Livin' in luxury

Trip Start Apr 10, 2004
Trip End Jun 09, 2004

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Saturday, May 22, 2004

For the last three days, Simon and I have been enjoying the luxury provided by my wonderful 'Uncle' Peter and Liz in Johor Bahru- as of tomorrow, there will be no more air-conditioning, no more peanut butter, and no more comfy pillows :( But, it's a trade-off, we're flying to Borneo, so I guess you've gotta take the bad with the good.

When I last wrote we were about to leave on our trek to Lake Maninnjau. It was a pretty difficult two days, not as exhausting uphill/downhill as our Bukit Lawang trek, but there was definitely not much striding along- it was more creeping along ledges, or slipping down rocky 'paths', with a short interval in a village at the top of the mountain, before we went charging down the other side. Chased red dragonflies, waded through rivers, picked up fern-tips for dinner, as well as a leech or two at some point- cue many girly squeals from both of us. We stayed the nite at Ana's Homestay, a couple of wooden huts built on the edge of the mountain, overlooking the lake. The lake is surrounded by mountains like Lake Toba, but much smaller- only 17kms- absolutely spectacular. We collapsed and watched the sunset, taking a photo every time the lake and sky changed colour (every 2min or so). Next morning was a really hard slog- we made a detour from our route down the mountain to go visit a waterfall- problem was there'd been a landslide, and the usual route was completely blocked. When our guide seriously told me to be very careful, i got a little worried. And he wasn't kidding- very loose earth, no trees to hang onto, and an angled path about 20cm wide, with quite a nasty drop off to the right. I practically crawled. When we had to make a sharp vertical climb up and over a mini-waterfall, and the 'sturdy' log I hauled myself up onto turned out to be rotten, i seriously considered whether it was worth it- how good can a waterfall be? Turned out to be quite nice, dripping with sweat, any water looks lovely. Though all i could think about was the climb back.

When we stripped off, we discovered more leeches, Simon pulled back one bandage (streaming with blood) to find three enormous ones gorging themselves in his burst blisters from the day before- trust me, it was even more disgusting than it sounds. Didnt get much better as our guide, Eric, pulled them all off us and smashed them to pulp on a rock. So, washed in the waterfall, and after preparing for the leech onslaught (repellant-covered feet in socks with sandals, tucked into pants) climbed back over the landslide. Climbed down for hours, tripping over things, running into trees, slipping over rocks, and generally being extremely clumsy and miserable (I was getting sick) before arriving in the padi fields on the shores of Lake Manninjau- sight for sore eyes.

Limped to Lily's Guesthouse, after Simon had de-leeched again, they LOVE him apparently, and found ourselves our very own treehouse, on the shores of the lake. Stayed there three days, most of which I spent in bed with a cold (or SARS, or bird-flu, or malaria- depending on how paranoid I was feeling). Headed back to Bukittingi, and on our last day in Indonesia wandered around the fruit market (looking for the local passionfruit we ate many weird and wonderful things), then went up to a nearby village, Koto Gadung, which is renowned for it's silver jewellry. Beautiful stuff, extremely cheap- $5AUD for a gorgeous hand-made silver ring, only problem was id forgotten my money, and we soon ran out out Simons...even his US$ but still could have bought a lot more.

Left that nite and had our usual 24hr travel stint- 11hr bus (carsick as always), 5hr wait (slept on a wooden bench), 3hr ferry, 3.5hr bus. Add into that the fact that we'd overstayed our visa by one day, apparently it's not a one month visa but a 30-day visa, consequently we both had to pay a $20US fine- did not improve my opinion of the Indo government. However, we were still quite cheerful when we got to Peter's about 8pm, glowing from our discovery of a Dunkin' Donuts at the bus station (we bought 12), and anticipating some real food and a hot shower. Instead of crashing early that nite though, it was decided we had to go out with Peter and some English clients of his, who were heading for home the next day. So, 30 hours or so after leaving a little town in Sumatra we were having our car valet-parked and eating steak at the Hyatt, while waiters kept our beer glasses constantly filled. Quite surreal, as evidenced by the little giggles we both gave occasionally. Ended up being a huge nite, apparently our group of ten racked up of a bill of about 1200Ringgit- mostly due to the 'can-you-blow-the-coin-over-the-full-glass' game. Somehow Simon let someone convince him to try it with a full jug- that was pretty much the end of him for the nite. From that point on, he was a constant presence on stage with the three female singers- would you believe they were young and pretty, and skimpily dressed- dancing, drifting around, and stealing the microphone occasionally. We all ended up dancing, and then it was on to a club, where we continued to drink 'til after 4:30am. Dragged Simon off the dance floor, and somehow all made it home- thanks Pete. Not surprisingly, neither of us felt too wonderful the next morning- i crawled downstairs to get the box of donuts about 12 and we quite happily stayed in bed another couple of hours. But apart from getting us ridiculously drunk, my crafty god-father had other goals in mind, and while one of the guys offered me a job in London, another made me promise to come make use of his spare bedroom when I arrived :) Havent done much since then, had our photos developed (see previous entries also), and Sime had a pedicure for his poor feet- see photo! So, we fly to Sarawak, Borneo tomorrow nite (god bless AirAsia), and cram everything we can into two weeks. Will write when we return :)

Mel xxoo
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