Chai Tze (Joyce), Zi Ling, myself and 5 new MinDef officers; Ahmad, Arif, Onn, Azeim and Chee reached Outward Bound Brunei Darussalam (OBBD) at around 10AM after a thirty-minute boat ride from the Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) jetty in Muara with Ms. Susie, Ka Hajah Nurmah and Pengiran Mahari. When we reached OBBD, we were welcomed by the officers and coaches! Coach Sam was our mentor for the whole week and he started the programme with several ice-breaking games to get us to know each other since we will be in the same team for the next 7 days.
The briefing by OBBD medics pressed on safety, where we were assured that the equipment used is to ensure everyone's safety when doing certain obstacle courses. We were also told to keep hydrated, have enough sleep, maintain personal hygiene and be a team player in order to reach our full potential.
We were brought around OBBD, told about where we would be sleeping, eating, having our reflections and doing outdoor activities (we had to cross the river to go to the obstacle course and our bunks). The bridge we used to cross the river was so high up! I am a fan of anything thrilling, even the slightest bit. I still remember how much we enjoyed the beautiful view of the Temburong River when we were on the bridge, and waved at the boats that passed by.
Our second day in OBBD started with flag raising in the morning, followed by a refreshing 3km jog, we had the chance to look at the huge green fields of Temburong, and smell the fresh air in the morning – worth waking up early for. I felt an improvement in my jogging pace as it started to be a norm for me since the first week of the induction programme. The fun didn't stop there; in the afternoon we did several different obstacle courses in OBBD ranging from high to low rope courses. We were able to experience the Flying Fox which was one thrill activity, wall climbing and a low rope obstacle course that required a lot of balancing of the body, and of course, teamwork.
Our first evening at OBBD, we were told to draw our personal objectives and explain them to the group. My personal objectives were to be strong and prepared for whatever comes my way, to complete any task given to me and not give up. We also made a group motto, "Together We Grow." This night really impacted us psychologically and made us use our imagination. Our group was allocated with the name Pengiran Bendahara Sakam. We then went back to our bunks and had a good night's rest!
We were informed that we will be jungle trekking on Tuesday night. We were given a night to prepare our personal belongings that we will bring for the three-day trekking. Coach Sam taught us how to use the compass and read the map. He also explained to us that we will come across 6 checkpoints on the first day before we reach our first camp site - Camp Samut which was 7km away from the OBBD. We were given a list of equipment to bring for camping (included mess tins, camp food, tents, canvas, sleeping bags and mats, spirit to start the fire and so on).
The next day, we brought our already-heavy back packs to the second floor of the main building where we placed all the camping equipment from last night. After packing, each bag weighed around 15kg. We all had the chance to be the navigator and sweeper (the navigator basically navigates the whole team to the next checkpoint and hence is in the front and the sweeper stays at the back to ensure that nothing is left behind and the team is doing okay).
We were all so exhausted before we even reached the first checkpoint, mainly because the backpacks were extremely heavy. I mostly carried the food supplies (how ironic). So every time we reached a checkpoint, I'd ask everyone if they wanted to eat (or at least take some fruits) for the sake of making my bag lighter. Ms. Susie seemed to enjoy the trekking. She had the energy to prepare lettuce, sliced chicken breast and wholemeal bread. While all of us did not even have the energy to suck water from our camel bags. Zi Ling was so smart, she would eat the Milo powder just like that! So it became a trend among all of us to gain energy.
Falling down was nothing shocking when we trekked. There were actually times when I did not want to walk down a slope anymore, so I just sat on my butt and slide down (making the track more slippery for everyone behind me). I have to say, the trekking was deadly tiring, but I enjoyed it. There were so many funny encounters that we laugh about until today. Like when Zi Ling constantly said "Coach, where?..." every time Coach Sam blew the whistle at a distance to indicate that we were close to our destination, who has the energy to talk after 6 hours of trekking? Not me.
When we reached Camp Samut, Coach Sam taught us how to set up the tent. We all set up the roof for the kitchen and tents to sleep in. Joyce, Zi Ling and I also filtered the water from the river using the ceramic filter for drinking and cooking. Miss Susie helped us to make the fire but unfortunately it was quite wet and the fire could not stay long for both nights of our camping trip. The girls prepared our dinner, we had noodles with curry the first night. The next day, we trekked from Camp Samut to Camp Belalong which was 2km away, and only had two checkpoints. However, the duration of the trekking was about the same as the first day as the pathway we were on was more narrow, steep, slippery and bushy.
Towards the end of the trekking, I was caught stuck on a thorny tree so Ms. Susie had to slowly remove the thorny stems off my bag and shirt. Joyce and Zi Ling (who were initially in front of us) went on moving towards the sound of Coach Sam's whistle (he blows the whistle every time we were close to the destination). This was when we lost the two girls and did not hear Coach blowing on his whistle as Joyce and Zi Ling probably reached the camp site. We were lost in the jungle. Ms. Susie started shouting Joyce's, Zi Ling's and Coach's name but no response. So we tried to find the remaining group and then gathered around and started to blow on the whistles that were attached to the compasses (luckily we had them). Ms. Susie was trying to figure out where to go, she even thought we had to trek down an extremely steep slope, I was like "Ms, no it's so steep." Then she said, "After what we have been through today, I think this is a possible route." But it wasn't, fortunately!
I never felt happier when I reached Camp Belalong. I knew that the trekking was over. I never trekked with heavy bags and in such long durations (it took us about 6 hours each day to reach our destination). I was always close to giving up, all the negativity filling up my mind but the fact that there was no way back and I did not want to let my teammates down forced me to continue. What kept me going was knowing that there will be a cold, crystal-clear river and beautiful waterfall in Camp Belalong. Additionally, the feeling of accomplishment is the best feeling one can have. We walked towards a tree close to a river and just dropped all our bags and sat down. After 30 minutes of sitting down under the tree, I started unpacking my back pack and hung all my wet clothes to dry. Without doubt, Ms. Susie was already making a fire for the evening. We had to assemble our own tents from scratch this time. The girls went to the waterfall and filtered clean water for cooking and drinking. Camp Belalong was so beautiful, the waterfall was to die for. I still think about it until today, and wished I swam in it more.
Friday, we had to return back to OBBD using the Kayak! The journey was about 7km but it did not feel long and it was quite sad when we were close to Camp Batang Duri because most of us did not want to stop kayaking. Coach Sam, Coach Razali and Coach Hasif taught us how to use the pedals, manoeuvre the kayak, and what to do if the kayak capsizes. The view we had going downstream the Temburong River was outstanding! My kayak kept on turning 360 degrees, instead of being fed up; I took this opportunity to see what's around me (basically the trees, rocks and sky).
Not long after we reached OBBD, we had another meeting with Coach Sam and found out that we will be solo camping for a night in the jungle. We were quite nervous at first but after all we did, solo camping should not be hard at all. And it wasn't! We were only given a 4 litre bottle, canvas, and an open tent. When we reached our camp site (which wasn't far from OBBD), we were separated from each other and started setting our tents up. We were instructed to write a letter to ourselves for the change we want to see personally in the future (this letter is confidential so we can be as personal as we want to).
We had a 7km run in the morning of our last day in OBBD, I was quite excited for the run because I know my personal improvement in jogging. I managed to complete the jog in an hour and 11 minutes. What I was most happy about was the fact that I never stopped jogging for 7km. I now hope to jog in a faster pace and slowly perfect my cross training skills.
We would really like to thank MinDef for giving us the opportunity to experience OBBD. The waterfall at Camp Belalong was like a gift for two days of hard trekking. OBBD had pushed us to our limits, removed us from our comfort zones and made us self-reflect and think about the changes we want to see in ourselves in the future. I would definitely return to OBBD in the future, mainly for jungle trekking as it was the highlight of our week. The MinDef freshman induction program will always have something that we look forward to. Next week's signing ceremony and RBAF anniversary, the roadshows that will be coming up and so much more! I am certain this nurturing program will mould me to be more independent and responsible preparing for university.
By Sarohakim Goeting, 2016 MinDef Scholar