Borneo 2014 trip writeup

Borneo Expedition Jungle

A nice write up from one of our latest Exped clients...

"First Jungle trip.

Now that the leach bites are healing I thought I’d jot down some thoughts.
I’d not been to a jungle before and when the opportunity came up “ it seemed like a good idea at the time”. I received loads of information from Mat. Being a bloke I couldn’t wait to start purchasing those essential items. Sure enough it wasn’t long before a steady stream of deliveries starting to arrive.

I’d never had to consider repatriation insurance for my remains before, but there’s a first time for everything! As time passed and the deliveries got less I started to consider the dreaded inoculations. A quick trip to the Doc’s and all was sorted, in all I had about 5 visits varying between 2 to 3 jabs a time. By the end of which any needle phobia was completely a thing of the past.

As the departure date got closer so the realization hit home and I must admit apprehension kicked in. For some reason I now found I was watching Mat’s video of jungle essentials quite regularly, trying to get every bit of information clear in my head.

The day of departure and I found out that Royal Brunei air lines give you loads of leg room. Food was good, films were OK. Regrettably we had a 15-hour delay in Dubai.

Mat and Stu met us at the airport and off we went to the hotel. A quick inspection of our kit and it was clear that I’d brought too much. We were given our ration pack to sort and then whisked off to the night market for something strange to eat.

After many more re-packs of kit and sorting of ration pack food (most of which was left behind) I finally had a fitful nights sleep, all that talk of king cobra’s and debilitating millipede bite doesn’t calm the mind.

The next day we had our first taste of the jungle, boy was it hot. You’re so busy looking out for stuff that’s going to bite, sting or just eat you, you can’t really take anything in. You’re trying not to fall over and not put your hand anywhere you can’t see.

After a short trek we reached the stashed sit on tops and a kayak at the lake. One thing you learn is nasty things live in dark holes. We were fine getting on to our sit on tops. Mat however clearly didn’t relish having to squeeze into a very old kayak that had sat on a lake side for a year. As we paddled out onto the lake I had my first clear view of the jungle, a wall of green all around us. This was it for me, we were here at last, Brunei and in the jungle in the middle of a lake quite incredible. After lunch, and some more exploring around the lake we returned to the hotel to recoup having found out just how tricky it is to navigate out of the jungle.

After a nights sleep we set off for our first of night out in hammocks. The walk in through the swamp was dryer than expected; and we did have our first leach sighting.

First camp site, its not like the UK you see a potential area, decide what you need there, as in a pole to hang your bag, 2 suitable trees for your hammock and space for your EDC. Then you get busy with your parang cutting all the other stuff away. This took a bit of getting used to I must admit. I’d suggest its essential to have pitched a hammock before you leave the UK and I’d strongly advise anyone to have spent at least a night in a hammock as well. We had a group shower standing in the downpour, refilled our water from the rainwater running off our tarps then got ready to retire, after all it was 6.00pm. The noise at night is incredible everything wants to let you know its there. The talk about snakes on the first night must have made an impression because I noticed how I’d pitched my hammock about a foot higher than I normal would. Don’t expect to sleep well on the first night. There’s insects all around you at night, some glow, and some sound as if they are powered by small diesel engines. These were my favorite; it’s a beetle about the size of a golf ball and clearly its very short sighted as it spends most of the night bumping into your tarp. The ants are massive but really not interested in you at all. Surprisingly there were very few mosquitoes unless you went to the loo at night.

I wont go into detail about each day as it wont be relevant to another trip. What I will say is that as each day passes you settle into the routine a little further. Your day starts with the light and finishes when it goes. The amount of water you have is always in the back of your mind. The streams are paths by which to travel, a cooling respite from the heat of the day, a group bath each evening and a source of food, not to mention what you drink. You eat surprisingly little. The longer you are there the more you notice what’s around you because you are not having to fret about the things that might be stalking you. For me the best time was a 20 minute slot just before in got dark. The cicada’s would start their hours warning for the onset of night then just before the light went there would be a wonderful golden grow as the setting sun shone through the trees trunks at a shallow angle.

Funny thing is the chores of the first night, powdering you feet, and searching for leaches start to become a pleasure. You start to get a real feeling of just how small you are in this environment. The jungle has a strange way of testing you, each test try’s to find a weakness, it just a head job really as long as you look after yourself and your kit your fine. Lying in your hammock just before dawn listening to the nigh shift signing off as the morning shift announces its presence is just incredible and until you’ve heard a big tree or branch fall close by in the night you’ve not lived.

So to our Guides, I think it’s a tough job to lead people in this environment lets face it there’s the potential for some major issues. Mat and Stu are without doubt best described as eccentric and they’re quite different from each other. They allow you space but you know they are watching out for you. Their experience shows but they are never in your face. They have a way of pointing out any oversight you may have made without being critical. Yep I think they’ve got this guiding thing just right.

Would I go back? 100% yes I’m already making plans.

Some handy hits from a novice

Pack light.

Choose your kit wisely the jungle destroys kit fast.

Millbank filters are too slow.

Make sure your clothing isn’t to heavy weight, you’re going to sweat like never before. I found out that heavy weight material chafes, enough said.

You don’t need sun cream.

I did take insect repellant; strangely I got more bites out of the jungle than in it.

Don’t use a rucksack that has additional side pouches, they are wide and hard to get through the trees and vegetation.

Use Dutch Hooks on your tree straps.

It’s a must to have either a Jungle Chair or EDC. Next time I’d have both.

A hanging stove is great you can cook while hanging in your hammock I used an MSR Reactor it was great.

An ipod with audio books is great for 12 hours in a dark hammock.

Shop around for your inoculations if you have to buy them privately.

Get the UK Hammocks Expedition Hammock.

Strangely you get to like leaches, and I’m still convinced they jump."


Nick G

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