I am slowly working on updating these pages, some of them are linked from this page. However, after seeing Dave's excellent pages, I'm not sure there is much point in writing my own up!
As pretty much everybody reading this will already know; on April 24th, 2003, I am leaving the shores of Britain for a little trip.
I start off with a few days in Thailand, where I was hoping to meet up with a Canadian friend, Fawn, from the Inca trail last year. Unfortunately, due to the SARS virus, those plans have had to change. Even though Fawn is from Vancouver, because of the number of SARS cases in Toronto she would have had to spend 15 hours in quarantine and wear a mask for two weeks; most of her holiday. As a result, she is off to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Fawn; have an absolutely fantastic time there! Instead, I'm likely just to cool my heels in Bangkok (although I'm not sure you can cool anything in Bangkok), or head out to Kanchanaburi for a few days to relax outside the city.
After Thailand, I will spend the first four months with a group of other volunteers with Trekforce Expeditions. In turn, this is split into two months working on a conservation project in the Maliau Basin of Sabah, in the Malaysian part of Borneo, and two months working as a teaching assistant, probably in a remote village in the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak, also in the Malaysian part of Borneo.
After that, I plan to spend another seven or eight months travelling around as much of South and South-East Asia as I can squeeze into the time available before returning to London, and then back to my job on April 14th, 2004. (I am eternally grateful to them for promising to keep my job open for me whilst I am away.)
After a week of jungle survival training, we'll be heading out towards the Maliau Basin. This feature of Borneo was only discovered in 1947 when a pilot almost crashed into the rim surrounding it. It wasn't until the 1980s that the first successful expedition entered the Basin.
As a result of being untouched for so long, the basin has a diverse collection of wildlife, including Sumatran Rhino, Asian Elephants, Clouded Leopards and Proboscis Monkeys. Less fortunately, it also has a rich coal seam and of course a useful array of wood which the loggers would like to get their hands on. We will be the first of a series of Trekforce teams building a scientific station which will be used as a base from where scientists can study the flora and fauna of the basin to raise its profile internationally.
In case you hadn't guessed, I'm very excited to be involved in this!
The conservation phase runs for two months, and at some point within that, smaller groups leave the main team and go on a six-day trek into the basin, visiting the Maliau Falls.
Once the conservation project has finished, and the last guests from the opening ceremony have left, all the volunteers head off somewhere for a bit of a party to celebrate and say our goodbyes, as this is where some of us will be parting ways. Some will be flying back to the UK the next day, others off to do a bit of travelling, but about a dozen of us are staying on to work as teaching assistants.
There will be a week of training where we learn the basics of both teaching and the local culture, then we get posted in pairs to villages in the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak, most of them are only reachable with a small Twin Otter plane. In the village, we will be living with a local family and expected to take a full part in village life.
After the conservation work and the teaching, the plan -- for a very loose definition of the word plan -- is to do a bit of travelling around South-East Asia. Ideally I'd like to see a bit of Indonesia and Malaysia (some of the other expeditioners are staying around for a couple of weeks after the work, so perhaps we'll climb Mount Kinabalu as a group) before heading up through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. From there, I'd like to travel through China and down through Nepal and India, but I have a feeling visas and authorities might be easier if I base it around Bangkok and fly out and back into there. I'll see what it is like when I get there, and find out what other travellers are saying!
If there's time, a couple of friends (Malcom and Paula) will be finishing their 15 month stint at the Australian Antarctic Survey's Davis Station in late February 2004. They are going to travel around Australia for a bit after that, and I hope to be able to hook up with them for a while, but that is some way in the future yet...
I hope to be able to update this website at regular intervals, once I get back from the conservation and teaching. In addition, I am going to try and write a few travelogues for BootsnAll. There's also email, and I'll send a message out to an email list when I've updated these pages or submitted something to BootsnAll.