Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Rafflesia Power

Poring Springs, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Melody and I are in search of the Rafflesia Plant.  We had asked many of the locals and the taxi driver, Peter, but the answers were all negative. We had given up hope and were just going to pay to enter the Botanical Gardens when Melody spotted a sign with a crudely painted on Rafflesia.
Pretty Snazzy
The business women
the fearless leader
So we aborted the garden plan and followed the arrows.  We came to a little shelter in front of the jungle with two ladies and their baby tending it.  We bartered them down in price, then followed our guide lady deep into the jungle.  The pathway was very muddy as it had been raining the past few weeks.  All the locals are puzzled as it is supposed to be dry season but the rain isn't letting up.  Anyway, we sloshed our way through the jungle in our flip flops. It was super humid, you could have cut the air with a machete.  So here we are, sweating our brains out, slapping the mozzies away and in mud up to our ankles, when we came to a 'staircase'. It went down this sort of cliff side, and was made of sticks tied  and nailed together.
Down we went, anything for this darn flower.  We finally arrived at the site and it was so cool!                  
 This flower is particularly interesting as it only blooms for 5 days, then eats itself. A carnivorous flower!  Don't get cooler than that in the world of plants.
After we left the Rafflesia, we hired a private car and set out to Sandakan where we were to meet up with Kerry, our friend we had met on the way to Mt. Kinabalu.  From Sandakan, our plan is to go on a river cruise on the Kinabatangan River, which has Orangutans, Asian Pygmy Elephants, Proboscus Monkeys, Macau Monkeys, Crocodiles and assorted birds in the rain forest.  Should be a fantastic trip!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Mt Kinabalu Conquerors

Today was AMAZING!!! Melody, Kerry and I woke early (me especially early, remnants of jetlag) and hiked Mt Kinabalu. Melody and I only went halfway to the summit as it was only 3$ whereas the hike to the summit cost 300$+! The climb was brutal.  By the time we got 4km up, we had gained 3000 metres! I definitely felt a difference in the atmosphere. Melody even felt a bit of altitude sickness. I felt a bit dizzy at one point, but it quickly passed.

Melody and I selling tickets to the gun show! 

Melody and I trying our turn at rock climbing
Kerry, Melody and I on a rickety ole' bridge that felt like it was going to collapse under our combined weight....
We met up with two guys, Rick from Alaska, and Richard from Sweden. We joined up and hiked together. Melody and I lucked out, because Kerry and Richard both had guides who followed us up. So we felt quite safe. After we reached the halfway point, Layang-Layang, we all split up. Melody and I headed back down the mountain...well guess what?! It started to pour buckets again, and we got soaked...again. Also, the ground doesn't absorb the water so well, thus our hike was like wading in a creek. It was quite slippery and even though we were both wearing ponchos, we still were very damp. It was 5 hours up and down for us, breaks included...sounds like a long time for 8km I know, but remember, it was fairly vertical:D
Mel and I then returned to our hostel and changed. Hailed a taxi (buses were scarce to find) and headed to Poring Springs via Renau.
Folks, this was the most fascinating drive of my life! The houses and people we passes were so far off the beaten path and different ot anything I could have ever imaginged. It was amazing.The dogs and chickens on the roads, people sitting around in front of stalls with multi-coloured tarps on top. Random cars abandoned along the roadside with weeds growing up and through the tires. Our driver Peter, was a hoot. He was so proud and would count "One dog, two dog...ooohhh....lookeee, one cock, two cocks....no hit. Oohhh, one dog, very ugly..." Then he asked if we were Catholic. I said, "No, Protestants". He looked slightly confused. So I simplified and said, "We love Jesus too". Then he got very happy and gave us the best treatment ever. We didn't have bookings in the town of Poring Springs os he drove us to three different hostels at no extra fee and made sure we checked the rooms and helped us barter. Bless him!
We just had dinner and it was delish. I stick to sweet corn soup or sweet and sour chicken. I stray from those occasionally and am always highly disappointed and unable to eat it as the food is really quite spicey here.  On the way back to our hostel we saw the BIGGEST cockroach EVER!! It was a Rhinocerous Cockroach and ugly as sin. Nasty thing. Naturally I stopped to snap a photo. The locals in the store all congregated in the doorway to watch the entertainment before their eyes. The crazy white people taking pictures of bugs. Then shuddering and squeaking everytime it moved. Then running away shrieking when the bug decided it was tired of posing for pics. Glad to be there for them!
I just went to try to take a shower, but alas, the water seems to be shut off. Oh dear. No water for us till morning. So I am going to go to bed early (exhausted after hike and yummy dinner). Till next time. Tomorrow we go in search of the elusive carniverous Rafflesia flower. Wish us luck!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Mt Kinabalu Drowned Rats

Kerry, Melody and I hiked the base trails of Mt Kinabalu today, mostly the trail Silau-Silau. It was a great morning, until....the torrential downpours commenced!  We got absolutely drenched!  Also, because we are pretty high up in the mountains, it was quite cool, so we froze our buns off. And guess what genius only brought shorts with her? Yeah, this genius. At one point we were trying to find our way back to the park headquarters, and after 20 min of walkng int he monsoon we found out we were heading in the wrong direction. We were so fed up by this time (also, I think the girls were ready to kill me because i kept singing 'I wish I had an umbrella, ella, ella, eh eh eh, it's raining, raining, ohhh baby it's raining raining' over and over) that we thumbed a ride. A nice Orinthologist from the University of Montana took pity on us and gave us a ride back...I know adore Montanians. We also took cover from the rain for a bit hoping it would let up so we could do more hiking (it never did), and met some really nice people from the UK and some dude from Holland, all of whom were super friendly. We finally sloshed our way back to our hostel and took a weak pressured shower with luke-warm water.
Kerry, Melody and I take cover

Our favourite Cafe right outside Kotakinabalu National Park.
Kerry and I trying to warm up with Milo...

Our habitations were pretty rustic. But we were just thrilled to have running water and electricity. So no complaints. Then we huddled under all of our combined balnkets on the top bunk to watch some shows on the computer till the battery went (no power point in the room).  Luckily we found a place down the road with a dryer and were able to dry most of our soaked clothes, so that the next day we could put something dry on. One slight issue was that the highway we stayed on wasn't lit up, and there wasn't a sidewalk, so we had to walk to the dryer place in the pitch black. Melody did fall in the ditch once. I jumped in the ditch another time when a semi roared by a little too close for comfort.  Ahhhh...the adventure of it all.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Malaysian Madness

I am sitting in a hostel (Mountain Rest HOuse) on the side of Kota Kinabalu, the  highest mountain peak in South East Asia with some friends who are currently hunting down all the cockroaches in the room and spraying them, int he process gassing ourselves.  I am supervising that they do a good job (sound familiar?). They are. I hate cockroaches. I never want to see one again. Oh wait, too late, another one just came in. Boy, do the girls squeal. I am not squealing because I am cooler than that, but mostly because I am sitting on the top bunk really far away from the whole thing.
Anyway, the adventure so far is as follows: Plane trips, Vancouver to SHanghai, Shanghai to Bangkok, one night in Bangkok, then Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur toKota Kinabalu. One night in Kota Kinabalu, then bussed to Gunung Kota Kinabalu the actual mountain. Crazy, crazy!
The flight from Vancouver to Shanghai was nothing like Cathay Pacific.  I flew with Chinese Eastern Airlines. They were way cheap, so I can't complain...well, not too much anyway. Let's just say an 11 hour flight with no in-flight entertainment is a painful anticipation....buuutttt, before we even took off, the guy next to me (we were two of us ina  row that was for four) and I started to chat.  We hit it off immediately. He was heading to Japan for school, and we were in the first leg of the journey together.  He had Jellybellies and I had otehr snacks (thank God because I would have starved otherwise. The first hour we spent making Jellybelly concoctions such as Chunky Monkey, consisting ot toasted marshmallow, chocolate, coconut and banana. It was amazing. Then we played 'guess what flavour' where we couldn't look at the colour the other person handed over. Then we piled all the blakets and pillows together and made a pyramid of them in the centre of our row and watched some shows on the computer. By the end of the flight Mitch and I were great friends:D
I spent the night in Bangkok, then the next morning I had to figure out how to get to Kota Kinabalu (KK) in Sabah, Malaysia. My friend Melody was waiting for me there. Melody and I met in January of this year on the WHitsundays cruise I did.  We chatted and found out we were from the same area of Canada. We chatted some more and then found out she knew my cousin's wife!  We hung out a bit more in Australia, then we parted ways. When I returned home to Canada, I went snowboarding at Hemlock, and lo and behold, guess who was there as well?! We were definitely destined to be friends!  Anyway, I did find flights,and got to KK that evening.  The hostel we stayed in, Akinabalu youth hostel, was 6$ a night. Not too shabby!!  Well, actually, it was a bit. Then today, we met Kerry, a med student from England and we three hopped on a mini bus, and here we are in  Gunung:D  We are staying at a pretty neat hostel (minus the cockroaches), it's a bit chilly, compared to off the mountain in the city anyway. I have layered all the clothing I brought with me, plus Kerry lent me a jacket as I didn't bring one!  But hopefully the rain will stop later as the view from the mountain is supposed to be incredible, not that i would know now as we are a socked in!
I am still jetlagging a bit, so I am off to beddy-bye now! xo

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Canadian Respite

WWWeeellll...looky here who has a blog!!!  Kudos to Debbie Hawker (AKA Lebbie Dim) for setting me up. She is a gem...and anti-facebook, so we needed an alternate method for her to keep track of me. I mean, those epic emails were a bit much! Now, ya'll can read snippets a little at a time without feeling obligated to respond. Or tell me you've read it when really, you could give a rat's hiney about it. Which is totally cool with me. Or simply look at the pics. Which is what I do with books I read.
So a quick update, where previous email sort of left off....

January 26, (AKA Australia Day), I departed the sunburnt continent and boarded my Boeing to Vancouver.  The day I left Sydney, the temperature reached above 40 degrees Celsius. When I landed in Vancouver, I think it was barely above zero.  Luckily, I had the forethought to have Garrett (little brother) meet me with a winter jacket, boots and scarf. The flight itself was relatively uneventful. I flew with Cathay Pacific, and well, they were wonderful! Yummy food, good selection of entertainment AND an empty seat next to me for both legs of the journey.  Stellar.
Garrett and I headed to Amy Mason's (and Jeff's house too I guess), and spent the night there. I slept 14 hours!  We then boarded the ferry and headed over to Vancouver Island, to Parksville.  The entire reason for my premature return to Canada was to attend my Grammy's memorial.  She passed away suddenly in Mexico December 23, 2010.  It was a shock to lose my sprite and witty Gram, and I wanted to attend the memorial to celebrate and honour the life she lived.  She was just three days shy of 80 years.  Once we arrived at Grandpa's house, it was bittersweet. I got to see all my family, whom I hadn't seen for eleven months, yet, difficult because of the shadow Gram's death had cast.  The memorial went as well as these things can go.  Enough about that for now...

Hemlock Ski Lift
While in Canada, I had the opportunity to re-bond with my peeps.  Many of my friends now live in Vancouver, so I spent some time bumming around the city.  In Chilliwack, my parents were kind enough to allow me to stay with them.  I missed them while I was gone, it was so good to catch up, let them get sick of me, then take off again!  I also had the opportunity to snowboard almost every week!  I went to SunPeaks with my big brother, Nathan, his wife, Kelly and my adorable nephew and niece, Konnor and Kialyn.  Also present was Kelly's family, who just adopted me right in as a shirt-tail relative.  Conditions were more than amazing!  Also, one of the local mountains, Hemlock, has a free day for ladies on Thursday, so I went there a lot.
SunPeaks, Kamloops, BC
Perfect Conditions!

Ok, that about sums up the two months I spent in the Great White North. I leave March 23rd for Bangkok, Thailand.  From there, I shall hop a plane to Cambodia, where hopefully this Certificate-less, Degree-less, native english speaker can find a job teaching ESL. If anyone has any connections please let me know!!
Till later!