Venturers account of Danum Valley, Phase 2

3rd December 2013

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This is a guest blog from Venturers Bethany Scott and Florentine Arkel who were based at Danum Valley during phase two. The project was focused on trekking to retrieve equipment left by a previous expedition and the restoration of a suspension bridge.

"We have just come back from the hardest but most enjoyable conservation phase.  When we heard we’d been allocated to Danum Valley, we were really excited at the prospect of travelling somewhere so untouched, and yet also a bit scared because we knew it was going to be a mental and physical challenge, out of our comfort zone in the jungle.  We were thrown into the deep end, with a new group and unknown territory ahead of us and the length of our time in the jungle, uncertain.  Everyone was really determined to retrieve the equipment from Raleigh Cabin that had been left from a previous expedition.  

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We started the first 7.5km really enthusiastically but as we gradually got deeper and deeper into the jungle, we started to have doubts as to whether we were all up to it.  However, we all enjoyed the reward of the waterfall at the end of the first day – a private waterfall shower in the middle of the rainforest – how cool is that?

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The next day, we started on the most challenging day of the trek, pushing ourselves far past our limits and for us, the hardest day of our lives. The first 2 kilometres was the steepest uphill we’d ever seen and the terrain was exceptionally challenging.  Half way through the trek that day we had the option to set up jungle camp with the hammocks and tarps we had carried, but with no doubt in our minds, we continued on.  After 9 hours of trekking we finally arrived at our camp for the night.  The rangers were so impressed by our achievements, for they themselves, accustomed to jungle trekking, would expect to take the same amount of time to complete the 10km.  One of our PMs, who regularly hikes around the world, shared that it was the most challenging trek she’d ever done.  We were all looking at each other laughing, unable to put into words what we were feeling.

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We then got out the list and found all the equipment we were to carry back and divided it up, knowing that there was extra stuff halfway back that we also needed to carry.  There was a wide range of kit from sledgehammers to shovels and big 100 litre blue barrels, which we attached to empty rucksacks in order to carry them back.  We were really lucky to see lots of endangered butterflies – it then hit home how privileged we were to be in Danum.  After 3 more days of hard trekking we finally reached the bridge into Danum Valley Field Centre.  Everyone looked so tired but their eyes were sparkling with pride and happiness.  We all felt so close for sharing this achievement, most of us are on gap years and never expected to be so challenged or have such a rewarding experience.

A couple of days later we started the second half of our phase; repairing a suspension bridge, which allows scientists to travel to a remote area of Danum Valley.  The rangers expected us to flatten a slope and build a large stone wall in the week and a bit of working, but as typical of our group, we built a second stone wall, dug two holes and made a metal cage for cementing and concreted one of the holes.

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Besides the hard work, we also had a lot of fun with preparation for the Loop, filming for the music video and singing with a guitar.  On our rest day we were lucky enough to see an Orang-utan - it was such an amazing experience because they are so protected and to see it in the wild was a dream come true.

The last night we were treated to a dinner by the rangers to thank us for volunteering in Danum.  It was such a lovely evening.  The next morning we had to get up very early to head back to Basecamp but it was all worth it as we were lucky enough to see elephants walking into the jungle from our 4x4’s.  What a way to end our phase, Danum Valley was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience."