Saturday, 2 April 2011

Goin' Jungle

Irra and Waddy, Usman's twins were on their way home from school when we got picked up. Sweet school bus!

Amazingest adventure ever!  Melody, Kerry, our newest addition, Aussie Mark, and I were all wishing to take part in a river cruise on the Kinabatangan River, the second longest river in Malaysia.  We had heard many good reports from fellow travelers and really really wanted to do it.  We went from hostel to travel agents to hostels again looking for the best price...they were all quite pricey.  Finally we decided to bite the bullet and book with Uncle Tan`s. Right after we booked (with no deposit) we talked to this British couple who had done a home-stay.  Their account was fascinating and it sounded like a more cultural experience than the commercialized tour group. We then cancelled Uncle Tan`s and re-booked with the home-stay family, Usman, Yanti and 6 children. Best decision ever!  They came and picked us up from Sandakan, and drove us about 2 hours away to the river in Sakau.
the backseat babes on the way to Usman's

 From there, the roads stopped and we hopped on a boat and motored up to Usman`s house. It was perfect timing. The heat of the day was quite intense so after we were fed yummy food from his wife, Yanti, Usman suggested a nap. Kerry and I crashed immediately. Mark and Melody were fascinated with the cats (1 momma and 5 babies!) and Usman's 6 children.  
Our first food I had in Malaysia
When we woke we went on our first boat cruise. We spotted so many different things.  Usman had the craziest eyes. Not crazy eyes, but crazy COOL eyes. He would spot things camouflaged on the opposite bank, bring the boat right up then show us what he saw. Often it still took me a while to figure out what he was pointing to! Once he saw a motionless monitor lizard from across the river sitting in a tree. I asked him if he planted the wildlife just to please the tourists. He said no.
(Irra or Waddy with a kitten, check out kitten's face!)
(Out front yard, no road access, only river!)

We saw tons of monkeys too. We really enjoyed just sitting there observing them on the monkey bridge the locals had built. I guess the river was claiming too many vicitms. Usman said he kept seeing baby monkey and grown monkey bodies float past his front door in the river. They try to leap across but the river is too wide, so they would drown. Hence the monkey bridge!  We also got to see the unique to Borneo Proboscis Monkey. They were 
The Monkey Bridge
Proboscis Monkey!
ugly I felt sorry for them. Their noses are soooo big, it was comical.  They also sat high up in the trees so it was a bit difficult to capture them on film. They travel in two kinds of troupes. The Harem (all female) with one sugar daddy and then the boys club (all males).  Usman loved to point out which we were viewing. Whilst we were observing the monkeys, another boat went by filled with all guys. Usman looked at the boat and grins, pointing and says, "Boy's Club!", then looks in our boat which had 3 females and one male (excluding Usman) and says "Harem!". Then he giggled for about 15 min scaring away any and all wildlife, as well as attracting glares from the more serious tourists with their binoculars and telephoto lenses. Oh he thought he was clever. The funny thing was that the "Boy's Club" boat really was a "Boy's Club"...I don't think he realized just how funny it actually was.  
Ok, before I forget, I wanted to list everything that we saw. They are as follows: Monkeys (Macau: long tailed and pig tailed), Proboscis Monkeys, Orangutans, Monitor lizards, Crocodile, Mangrove snake, Rhinoceros horn bill bird (my fave bird ev!), assorted types of tropical birds, annndddd, I think that's all. We searched high and low for the elusive Pygmy Elephant, but to no avail. Usman tried his hardest by find poo and sleeping marks...I was ok with the poo.  Closest I ever got to a wild elephant.
One funny thing was that Usman really had to go to the bathroom...but we were very far from home. So he dropped us at a steep bank and said he's be back. So there the four of us were, in bare-feet, huddled together in the middle of the jungle. Crocodile infested waters below us and rabid monkeys before us. We joked around saying,"Haha, what if he doesn't come back for us..haha..ha....haaaa...".  But then the thought struck us all at the same time....and we anxiously looked around for poisonous caterpillars, crocs and strained our ears for the sound of a motor. Boy, were we relived when he returned looking less pained! 
That night we had a traditional Malay meal. 
Feast for Royalty...neti-pot thing is for washing hands

River prawns...biggest I have ever seen!

Yummy yummy in my tummy
 The girls sit with legs to the side, and men criss-cross-applesauce style. We ate with our hands, as you do, and it was messy but fun!  I especially enjoyed the prawns, you had to tear the heads off, then the tail, then peel the body. It was a bit barbaric. but delicious!
The next day we did an early morning cruise and trek, then went to the Gomanntong Caves.The morning trek was interesting. Because it has been so rainy lately we were in shin-deep mud. Luckily I had bought a pair of soccer socks to cover my legs as my pants weren't long enough.  Usman provided Rubber boots.  The one thing you had to be careful about was the leeches. They were nasty. Leeches remain stationary until they sense carbon dioxide in the air then they start moving. Generally they are on leaves and such. As soon as they sense someone or something go by they latch on to you. Then they search your body until they find a warm susceptible place and latch on for dear life. You don't feel anything until they bite. Because their bite contains an anti-coagulant, if you pull it off after the bite you bleed for a few hours which can be a nuisance.
  Us girls were extremely paranoid.  This behavior resulted in spluching in the mud then stopping and yelling to the person behind you "LEECH CHECK!??" upon which you waited nervously until they pronounced the sweetest words "All clear!".  Poor Mark. He was at the end of the line, so I don't think anyone was doing 'leech checks' for him. He didn't realize he had collected a new friend until it was too late. He felt it latch on to his bellybutton!!! Even writing about it now makes my face scrunch up and my stomach queasy. Ug! Nastiest thing ever. When he showed us I felt the bile rise i my throat. Yuck! It was so gross. Again, poor Mark. He had three girls surrounding him gagging and saying ew! must have done wonders for his ego. After a few hours the thing bloated up and fell off. Mark still bled for a bit, but not nearly as much as if he had pulled it off immediately after it latched on. He was very nice about the whole thing and said more than one, "I am sure glad it was me and not one of you girls!". Thanks Mark for taking one for the team!

Usman, our fearless leader, except for caterpillars, hates those!
 *Crazy story alert* So the Gomantong Cave was nasty nasty NASTY!!!!  There are swifts that rule the roost by day and millions of bats that rule by night (or would it be vice versa?). The swifts are plentiful and nest there. The nests are actually harvested and certain Asian cultures value them as food that provides longevity and assorted health benefits. Because of these animals the cave has hills (literally) of bat and bird poo. It stinks. Now because of the poo, it is a perfect ecosystem for billions and BILLIONS of cockroaches.  And because of the cockroaches, there are millions of killer caterpillars that feed off the cockroaches. If the caterpillar were to bite you you would become very ill. One of Usman's friends was bitten and spent a week in hospital! Also, picture the pitch black cave where the circular boardwalk is covered in slippery poo and you guide keeps flicking cockroaches onto you. Well, we had just rounded the boardwalk and were standing opposite to where we had been a few minutes earlier.  We heard this thunderous CRACK, BANG, WHAP! We all froze. It was soooo loud it hurt your ears. We peered into the darkness and a second later a large piece of timber bounced off the boardwalk then into the poo pile. Oh I forgot to mention that there are workers who live in this stinky dark hole and guard the swift nest and harvest them. So when we heard the loud noises we also heard shouting. Our guide, Usman got really nervous and starting saying, "Let's go, now, now....I don't know what that is!". I thought the cave was caving in and was worried I would have to jump into the poo pile to save myself. If my guide is nervous then so am I. I walked as fast as the slick poo covered boardwalk would allow (again, worried about slipping and falling into poo pile). Then we heard more loud sounds. Rock on rock, and banging and yelling. Again we froze (the flight part of Fight and Flight ANS not kicking in so well). Then a massive boulder fell onto the boardwalk we had just been on and then bounced into poo pile! I just booked it out of there. Mark and Melody were more concerned with a good photo op and had to be dragged out....(sorry to break it to you Mrs. Phipps, but Melody is a dare-devil!). Turns out the Macau Monkeys were irritated with the workers in the cave and were throwing things at them.  When the items thrown hit the walls if the cave I suppose it cause smaller rocks to fall as well, this combined with the echo in the cave made it sound more scary than it really was. 
Anyway, that was our adventure. The next day the four of us headed to Sepilok to the Orangutan rehabilitation centre. We were pretty excited because our hostel had a pool!!!
ferocious jungle cat

Melody's Infatuation
Oh and one more thing. Usman said he switched to cats because his dogs kept getting stepped on my elephants.  He lost 6 of them this way before he switched to cats.

1 comment:

  1. where do i begin?

    im thrilled you went with the local with 6 way to see your surroundings, eh?

    the prawns...oh my goodness, delicious. next time you have some like that, rip off the heads, and try sucking it! it's actually quite tasty - no joke! (i've done it before, and usually do, that's why im saying not just daring you, lol)

    i love the monkey sad that many had to die before it was built, but very thoughtful of people to build it.

    the poo, and the poo, and the poo...that's horrifying, Beck. i'd be rolling around and swimming as fast as i can in the poo if it meant beating that rock from falling on me....i can wash poo off of me, but not a rock!

    stay safe, my dear!