Borneo update: Part 1...

On the 25th of Feb, Mike, Jen, Pat, and I took a Brunei airlines flight to Kota Kinabalu. Met Alan who loaded us in a van and after some stops in town to pick up money and stuff we headed for the Mt. Kinabalu hostel. Stopped along the way at a fish restaurant in the mangrove swamp. All sorts of fish, and shellfish swimming in tanks to chose from for your dinner. Supper was very good. Continued along the road in multiple states of repair and reached the park at dusk. Got a picture of a huge moth that was resting on a map in the ranger station. The hostel was diffinetly not very good. The bathrooms were a mess, and an old chinese guy kept everyone in our room awake all night with the most attrocious snoring I have ever heard.
Got up around 7 and after breakfast went up to the gate where we met Dawat our guide. Hiked from 8 until 12:30 to get to the lodge at 11,000 feet. This lodge was much nicer. The weather was great, sunny and clear the whole day with clouds rolling in underneath us later on. Got some good pictures, although most of the scenery isn't the type that photo's well. Lots of trees and plants, and stunning views out over the cloud tops. Some chicken fried rice for dinner, but I wasn't all that hungry. Watched the sun set from the deck and then off to bed around 7:30. Up at 3am to start climbing, although the noise from earlier group woke us all around 1:30. Again we lucked out with good weather and no rain, but the top was still quite cold with a strong wind. The route was much steeper today, with large sections either steps or ropes you used to pull yourself up. I had the only headlamp that lasted the whole night. The top was a bit of a zoo with everyone milling around trying to get summit photos. I really liked one showing the shadow of the mountain on the clouds behind me. Anyway, reached the top just before 6 for the sunrise and spent about 1/2 hour at the top before starting down. What a pain in the knees. This is probably the prettiest mountain I have climbed! Climbed on down to the bottom and Alan met us to return to Kota Kinabalu for the last night for the others at the Palace Hotel. Used to be a premier place, but now is surrounded by the bad part of town. We all went out for dinner to celibrate at Small Itally, a really great little pasta place. Everyone loved the food, and we actually came back the next day for lunch before the rest went to the airport. Hung out that night in the hotel bar. Did some shopping the next day for trinkets and then after the others left I checked into the Backpacker Inn. A nice small place that was quite full. Went for a walk down by the ocean and checked out the local markets at the waterfront. Talked to a Belgium lady who was on the team that just finished the first successful canyoneering trip down Kinabalu and out Low's canyon. Tomorrow is a 5am flight to Sipidan.

Part 2:

Early the next morning flew to Tawca and then took a minivan up the coast past lots of plantations to Semipurna. There I caught a boat out to Sipadan Island. Weather was great and the water mirror smooth. The island is just a clump of mangrove trees surrounded by a thin strip of beach. It is a great dive location because of the reefs and sealife surrounding it. If you are not a diver, there is not much to do except lay on the beach and drink. I had 7 dives in all, with lots of turtles and sharks. The best thing was a huge swarm of baracudas swimming in circles and looking like an underwater tornado! Saw my first crocodile fish, and the island had lots of monitor lizards everywhere. Stayed at the Paradise Resort and never wore shoes the whole time on the island. Talked to some scandinavians who had worked a diving liveaboard in the Similan Islands north of Phugett. Sounds like a good place for some diving later.
Only a short update today because I am messing with pictures again.

Part 3:

Anyway I am going to finally try and finish this up so it doesn't loom here as another unfinished thread...
From Sipidan had a borneo bus adventure getting up the coast to the orangatang sancuary. Basically after getting off the boat they put me in a minivan going the wrong way. When the driver saw a bus coming down the road he waved it to a stop and had me grab my bag and run over to get a lift to Sandakan. Started raining really hard and leaking in through the window seal. Finally long after dark and somewhat wet I was dumped out at a bus stop where I got a taxi to a old rundown (but cheap) hotel near the center of town. The room ranks near the bottom of my stays, but went out walking the streets until I found a place still open and selling food. Went to bed and the next morning got a minivan out to the Orangatang sancuary. Really neat little place in the forest, orangatangs were cool! Worth a stop for sure, back in Sandakan had to weave through the crowds at the airport where tons of people were hanging out to celibrate family members return from a pilgramage to Mecca. Flew back to KK, and then on to Kuta in the Sarawak province for a couple of days in a really uptown resort run by the daughter of the local bigwig. I spent two days hiking and boating to 4 different caves in the area. One is currently the 11th longest in the world and the longest in S.E. Asia. Watched the bats leave one of the caves and head out hunting for the night. As always it is almost impossible to find words to describe, but the caves should be on everyones list if they go to Borneo. Lots of other stuff to do around Kuta if I ever come back like rock climbing, mountain biking, and of course hiking/climbing in the Pinacles. Because it took so long for me to get around to finishing this update it is going to get skimped on detail, but shoot me an email if you want more info. Leaving Kuta, I flew back to KK and then Alan drove me down the coast almost to Brunei. Then off by boat to what is now known as Survivor Island after the first survivor show and the British version filmed a year latter. A cool little island in the middle of no-where, went on some so so dives and a walk through the jungle to the far side of the island where the teams where beached. Found a bottle washed up on shore with some jewelery and a couple of notes inside in folded origami cranes. Back at the resort had Alan translate the chinese, sounds like a couple of girls making wishes to go to Australia someday and to find their true loves. On the way back through the jungle in the dark my guide stepped on a yellow ring snake on the trail and stirred it up just in time for me to step in the middle of its thrashing. A close cousin to the coral sea snake it is almost as poisonous and much faster and more aggresive on land. If it bites your hand or foot you only have a twenty percent chance to live. Luckily my cat like reflexes let me jump clear before it could strike. That or my boots deflected its poisonous fangs! :)
Back at the resort we had a sea food dinner including the squid caught while I was out diving. Next day on the way back we went to snake island named for the sea snakes that come up among the rocks to sleep the day away. One of the locals found one under a rock and pulled it out for our inspection. One of the pictures is of me holding one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. I'm afraid that after that it is all down hill...Blah.Blah..Blah..and so on until I fly off to Brunei.

This is John saying so long to Borneo (belatedly 4/30/03)