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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Kuching and onwards to Sibu

MALAYSIA | Friday, 7 November 2008 | Views [2680]

Tue 4th Nov - Heading to Bako National Park this morning. Got the Yellow bus number 6 (run by the Petra Jaya company), which leaves from stop no.1 near to the Mosque. This goes to the Bako village jetty (2 Ringgits), which takes about 40 minutes. This is where you have to sign into the park and tell them whether you are doing a day return or stopping over night. Also pay the 10 ringgits park entrance fee. From here you have to transfer to a boat to get into the park proper. This theoretically costs RM47 if you charter one on your own, but I had met a couple of swedish girls on the bus and we agreed to share. At the jetty there was a couple waiting with their baby daughter, and so we were able to share a boat between the five of us. The trip takes about 20 minutes or so, and terminates at the Bako jetty, a couple of minutes along a boardwalk to the park HQ. Another signing in procedure, so they know who is in the park and for how long. Couldn't check into the hostel until 2pm, but that doesn't matter as there is a luggage room if you have to leave stuff when off walking.

Many routes to choose from, but there is a main loop from which the longer walks radiate. It was about 10:30 by the time I got going. Snacks and drinks available in the canteen before setting off.

The HQ area itself is probably one of the best areas in the park for seeing animals. Macaque monkeys are out in force, with their cheeky ways, althought they can get a bit nasty if not too careful. I had one have a go at me, but that wasn't too serious...quite sweet really. A mother was strolling along carrying her baby clutching to her belly and stopped to pose for a photo and then shot off into a tree. Took the route over to Kecil beach with the two swedish girls, but broke away on my own after a while as i prefer to take my time and set my own pace. I take loads of photos and feel a bit guilty when others have to wait around. This route follows the main loop and then breaks off northwards after a while. It takes a couple of hours, and rewarded by a nice beach cove at the end of it. On the way though, the path is lined with almost every variety of the carnivorous Pitcher Plant. These are familiar to everyone I reckon as the ones with a long jug with a lid on it that trap insects lured into the sweet liquid inside the jug from which they cannot escape due to inward facing hairs inside. The lid of the pitcher closes sometimes to capture the prey. They range from about 1cm in size to 20cm and some are really beautiful in colour and design.

On the way back, took another route to Paku beach. Saw a nice dark blue scorpion on the way. As usual I stopped and played with it for a while.

The beach was deserted, so I had it to myself for quite a while whilst I had a nice swim. The water was incredibly warm, like taking a hot bath, and not salty (the China Sea).

Found lots of Hermit crabs and a gorgeous crab with two pearls for eyes. The photos will be on my web site...a real beauty.

Was knackered after I got back to the HQ and checked into the hostel. Many rooms available and as it is low season, had a four bed dorm to myself. Very basic, with only a pillow provided, but don't really need anything else.

After dinner, which was a good self service choice for 7 ringgits and all drinks for 2 ringgits, there was a guided night walk leaving at 8pm, which I joined (10 ringgits). Two guides and a group of about 10 walking single file on a boardwalk, doesn't provide the best spotting opportunities, but it was nice nonetheless. Saw a Flying Lemur, a Rufus kingfisher, a few species of Stick Insects, plenty of frogs, a wild pig and some Swifts, from which they harvest their nests to make bird's nest soup! Plus a snake coiled up in a tree.

 

Wed 5th Nov - Guy Fawkes day back in the UK. I guess my kids will be going to a bonfire and having fireworks as usual. This sort of thing I miss a lot :-(

In the UK it is winter and very cold (maybe 3 degrees or so). Here it is 30 degrees at least and the sun is blazing away...can't have it all!

Up at 7am to see the Proboscis monkeys feeding in the Mangrove swamp near to the Headquarters. Thought there might have been more around, but managed to see one. A timid beautiful primate with the infamous nose. You do hear plenty of their grunting noises, but cannot find them. When they are after food they can be heard crashing through the trees. When they have had their fill, they just find a tree and sit there, so you could walk underneath one and not realise it.

Afterward breakfast, which isn't much here (cold boiled eggs, cold noodles and toast), went for a walk into the mangrove swamp. Seemed like a good idea at the time! Lost the path and anyone who has been into a mangrove swamp with know, it all looks the same after a while. Here come the boy scout techniques for orienteering my way out. Made it after a while of getting stuck in a really boggy area. One of my trekking sandals broke...disaster! Will need to buy a new pair when I get back to Kuching.  That wrote off the rest of today's trekking and it was only 10:30am! Not to worry as these things happen. Not having much luck with footwear. My favourite trekking sandals accidentally got thrown away when I returned to the uk back in june. The replacements, which were expensive 'All Terrain' types, fell apart when they got wet. The latest pair have just broken. Is there an ideal light-weight unbreakable sandal out there? Will keep on looking. Plus one of the nose pads vanished from my sunglasses and so they have been written off too, unless I can find an opticians to repair them. Quite a good morning really!

Went out again to see if there were any more Proboscis monkeys around. No luck unfortuntely. Was told by a local that numbers are dwindling due to the disappearance of the mangrove vegetation. They feed on particular leaves that are diminishing as the mangrove dies back, and so are heading off to where they can survive. Numbers used to be quoted at over 270 in the park and now between 100 and 200.

The early return to HQ meant plenty of time to take a shower and freshen up and have lunch. Joined a group of others to take a boat back to the mainland as you have to plan your exit from here. Boats do appear, but they normally are hired by people on the way out for a specific pick-up time, and you have to hope there is space if you don't organise something.

Back at Bako pier and went back into town in a minivan instead of the bus. Only cost 3 ringgits each and saved us having to be bounced around on the public bus. The journey here was nauseating even for a seasoned traveller!

Managed to buy a new pair of 'Adventure' sandals close to the bus station which look strong enough...time will tell whether they can withstand the punishing Jeff test!

Back at Singgasahna lodge and into boring chores like getting laundry done. Next task is to work out where to go next. Would like to stay at an Iban Longhouse. There is much information about this and my main issue is that I don't want to go somewhere touristy. This is getting more difficult nowadays, as the tour groups have it sown up with agreements with the Iban people. Many dress traditionally and perform traditional dances for the tourists, whereas, the more remote less visited places do none of that, and have become more westernised in dress. Also, I could do this from here, or it has been advised to go to Kapit, accessed from Sibu. Have to check into this before I make a decision. So popped into the toursit information centre to check it out. Given a really good contact at Kapit to see about staying with a local family...a mr Joshua at the New Rejang Inn.

Hungry now, so went to the Little Lebanon restaurant for dinner, which is close to the tourist office. Wonderful choice of food and great middle eastern music playing, plus they have Shisha pipe and four flavours, including rose. Had a Sharwarma kebab served with Fatoosh. Took me back to when I was in Jordan and Syria.

 

Thu 6th Nov - Today was one of those busy days. Had decided on an itinerary for the next week or so including a trip to Mulu National Park on the 11th of November. Had to book the flight to Mulu to/from Miri in advance, so sorted that out. 318 ringgits return on a 50 seater plane operated by MASWings Airways. That at least now sets a time frame to fit other stuff into. Got my sunglasses repaired in a local opticians and bought a pair of hiking boots. Good quality I hope, and even if I only use them for a month, cheap enough to give away after I've finished with them.

I might encounter a problem at Mulu, which I will have to face when I get there. You have to have a guide...park rules. And they quote prices based on a minimum of two people. I will try to join another group when I get there to spread the cost. I have nearly three days and two nights to fill, but will not be doing the 'Pinnacles' climb. That would take another day. If I do change my mind though, I have verified that I can change my outgoing flight free of charge, subject to availability of course.

Went to the Sarawak Cultural Centre in the afternoon. A shuttle bus picks up at the Singgahasana lodge for RM10 each way. The journey takes about 30 minutes or so each way as it  is next to Damai beach area, in the foothills of mount Santubong. The driver was really good. Learnt that 'Kuching' means Cat in Malay language. The town got its name, not from the cat animal, but supposedly from a fruit 'Mata Kuching' that grows in the area. Similar to the longon, it resembles a cats eyes. Somehow they have adopted it as the city name, and statues of cats are spread around the town. There are no wild cats, only pet ones.

Anyway, the cultural centre, which costs 60 ringgits entry and you get a 'passport' that introduces each tribe area, was a village of houses built in each of the Sarawak styles, and occupied by people dressed in traditional clothing who told us about the history and life of the various people. Iban (Sea Dayaks) is the most well known, with the famous 'Longhouse', where many families live in a stilted wooden house segregated into living and cooking areas. A round house was separated from the main dwelling, where the warriors lived. From the age of 10 to 12 when they went into battle, they progressed to warrior status when they returned with at leat one head from an enemy. These heads were hung up in the centre of the house above a fire, which warded off the evil spirits. Other areas were the Melanau (Central coastal area) Tall house, The Penan (Nomadic jungle people) hut, Bidayuh (Land Dayaks) Longhouse, similar to the Iban, and the Orang Ulu (Up-river dwellers) Longhouse as well as Malay and chinese houses. Some are very decorative and carved totem poles are common, even as part of the house. The stilt legs are often carved and painted too.

It was all a bit rushed arriving at about 3pm as there was a dance show on at 4pm and they had to rush off the prepare. There were a few demonstrations of weaving, but most other demonstrations weren't being done. I guess I would have seen more by coming in the morning. A guy who was supposed to be doing a blowpipe demo just sat there texting on his mobile phone...funny really when he was dressed in a loin-cloth and body paint. Then it started to rain heavily, so had to run for cover.

The dance show was very good. All very graceful and colourful with their flambouyant costumes and rhythmical accompaniment on traditional lyre style stringed instrument and gongs

Today saw the launch of yet another James Bond movie, The Quantum of Solace. The Ciniplex adjacent to the lodge was running a special charity screening, so went to see it. A nice compact cinema full of course with families out for the occasion. A typical Bond movie, full of killing, explosions, fast paced action and a nice looking lady as part of the plot. A couple of hours of escapism....

 

Fri 7th Nov - Catching the Boat to Sibu at 8:30am and needed to get there half an hour beforehand. No need to reserve in advance in low season. Costs RM40 and takes about 4hrs. The alternative was to take the Eva Express bus No.5 leaving at 9pm which takes 8 hours minimum. That costs RM40 also...why put myself through 8hours of hell on a bumpy bus when I can do it for the same price on the boat, and get there in 4 hours? The boat makes a couple of stops along the way at TG Maris and Serikei. When I get to Sibu I will decide whether to stay over night there or carry on straight up to Kapit, where I hope to stay in a longhouse for a night.

Will let you know how it all worked out when I post my next blog...possibly when I get up to Miri on the 11th nov.

Bye for now....

 

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