Thursday, July 5, 2012

PLANTATION LIFE (6) – Survival - Gifts from Nature

Our temporary home was built on top of a hill, isolated in the middle of nowhere and far enough away from civilization. How do we survive and adapt in times like this? ~~~Enjoy and make full use of the gifts that nature provides.

We depended on rainwater for our daily water consumptions. Water is collected from roof gutter channelled down into an underground storage tank, treated and pumped up into the water tank.

Periods of hot and dry weather would bring serious water shortage... Tankers were sent deep into the jungle to collect spring water from the hills, a slow process which would take hours to fill up just one tank – rationed and distributed to everyone. 

For a refreshing and complete bath the best solution was to take our families into the jungle, find a stream and splash splash splash, like wild animals!

Twenty four hours diesel generators provided electricity for our basic needs, air conditioning and fans, TV, freezers, computers, kitchen and other home electrical appliances including water heaters. In times of breakdowns and the wait to have these generators repaired – revert to kerosene lamps and candles.  

Moonlight is a welcoming relief, helped us move from place to place at night – (the deadly silence and thick heavy mist - very eeeriee to travel at night!).

 Masi and Asma with a basketful of veges from our vegetable plot

Travelling to towns was never easy (rugged, long and tiring journey) and during bad weather, almost impossible. 


We therefore grew our own vegetables; greens, beans, tubers, legumes, roots and herbal plants - just about anything grew well here.

Vegetables like water spinach (kangkong), chillies (cili burung/padi), cekor manis, terung pipit, fern/bamboo  shoots and many others grew wild in the jungle year round.

Besides the many types of veges and herbal plants we also grew melons, pineapples, sweet corns, coconuts, bananas, papayas, etc.

Fresh succulent Asparagus shoots

After work and rest, workers spend their free hours at the vegetable plot; a coordinated community effort (in Malay gotong-royong) and harvests were shared and distributed free for all in the plantation. Plentiful. 

My poor 2nd son just received his haircut - chipped and crafted by his naughty big brother...

During weekends another group of workers would head to the rivers to catch fish and fresh water prawns (using traps), fresh! fresh! fresh - also distributed for free.  

We have security men patrolling the plantation (24hours) mainly to drive away wild animals found venturing in the plantations. There had been reported cases where several acreas of young oil palm trees were destroyed, trampled or uprooted by elephants and wild boars causing a lot of damage.

These men move in groups accompanied by hunting dogs. Occasionally they would bring back some wild catch from the jungle - meat shared and also distributed free for all. 



Remembering Eva Cassidy

Katie Melua & Eva Cassidy 


  1. hi katrina, such a great post..lots of hardship, but very adventurous if you look at it in a positive way.. everything fresh and natural..
    the community work helped a lot i guess.
    you are also lucky having many working for you such as supplying water, imagine how difficult it would be to do it oneself.
    the best part are the veggies and fruits-- oh yes the fish and prawns to.. you had very healthy foodies for many years...that's a blessing.. have a great weekend.
    i have been a bit slow lately, sometime never even open my blog for a whole day.
    love to read more on your plantation life..

  2. Hi CV,
    I was totally cut-off and out of reach for many years. Family and friends rqtd me to blog as many have never been inside a plantation.

    Getting in and out of the plantation was indeed difficult, however once we were inside... the safest place to be in with zero crime rates, 90% Muslims and the Indonesians and Filipinos working here were very polite, soft spoken and very cultured (berAdat). Always smiling! No communication problems as Bahasa Malaysia is widely spoken in Sabah even amongst foreigners..

    Daging Rusa sana panggil Payau - And they even eat porcupine meat! For non Muslims, lots of wild boars and huge lizards (biawak)~~~

    My bff had worse living conditions, in the jungles of Kalimantan, accessible only by helicopters!

  3. The photographs seems to be taken a really long time ago! The place looks so beautiful, I wonder if its still the same til now. I guess the only major problem you guys have before was just the filling of storage

    1. Hi stormwater,
      Yap, old photos indeed taken during the initial stages of jungle clearings/opening of new oil palm/cocoa plantations... however

      Today, most of the facilities are available, good roads, permanent housing, clubhouses/recreational facilities, factories/mills, research centre, schools, clinics etc.

      In Sabah the dry spells can be quite long. I was later in Sukau - a very old (once British owned) plantation. Since our house was quite isolated, water for daily use was still delivered by tankers!