Though I’ve been on this trip several times as a forest ranger, it still feels like a whole new experience every time a new group of students comes along. Most recently, I had the privilege to host an awesome bunch of students from Hillgrove Secondary School.
Taking them through the whole papermaking process on Day One of our trip — from the R&D labs, the Kerinci Central Nursery, the mill’s recovery boiler and lastly, to the paper machine and finishing line — was an eye-opening experience. Most importantly, seeing them in absolute wonder when they learn about how sustainable the whole papermaking process actually is, contrary to common misconceptions, was an absolute delight.
My favorite part of the expedition came on the second day, when we were exploring the Pelalawan Estate Conservation, located an hour’s drive from the hotel. Like true adventurers, we found ourselves trudging through the forest, decked from head to toe in safety boots and caps. Indeed, it was a great way to re-awaken our natural senses, seeing that we were disconnected from the Internet and walking through nature! In my humble opinion, listening to the harmonious choruses of crickets and chirping birds was certainly soothing to the soul.
Less than halfway into the walk, the students started murmuring under their breaths about the (im)possibility of surviving without air-conditioners and the urge to satiate their thirst with ice-cold coke. This wasn’t exactly surprising to me, since I have heard the same thing repeated countless of times across several trips.
Oh yes, and tree planting. The students started out semi-hesitant when it came to doing it with their bare hands, but soon took to it like a fish to water after getting help from our conservation guide. It was especially satisfying to see looks of accomplishment sweeping across their faces… at the very moment they anchored the wooden placards with their school name on it.
As we continued our hike towards a small lake, I would hear shouts of ‘Are we there yet?’ resounding through the forest. I found myself thinking back to a rhetorical question I was pondering about before the trip: ‘Will these young city dwellers enjoy this experience, seeing that they are so used to urban life?’ To my surprise, when they were asked about their favourite part of the entire trip, most of them commented without much thought that the conservation was one of it!
Though the walk was exhausting and going on treks in the forest doesn’t come naturally to untrained city dwellers like us, it definitely was an unforgettable adventure that one would certainly cherish and look back on.
– Jodie Koh, The Fascinating World of Forestry™ Forest Ranger