IT was a haze-shrouded weekend but members and friends of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Miri branch, decided to go ahead with plans to camp at a homestay along Bintulu Road.
Organiser Khuzaimi Abdullah told thesundaypost they had been thinking about the haze and how it might affect their plans.
But to not disappoint the campers, they decided to carry on as planned. There were originally supposed to be about 30 of them but only 16 pitched their tents in the final count.
“At the campsite, we forgot about the haze while sitting under the trees, enjoying the space and the fellowship. We had a wonderful time,” Khuzaimi said.
The camping event on Sept 16 – despite the haze – was part of MNS Miri’s recreational programmes for this year.
The aim was to have an afternoon of campground fun, evening meals, a night of camping under the stars (but for the haze), family breakfasts, and a campground clean-up experience.
MNS always starts an event with a safety briefing. For this outing, the campsite owner came out to brief the group on the water supply, the all-night provision of electricity, the toilet facilities, and the cooking area fully equipped with a sink, piped water, electricity, and stoves.
The campsite also has a good seating area and tables for barbecues. The owner assured the group it was a secure campsite with proper fencing and no snakes or prowling wild animals.
The gated property is very well maintained by the family, which farms there as a hobby. The grass is regularly mowed to keep the mosquitoes and sand flies away.
This was the third time MNS had camped at the site.
Setting up camp
After the briefing, the group set up camp, the children got to know each other while some renewed their friendship.
Some of the children spoke English but all were fluent in Malay. The oldest among the youngsters was the 17-year-old daughter of camper Stephen Tay.
He told thesundaypost it was the first time he brought his wife and daughter camping. His son had a school exam and couldn’t come.
His daughter is already a seasoned camper at 17. She enjoyed every minute of the outing and got along very well with everyone.
“This is good experience for her. When she starts working one day or when she attends university, she will have developed good social skills to get along with people from diverse backgrounds, and other essential skills to cope with future challenges.
“Having worked locally and overseas, I find the MNS camping event most useful for character-building. I encourage parents to come along next time,” Tay said.
He also mentioned a specially converted Adventurer Camper vehicle, owned by a camper known as Uncle Z. He is an outdoor person and has personalised his vehicle to suit his camping and travelling needs. It’s a dream vehicle for those who love the outdoors.
An avid adventurer, Uncle Z has driven his camper all over Sabah and Sarawak. He is admired by the MNS campers in Miri. His company makes them feel cheery and safe.
Khuzaimi chipped in, “I’m happy to see the families putting up so many different tents – very colourful, some for one person and some are for two.
“If the weather is good, the campers can choose to sleep under the stars. The camping experience today is very rewarding and costs very little.”
As open burning is prohibited during the haze, a campfire was not planned. The group instead got together to share their knowledge and experience. There was a lot of bonding among the young campers.
One camper, who wished to remain anonymous, remarked, “We exchange ideas freely. I’ll grab the opportunity to bring my family camping again.
“The MNS organisers have shown good leadership. New campers need not be afraid to join. We must go back to nature at least once a year to recharge our battery. I hope people will consider camping as a beneficial family outing.”
He said it would be good for those who knew first aid and home nursing, to share their knowledge, adding, “I’m sure a one-day outing without an overnight stay will benefit our wheelchair-using friends. Inter-generational relationship is also good for everyone.”
Hazy starless sky
Although MNS camping usually includes star gazing (with proper equipment) under the guidance of Musa Musbah, Miri branch chairman, it was not possible to see a single star because of the haze.
However, Musa had to skip the outing as he was not feeling well and was sorely missed.
On the campground, Khuzaimi reiterated it is safe with good fencing and the supply of water and electricity.
“There are also no mosquitoes and sand flies. It’s one of the best campgrounds in Northern Sarawak. The sea is not too far away. A trek can also be organised along the beach about 10 minutes away.”
One of the best times for the campers was the evening barbecue. Indeed food tastes better cooked al fresco.
Those who have never slept under the stars or gone camping around Miri might have something to learn from this MNS event.
After an eventful day, the campers were ready to turn in. At about 10pm, the cold sea breeze started blowing stronger. There was a chill in the air but it was also refreshing.
Tay slept out in the open despite the cold.
“It was a good night’s sleep. I felt so free,” he said.
The next morning, the campers prepared breakfast with the cooking equipment they brought along – small stoves, utensils, cutlery, and even collapsible tables and camping chairs.
“Nowadays all these equipment are available in sports and camping shops. Families can always try camping. It’s good for bonding – you will understand your children better by spending time with them,” said Tay.
“Fathers who have to work hard offshore will find this kind of camping time valuable. Sadly, some working parents never realise their children are all grown up and they miss the golden opportunity of spending time with them while they were growing, even for a few short days. We must try our best to have good downtime with our family.”
Cleaning up together
After breakfast, the campers cleaned up the campground together. The owners were not around to supervise but as responsible campers, the group did not leave any rubbish behind. And all they took away were photographs.
The campers are already looking forward to another MNS camping trip.
A camper named Nisa said, “I’m glad I joined the group. I made a lot of new friends who share the love of nature. I look forward to another camping trip or any outing organised by the Malaysian Nature Society, Miri branch.”
Fellow camper Frankie said, “Good camping overall. Would’ve been perfect with more activities.”
Camper Lana added, “A relaxed atmosphere and easy-going people. A short, yet memorable experience.”
Khuzaimi doesn’t mind organising another camping event.
“It was so good to see families together in a fun setting. We will include creative arts in future. I thank everyone for being so cooperative. See you next time,” he added.