World Challenge – Borneo and Malaysia
Report by Emily Muir
On 10th July 2016 we left Manchester for Miri in Sarawak, Borneo. We spent two nights in the city itself before travelling to Lambir Hills National Park where we would embark on the first stage of our expedition: the acclimatisation phase. Here we spent a few days trekking, trying to come to grips with the intense humidity and high temperatures in preparation for our main trek a few weeks later. We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent here as it was our first opportunity to bond as a team whilst seeing some of the beautiful landscapes Borneo has to offer.
The next phase was our project where we visited a long house which, as the words say, is a very long house with a number of apartments side by side all connected by the largest corridor! On arrival we were greeted by members of the community dressed in traditional attire who performed a dance for us to local music. We felt very honoured to be welcomed into what is quite a closed community. The first day we arrived we were fortunate enough to be taught basket weaving by the women of the long house; an activity we found to be a lot harder than it appeared!
The following morning we painted the exterior of the long house, in tame apple green and orange colours, with the paint we had bought for the community and, in the afternoon, we went to look around the local school where we would be spending our next few days. We all loved visiting the school and teaching the children nursery rhymes as well as playing games such as rounders and ‘duck goose’ with them. Leaving the school and waving goodbye to the children on the last day was very emotional as we all felt as though we had bonded well with them.
After we left the long house we travelled to the city of Kuching to visit Semenggoh Orangutan Sanctuary. This was very much a highlight of the trip as we got to see orangutans in their natural habitat. Whilst in Kuching we found a lovely cake and coffee shop inside an old colonial building where we spent the afternoon playing cards and avoiding a torrential rain storm. We found Kuching to be a beautiful city full of character with a rich cultural history; the perfect place to end our stay in Borneo before travelling to Malaysia.
The next phase was the main trek in the Taman Negara National Park. We all found the trek to be extremely challenging both mentally and physically for many reasons. If carrying a 20kg bag around with you all day on a dense jungle with 35 degree heat and 95% humidity was not a hard enough challenge in itself, when we finished walking we had to set up camp, bathe in the river and check for leeches. The jungle/rainforest itself was incredibly beautiful but its astounding variety of large insects and spiders will certainly not be missed! The trek taught us a lot about ourselves and brought us even closer as a team.
Our final phase was rest and relaxation where we travelled to the Perhenthian Islands. After the exhausting days in Taman Negara we were very grateful for some time to relax on white sand beaches next to the clear turquoise blue sea. On the first night we went to a lovely beach restaurant to celebrate Señora Lopez’s birthday. Whilst we were there, we decided to go banana boating which was quite terrifying as this was before we realised that our risk of shark attack was actually extremely low! We were also lucky enough to go snorkeling and see a variety of beautifully colourful corals and fish.
The final few days were spent in Kuala Lumpur visiting famous attractions such as the Petronas twin towers, Chinatown and the Batu caves. All in all, we had an amazing time and bonded so much, making life-long friends. We would like to thank our World Challenge leader Andy Gadsby and Señora Lopez for looking after us and helping us to have such a wonderful time.
Lauren Woodhead, who also took part in the expedition, commented:
“Even though it sounds like a cliché, World Challenge really is a life changing trip. Whether negotiating the price of a hostel or leading the way through a truly remote jungle, World Challenge enables you to achieve things you had never even considered. More than this, the people that you go with become closer to you in a month than some people do in years and act as the greatest support network you can imagine – even if that support is sitting and crying with you!
My favourite memory from the trip is sitting by the river after we had finished the trek, waiting for the boat. Although I felt ill, and although we were all exhausted, the feeling of achievement and satisfaction was unrivalled by anything I had done up until that moment.”