A little more than a week after leaving England, Lucie and I have arrived at the place where we’re about to stay for a couple of month – Lupa Masa Rainforest Camp in Malaysian Borneo. We are wwoofers here, didn’t really know what to expect, except that we re supposed to help setting up a vegetable garden in the jungle in exchange for accommodation, basic food and a stay in one of the most beautiful and biodiverse places in the world.
We took the long way to get here. After landing in Kuching in the west of the island we went on a five hour boat trip, a six hour and another ten hour bus journey up to Kota Kinabalu in the north-east of the island. After staying there for one night we went on a three hour taxi journey up to the mountains where we met Charlie, one of our hosts and wildlife specialist who picked us up in the village, a 45-minute walk away from the camp.
Travelling by boat and bus through the country might be tiring, but it had at least given us an idea of what is going on agriculturally on the Malaysian part of Borneo – controlled burning of fields is the traditional method for clearing space, there is a lot of rice cultivation and sadly lots of deforestation for timber as well as miles and miles of palm tree monocultures for gaining palm oil – apparently all owned by the government.
It looks a bit different in the camp though…
Tom, a guy from England who we shortly met, set up the Rainforest Camp with Charlie one and a half years ago. He’s rarely there, as he’s busy with community tourism projects. So we’re staying here with Charlie from Hawaii and his apprentice Calem from Scotland. Charlie will be off for a couple of weeks soon though, on one of the community projects in Sarawak. He speaks Malay, knows the local people and is very familiar with the jungle and her plant and animal species.
Words or pictures couldn’t describe what it’s like. It’s not for everybody I guess, as it’s quite basic and simple living, sleeping in hammocks with a mosquito net around (protecting rather from huge spiders instead of the luckily quite rare mosquitoes), wet-toilets, very limited electricity (because the storm broke the hydroelectric structure that was put in place); besides that, many insects, leeches all over the place trying to grab hold of you to fill themselves with blood (supposed to be purifying and helpful in cleaning poisonous snake bites) and at night fire ants that like to eat meet and burn your feet when you come near them turn up (sound more scary than it is, it doesn t hurt for long:).
But all of these are not enough reasons to not recognise the beauty of the jungle; the viper sleeping on the shrub on the camp-side, the washing in the fresh water of the stream rushing down waterfalls, creating pools here and there in between70 meter high trees, banana shrubs and hanging orchids; the beautiful butteflies and the sounds of nature, the birds and crickets and the varieties of frogs that you’ll meet at night staring at you, each one of them, showing off their clearly distinguishable character.
So what are Lucie and I doing here, wwoofing and having a good time? Who gives us the right to walk into this beautiful environment, this fountain of life? We are well aware and grateful for the privilege of experiencing a place like this. I m not a travel writer, but I ll update on our work there and send in some pictures.