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Wednesday, 29 February 2012


Borneo and onwards

Just finished an AMAZING three weeks in Borneo where we read everything is bigger than anywhere else in the world, they weren't kidding!! 

The BIGGEST tree
We were  joined for the first two weeks of our trip by Caroline (old school friend from home for those not in the know). We met in Kota Kinabalu where we spent the first two days preparing for our trip and enjoying the freshly caught sea food from the night markets. Beer unfortunately the same price as in London, bit of a shock after 30p pints in Vietnam!! We set off into the jungle to track down the "wild men of the Forrest" (orang utans) in Sepilock. We found ourselves a traditional style long house to set up camp for a couple of nights. 


our jungle long house
We visited an orang utan rehabilitation centre where we saw three lots of mums with their babies, so close and lots of cool photo opportunities. We ventured into the jungle to find Borneo's tallest tree and barely got out with our lives after two rather sore tumbles and nearly being eaten alive by leaches. None of us could remember the section in the guide book that described in detail what not to do when encountering the leaches situation. It turns out that screaming jumping and ripping them off your skin is not the text book method but appeared to work perfectly well. 

Uncle Changs

Enjoying the wildlife
The next port of call was Borneo's famous diving islands off the coast of semporna. We managed to get some accommodation at Uncle Chang's on the island of Mabul. We shared our very fast boat ride (insane boat driver included) with a young Chinese wedding party. After witnessing numerous dress changes over the following three days we found out that the trip was solely for the purpose of taking wedding photos. We thought that sounded like a very good idea. The island was lovely and we slept in cabins over the sea (although not as glamorous as the ones you see advertised for the Maldives). We were greeted upon arrival by an enormous Green Back Turtle and couldn't wait to get into the sea for a closer look.

Crazy cat, loved getting wet!!!
Pre scuba, much bigger smiles post scuba
The following day we got the opportunity to go out for some snorkelling. Unfortunately this was cut rather short for ben after he swam straight through a very large jellyfish and definitely came off worse. Gemma and Caroline were in their element swimming with all kinds of marine life and getting very close to both turtles and barricudas. Ben had to settle with pictures and a vinegar sponge bath. At least it wasn't the other method although Gemma did say she would if absolutely necessary. Having experienced some rather questionable diving with our crazy French instructor in Cambodia, scubering  wasn't on our list of things to do but after hearing about and seeing so many amazing photos of exotic fish and huge turtles right up close we decided to give it another go. The lead diving instructor took a shine to Caroline so no repeats of our Cambodia experience on this occasion. The diving was absolutely out of this world and we can't wait to go again.

Sun deck at uncle changs
Misty, good for mountain climbing
Ben and Caz enjoying Mt Kinabalu

Having arguably done enough mountain climbing on our trip already but we couldn't help ourselves. We stayed over night under the hospitality of Norman Bates (the hostel was literally like a scene from Psycho) no showers were taken and we felt rather lucky to be alive in the morning. The same couldn't be said for the giant cockroach on our dormitory floor.

Hummmm rain is getting heavier
The rain on the previous day did not bode well for climbing but the morning proved to be a little dryer, although thick fog did add to the horror film effect. The rain didn't start until we actually started climbing the mountain. This wasn't enough to 'dampen' (Gemma) our spirits and we got up to 3273m absolutely soaking but very excited by the prospect of dry clothes and our last three sachets of Starbucks coffee (thanks Hannah). Gemma was presented with her own vegetarian menu which had no room for choice but what it lacked in options it definitely made up for in quantity. The mushroom soup starter was served in a huge salad bowl and the veggi noodles could have fed a rugby team. I did however manage to squeeze in room for desert.

Reached the summit at 05.20am
My slippers!! toasty
Ben's "Sherpa" shoes aka flip flops
Up at 2am for first breakfast and ready to make our assault on the mountain. Head torches at the ready and good sturdy climbing shoes were all we needed. One small problem. Ben lost his approach shoes three days earlier and was left with only one option, to climb in his self appointed Sherpa shoes (flip flops to everyone else). He received some rather strange looks from the guides but we all successfully summitted in time for sunrise even after being held up by loads of all the gear but no idea Chinese tourists. All our feet we somewhat chilly at the top (4095m) especially Gemma's who's approach shoes were still soaking from the previous day. Luckily and a little surprisingly Ben had brought a pair slippers with him which solved the problem and did the job nicely.

Views from Mt Kinabalu
Views on Mt Kinabalu
Our trek down the mountain was a bit more precarious and did involve a few tumbles fromuuuuy each of us, but we got to properly experience the beautiful views from the mountain. Needless to say our legs were completely useless for the following three days much to the amusement of our hostel buddies. 

We discovered Film grain effect on the camera!!
Slightly drunken silliness
Caroline headed home after a day enjoying the islands just off KK and and a night of silliness, we headed over to Kuching in the southern section of Borneo.

so excited Vegetables!! not many in Borneo

Hummmm, raining again!!
Views from Kuching
It turns out that Kuching is slightly wetter than KK and within a few hours we were stuck under a canopy overlooking the river front for two hours while we experienced the heaviest rain and loudest thunder we have ever experienced. Our first hostel was run by a strange malaysian man who was completely obsessed with Witney Housten. Obviously the news of her untimely passing had seriously effected him and he insisted on singing 'I will always love you' (although only this line of the song) over and over and over again. It drove us slightly mad although he did make us giggle when he told us he had been thinking too much and now his brain hurt. We moved to the hostel next door where everyone is much more sane.

Ben in a bit of trouble

Biggest flowers in the world
We pottered around Kuching to take in all its sights and and found some lovely cat sculptures. The cat museum is being saved for our last day (Ben is soooooooo excited) but we did also take a day trip out to see the biggest flower in the world. It's supposed to smell of rotting meat to attract flies but to our disappointment it smelt of nothing.

Female proboscis monkeys 

Male proboscis

Bako National Park
Our trip to Bako National  Park was seriously cool. Our boat trip over was possibly the most exciting ride ever. Huge storm waves and a tiny speed boat prove to be a brilliant if not extremely dangerous mix. One girl on our boat who couldn't swim was told to stop screaming by the driver. We saw mackaks, silver leaf, and both male and female proboscis monkeys (definitely the most bizarre monkeys we've come in contact with). The hiking in the rain forest was the best we've done in Borneo and easily the most beautiful. We were taken on a guided night safari and despite our guide wearing a string vest wife beater he turned out to be very knowledgeable and very upset with himself when he couldn't tempt some scorpions out of their bidding place. 
close encounter with a Croc
Amazing sunsets
We have just spent the day seeing more orang-utans and sheltering from Kuching's variable climate. Well it is the rainy season I suppose! We put the five hours under shelter to good use and started to plan some of our wedding. 

Last day in Borneo tomorrow before we head off to Singapore again. This time we are actually going to venture out of the lovely airport and spend three nights in a beautiful hostel called 'The Beary Good Hostel.' That's not a typo and yes it does have bears everywhere. Ben's very excited again!

Please send gossip from home.

Gem And Ben

1 comment:

  1. wow this looks amazing - As I sit at my desk in the dark, rainy UK this positively looks like a world away