It was time. We had to get into the wilds of Borneo. Okay, well, nothing seems to be too wild here. (Alan observed that this is one of the few places we’ve visited where we haven’t been awakened by roosters.)
We bookedÂ two days at Bako National Park. (Think Yosemite with no cars andÂ rainforest instead of redwoods and granite.)
We hopped the bus to theÂ small village of Bako. Side note: this was a nice, clean bus that drove along beautiful, landscaped highway. No chickens. NoÂ goats. No women with 30 kilos of something heaped on their heads.
From Bako we hired a boat to take us to the park headquarters. It was low tide so the 20-minute ride ended and we hiked to shore in warm, shin-deep water for another 15 minutes or so.Â
We dumped our bags in our perfectly acceptable cabin (think Yosemite again, but not the Awahnee), and took our first hike into what finally felt like BORNEO.
The paths are relatively well marked (with a swatch of color on a tree every hundred meters or so). Our Teva’s were adequate but a decent pair of hiking boots would have made the scrambling up root-carpeted trails much easier.
Early on, we came across our first proboscis monkeys, the ones with those Jimmy Durante noses. (Alan has good video; I couldn’t shoot stills fast enough.)
We also stumbled, literally, upon a huge hermit crab. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be worth mentioning except that one, it was the size of a small fist, and two, it was at the top of a mountain! (This critter must have racked up some very, very bad karma in its last life.)
We hauled ourselves up trails (and I use the term loosely) lined with bamboo, rattan, ferns, orchids, lichens, pandans, and towering trees with corkscrew roots hanging from the sky and shooting upward from the moss and leaf-padded ground. There were at least another dozen people in the park but we saw no one on the trails.
Our first hike took us through the rainforest to a stunning, deserted beach with rough, young boulders the size ofÂ our house onÂ Spring St. A second hike later in the day took us through a very dark patch of jungle to an impassable swamp of mangroves. But we were rewarded with another sighting of proboscis monkeys which more than made up for the hundreds of mosquito (or other insect) bites we’re still scratching.
Alan was great at sighting several pitcher plants, a few millipedes and some wild looking fungi. (We won’t be ordering the cream of mushroom soup that seems to be on a lot of menus.)
Sounds. Wow. This is a bit difficult to describe. Imagine some bad jungle movie on television. You hear lots of crickets and cicadias and hissing, maybe some rushing water, right? Okay, now, imagine you’ve just cranked up the volume as high as it can go, started a blender, and then put on a shrill, whistling tea kettle. You’re there. It was just that loud.
The monkeys in the photos here are macaques. They’re all over the place and travel in large troops. Those of you who will be joining us for Thanksgiving will hear the tale of Alan (a.k.a. Tarzan, but on another continent) rescuing Harriet from one angry male macaque in his most manly, quick thinking,Â could’ve-been-an-Eagle- ScoutÂ manner by shoutingÂ “Harriet, move.” (He is soooooo brave. – H)Â
There’s also a hairy boar (not to be confused with some people we need not mention here) that wanders around the camp canteen, and a couple of vipers that snooze in the branches on the way to our cabin.
The viper, (species: Runaway Fastus) is the second deadliest snake on the planet. The king cobra is first. Evidently there are a few of those in Bako and I would prefer to believe it was just a tale to keep hikers on the paths and in their cabins at night. (It worked.) It takes 3 minutes for the viper venom to kill. I don’t know how long it would take a cobra to kill you — 2 minutes, 30 seconds, who cares — but it seems like 3 minutes to death is enough for a close second in the snake bite olympics.
We eventually headed back to Kuching for iced kacangs, a quick visit with Nina toÂ hearÂ about herÂ experience at a longhouse (she brought a soccer ball for all the village children to enjoy; her German counterpart brought the equivalent ofÂ a toy aisle atÂ Wal-Mart), loaded up on lots of satay and Thai rice, and prepared for our flight to Kota Kinabalu the next morning.
Next up: Gunung Kinabalu