Crikey, I’m using Windows 98. So, Borneo. We flew into the port city of Kinabalu that lied a small distance from the mountain with the same name, the highest mountain in South Asia at a whopping 4015.2 metres. The LP labelled his as ‘an easy climb’, but for the record it was absolute hell and my limbs ached for a 3 days afterwards. Then of course taking into the account we started at 1pm instead of 8.30am like sane people, and the lack of oxygen at 3000 metres, and an early rising of 2am to climb up the last 2.5 km in the dark, it’s no wonder I was knackered. Well worth it though to be up at the summit for sunrise and the trip down was made more fun by the increasing volumes of oxygen and telling downcast up-hill trudgers the summit really wasn’t worth the effort. Ha ha ha.
I’d done the climb alone after Dwyer had fallen ill to a mystery illness (’common sense’ I think he called it), after we’d been playing with the orang-utans over in Sepilok. We’d hired a car to get out there, catching a glimpse of the famous Raffalesia flower (largest flower in the world and named after Sir Stamford Raffles of Singaporean fame) as we past. We also made a pit stop at the awful Poring Hot Springs. I’m not a fan of baths in general (let me finish), more of a shower man myself, but swimming in egg-water packed with other people’s dead skin is not what I do to relax. We lasted about five minutes before getting out and going for a cold shower in equally grubby water. Fortunately Poring also has a fascinating butterfly enclosure with some of the most beautiful specimens in the land gently frolicking amongst a rich and colourful arboretum. Unfortunately it was closed, so that completed our miserable time at that wretched hodge-podge of a place.
Sabah made up for itself though by the incredible orang-utan sanctuary. We arrived a little early for feeding time but decided to make our way to the platform anyway, where Dwyer luckily got up close to the massive ‘Mr. G’ who happened to be taking a the morning air. This huge strong male orang-utan had at least a 3 metre arm span and, as reported in the orang-utan film shown at the centre, is capable of tearing a man in half. After feeding we took to the trails and got attacked by some leeches for our efforts, but returned to the platform on the off chance of seeing one of the furry little fellas once again. We were in luck. Three young ones were playing around, one slightly aggressive and had developed a penchant for stealing stuff, another engrossed with the inside of a plastic bag the builders had carelessly left around and the last a friendly soul that walked up to us and held our hands. It was one of the best things we’ve encountered on this trip without a doubt. This incredible, delicate and intelligent animal took time to play with us, swinging from our arms and grasping my camera at every opportunity, the media hussy. Even at two years old, they have a really strong grip! I managed to capture a few videos of the mischievous little fella with the plastic bag and will try and upload them when I get to KL (naturally we told the centre that the little critters were playing the builders shovels, bolts and bags. We do realise you’re not supposed to touch the little orange men but hoped our informing the park of the various building hazards aided the karma a little).
We did some hard driving on bumpy roads in the rented Proton to the village of Sukau to take a short boat trip out to see the famously ugly Proboscis monkey with their large cartoon shaped nose, but didn’t get close enough for a decent photo I’m afraid. We didn’t have much luck in the nearby Gamontong Caves either as the bats refused to come out and play at sunset, the selfish sods. We then had to bribe our way out of the park as it was gone knocking off time for the security guard (by a half an hour). He tried to ease the tension by saying sorry several times when demanding the cash, so that made us feel batter….I imagine Dick Turpin did the same thing. “I’m dreadfully sorry my dear, it really is very rude of me to butt in on your journey like this, but would you mind passing over all your valuables and anything else of worth that you own? I’m dreadfully sorry you see, but I’m a highwayman you know, it’s just what I do. Thanks awfully, toodle-pip!”
On the way out of Sabah to Brunei, we made a small stop at the duty-free island of Labuan where a large bottle of beer cost as much as 5 ringit (about 80 pence for 750ml). Wicked! It’s also the site where the Japanese signed the peace treaty in 1945, and there’s a well kept Allied war cemetery just outside the city centre dedicated to mainly Brits, Indians and Australians. Labuan also had a futuristic mosque that attracted the notice of my camera lens, and along with the latter came oodles of locals eager to see what the hell I thought I was playing at. ‘Well, I’ve got a camera, and a tripod….what do you reckon I’m doing? Fishing?’ All were just curious of course which I can understand. I’ll make a point of hovering around anyone foreign looking with a camera when at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium next time I’m home, which may require a great deal of hovering indeed.
Next stop, Brunei and Sarawak!