We had arranged for a cab to pick us up from the Sabah Museum when it closed around 4 p.m., and headed back to the hotel. We still had a couple of hours before we were meeting the rest of our tour group, so we decided to do some last minute shopping. We had forgotten which room we were staying in, though, and while trying to unlock the wrong room, we discovered another member of our group: a 22-year old UK girl named Nat who had hadn’t been able to find anyone else to talk to since she arrived two days prior. She was quite glad to meet us, and accompanied us to the mall.
I had lost very few things since leaving Oregon back in January, but one of those things was a pair of lightweight hiking pants. Elizabeth needed a pair for herself as well. Fortunately, Nat had previously found a store in the mall which sold such things, so she lead us up escalators and around corners until we finally found the place. They had one kind of pants, but fortunately, it was just the kind that we needed. And that is how my sister, a girl from the UK and I all ended up with matching pants.
Back at the hotel, we met the rest of our group in our guide’s hotel room. Besides Elizabeth, Nat and I, there was the trio of nineteen-year-old Danish girls, two Finnish girls working on medical Ph.D.s, an Australian electrician in his mid ’30s, a Japanese woman who was about to return to her native country after nine years in Australia, and an elderly farming couple from Manitoba, Canada. Our guide, Hahn, was native of Borneo. Quite the group!
Together, we trekked a couple of blocks for dinner at an Indian restaurant where our meals were served on big banana leaves and we were supposed to eat with our hands — a technique we would quickly have to get used to in Borneo!
The next morning we reunited for breakfast near the bus station. Breakfast was noodles with a fried egg on top — something else we would quickly get used to.
Our group at the bus station: Hahn, Nat, Ann-Sophie, Anamari, Kay, Saari and Elizabeth!
The bus was one of those high, large tour buses that seem to be common in Asia. We were a bit cramped in the seats, but there was a television (showing Rush Hour 3 of all things), and nice curtains on the windows. Observe:
Out the window you can see the palm oil plantations that have replaced so much of Borneo’s jungles.
Here’s a nicer view from out the window:
It was a long trip, so we stopped for lunch along the way at the Malaysian equivalent of a roadside diner: an ourdoor restaurant serving rice, noodles and assorted meat and vegetable dishes, usually combined with a store selling sodas and packaged snacks (think 7-11) and perhaps some local vendors with fresh fruit or other goods. Over the course of the trip we visited a lot of places like this, but thankfully none were as terrible as this one. They had some sort of travel package worked out with the bus company, so that we got vouchers that we could present at the restaurant to receive a bit of rice and a few portions of fried yellow anchovies, chicken anuses (!!!) or mushy vegetables. The place was kind of dirty and grimy as well, but we took it in stride. There weren’t a lot of other options! Half an hour later we were back on the bus.
A few hours after that, we had arrived at our destination:
We were being hosted by an organization called MESCOT in Miso Walai, a small village on the Kinabatangan River.
It was raining as we walked there. Check out my awesome backpack!
Mescot is a ecological conservation and economic development program, which uses eco-tourism to increase awareness of the forest and the issues that threaten it, and also provides an alternative income for the families who live in Miso Walai and other parts of Sabah. They’re good people. They would be taking us upriver to spend the night in the jungle. But first, they fed us!
We had a delicious snack of tea and fried bananas. Yum. Meanwhile, right behind us, the Mescot crew were getting our boats ready:
(There were kids of all ages, as well as plenty of cats, hanging out around the Mescot center all the time. It was one of the things I really enjoyed about being there — you felt like you were just part of the day-to-day life, almost like part of a family.)
Saari from Finland and Ed from Canada looking out at the river.
Soon we were strapping into life jackets and preparing for our Borneo first boat trip!
Kay from Japan and Chris from Australia — we all got our cameras out to photograph any wildlife we might see on the journey.
Elizabeth and I continued to struggle to be in a decent picture together. That thing I’m holding aloft is the hammock I would sleep in that night.
And we’re off!
Adventure travel is serious business.
The Kinabatangan River is also serious business.
Small riverside longhouse.
Eventually we made it to our destination…
No sooner had we gotten into the jungle than we saw elephant tracks (which Anamari was photographing in this picture I believe). We had heard that they were roaming around this area, and there was a chance we might see them later in the afternoon. Were we excited? Are you kidding??
Stay tuned for the next installment when we head INTO THE RAINFOREST…