Borneo lives up to its reputation. It is truly remarkable. I’m staying in a somewhat primitive eco type resort, basic huts, a couple of hammocks, no AC, beside the muddy river Kinabatangan Wildlife abounds, there are birds everywhere, mostly totally unfamiliar, the jungle reaches the river edge and the night noises, loud. But I’m ahead of myself. Backup.
It was on Monday that I caught a bus from Kota Kinabalu (KK) over the mountains to Sandakan. A great trip despite being six hours, I gazed out of the window the whole way. We inched up the big mountain, Kinabalu, and the view as we passed over the top back down to the Sea below was breathtaking. From then on it was mountains, mountains, mountains, all jungle covered, I was transfixed. There were tea plantations at the summit producing the famous Sabah tea. Resorts and country retreats for the locals, expensive looking restaurants, Range Rovers beside the road. On we went to the first pit stop where my Swiss traveling companion and I ordered a plate of what everyone else was eating, and good it was, though what it was I have no idea. As we continued I began to get nervous as people all around were throwing up and praise be, someone told the bus crew to turn off the ghastly movie we were being shown on the big screen at full volume. Then we were dropped off, at a cross roads, basically nowhere, but I had been advised that there would be taxi pirates nearby and sure enough, over the other side, there they were, all waving. The two-mile ride to the hotel at Sepilok was about a dollar, checked in and went out in search of wildlife. Sandikan is a world famous wildlife-viewing destination so hopes were high but everything appeared to be closed for the evening, I did however see a chicken.
Undeterred, the next morning I was up and ready early, breakfast and off, to the Sandikan Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Center. Arrived far too early, of course, but eventually bought a ticket, put all my stuff in a locker, provided free for visitors so the orangs don’t take it off you, and headed on down the path. There was a nursery area for very young oranges where they played and learned basic orang behaviour, climbing, swinging about in trees, ( New word: brachiation. To travel from branch to branch), eating and the like and then on to the main event, feeding time in the rainforest. A bigger viewing area than at the Shangri La, there were about one hundred a fifty present, three orangs came and ate and it was all very true to form until……everybody left. There were about ten of us left and the orangs decided to turn the tables and come on down to the viewing area. No one seemed quite sure what to do, there were ‘do not touch’ signs everywhere, so we were kind of herded around the area by a couple of Rangers, keeping our distance but at the same time not wanting to miss anything. Up and down the roof supports, over the roof, posing on top of signs, they really seemed to be enjoying themselves until of course the inevitable happened, one of them pee’d, all over the Irish girl who was telling us about the leeches that landed on her from the top of a tree. Just the luck of the Irish I guess.
I saw Sun Bears, tiny little things that I never knew existed. They are on the endangered list mainly due to the horrid things that the Chinese do to their bile. Quite disgusting. From there it was a short ride to the Discovery Center, which I had read about and had almost to myself. There was much in the way of flora and fauna, elegant exhibits, an arboretum, a lake with boats but I had come for the star attraction, the aerial walkway in the canopy of the rainforest. Confession time, I have a fear of heights, I suffer from vertigo, so yes, I was a tad nervous. Up the ramp, and up and up until there I was, level with the tops of the trees, the view was astounding. I felt like a jungle animal high in the treetops, I could see for miles and miles (Sal!), and there was nobody else around, not a soul. The walkway was not long, less than a half mile but it was so not human that I was inclined to tiptoe so I didn’t disturb anything. There were benches every hundred yards or so and I sat on many, just looking out over the forest and marveling. I discovered that if I sat long enough I could detect movement, quite what I have no idea, but there were hairy things, things with long tails, big eyes, colorful things, screechy things, and all around was every shade of green you could possibly imagine and then more on top of that. Absolutely fabulous.
Off back after that to my hotel, dinner, more curry and rice, a couple of beers and bed. Before I leave this scene just one more thing. Both mornings I was woken by a sort of cooing sound from outside my door which turned out to be made by three of the ladies who worked at the hotel. They would arrive early and set out their food and drinks for the day in the shade of my hut and, sitting in a circle on the ground would gossip and pass the time of day, quietly, and in Malay. I was charmed by the whole thing, it was quite lovely.
From Sepilok it was off to the River at Kota Kinabatangan, boat rides at dawn and dusk, some very unique experiences, some great people and more than enough for the next blog post and maybe the one after that……
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