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The Brunei Blog

She’ll be Wearing Pink Pyjamas When She Comes! 

by Ben Southwell, Producer/Director, Jungles and 

Jo Manley, Production Coordinator, Oceans & Jungles 

I have never sweated so much in my life.  Just sitting still I’d be dripping.  Within minutes of leaving camp each day I’d be drenched as much as if I’d jumped in the river.  It wasn’t the heat, it was the cloying humidity that made it so hard to move around. 

 We were filming the British Army Jungle Warfare Advisers’ Course in Brunei, one of the toughest courses the army runs.  After a week of trekking after ‘students’ up and down steep tree-covered slopes, I fully understood why the army choose this terrain for their course.  It doesn’t so much sap your energy as rip it out of you and stamp all over it.  There were soldiers putting battered boots on over feet almost stripped of skin in order to complete this first stage of their training.   

Ben suffering from the humidity!

   The Instructors on the course deserve immense credit.  Many of them have spent years working in the jungle and their knowledge of this environment and their care for it was clear for all to see.  The army have a no cutting policy here – they don’t want this primary forest becoming a wasteland because of their actions. They have a deep respect for the jungle. 

 For me the hardest thing was remembering to drink, drink again, and drink some more.  We were advised that we would be sweating so much that we should be drinking 10 litres a day.  This after leaving Britain in snow!  Our production co-ordinator Jo Manley had never filmed in the jungle which presented her with a unique set of challenges…

Toby (camera), Jo (PC), Mihali (sound) and Ben (director)

  …..and a ‘worry list’ as long as my arm!   

 Having been on Human Planet for over two years and sent off countless crews to all over the world, I had never actually been on a foreign trip myself.  However, with the rest of the Jungle team filming in Brazil and Tom the Producer awaiting a new baby in Bristol, this time I was sent on location!  I went with Ben the Director (my blog co-writer) , Toby the cameraman and Mihali sound/camera assistant to experience first hand the difficulties of operating in the field and how annoying it is trying to get Sat Phone reception from a Jungle!  

 I was quite nervous about a number of things before I left the UK.  Ben joked that I would be transformed from pink-loving Jo to  Rambette, the jungle ninja, never seen without a knife between her teeth!   I wasn’t convinced.…  

Rambette?

 Before I left, my ‘worry list’ was pretty comprehensive: here’s a taster…

 I had an irrational fear of moths and was told they would be every-where and as big as dinner plates (thanks for that Dale – Series Producer!) 

I didn’t like the thought of bugs in my breakfast or bugs having me for breakfast including leeches sucking my blood 

Getting out of my hammock for a wee in the night and not being able to find my way back (as it turns out this did happen to one of the students but thankfully not to me!) 

Being the only girl amongst 60 men 

Being told off by the Sergeant Major for not having the correct boots (I did have a few comments but it wasn’t my fault I couldn’t get Jungle boots in a size 3!!) 

I could go on…

Jo, Toby, Mihali and Ben in the helicopter

 We flew in to the jungle by helicopter, which was amazing.  I’d never been in a helicopter before and I loved it!  I thought the jungle below looked just like broccoli, the tops of trees were packed together and looked totally impenetrable to anything, including light.  I thought about how dark it would be under the canopy and it made me think about all the creepy crawlies hiding down there waiting to get me! 

When we arrived at the LP (Landing point) we had to walk down a hill to our camp and my eyes were on constant bug watch looking out for leeches and anything else trying to crawl up my trouser leg!  Brunei has a pristine primary jungle and I’d been told it was a ‘clean’ jungle but I still didn’t really appreciate how beautiful and bug free it would be until we got there.  The longer I was there the shorter my worry list became and I started to really like being in the Jungle, sleeping in a hammock and being woken up by the gibbons singing to each other.   I even let a moth land on my hand!   The first night I had to get Mihali to escort me to the toilet but by the end of the week I was happily walking there on my own in the dark so I could see the glowing fungi.  Rambette was in the making! 

 Towards the end of the week we went on the Close Target Recognisance (CTR) part of the course and we stayed in the enemy camp overnight whilst the students observed what was going on.  The next morning Sally the tracker dog took us to find the students, who had spent a long night sitting on the jungle floor in the moonless night getting eaten alive by bugs and leeches.  One of the students said to me ‘was it my imagination or were you walking around the enemy camp in a pair of pink pyjamas last night?’  it seems my transformation into Rambette was still a way off….

Sleeping in a hammock in pink pyjamas

 Jo rose to the occasion magnificently and I’m sure those pink pyjamas will become part of the course folklore for years to come. 

 

One Response to “The Brunei Blog”

  1. Emma says:

    Well done Jo! You did it!

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