Monday, July 30, 2007

Kota Kinabalu to Kinabatangan

Today we woke up at 5:00 (early again!) to leave for the airport around 5:30. So we stretched, got up, finished packing things up and dragged our tired butts down to reception for check-out. The sleepy young guy at the desk seemed really surprised to see us. It wasn't until then that Sayaka looked at the clock. We'd set our cell-phone alarms, not even bothering to notice the one-hour time difference. So we were up and ready to go at 4:30am. No wonder the desk-clerk was shocked. We went back upstairs and reset our clocks (correctly, this time!) and started to doze off, only to have the alarm sound. You know how when you're just drifting off and you get woken up, how tired you feel? It was in that state that we were off to eastern Sabah.

We arrived in Sandakan for our tour, only to find absolutely nobody waiting for us. Despite desparate phone calls to the hotel that organized our tour, no one came for us for two hours. By that time, we'd missed the morning feeding at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. We rescheduled it for tomorrow and had the driver just take us to the nature lodge where we would stay.

The drive was two hours, over not-so-nice roads. The driver turned out to be pretty nice. I couldn't blame him for not getting us, as it was either the hotel who forgot to give the tour company our info, or the tour operator who forgot about us. He showed us his house and we got to see his family briefly, while he ran upstairs for something. He's a hard-working guy who drive the same route 2 or 3 times a day, every day. He's gotta support those six kids somehow.

The Nature Lodge was off the Kinabatangan River, across and downstream a bit from the car dropoff. We stayed in a little bungalow with a sort-of functioning toilet, electricity from six to 11:30pm only, and a bat that was sleeping in the corner. Guess who had to chase it out and who stood on the porch screaming like a little girl. Sayaka's so brave! At night we were left with a mosquito coil (Sayaka nicked two more from reception) and a little oil lamp for each of us (that I managed to knock over, in the WOOODEN HUT!)

The river cruise was fun, we got to see macaques and a few groups of proboscis monkeys, as well as the odd pied hornbill. I also got to see my first leech, a big sucker (get it? ha, ha) that attached itself to the inside of the boat when we pushed into some underbrush to get a better look at the monkeys. The guide wasn't afraid to pick it up and play with it a bit before tossing it back into the river. He said it wouldn't attach until it found a good vein to get blood from.

It got colder on the ride back, to the point I wished I'd brought a jacket. We had nice people on the boat, a German, two Dutch people and two Japanese, the first we saw on our trip, so Sayaka finally got to ahve a full conversation instead of baby talk with me.

We went back and had a decent dinner, then after it'd been dark awhile, we set out on a night safari. As we were leaving, there was a big commotion on one of the bungalow porch's, and staff came running with spray. Guess somebody'd seen a (poisonous) centipede, and the fire ants had taken a safari of their own, right for someone's building. We saw some cool insects, but not many large mammals. A whip scorpion, lizard (pictured), lantern bug, flying fox, tractor millipede, some sleeping kingfishers and last, a full-on scorpion. It wasn't until the guide had stopped playing with it and let the scorpion go that I realized we were only about 20m from our bungalow. Great. So we went back and drank lots of beer.

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