| Hadhirah A’yuni binti Haminudin |
ON NOVEMBER 27, we set off on a trip to Kuala Belalong and our group consisted 16 students, three teachers and a lab technician.
To get to Kuala Belalong, we had to take a speedboat ride to Bangar and pass by mangrove forests laden with nipah trees. We saw the unique roots exclusive to the mangroves, ones that sprawl, arm-like, across the river and ones that stood out from the muddy waters like swords. Then a bus took us to the Outward Bound Brunei where we switched transportation again and we rode the long and narrow ‘temuais’.
We manoeuvred around rough waters and boulders but the ride was surprisingly pleasant. The weather then was cool, the wind blew across our faces and just when we thought the boat ride was never-ending, we halted at Kuala Belalong Field Study Centre (KBFSC) where we would stay for four days and three nights.
We saw our first glimpse of the forest as we trudged along the Ashton Trail, a trail right behind KBFSC, the day after our arrival.
Our invigilators stopped us at some points along the path to give us brief lectures on certain plants found near the path. The walk gave us the opportunity to closely observe the plants we would never have seen up close if not for this trip.
We completed our worksheets and tasks, and climbed down the Ashton Trail after two hours. This was the tricky part. Climbing up was easier than climbing down. It was steep and our path was muddy, attributed bythe heavy rain the night before. All of us were extra cautious but some of us still slipped and fell. Nevertheless, we came out of the forest in the end covered in dirt.
After a two-hour break, we were back on our feet. A bit further downstream, not far from the centre and just a quick temuai ride away, was the Ulu Temburong National Park. We had to climb stairs after stairs to reach the canopy walkway – the highlight of the trip. Our feet were sore and we all might just collapse at any moment then but we persevered. At the top of all the steps, a majestic steel structure awaited standing 50 metres above the ground.
As we climbed up, the wind blew and the whole structure rattled. We might have been shaken up by it, but we kept calm. We were going at a slow pace, and here I quote Confucius: “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
Let me tell you that the view from up there was worth the struggle. Also, the reception wasn’t bad.
On the third day, we were taken to a stream called Sungai Mata Ikan, found at the end of a path that diverged from the Ashton Trail. We carried out experiments to see the chemical contents and the quality of the water by determining the population of macro-invertebrates in the stream.
The water was cool and clear, very much unlike the brown waters of the rivers that course through our Bruneian cities and towns. Standing ankle-deep in the water, the stream flowing rapidly against my feet, hearing the gush of waterfalls at both ends of the stream, I felt at peace. It was memorable.
We left the centre on the November 30 with heavy hearts.
Overall, the trip to Kuala Belalong was the best thing that I did in the 17 years of my life. I’d like to thank my invigilators for being so kind, helpful and informative, and also to all the staff of KBFSC, especially the cook for the great food.
(Hadhirah A’yuni is a Lower Six student of Tutong Sixth Form Centre who recently received the Top in Biology and Top in General Paper awards. She has keen interests in equality and human rights and environmental conservation, and is in love with the flora and fauna beauty of Brunei following her Kuala Belalong experience.)