KK, Kinabatangan and Sandakan
28.03.2008 - 07.03.2008 24 °C
It seems loads has happened since I arrived and it has only been a few days. I'm in an incredibly hot and dark internet cafe right now so the long blog I had planned may have to be cut short...
After leaving the internet cafe in KK I went back to the hotel and checked in to a decent double room. A knock at the door saw my new roommate for the next 10 days, and coincidentally a girl I had been sat next to in the internet cafe was standing there!! Lucy is from Brighton, 26 and just over in Borneo for 10 days on this tour. We met the rest of the group at 6pm and had to sit in our guide's room for an introductory briefing. Our leader Adril told us all the itinerary for the tour - most of which none of us knew about so there was a bit of panic as we realised we had to hit the shops for various items. Everyone is cool, couple of aussies, swedish guys and two other guys from UK. The first night we just went for a few beers in a bar and chatted - Pirates bar on the waterfront of KK (I get to call Kota Kinabalu - KK now that i've been here a few days ha ha).
Up at 6am I tried frantically to pack my bags for the trip to the jungle. We got into a taxi to the bus station. The bus station is just as laid back as you'd imagine. I pack my life into one rucksack for the next 3 months, sling it in the back of the bus and the door is left open for at least an hour whilst we go for breakfast. I pray its still there when I get back. In the cafe there are the usual pictures above the counter of various meals you can order, an open front looking out onto a main road. I order Roti that the waiter recommends and a watermelon shake. The roti comes with melted butter and egg fried into it. It tastes like a cross between pancakes and eggy bread - quite nice!! On the bus they play Herbie the movie and the air conditioning is a welcome addition. We drive past the hills and through the start of the rainforest. Driving up and down the hills I soon see my first proper glimpse of Mount Kinabalu, the 14,000ft mountain i'll be walking up later in the week. It is amazing and dominantes the sky line higher than I had imagined. On the bus we drive through clouds and the mountain still towers above us. From the side of it waterfalls crash down in the distance.
As we descend the drive we come to a long bridge and tucked under it was our base for the next two days. We are introduced to the mescot team who volunteer to help replant trees in the rainforest. They are an amazing bunch of people and take us on a river cruise passing long tail monkeys swinging from branch to branch and giant hornbill birds flying above us in the sky. After a night jungle walk looking for giant insects, frogs and wild elephants we get back to camp in time to eat our dinner of the most delicious squid and then contemplate our hammock beds for the night. I stumbled my way through the trees to my hammock using my headtorch. As I got in the orange hammock with a waterproof cover and mosquito net I feel completely cocooned. I turn my light off and it is pitch black. The sounds of whistling insects, croaking frogs and loud birds is overwhelming and I cant tell if the hammock is swinging or moving. It is completely disorientating. Scary. At 9.30pm I try to sleep. Two hours later I wake up. The sounds have become more familiar but still I turn my torch on to get my bearings. Feeling I want to put my feet on the ground to steady myself I remember the ground is extremely muddy with rainy season and there are insects and mosquitos covering the outside. My boots i've hung over the ties of my hammock to stop anything crawling inside. When daylight comes it cant come too soon and I get up to have breakfast. The sounds of the birds now I love and I really want to see the frogs whose sound in the night reminded me of that paul mccartney classic and to comfort myself, imagined them sitting on giant leaves bobbing about.
We make our way back to the boat and to base for a cookery lesson. After learning from the locals how to make fried fish malaysian style, the smells of tumeric and salt water fish cooking mixes with fresh donuts and the humidity of the riverside. More rain!! The downpours are heavy and surround the open plan wooden area they use to perform dances and traditional music for us in the afternoon. Vivid pink silk dresses for the girls as they dance with coloured exotic flowers in their dark hair and the men wear martial arts costume in black and red to show us what they learn from an early age.
In the evening we are introduced to our homestay families. I am placed with an amazing 60 year old malaysian woman who speaks little English. Her 12 year old granddaughter sits with me and tries to make conversation whlst the older ones cook dinner for me. I eat my amazing sweet prawns and beautifully cooked squid, fish with lemon and ginger and rice. After Kor and I realise we have no more we can talk about with our limited language and we teach each other Malay and English. Chair - Kerusi. Car- Kareta and the list goes on. We sing Happy Birthday to her younger brother whilst they light the candles and shortly after I go to bed.
Today I have been to the Orangutan sanctuary and seen how they rescue these endangered animals and over the course of 10 years, try to rehabilitate them back into the wild. The process is much more complex and emotional than I could have imagined knowing little about it before. Teaching orphans how to climb and teens how to eat in the rainforest. We view them from the feeding platform before one strolls right past me and looks me straight in the face. Its orange hair is beautiful and dark brown eyes.
Now, i'm in town, catching up with the real world and heading back for a meat BBQ any minute at a nice B&B with power and showers. Luxury!