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We recently ran a goodie bag giveaway for our returning students to hear all about their recent expedition, and we’re super happy to announce that the winner is CHANTELLE! Have a read all about her time in Borneo and how much this has meant to her! Goodie bag is on it’s way Chantelle.

December 2018 was set to be an absolute screamer (Australian slang for good time, you’re welcome). It’d been marked on the calendar since early 2017 as the month where my life would be changed forever – enhanced. As 2018 came along and we hit the milestones such as finally receiving our very own Camps International t-shirts and eventually shopping for my ruck sack and hiking boots, the anticipation grew, until finally the day came. On December 1st I boarded my very first overseas flight, to Borneo! And I set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

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I left Australia with butterflies in my stomach, surrounded by people I knew and some people that were complete strangers, nervous about the fact that this was going to be my next 3 weeks. I had imagined many times what my life would be like in Borneo but having never travelled overseas before, I had no clue what I would be in for. Upon arrival at the beautiful Camp Bongkud I was overwhelmed by how nice our facilities were, how loving the camp staff were and our spectacular view of Mount Kinabalu. I knew from that moment onwards that I would fall in love with Borneo.

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My team was lucky enough to have the adventure element of a 5-day jungle trek, well actually we were really scared for it but put it off because the trek would be at the end of the expedition, right? Wrong, actually. On the 3rd of December we set off on our jungle trek with positivity in mind and energy in our footsteps. That didn’t last all that long however. Once we arrived at the start of the beautiful Bornean rainforest, we realised what a wild ride the next 5 days would be. Truth is; that first day was incredibly hard, and actually so was the entire trek. We battled not only the heat and humidity, but also the daily downpours of rain. And we took every opportunity to take off our heavy bags filled with our portion of food and hammocks along with our essentials.

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When the Camps International staff came to tell us about this wonderful opportunity, they didn’t mention how often we would be sliding down the hill on our bottoms, after losing our feet and slipping in the wet mud. On day 3 of the trek, myself and some of the others at the front started asking our trek leader questions. The main question we had in our heads was: “Why do you make the trek so hard?” to which Michael responded “Because we know that it’s possible to complete, however it will challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone.” And that was the moment when I had an epiphany. From then on, I was able smile about sliding in the mud and getting wet in the rain as I had realised the purpose of this trip and I knew I was making lifelong memories. As we returned from the trek, we walked into camp with our heads high feeling like champions, and that night we all recited our survival stories to the other two teams who shared the camp with us. At least that was after we took our glorious trip to the hot springs.

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Then it was time for our next challenge – the project work. This would be easy, we thought. We had already conquered the jungle trek so surely the project work wouldn’t be too hard in comparison. We had no clue. Our project work mainly consisted of cementing and painting. Overall, we mixed around 30 bags of cement and laid them all, in just over 1 week. In that 1 week, I felt myself get stronger, not only mentally – the motivation was hard to work up sometimes – but also physically. As time went on, lifting heavy shovels of cement powder and gravel, and wheeling a wheelbarrow with a 50kg bag of cement became easier, even though the distance got longer..

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It wasn’t all work and no play though, there was plenty of time for relaxation, especially in the afternoon after project work, and our favourite way to spend this time was playing volleyball with the locals. Seriously, those people were talented! It was incredible to be able to interact with some of Bongkud’s beautiful citizens out in the community and those will be the memories I hold onto forever. .

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One of the highlights of my stay in Camp Bongkud was the morning hike up Bongkud Hill. I didn’t think I would ever see myself enjoying hiking a mountain at 5:30 in the morning, and it sure was hard work, but the view of the sunrise from the top was so worth it. My personal favourite part was watching the reflection of the sunrise on Mount Kinabalu grow and light up more and more of the incredible giant.

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As you can imagine, saying goodbye to Camp Bongkud was especially hard, but we knew it was time for our next adventure, and so on the morning of December 20th we left and ventured down to Batu Puteh where we would stay in a jungle camp for 2 days. This was possibly my favourite part of the whole expedition, with all of the wildlife and the daily river cruises, it definitely had its perks. Being right on one of the few wildlife arcs of our beautiful planet, Batu Puteh boasts a huge variety of monkeys, birds and even crocodiles! Amazingly we managed to get up close with many crocodiles, proboscis monkeys, mekaks and even a wild orangutan!

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When we weren’t spending time travelling along the stream, we invested our time in tree planting and clearing out parts of the forest to prepare for other teams to plant trees. At this point in the trip, my team had become eminently close and our partnership so strong that any task was easily completed promptly and punctually. This especially made the last 2 days of project work a breeze. With only 3 days left in Borneo there was still so much to do. A visit to the orangutan and sun bear sanctuaries, an 8-hour bus ride, a visit to the war memorial and many markets to wander. After so many days spent missing home, and yes, I did get home sick, I suddenly didn’t want to leave. Borneo had become my home and my team had become my family. This especially applied to our expedition leader, Keith (also known by Mumma Keith, #TeamKeith, Keif and my personal favourite Quiche). Keith came all the way from Scotland to look after my team, and he did a great job of it. He kept us healthy, happy and sane. I just knew I would miss him the most, and I do.

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To conclude, I would just like to mention how none of this amazing experience would have been possible without the endless help and support from our parents, teachers, schools and the Camps International crew, along with our team leader and everybody else that we met in Borneo, who helped us along the way.

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