Brilliant Borneo - Part 1
Jan 22, 2005
|Just when were beginning to think that we had perhaps spent too much time in South East Asia, we stumbled into Borneo...
Well, that's not strictly true. We don't regret any of our time here, we are just a bit annoyed with ourselves for choosing such a well worn path, which has at times been frustrating. And we didn't stumble into Borneo, we flew. With Air Asia, Asia's answer to Easyjet, for the princely sum of 45 pounds. So here we are, in Sabah, the Northernmost region of Malaysian Borneo, and so far, we are loving (almost) every minute!
We arrived in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah's capital city/town, last Saturday and spent 2 days there, 1 day spent booking our accommodation for the Kinabalu Nature Park and deciding where else to go, and another on the island of Manukan, one of several amazing small islands only 15 minutes off Kota Kinabalu's coast, where we spent the day snorkelling and where Jordan did some work on his tan. (I have given up - we now look like we come from 2 completely different races).
On Tuesday we left for Kinabalu National Park, home to Mount Kinabalu, which at 4101 metres is South East Asia's highest mountain. We spent a day walking around the base of the Mountain's various walking trails through the rainforest, cleverly covering ourselves in blisters just in time for our trek up the mountain. The trails were ok, but we decided we don't really like walking through the jungle that much, especially when there aren't any animals.(Well, we saw one bird, and thought we heard a monkey but that was it). The next day was time for Mount Kinabalu itself. This is a 2 day trek (straight up the mountain) involving a night in a bunk house 3/4 of the way up. The first days walk was only 3 hours, but it felt like alot more. It was pretty steep, and there were quite alot of steps to be climbed which were hideous. By the time we got to our destination, Labin Rata, we were dead on our feet. We had lunch then went straight to bed for a few hours in our cosy four bed dorm. At one point Jordan went outside, and I really wanted to look out the window to see where he was, and I genuinely could not lift my head off the pillow to look out the window. After a few hours sleep we felt a bit more normal, and by now it was about 6 pm - dinner time as we were to start walking again at 3 am. Sadly it poured with rain all afternoon, so we didn't get the spectacular mountain sunset that we were hoping for. Went to bed about 8.30 pm and after a little night time chatter with our 2 friendly Singaporean room mates, we said goodnight.
We did not sleep a wink!! All night, all four of us tossed and turned, which was extremely weird considering how tired we were. However, the good thing was that as we had not been asleep, we had no trouble at all in waking up at 2.30 the next morning. We set off at 3 pm which we thought was safely after the bulk of the other climbers/ walkers, but soon found oursleves at the back of a line of about 20 people. After a few impatient moments, we produced from goodness knows where, a super spurt of energy, and zipped past them. Phew! The trek to the summit took just over 2 hours, and it was an amazing sight seeing this long procession of torchlight behind us down the mountin. Unfortunately we had walked a little too quickly for our own good, and had an hour wait for the sun to rise and it was FREEEEEZING. I was too cold to take any photographs and Jordan took masses, but his finger nearly fell off afterwards. (not really, but it was very very cold and he needed two pairs of gloves to thaw it out)!
So, we made it back to Labin Rata about 8 am, had a quick cup of tea, then set off again for the bottom. This was the real killer, partly because our legs had had enough, secondly because Jordan had boundless energy and obviously couldn't see the rest shelters!(note from Jordan: I was absolutely knackered and ended up running to make sure my legs did not seize up - I did not have lot's of energy!) and thirdly because of a really annjoying Australian couple who had been first to Labin Rata the day before and quickest to the summit, and who we therefore had to beat down to the bottom! 2 1/2 hours later we were down, just in front of them. Yeah!
What I have neglected to mention so far, is how amazingly beautiful it was. The scenery on the way up was stunning, and the sun rise when it eventually came was just as spectacular as we had hoped. Photos (lots of them!) to follow.
Next stop, Poring Hot Springs, to indulge our aching muscles. This was a lesson in how not to get too excited about something before you know much about it. Poring Lodge was the most characterless, dingy little place we have stayed in, and the hot springs themselves were a strange collection of little outdoor baths and pools, with lots of Malaysian girls swimming in their jeans and t-shirts. Rather than join the fully clothes throng, we opted for a deluxe private bathroom! This was actually very relaxing, but all too soon our hour was up, and we were replaced by the annoying Austrailian couple!
And now we are in Sandakan, the second largest city, which incidentally used to be the capital. We had a rather rushed arrival after getting the bus from Poring Hot Springs, checking into a hotel and then dashing out to Sepilok, 20 km away in time to see feeding time at the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre. This is a centre for Orang-utans who have been orphaned or displaced because of deforestation. These orang-utans start off as babies generally in the indoor nursery where they learn to climb trees and swing from branches etc before being slowly released into the wild. Some of them still appear for feeding time. We saw about 9 or 10 of them, and they were extrememly cute. They were accompanied by a troop of Macacque monkeys who hid under the feeding stage, bravely popping up now and then to nick food from the orang-utans. We even spotted one clever imp hiding his food for later!
By the way, did you know, that we share 96.4 % of our genes with orang-utans! I learnt this gem from the Orang-utan information centre.
Well, that's all so far from our travels in Borneo. More to follow! Bye for now, Emily and Jordan
PS. MORE PHOTOS OF MT.KINABALU TO FOLLOW