PYRO – Part 1 by Wendy Chin

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Seeing Paul holding up the burning tinker bundle, reminds me of Pyro holding a flame on his palm. If any of you who are not fans of X-men the Movie, Pyro is a human mutant who possesses the power to psionically control fire and flame. Paul and Pyro share the similarity of having their names start with the letter “P” and both requiring something to generate a flame.
The difference is that Pyro can make a huge fire easily while Paul needs much effort to prepare and  keep the fire going. Pyro means fire in Greek.

Nestled in the heart of Gombak, about less than an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur minus the traffic jam, there lies a small Orang Asli village. The village is much alive, sitting at the edge of the rainforest, despite the onslaught of modernity. A small group of city folks including myself walked through the village silently in the wee hours of Sunday morning. We got our feet wet from wading in the ankle-deep water of a tunnel built under the Karak highway that leads to the edge of rainforest where durian trees are aplenty.

I was one of fourteen eager urbanites invited to this workshop organized by Keong Lye Choon, the co-owner of Outdoor Gear Malaysia (OGM). Keong initially did not want to reveal what sort of workshop that I was about to attend. The only reason Keong gave me was he didn’t want me to get bored. Until on that morning itself, Keong finally told me the workshop was about learning how to start fire in the jungle using traditional and modern methods. Cool! “Why would I be bored with that?” I asked him.

Focus focus focus

Focus focus focus!

Less than 15 minutes walk on an easy trail led us to an area with a few huts and a small covered dining area. The person in charge of that particular area for this workshop is Raman. He gave us a warm welcome and encouraged us to learn as much as we could. He is like the wise man of the jungle to me!

Raman, the wise jungle man says, “Learn with your heart”

Raman, the wise jungle man says, “Learn with your heart”

We started with the first method, demonstrated by Paul, which is known as Bow Drill.

Paul opens a duffel bag consisting assortment of dried wood, dried leaves, a parang, knives, a stick and cord bent into a bow, a wooden spindle and a saw. Paul shows us the types of wood suitable to ignite a fire and how to make the tools from the dried wood. The recommended type of dead wood to be used will be from fig (Ficus genus) or Mahang (Macaranga genus) trees.

Paul opens a duffel bag consisting assortment of dried wood, dried leaves, a parang, knives, a stick and cord bent into a bow, a wooden spindle and a saw. Paul shows us the types of wood suitable to ignite a fire and how to make the tools from the dried wood. The recommended type of dead wood to be used will be from fig (Ficus genus) or Mahang (Macaranga genus) trees.

He saws, cuts and carves for the preparation of the Bow drill method. Then he puts the wooden base, the spindle and the bow together to begin sawing back and forth to create intense friction. He prepares the tinder bundle using dried bamboo leaves and other form of dried leaves. He calls it the bird’s nest, simply because the tinder bundle looks like one!

A tinder bundle that looks like a bird’s nest

A tinder bundle that looks like a bird’s nest

Followed by this noise screaming into my ears, “Kik-keek, kik-keek, kit-keek…”.

The friction between the tip of the spindle and the wooden base produced smoke.

The friction between the tip of the spindle and the wooden base produced smoke.

 

Black dust began to gather at the bottom of the wood. The friction created was hot enough to turn the black dust into a glowing ember. A sturdy leaf was placed beneath the wooden base to collect the ember.

Black dust began to gather at the bottom of the wood. The friction created was hot enough to turn the black dust into a glowing ember. A sturdy leaf was placed beneath the wooden base to collect the ember.

Ember in the coal

Ember in the coal

Paul carefully put the ember into the tinder bundle he prepared earlier. He slowly blows some air onto it to create the fire.

Paul carefully put the ember into the tinder bundle he prepared earlier. He slowly blows some air onto it to create the fire.

During the practical session, each of us has the opportunity to have a go at lighting the fire. Raman assisted us in using the parang correctly and demonstrated how to chop the wood and make stick feathers.

During the practical session, each of us has the opportunity to have a go at lighting the fire. Raman assisted us in using the parang correctly and demonstrated how to chop the wood and make stick feathers.

This is me in my attempt to perfect the skills of using a parang.  I look like a pro, right? Well, looks can be deceiving.

This is me in my attempt to perfect the skills of using a parang. I look like a pro, right? Well, looks can be deceiving.

As easy as it looks, Paul summarizes that the first tool we should use in starting a fire would be either a lighter or a match. Bow drill will be the last option if all other methods fail.

Are there much easier technique besides using a lighter or a match? Yes! Please join me on the next part of Pyro soon.

You can find more info about Raman and the activities he can arrange for you from this link.
Raman can be contacted at 012-6445575
Who is Paul? You can check him out here

Other links for reference.

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