Volunteering in Tampot Do Aman (a place of friends)
A few weeks in advance I organised a volunteering work in a Rungus Camp. Rungus people … as I researched an indigenous group in the tip of Borneo! I saw picture in the internet of very tribe looking people who live in huts out of Longhouses out of Coconut trees. Really exciting! In fact that's not really the case- most Rungus are dressed in nike or adidas sports wear! Welcome to the reality!
The hole way fro KK to Kudat was really interesting, I drove with a probably 50 years rustic and old bus, doors open, sitting only with Malays and Chinese. The street went next to jungle, plan oil fields and mountains with quite simple tin sheds and wooden huts, that reminded me of slum houses.
The eco-camp has it's name Tampot Do Aman which means a place of friends. Howard, the owner of camp and restaurant actually is an english (from Standfort up and Avon) guy in the forties, married with a Rungus wife, who is very active and supportive in educating kids, locals and traveller for sustainable jungle and nature life.
The camp itself is a very rustic eco-camp with fan-cooled basic huts and longhouse, set in a lush spot between ocean and jungle.
I spent there only one weeks, but in this short time I met a very welcoming muslim family (to my surprise, both studied in Austria and were even able to speak german but we spoke in english ;)) who decided to life simply on the beach with their four kids and offering professional massage and yoga. I visit them very other evening and really take them in my heart!
On the first day I walked to one of the very simple community huts near the beach 'cause I heard loud music and was just interested what they do. A local family was singing to Malaysian karaoke (which is very popular here). A 21 years young women, married and already has a little child, invited me for a kopi (coffee) and here husband asked me to sing karaoke which offer I had to take. The only international song they had was a CD of Celine Dion and the only song I thought I was able to sing was "My heart will go on". To keep the respect I chose this song, (and to my embarrassment they put the speaker on highest volume), I song half of the song. It was hilarious! Many of the family appeared to see me singing! To my request, the young mother showed me around. Old wooden shed next to rubbish and chicken and dogs and a bit of veggie plants. She also drove me with here motorbike to the tip of Borneo - really nice!! As I learned afterwards, this wasn't a Rungus family, they are very friendly gypsies. Though, it felt hard to communicate cause their english was so little.
My work in the camp contained cleaning if education centre (where I read a lot about the jungle plant and animals), painting the showers and designing a menu for the restaurant! I worked around 3 hours per day and saved 40 Ringit (about 10 euros) for accommodation.
Howard offered jungle trips which I took advantage from. He pointed out several plants and explained us the use for the locals. Incredible how much medicine (for flu, infections, diarrhea,… and even malaria) and herbs are growing in the nature and sad we don't take advantage from them and hardly use it. I got to know more about the economical boom in the 50ies when farmers planted mainly rubber trees for the americans and almost finical collapsed when the americans reduced their demand.
Nowadays Palm oil is the most selling product and that explains the huge plantation of palm fields. Malaysia is the world's leading producer of palm oil, accounting for over 40% of global production. Howard explained me that the oil is extracted from the orange-coloured fruit which I spotted also several times. It grows in bunches just below the fronts. It is used primarily for cooking (when you buy a snack next time read u're ingredients if it says palm oil! I was surprised how much we consume). It is also used for biodiesel - interesting that it say's bio -when it is actually so harmful for the ground!). The point is that for all crops benefits there have been a huge environmental consequences to the creation of vast plantation that have replaced the native jungle. The use of polluting pesticides and fertiliser in palm oil production convert land into permanent monoculture! It reduce the number of plant species up to 90%. How bad is that? And of course the fertiliser also flows into the river and drainage.
In this week not only I heard, smelled and learned from the jungle, also met several really cool raveller- I think this country attracts the right people :)
I had a good time of hanging out at the beach, supporting a good person in the way of voluntary work, met nice locals and of course sleeping in a longhouse!
Stay: 8 days
- walking to the tip of Borneo where 2 sea hitch each other
- jungle expedition
- mangrove boat trip
- Kudat summer festival
- just hanging out with locals and travellers =)
Accommodation: Longhouse (usually 40 RM= 10 Euro per night, for me for free)
High points: see how happy poor people are, they always carry a smile, hitchhiking was no problem, even the police gave me a ride!
Low points: again the plastic - it's very where! Friends and me collected 4 big plastic bags on the beach but the next morning it was quite the same, also the food was bit expensive in this area
Message: Smile at people and be smiled back!
Know basic words of the language- local will love it!
Next: Gunung Mulu Nationalparks for exploring the biggest cave and stalagmites (flight from KK to Miri and from there to Mulu)