Thursday, 15 May 2014

by Amanda Lee, Junior 2 Cempaka, Class of 2014

The first thought that comes to mind when you think about Platinum Expedition is worms. Worms then bugs, fear factor, killing chickens - the list of endless horrors goes on and on.

Photo Credit : Encik Syariz
There's a little sense of foreboding  when you see "parang" is on the packing list, and even more so when you realize there isn't just one, but four fear factors you will have to endure. You start to think of the endless possibilities of what they can feed you and count down the number of hot showers you have left.

Tuesday morning dawned, the bus to Perak running on Cempakan time, was late as usual. Our first challenge began once we arrived at Bukit Merah Lakerown Resort, Perak: build a raft. There were no instructions, no guidelines, just a pile of bamboo sticks on the ground and rolls of raffia string. Teams set off once they finished building their rafts to the first stop - Survivor Island. From the jetty, Encik Salleh pointed off vaguely towards an island that looked far away enough, but we soon learned 45 minutes later that Survivor Island was much, much further away then we had first envisioned it. So much further.

The paddling was endless. Your back starts to ache, your legs start to cramp and your hand feels like it weighs a ton, but then a speedboat comes along. The taunts from the camera crew and facilitators as they zoom around us in circles are just what we need to plough on towards our unseen destination. We sang nursery rhymes, counted till a hundred, even sang the alphabet song backwards - a continuous source of entertainment and amusement for the facilitators. By the time we (team Bravo!) could make out Survivor Island at last, it had already began to drizzle. 

Photo Credit : Encik Syariz
Upon arriving on Survivor Island, we discovered first class accommodations - a shelter we had to build ourselves. It was absolutely freezing. Raindrops trickled annoyingly into our faces as we tied the bamboo together as hard as possible, trying to avoid seemingly unavoidable splinters. It was at that time group leaders were called over, and given a rabbit each. Keep it safe they said, we need it to be alive until tomorrow - yeah right. Like we predicted, the rabbits were doomed to become our dinner that night. All us of solemnly said our goodbyes and watched as one by one, Johnny, Angel, Deltina (also aptly named Dinner) and Alpha got the chop. Skinning and gutting a rabbit is not for the faint at heart, especially not when our rabbit's still full bladder burst, nearly spraying us in the face (Warning : the following photo may be inappropriate for weak hearts and weak stomachs). A moment to remember, was when Azmin started to cover our rabbit in  marinade, only to discover that a plaster he put on earlier due to a cut from his 'parang' had came off, no doubt swimming in the marinade - oh well. 

Photo Credit : En Syariz
"Wow, Angel truly is an angel now then"- one of the comments Encik  Raphael made as judges sampled our Rabbit dishes. Delta won the challenge, and as a reward they got to return to the mainland (this time by speedboat of course) to have a proper dinner and shower. The rest of us however, had to stick to our rabbit rice. All I can say is that it tastes a lot like chicken, only chewier - or maybe ours was just a tad raw?

As winners of the previous challenge, Delta had the opportunity to pick which team had to suffer through the fear factor eating challenge first. First to start, we (team Bravo!) could "enjoy" the delicacies without any added background noises from the other teams. The pressure builds, as the whole team is motioned to stand around the table where three closed styrofoam boxes lie stacked up on top of each other beside cups full of a dodgy looking liquid.

First course? Raw squid, still with the ink inside and oh-so chewy with an indescribable ... raw-squid taste. Not such a good start for people wearing braces. And trust me, it tastes nothing like sushi. Give me plain old sashimi anytime. Next was some form of bitter gourd which was not too bad. To top it off, the last course served was 'popiah'! Well, pit certainly looked like 'popiah', with 'popiah' skin wrapped around a suspicious black substance. I can assure you however, that fish brains and chicken feet are ingredients not found in 'Popiah'. As a bonus round, we had to drink the brownish liquid in the cup. It's unsettling resemblance to the lake water we paddled in earlier did not help neither was the straw we had to use to suck it down. It turned out to be the easiest part, tasting like chinese herbal tea but infused with a lot of chili powder. Being the first to go, we got to watch the other groups, choking and gagging while holding their noses as they worked their way through the courses.

Photo Credit : En Syariz
Straight after that, was fear factor two. This time, other teams had to choose a member from another team to face the next challenge. Being one of the picked members, I had to sit away from the other teams and wait for my turn. For me, the waiting was one of the worst parts. You sit there waiting for your turn, horrible thoughts of what they might do to you running through your head as mosquitos feast on you. I was third to go. The camera crew handed over a small camera I had to wear on my head. By the light of a flashlight, I could see a cage-like structure, covered with tarp. All flashlights were then switched off. The facilitators threw back the cover of the tarp, and the flashlight turned on again.

Crawling on the walls, and covering the entire floor of the cage were what seemed like thousands of maggots and crickets. The strong buggy smell was overpowering. You had to stick half your body in, untie some bottle caps tied on to the cage walls, then stay in the cage for three minutes. You can hear the rustling, squiggling noises of the insects all around. You feel slightly claustrophobic, most definitely disgusted and even tickled on your knees by the stray insects crawling out from the cage. The smell just makes you want to gag. All you can do is shut your ears, close your eyes and wait as three minutes slowly tick by till you can finally crawl out of the cage, breathe into fresh-smelling air, and let facilitators pluck stray insects off your back.

Photo Credit : En Syariz
After our tribal meeting, we finally got to go into (or in our case crawl into) our bivouacs, and turn in for the night. Yes it's cramped so much you can hardly move, yes the odd drop of water falls onto your face every now and then (so much for waterproofing), yes it's uncomfortable with the stalk of the 'daun pelepah' sticking into your back, yes you tend wake wake up every now and then and have the great urge to scratch your feet - something even a contortionist would not be able to achieve in those cramped conditions but sleep, is sleep.

The next day dawns, and as the sun rises, we can finally see in clear light, all the red ants crawling in our shoes. There's a lot of stomping and beating of shoes while teams disassembled their bivouacs, and bundled everything up again. Soon, we set off back to mainland (thankfully by boat) where we could shower and eat before the next activity started - white water rafting! 
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