. Finally, we made it to the base, only to be told our room was a further 5 minutes UP....AAARRGHHHH!!! Anyway, bed early, got ZERO sleep and we were on the march again at 2.30 in the morning....with the aim of seeing the sunrise at the top. (Starting to get a bit delirious now as I buttered some toast and 'jammed' it on the other side!! What a deusch!!!)! Anyway, head-torches on and on tougher, slippier terrain we fought on slowly, battling a bit of altitude sickness and a couple of d@ckheads who were too eager......we both took tumbles right on the coccyx!! Ouch!! FINALLY....we scrambled to the summit and got a.........TERRIBLE VIEW!!! F@&KIN CLOUDS!!!! No sunrise for us.....but the clouds started to clear soon after and the sights were amazing! Well worth it in the end!!! Gorgeous in an eery kind of way!!! Margaret earned her stripes on the way down as she helped us out a few times on some roped parts and what not, but it was the RELENTLESS downhill stretch of nearly 9km (descending a total of 2,200m) all at once which is the reason that I'm in a bit of pain writing this and Kala LITERALLY can't walk right now ha ha!! Funny for me to watch, but she did brilliant, especially because she had a cold!! Proud of her!! Oh yeah, a stat to finish....total walking time for us during roughly 17km up and down = 15ish hours. The current record, starting 2km before us, therefore making the total course 21km = 2 hrs 37 minutes!!!!! Some Spaniard bloke who must have'pogo-stick' legs because that is OBSCENE!!!!
Kala needed cheering up next because she was walking like 'tin man' on ice skates!! A visit to the orangutan sanctuary more than did the trick!!! The sanctuary is, in effect, a rehabilitation centre for orphaned and rescued orangutans that is based right on the edge of the Sepilok forest in North East Borneo. A programme exists so that these creatures are given the best care before they are released back into the wild
. The ones that are newly released were the ones we saw, because a park ranger gets himself on a platform and offers food a couple of times a day and a few of them (accompanied by some other monkeys) take full advantage and have a right good feed!! Once they become more self-sufficient and used to life in the wild, they tend to stay deep in the forest and don't rely on the food that the centre provides. We didn't see any babies which was a shame, but the ones we did see were brilliant value, effortlessly swinging around the place. Their DNA is approximately 96%2525 the same as humans and you can see very similar tendencies to us. They all seemed to have their own individual look and personality aswell!! Very cute! Except when one of them came for a nosey around the centre itself and managed to acquire an ANGLE GRINDER off a workman!! No orangutans (or people!) were hurt fortunately and the little one soon returned to the trees!! We had a nice moment right at the end as 4 of them came out of the forest and onto the walkway we were on and sat right next to us while they just had a little look around and a play!! You don't wanna get on the wrong side of them though, as they're 4 times stronger than humans!! Top day.....right up there with the best of the wildlife we've seen so far since we started!!!!
Wow this might be a longer-than-normal blog...sorry! More of Borneo's unique wildlife scene was next. 3rd up was a nights stay on 'Turtle Island'
. The weather was not on our side!!! It PISHED IT DOWN pretty much all day!! The boat ride over was horrendous! PLEEEEAASE can we drive right into that thunderstorm in the sea!!! Brilliant! I was bleedin PETRIFIED!!! Anyway we got there, DRENCHED, had lunch, had a 3 hour.....3 HOUR.....NAP......went down to the beach....blowin a gale.....went back to our room.....then had tea. It is at night when all the action happens! The 2 aims were to see the mother turtle come ashore to lay her eggs, and also to see the baby turtles released into the sea for the first time. The conservation project is such that the park ranger assists the mother when she's nesting (without her knowing). They collect all the eggs and bury them in a dedicated place on the island in ideal conditions for the babies to grow and develop. When they have hatched, the babies are released into the sea. All of this project is designed to increase numbers of turtles, because a load of eggs on a beach, even if they are slightly buried by the mother, is a good meal for some lizard or bird!!! It all happens at night so that these predators have less chance of seeing the eggs. We just had to wait.........and wait..........and wait........still no mother turtle. At 11pm, after no sighting, the ranger decided to release some recently-hatched turtles into the sea, which was nice. They put 30 or so (the size of the palm of your hand) on the beach, to familiarise them with the touch of the sand so that they instinctively know where to come back to to nest
. Then it was a race to the sea!! Mental!! Some went the wrong way, some got leathered by the small waves but they all made it in the end.....how many survived, we'll never know but apparently only a very small percentage actually become adults. Shame.
Then we waited again.......and waited.......Kala slept across some chairs (and snored!!)......we were gonna call it a day at 2am but luckily at 1.50 we got the call...."TURTLE TIME!!" Thank God for that.....it was close to being the most expensive, worst trip ever!! Down on the beach, a MASSIVE turtle was there and sure enough, she was popping those eggs out one by one in a trance-like state, while the ranger collected them. She produced 101 in all. Good stats!!! We then buried them and went to bed. Tired.
Our final task on Borneo was to do a river safari cruise. I didn't have high hopes for this as Joe, our guide, pretty much introduced himself by saying "Hi I'm your guide, Joe. I'm sorry to tell you that you've come to Borneo in the rainy season. It is rubbish now. You won't see any animals and if it's raining we're not going!!" Oh.......nice to meet you too Joe!!! Unluckily for Joe the 'tart', the rain stayed off and we got out on the boat. The wildlife we were after were orangutans, pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys (the ones with the massive noses!). No orangutans today, and the monkeys only appeared right at the end. But it was the elephants (just for a change!!) who stole the show! A mother and baby having a feed was the highlight - her showing her young the ropes in eating and river crossing was nice to see! A mother pygmy elephant is about the size of a normal baby elephant. A baby pygmy elephant is about as big as.......probably a big dog!! Another group were splashing around and eating bucket loads by the river! At one point we were within touching distance of one! Nice moment!!
That brought Borneo to a close and with it, Asia! It's a tad more expensive than the rest of Asia that we've seen but the trips are well worth it! If you're gonna go though, don't go in January unless you like the rain! We got soaked.....ALOT!! A new country and a new continent next as Australia makes its debut!
The Malaysian side of Borneo was our next stop and after leisurely wandering the streets of Kota Kinabalu for a day, the hard stuff REALLY started the day after!! Standing at a COLOSSAL 4095m (13,435 ft), Mount Kinabalu TOWERS above the city and WE WERE GOIN UP IT!!! This thing's big....really big! Before you all think I'm cruel for dragging Kala up it, it was her idea!! It was a 2-day climb and we started (or cheated) at 1,900m. Our guide for the trip was a 42 year old woman with 7 kids and half a front tooth called Margaret! (What is it with English names in these places?...Margaret the Malaysian tour guide, Bill the jungle guide in Laos and NOBODY forgets Jason the Zulu in a hurry!!)! Margaret was kn@ckered after a couple of km....she appeared again eventually at our base for the night! Cheers Margaret.....well 'guided'!! We covered the first 2km reasonably quickly but 3-6 were tough! It was just UP....with no flats or downs AT ALL and was a right slog!!! Gollum wouldn't have been out of place here as parts of the ascent were real 'hobbit' territory and made for some good viewing