Here I am...
23rd Mar 2012 - 6th Apr 2012
Here I am... at the end
I’m sorry to say that I haven’t got the literary skills required to describe just how incredible our time in Borneo was. Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip and definitely the place at the top of the list to go back. It’s a real urgency actually, there’s so much to do there and even with some of the things I did, I want to do it for longer.
We were there for 10 days and each day was filled with a trip or activity. You could argue that the reason I love this place so much is because we have been coming to the end of our trip and therefore I was more confident throwing myself at every opportunity to explore and learn, but as I look back at the last 7 months, and the countries we’ve been to, I can’t really think of anything I didn’t do that I could have. We always had the attitude that while we are here, we might as well do it, this applied to everything and if the price was an issue, we’d always say “we can always save somewhere else” and that’d sort it.
Borneo isn’t a country by the way, it’s a large island in the middle of SE Asia, larger than some of the nearby countries but the north belongs to Malaysia, a small spot inside Malaysian Borneo is a country called Brunei which is the only country to be solely inside Borneo. The rest, and about 80% of the island belongs to Indonesia. We stayed in Malaysian Borneo for our time there and even when I go back it’ll still be to the Malaysian side and hopefully for a couple of months.
Our first day was a day trip to Kinabalu NP where we saw some flora that only grows in this area including the smallest orchid in the world, the smallest 7 are all found in Borneo, the dancing ladies plant, you’ll know it when you see it, and the largest flower in the world called Rafflesia. You can imagine that usually, I wouldn’t care too much about local flora but the fact that it came it the strangest and most unique shapes, sizes and colours made this day really fascinating. The rest of the day was at a hot spring, which was freezing cold and not very impressive.
The next two days were climbing Mt. Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in SE Asia. It’s a 6km uphill hike to the lodges were we’d stay for the night before climbing the last 3km to the summit the next morning. They said the first leg should take 4 - 6 hours, we must’ve been two thirds of the way and still on track for doing it in 3 but then Micci has been ill for a couple of days before and it caught up with her which made her start to tire very rapidly. At one point she actually lay down on the ground and started falling asleep, she actually only realised she fell asleep when I woke her up 20 minutes later. It took us 5 hours in the end and by the end Micci really had nothing left, she had her arm around my neck for the last section. We were also supposed to have a guide but they said he was at church so wasn’t coming which apparently is fine. I couldn’t believe some of the people climbing though, it took us until two thirds of the way up before we overtook a seven year old girl.
In order to get to the top to see the sunrise, they said we had to leave at 2:30am because it would take 3 hours and sunrise is at 6. Micci decided not to go to the top and I knew I would do it faster than 3 hours so I left at 3am. It took a while to overtake the slower ones because they all stick together and block the path but by the time I got half way up, I couldn’t see any torches in front of me anymore. The guide was with me by now but he was 10 minutes behind. I slowly realised that I was in front of everyone. I was at the top by 4:30am, I couldn’t believe I was the first person to reach the top and by quite some deficit, I was up there for about 15 minutes waiting for my guide and taking pictures, which didn’t come out because it was still pitch black. It was an easy decision to get down at that point instead of waiting for the sunrise, it was way too cold to stay for 2 hours. We must’ve walked for another 10 minutes down before we saw the next person that would get to the top. I was back in bed by 6am which is also why I found it hard to believe some of the other young people telling me they got to the top at 6:30, I suppose they got to see the sunrise though.
The base of the mountain was 2 hours away from Kota Kinabalu and we thought we’d try hitchhiking again. It was less than a minute before we got someone. We couldn’t believe it. We were staying with a doctor in the city at this time and his day off was the next day so we went island hopping with him, a little snorkelling and sunbathing and the day was nearly over but not until we went for a massage. Throughout this trip I’ve been having problems with my ears, I don’t know if it’s due to all the planes or various altitudes we’ve been but every now and my ears feel blocked like when they’re full of water and when I swallow it sometimes makes it worse and feels like when you’re on a plane, I can’t equalise. At the massage parlour, there’s was this thing called ear candling, I’d never heard it before but they put a candle in your ear and light the other end, it’s supposed to clear out your ears. I can safely say it didn’t work, it might have made them worse.
The next day we started our 3 day safari in the jungle and along the famous Kinabatangan river where most of the jungle’s animals come to get their morning drink making it one of the best places in the world to go on safari, not to mention the chance to see some animals that can only be found in Borneo. Our luck over these 3 days could not have been better, the first 5 minutes however made me so miserable. The trip we’d booked basically meant they every second of every day we’d be either on the river looking out for wildlife or on jungle walks. The first thing they told us was that the jungle walks are cancelled because yesterday the wild elephants came close to the camp so it’s too dangerous to go out. I really believed that the walks would be where we see the best stuff but 5 minutes on the water and that all went away. The Pygmy elephants would have been a rare sighting but they’d come to our camp and more than that, we caught them on the bank of the river, it was amazing. One of them charged us, there must’ve been five or six there and so close, we got the best pictures. Then as soon as we left to go further up the river, someone spotted an orang-utan. Now everyone said we would never see one in the wild because they find water within the jungle so they don’t come to the river and they don’t like to come down from the trees which means they’re always hidden high and deep in the jungle. The one we saw was far away, I’ve got some pictures on here that show how hard it was to see some of the animals without binoculars or camera zooms. The whole time we were there, we saw some amazing animals and on the second day we really hit it lucky. Not only did the animals come really close but a Dutch couple had a zoom lens for our model camera going spare. We couldn’t believe our luck and if you see some amazing pictures on that safari, they’re all with that lens, except the orang-utans, that’s back to ours. That safari is one of the biggest reasons I’m so desperate to go back, you could spend so long there and see so many different things and that’s just in one area of the jungle.
For the full 3 days we were on safari we were still aching from climbing Mt. Kinabalu and whenever anyone saw us walking slowly or turning to go backwards down stairs, people would say “Mount Kinabalu?” Everyone knows the effect of climbing it here. Oh and just on a side note, just recently is we realised that when old people hold hands as they walk, it’s not because they’re cute and still in love, it’s because they require constant physical support.
Our last three days were filled doing something we’d been looking for a good time to do the entire trip. We went scuba diving, but not just that, we went on the 3-day open water course to make us qualified divers. We booked it a few days earlier but Micci was nervous about the open water and the deep so just opted for a one day discover dive, luckily on my first day, she plucked up the courage to do the entire qualification. Now as I said earlier, I’ve been having ear problems and they ask in the first questionnaire if you have ongoing ear problems. I lied on the form which was dangerous but it was the cheapest place I’d seen the qualification, I knew that there’d be loads of diving in Australia and it’s twice the price to get the qualification there. It was the most fun ever, Micci and I are both very confident divers now. It’s a really great course, after taking your mouthpiece out, taking your pack, mask and weights off and all back on again under water. I think after three days of all that, anyone would be a confident diver and we saw our first lionfish and stingray.
So definitely the most full week on the entire trip and necessary too because there is so much to do in Borneo, we‘ve really only scratched the surface there. The next stop was Singapore, just for 3 days and 3 days was enough to see it. Most of our time was taken up relaxing and unwinding and reflecting on what has been a really unbelievable journey with such different landscapes and people and tastes and experiences you can’t imagine.
We arrived in Australia on the 7th April and our next adventure began.
So the blog on here is finished, apart from a quick summary I’ll be posting soon but if you want to carry on reading and viewing the pictures of our journey in Australia, my new blog is at www.hereiamtwo.blogspot.com.
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