Trekking through a jungle, knee-deep in mud, carrying 15kg backpacks is not how many students would choose to spend their summer holidays.
But it’s exactly what five Batemans Bay High School students did.
As part of World Challenge school expeditions, the students and a high school teacher, Tania Maddison, travelled to Borneo in Malaysia, and spent 28 days battling the monsoon season, camping in hammocks, hanging out with orang-utans and building a prayer house.
They formed a group with five other students from Perth, and a group leader.
The students said one of the highlights was when they tackled the highest mountain in South East Asia, Mount Kinabalu. Most made it to about 200m from the summit, because Andrew Wallace and a student from Perth suffered altitude sickness.
“It is horrible,” the Year 12 student explained. “At first you feel like you’re going to vomit, and then there’s shortness of breath. And migraines.
“As soon as we started going down, it went away.”
The group trekked the Croker Ranges and visited the Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok.
Near the Indonesian border, they stayed in the chief’s house in the village of Pa’ Auk while they finished off a community project that other World Challenge groups had worked on.
They lugged large planks of wood up steep hills and nailed benches together to finish the prayer house.
The students said the trip helped them realise how lucky they are.
“I appreciate a chair and a table,” Tiana Barenaba said. “When we were taking our bags off, we could either hold it up or plop it in the mud and then get mud all over you.”
“It was good to get home to my own bed,” Ms Maddison said.
“And a hot shower,” Andrew added.
“I missed milk,” Lachlan Jack said, and added that he drank one-and-a-half litres when he returned home.
While in Malaysia, the students were eager to try out a new diet, and munched on frog, wild boar, squirrel and stingray.
They adapted to the culture quickly, and were amazed at the generosity of everyone.
“It was great how nice and giving everyone is,” Andrew said. “They don’t have much but they share everything.”