15.05.2009 - 02.06.2009
This organised trip was 3 weeks long and took in what it said to be the 'Best of Borneo' through Sabah and Sarawak. It said in the dossier that reasonable fitness was required for part of the journey. Having experienced the pain and tiredness of Patagonia and The Inca Trail, we felt quite prepared for what was ahead. Hhuummmmm - very wrong indeed.
Landing in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo it was evident that this was a country that would charm in ways we have not come across before from a whole Nation. From start to finish the Malay people and thier culture amazed us. Infectious smiles, happy personalities, genuine interest from the locals in the street. A kindness that only comes from within and living amongst it for generations. These people have someting to turly be proud of. Our guide Basil, was amazing and a what every guide should aspire to be like. Having an indepth knowledge and practice into his countrys beliefs and ways, he passed on his passion to us.
The group we was with was a good crack, most being like minded people and easy to get on with, which all adds to the enjoyment factor. We Initially headed for Mount Kinabalu National Park. Stopping at a suspension bridge with grand views of Mount Kinabalu (4'095m), reminding us of the daunting hike we had ahead of us. Our accomadation in the rainforest was in a wooden cottage upon stilts. The pouring rain made us hope for good weather on our treck. Nightly sounds that we have become well accoustemed to now and acssociate with only areas like this, almost deafing and phenomenal to listen to. Our early morning rise was blessed with good weather for the 8km hike, I know it doesnt sound too far does it........ after constant steep climbs and large steps all the way it takes its toll. Passing many beautiful plants, trees, flowers, insects, noises comming from the tinyest frogs or cricket, incredible views, and animals made the weariness more bearable. After 3pm and still having over 1km to go it started to rain. Rainforest rain! Hard and continuous. The last km the hardest bit of hiking we have ever endured and hope to again, the rain slowed us down so much it took us almost 2 hours. The faster part of the group reaching the mountain lodge before the rain. Many people broke bown at the excruciating exhaustion they were feeling and one lady not completing it until well in to the night (who had to be carried down the last few km the next day). Our motivation was diminishing with every step, but we knew that with the 1km ahead it was nothing compared to tunring back - this was not an option, all just being a battle of our stamina. Overwhelming joy hit when we saw the mountain hut.
The horrendous storm that night kept everyone awake - just what we needed. An early rise of 2am to make it to the top 3km away before sunrise. High winds still surrounding the mountain made it a scary walk up to the summit gates. Dissapointing closed due to the circuling wind and rain up on the peak made it too dangerous to climb. These rules put in place for our safety made us think it was a blessing in disguise however gutted we all were. Staying in the lodge until it was light enough to walk, revealed a fantastic view over the land below. This alone had made the effort of the climb worth it - the first time we had been high enough without the aid of transport to see above the clouds. Awsome, it looked like you could see to the worls end. The climb back down not as tiring but more painful with the repetitive impact it has on your knees. You could see the shroud swirling cloud covering the summit once we reached the bottom. Basil told us that it was the first time the summit gates had been closed this year, confirming just how dangerous it would of been to climb. Having a well earnt relax at the natural hot springs that night.
We got to see the largest flower in the world, common name Stinky Flower! It was 2 1/2 ft in diameter. A huge bright red beauty with amazing textuers and pattern to it. Having a bit of a love of different flowers this was a highlight for me.
Heading to Kinatabangang jungle for a few days it was evident how much natural rainforest had been lost to palm plantations and mans greed. Devestating and hard accept when you see it up close like this. We went on many boat trips during our time here and short trecks seeing many different species of monkey in the wild, snake, birds (the great hornbill), butterflies and lots of interesting insects that only the jungle and this himidity provides - Oh not forgetting the fun with the leeches!
Choosing Borneo for the opportunity to see orangutans in their natural habitat was the best. The large Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary releases orphaned and injured orangutans back into the wild once being nurtured back to health. The sanctuary having no perimiter fences means they can come and go as they wish once healthy and old enough, knowing that they will always be cared for and have access to food here. A wonderful place. We were 2 of 4 people lucky enough to whittness one of these incredible creatures within a meter of us. We watched in amazement at their gentile and graceful movements. Known as the 'wild men of borneo' their humanlike actions and drawing eyes capsulate you.
Manaku Island was a nice 'beach' day. Snorkeling, hiring a rubber ring and bobbing up and down ont the sea, and scubadooing, yes hor read it right scubadoo! A manmade underwater moped with an astronaut like helmet on to regulat the air 5 meters underwater. We was swarmed by many fish, and got to feel the coral reef and home of a clown fish. A wierd sensation, briliant and good fun.
Our first taste of staying with a local family here in their longhouse was a delight, accessed only by longboat and a rememorable journey up the river. Revealing a little into the lives and ways of these incredible people, seeing them wash, play and catch thier food in the river. At one point we had to get out and push the boat as the waters were too shallow - great fun. Basic living requirements meant the Iban tribe we was stopping with had an amazing lifestyle - intrigue, love and kindness to offer. Young children making their own amusement by playing with stones and seeing how many they could fit between my toes! Whilst the elders went about their daily routine of making fishing nets (taking 2 months to finish in some cases) and prepare wood for weaving baskets etc. Only too happy for you to join in and have a go. The local boarding school being well equipped. Night activities involved trying your skills at the blowpipe, with a bit of practice Sean managed to do well on the target. When it came to me people tended to move far away! An amazing world away from what we know as civilisation.
Trecking to Camp 5 through the beautiful rainforest to the base of the Pinnicals in the heat and humidity was welcomed by a refreshing swim in the river with clothes still on to freshen them up too! The dorm style open air shelter was a good resting place. Having the protection of a mosquito net, not stopping the incredibly close calls of the loudest frogs on earth looking for a mate! All part of the fine memories that will last forever.
Mulu National Park an area of natural beauty. Full of cave networks streatching for thousands of miles. Visiting Clearwater Cave and swimming in the clear waters, Wind Cave, Langs Cave all having their own unique and special charachter.
Deer Cave houses a phenomenan that was unbelievable to see. Living inside this enourmous cave are millions of bats, many spicies. Walking throught the cave seeing, hearing the sounds, and the foul pungent smell of the mound of excrement those little bats made was an experiance in itself . Let alone the nightly act they encounter to search for food. They start to leave the cave around 5.30pm in swarms of thousands at a time. Lasting for up to an hour each group intermittently leaves the cave in thier search. for protection each swarm creates its own snaking line across the sky, almost looking like a large cobra in the the air to deter its predators. Incredible.
Bako National Park rersident to wild pig, native monkey, crocodiles and green vipers was an area that was once a dream. The 5km walk to the peninsular breathtaking.
Our last night was spent in Kuching. It was the Harvest Festival there and we was lucky enough to be invited to to another longhouse to join in with the Celebrations of the tribe. With the veavy gambling and drinking already well underway we was soon welcomed into the atmosphere of things. The Chiefs son was quick to get me and a few others playing the gongs and teaching us traditional dancing too, much to the amusement of the locals. I think we was thier entertainment for the night. With each song, as a way of thanking us for taking part we was given a shot of the strong homemade rice wine!
An unexpected and brilliant finale to our time in this happy, fantastic and wonderful Country. Thankyou borneo.