four guides to walk with us to show us the way. We thought the first day had been gruelling but this was a much greater challenge. We all passed through the checkpoint before 5am making us eligible for the summit of Low's Peak shrouded in the low cloud above. Mount Kinabalu has a massive granite summit that can only be reached by traversing extensive weathered granite outcrops - with the steep gradient you have to hang on to ropes and haul yourself upwards. 

Every student made it to the summit at 4,095.2m or 13,435.7ft with Mr Bashford and our World Challenge Leader Scott Stevenson. Mrs Williams had to settle for sunrise at a very respectable 3800m. 

Walking down in daylight just emphasised what a physical challenge it had been making our ascent in the dark- everyone was exhausted but elated arriving back at 'base camp' for our second breakfast. 

At 10.40 we had to get walking again and return to the park HQ - often people say 'it hurts more on the way down than the way up'! Certainly there were loads of complaints about sore knees and aching leg muscles. Everyone agreed it had been an amazing team and individual effort - they were so glad they had done it. 

Team 1 - 9th August - am

Team 1 have conquered Mount Kinabalu - all back in KK safe and sound. Full report to follow.

Team 3 - 8th August 

Our first couple of days were spent in Kota Kinabalu consisting of venturing into the city, exploring night markets, and preparing for our 6 hour bus journey to Sepilok. Whilst in Sepilok, we visited the Orang Utan Sanctuary where we adopted an orphaned orang utan called Gelison, meaning 'warrior' in Malay. We also spent our time at the Sun Bear Sanctuary and the Rainforest Discovery Centre, where we did a night trek and saw some unusual nocturnal animals, our favourite being the flying squirrels.  

After Sepilok, we had one afternoon to prepare for our acclimatisation trek in the Crocker Range, which involved the planning of meals for the following four days. After a very tough first day, the remainder of the trek went smoothly;  teamwork improved, we all got used to the heat and campfire food was enjoyed by all. We ended up at The Adventure Centre, where we enjoyed an exciting day white water rafting, with amazing views of our upcoming challenge... Mount Kinabalu! 

Realisation of the height and extent of the challenge ahead of us began to kick in during the journey to Mount Kinabalu. On the first day, we walked 6km to an altitude of 3,200m to our accommodation for the night, Laban Rata. After a very early night, we woke up at 1:30 AM to climb to the summit. After a tough 2.8 KM trek, we made it to the summit just in time for sunrise, which provided breathtaking views. Then, with tired legs , we descended down the mountain. A much needed R & R day was spent snorkelling in the South China Sea, before we departed to Miri. 

After an early morning flight we arrived in Miri  

Team 2 - 6th August 

The next stop for team two was a brief, but enjoyable stay in Lawas, Sarawak. A four hour bus journey left us at a dusty Lawas bus station- just 50 yards from the Million Hotel...

A flurry of activity saw the tasks for the day hastily completed, allowing the team time to split up and explore the town. The sunbaked streets and markets of Lawas were filled with cafés and street food; the cold drinks proved popular in the searing heat of the day. The boys headed towards the river that ran through the centre of Lawas, where jetties and ferry boats lined the banks, whilst other teams enjoyed the wealth of street food and even indulged in a few facemasks (a necessity for a truly intrepid world challenger).

The day ended with a visit to the local park, where a sheepish team two were led by the ever enthusiastic Emma to challenge a group of Lawas basketball players. A timid start turned in to a determined rivalry as the locals outmatched us, despite the considerable height advantage of some challengers (and the sterling effort of those more vertically challenged) . More success was had in the game of football that was played on the other half of the basketball court: the challengers winning thanks to a heroic performance from our star female player with a hefty 4 goal tally. As well as the sport we enjoyed meeting the local people and talking to them about life in Lawas before heading to dinner- needless to say, it was a rather sweaty affair.

The following morning, the team ate breakfast in a local café where the language barrier saw some of the boys with surprise pancakes instead of noodles. We then packed up and headed by taxi to Limbang bus terminal, which involved crossing through Brunei and 4 border checks, where we were met by a cohort of four by fours. A quick stop for lunch by some challengers at a nearby café that sold 'friend fries' preceeded the journey further in to Sarawak by car. The need for offroad vehicles was not made initially apparent, however the road gradually morphed in to dirt track and then a rugged gravel path. Bumpy terrain and the lack of handles in the cars proved both hilarious and a lot of fun so it seemed a short two hours of driving past endless greenery before we arrived at a communal longhouse that was to be our home for the night.

Some very observant challengers initially remarked on the length of the longhouse: "it's very long" being an ever insightful comment. The families welcomed us in to their homes and it was not long before many challengers were playing clapping games and singing with the gang of excitable young residents who were filled with an endless enthusiasm - truly an exhausting but delightful experience. 

The morning started at 5:30 am as a 5 hour boat trip and an 11.4km trek awaited us. The boats were not as we had expected. Long, narrow and sat alarmingly low in the water once laden with challengers and rucksacks, the boats soon proved to be a highlight of the trip so far. Views of pristine jungle and luscious greenery were enjoyed from the comfort of the river boats and with a gentle breeze. It was not all plain sailing however, as we soon discovered that the lack of rainfall meant that we were required to help our river guides push through some shallower sections of water. Although tiring, the constant jumping in and out of the water was a refreshing change from sitting idle in the boats. 

5 hours of damp pushing and a quick picnic lunch later, the team arrived at the start point for our trek. Wrinkled hands and feet were hastily talced up before we pressed in to the jungle of Gunung Mulu National Park and began our journey to our accomodation at Camp 5. Thick jungle surrounded a well trodden path that followed the river deeper in to Gunung Mulu but the dense greenery did little to protect us from the heat of the day, which left us dripping with sweat after just a few yards with our heavy packs. Thankfully, the flatter terrain and a steady pace allowed for us to make quick progress: travelling more than 3km in an hour. A trickle of rain could be felt dripping through the canopy with an hour of walking remaining and the team were in high spirits, however we were yet to experience the tropical downpour that gives the rainforest its name. Even the compact foliage above us was unable to shield us from the torrents of water that rained down on us; it was not long before the whole team were utterly soaked. The jungle corridor appeared to end with a sunlit clearing of vibrant greenery as we emerged into a large field of bright colour, even beneath the dark sky. Rain continued to beat down on us as we crossed the clearing, our camp in sight, but a rope bridge over the river still stood between us and shelter. Clambering across the slippery bridge in twos proved painstaking as our clothes became more sodden by the minute but it was not long before all of us had made the final push to Camp 5 to be met with a pleasant surprise...

As we squelched over the threshold, we were met by familiar faces and a host of smiles. Team 1 were also staying at the camp that night prior to continuing their travels back the same way we had come that day. Seeing the other team was a lovely surprise as we were able to share stories of our very different experiences thus far in the trip and ask questions about the project they had just completed in Mulu. Despite having to squeeze 19 of us into a 10 bed dorm, the team enjoyed the evening that we shared with our fellow challengers. It was upon changing in to dry clothes that many of us found we had been attacked by leeches whilst trekking; this proved to be a challenging ordeal for some more than others as the leeches were hastily removed.

The following morning the two teams said their goodbyes and parted ways as began another 9km trek in our damp clothes. Although less arduous than the previous days trek, walking proved tiresome still and there was a heightened (slightly exaggerated) fear of leeches from some individuals although, by the end of the walk, they had escaped unscathed. With great relief, we arrived at the riverbank to change footwear and once more clamber in to the precarious vessels. The journey was short and the team soon arrived at the Wind Cave - a spectacular cavern with multiple breezy entrances that we explored with the help of our guide Jenny. Another quick boat ride left the team at Clearwater Cave. A scramble up 200 steps brought us to the mouth of the cave that played host to an impressive underground river and several skylights adorned with greenery. One final trip downstream led us to an inviting jetty and our homestay for the night.

Proper beds, showers and the rest of the afternoon to relax leech free was a welcome prospect and marked the start of a layed back couple of days for the team.

Best wishes from the team.


Team 1 - 5th August

Safe arrival in Kota Kinabalu (KK)

We left our homestay in Mulu four days ago to complete this particular trekking phase. Firstly we took local long boats up the river to the Clearwater and Wind Caves - once again we were in awe of the sheer size of the caves. Clearwater is also especially spectacular in that the river actually flows through it.

It was then a case of back in the boats to take us further upstream - slight problem though - it has been very dry here and the water levels low so we had to jump out of the boats in the shallows and help push them! All good fun.

After a 9km trek through the forest we arrived at Camp 5 - a basic stop over with shared forms. We arrived as the heavens opened and then ........... to the surprise of our group Team 2 walked in from the opposite direction (all leaders had kept this secret) - they were so happy to see each other.

The next day we followed the Head Hunters' Trail for 11km negotiating a couple of wobbly rope bridges over rivers - one aptly named the Monkey Bridge. Our overnight stop was at a park ranger station - here we slept (or tried to sleep in some cases) in our hammocks. 

The next day our new boat crew took us down the river for about 4 hours - thankfully we didn't need to help push. 

Our final destination for the day was Limbang, a moderate size commercial town on a river. We were fortunate to stay with a delightful family who gave up all their bedrooms for us for the night and ferry us back and forth to the town. The Chinese night market provided us with our first decent meal for several days!

Today we took a long distance coach to KK - a fairly slow journey as we had to pass through Brunei and from one Malaysian state to another. Every check point required getting off the coach to have our passports checked and stamped.

We are now in Akinabalu youth Hostel for a couple of nights before heading off to climb Mt Kinabalu.

Best wishes to all.


Team 2 - 4th August

Straight after the strenuous, yet rewarding climb of Mt Kinabalu, the team had a well earned rest day in Kota Kinabalu. This meant we had the time to discover and interact with the vast cultures that enveloped the city. That night, the team went down to the sea front to wander through the night market: an array of vibrant colours and scenes. 

With another rest day to hand, the team headed down to the port to enjoy a day of snorkeling on the island of Sapi which translates to "cow".  Teeming with fish and other sea life, the ocean appeared to be a kaleidoscope of colour. Exhausted after a whole day of swimming and boat journeys, the team split up to buy food and explore Kota Kinabalu.

That Friday, the team spent the day on a six hour coach journey heading to Sepilok. On arriving at our accommodation we spent a joyful evening in the pool. The next day team 2 were off to Sepilok, the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the sun bear Rehabilitation Centre; both were enjoyable experiences. In Sepilok we decided it was a great idea to adopt both an Orangutan as well as a Sunbear to give back to the local community. The Orangutan is called Gelison and the Sunbear is  Kuamut. On Saturday evening  the team split up to go to the Rainforest Discovery Center, some stayed at the hotel as they were tired. 

On Monday, we said goodbye to Sabah and the lodge we were staying in called Lavender Lodge. 

Now the team are preparing for the main trek in Gunung Mulu. 

This will be a four day trek.

Team 1 - 1st August pm

Greetings from Mulu National Park 

We have spent our last day based at our homestay with Peter and Helen and will be heading off into the forest tomorrow with our big packs and a plan to sleep in our hammocks for two nights.

We completed our project at the local school and were very touched by the thanks we received for all our hard work. The students thoroughly enjoyed working with the teachers to improve spoken English. The children were delightful - so keen to learn. We are also pleased to report that we won the final football match against the staff 3-1!

We have been exploring the National Park for the last three days under the supervision of local guides. One afternoon we explored caves and at dusk witnesses the exodus of 2-3 million bats - awesome. We have also explored the canopy by walking along swaying and bouncing bridges and spent time both on the river in long boats and in the river walking to a waterfall. It is a truly lovely place. 

We will probably not have wifi again until we get to Kota Kinabalu next weekend. 

Team 2 - Wednesday 26th July pm

Following a barbecue provided by the adventure center after our white water rafting experience, team 2 boarded a bus back to Kota Kinabalu and Lavender Lodge to prepare for the next trek: climbing Mt. Kinabalu. 

A mammoth effort by the laundry taskforce early on the morning of the 23rd of July ensured that the team had fresh clothes ready for the hike. A two hour taxi journey, fraught with jubilant if not tuneful singing, left the team at the base camp of Mt. Kinabalu - a bustle of activity at the foot of a breathtaking view of the mountain. A stressful 20 minutes ensued after one member of the team left their money belt and passport in the taxi, however a heroic u-turn by Raz (a very popular driver) saw the moneybelt returned. A short briefing and 20 minute walk from the basecamp following some painstaking paperwork was made all the more worth it at the sight of our accomodation for the evening. 5 luxurious lodges welcomed us with a surplus of space, hot showers and extremely comfortable beds; needless to say, the all you can eat buffet dinner was a sight for sore eyes.

A 6am start and a hearty breakfast led to a 15 minute bus ride to Timpohon gate: the start of what would prove to be an arduous journey. Our guides helped the team up the steep mountain slopes. Some members of the team experienced symptoms of altitude sickness as we climbed from our starting point 1800 meters above sea level. The 6km trek to our overnight checkpoint at Laban Rata was challenging not least because of the rugged terrain but also the physical strain of the thinning air as we ascended 1500 meters on the first day, which was rewarded with stunning views.The team reached Laban Rata after 7 hours, exhausted and hungry. A hearty dinner and a special birthday surprise for Gemma preluded a short rest before a 2am start to climb the remainder of Kinabalu. One member of the group chose to remain at Laban Rata with Jo whilst the other 15 anxious but excited challengers attempted the final stretch with Emma and Paul. 

Climbing the steps out of Laban Rata in the pitch black marked the start of an extremely hard journey. The trail of torchlight ascending the ominous black outline of the mountain was a surreal sight as we clambered up rocky steps and at some points had to climb steep rockface using ropes. The icy wind and thin air made the ascent ever more demanding, however all 15 challengers together with Emma and Paul made it to Sayat Sayat gate before the cut off time of 5am. By this point several group members were unsure about whether they could make the final stretch. A tough call by Emma and the team saw 7 brave members stay behind at the Sayat Sayat gate whilst a final 8 challengers pressed on to the summit. 

The 7 challengers and Paul that chose to remain at Sayat Sayat rested in a tin hut at the checkpoint. They tried to keep warm in the makeshift dormitory as they watched the sun rise together with other climbers who had stayed behind.They later made their way back down the steep slopes that they had earlier climbed, surprised at the scale of the obstacles they had overcome in the dark - a descent that seemed to take far longer than the climb just hours earlier.

Meanwhile, determination kept the other 8 challengers going as we climbed the final 1.6 kilometres to the summit. The clearing cloud left an incredible sight of a blood red sunrise over the grey of the sheer mountain slope. Great relief greeted us as we reached the 8km marker as just 700 meters remained between us and the summit. The remaining challengers dug deep, fighting for air and against the exhaustion and constant barrage of icy 50km/h winds. The final stretch was a painstaking clamber up the rock stack that makes up Low's peak, however the summit was worth every painful moment of the climb. 4095.2 meters above sea level, sat atop the clouds and higher than any climber in south-east Asia, beaming smiles were exchanged despite the buffeting wind. One challenger ate a customary mcdonald's mcmuffin atop the mountain (a feat that is likely never to be matched) whilst Gemma enjoyed the closing moments of her birthday (7am local time but still yesterday back home) looking out over the beauty of Borneo from its highest peak - truly an unforgettable moment for all that made it.

The rest of the day was spent descending Kinabalu, which was just as beautiful as the journey up. The team regrouped at Laban Rata to have breakfast. Those who had climbed to the summit only had an hours rest, but we all descended in good spirits. The way down seemed to take forever and we were all reminded of how far we had come as even the first day of climbing had consisted of more than double the ascent that we experienced in our Snowdon training expedition. We reached base camp by 5pm, aching and exhausted however the two hour bus ride home again proved to be an irresistable opportunity for a sing song. The day ended once more in the heat of KK where we went out for a meal along the seafront and presented Gemma with a real birthday cake. Lavender Lodge provided us with air conditioning and beds that were duly welcomed as the team collapsed after our greatest challenge yet.

Be sure to follow Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School on twitter for more frequent updates and photos 

Team 2 - Wednesday 26th July am

After spending an entire day travelling to their destination, Team 2 touched down in Kota Kinabalu in the early hours of Tuesday 18th July. This left the team with one of their first challenges of the trip: the jet lag. Borneo is seven hours ahead of the U.K. so this was a long day. We were chucked in at the deep end and straight off on our first trek in the Crocker Range. This meant a lot had to be arranged - food for the trek and guides' transport, in sleep walking mode in a strange city. We got to the jungle and the fun began. Some struggled with the weight of the main packs and becoming accustomed to the heat with a lack of sleep. The hammocks took a while to master but luckily the weather was on our side, which made it so much easier to accustom to the climate. Having carried all the food for the three days, we all loved the cooking the team did, dishes ranging from sausage casserole to spaghetti bolognaise/bolognese (a heated dispute) After a strenuous day of trekking we all ended on a high by having a shower in the river.     The noise in the jungle was tremendous! The afternoon we finished, we all took a well earned break zip wiring and conquering the high ropes.

As one of our R&Rs we all went white water rafting on the Kiulu River. Rapids churning with white foam, we all enjoyed the healthy competition and the white water swimming down the river.

Now we are preparing for the trek for Kinabalu. 

Sorry for the delay in sending this message, our wifi has not been great and we have been jam packed busy. Keep updated by checking the tweets via the school website. 

Team 1 - Wednesday 26th July 

Good morning from the Mulu National Park - a World Heritage site famous for its biodiversity and unique natural landscapes. We arrived here after a short flight in a small plane a couple of days ago.

We are based here for 8 days and staying in a lovely family homestay. First we are on a five day project at the only school in the area - 122 children aged 7-12, 80 of whom are boarders.  Most of the children are from the local Penan tribe who were forest nomads until the late 1970s.

The team are relaying an old path - mixing large quantities of concrete by hand - for the first couple of days. The headmaster has made it clear that the priority however is to interact with the children so they can practise their English. Our students will be attached to classes in the second half of the project. 

In the afternoons the team have been playing football and volley ball and taking every opportunity to cool off in the river next to the school. 

We are in the most idyllic spot and feel very privilidged to be working with such delightful welcoming people.

Next weekend we will start our treks in the forest. 

The team are all well and thoroughly enjoying each and every day. 

Best wishes from us all. 

Team 1 - 23rd July 2017 -  back in Miri 

We cannot believe that this time last week we were on build up day! Time has flown and we have packed in so much. The team members are getting the hang of expedition life and taking on more and more responsibility. There have been some very good student leaders.  We are also getting used to the climate - about 32 degrees during the day and 25 at night; it is of course the high humidity that saps the energy.

We have completed three day treks including 9 km in the forest yesterday (took us 6hours) - swimming in a beautiful pool with a waterfall at lunchtime will be a life-long 'best moments' memory for us all. In the evening we celebrated one team member's 17th birthday with a chocolate cake! 

We think this could be our last evening with wifi for the next 10 days as we will be living in a remote village in the Mulu National park (an area listed by LP as (the 8th wonder of the world' for its biodiversity and beauty).  We will be living at a home stay and spending 5 days working in a small school before our main trek.

Love to family and friends.

Team 1 – 22nd July 2017

The excitement built throughout Build Up day, and after a few hours sleep we were Heathrow bound. From Heathrow, we had a quick stop in Singapore, before catching a connecting flight to Kuala Lumpur. A whistle-stop tour of KL followed before our final flight to Miri, a small city in southern Borneo. After an admin day sorting out a SIM card, money changing, travel arrangements and shopping, we travelled to the awe-inspiring Niah Caves. This was billed as an acclimatisation trek, and so it proved. Hot, humid and rainy, it has set the Challengers up for our more technical and tricky treks later in the expedition. The caves are a world famous site, where the oldest homo-sapien skeletons in South Asia have been discovered. Next up are further acclimatisation treks in the Lambir Hills, before a flight to Mulu to start the project phase. 

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