Lets recap, here’s the series of events that had led up to our ever increasing streak of bad luck:
• Paid for baggage storage at airport, when we didn’t need to.
• Our first hostel was booked for the wrong day.
• When we woke up it was pouring down with rain.
• The British embassy recommended people didn’t go to the areas of Borneo we wanted to.
And by the end if this post you’ll learn how our misfortune didn’t stop there…
• We got up when the alarm clock rang at 7am. Packed the last of our things then went for breakfast downstairs.
• It was 8am when we were scheduled to be picked up for our day trip to Kota Kinabalu’s national park. We settled the previous nights bill, then like the punctual driver that he was, at 8 o’clock he was outside waiting.
• Sarah, Rachael, and I were the only people to go on the day trip. Nobody else had booked it, meaning we had a whole minibus to ourselves. Our driver introduced himself to us, his name was Johnny.
• Johnny was probably one of the nicest guides we’d had. He was very happy, and made the us laugh all day. Johnny often pointed to Rachael and said she was like the White Witch from the Narnia series, on accounts of her pale complexion. And if he wasn’t calling her that, she went by the name Michelle, until he learned to correctly say ‘Rachael’.
• On the way to the national park we made a stop. It was so we could take pictures of the Kinabalu mountain. Being 6’5″ in height, I often find it difficult to feel small in this world. But when I gazed upon Mother Nature’s behemoth creation, I suddenly felt minuscule in comparison. We were already half way up the mountain, and it was trying its hardest to hide behind the passing clouds. Try as it might, it couldn’t hide for long before they passed and we all posed for pictures. Of which Sarah and Rachael did handstands, this small act grabbed the attention of nearby Chinese tourists, and they also took pictures of the pair. After our half hour break, we climbed aboard the minibus for a 45 minute ride to the national park’s front gates.
• Johnny did the honours of showing us a map of the park, beside it was a board of names and times. This was a record of the top 3 contenders that took part in the time trial around the park. It takes place each October, and is divided into several categories: men, men senior, women, women senior. The quickest time was 2 hours 11 minutes. We were told it takes 4 hours in total to walk the whole thing.
• After that, Johnny took us inside the large wood log building. Upstairs there was a small museum style room that explained what there was to see in the park. It was very interesting to see the flowers, insects and animals we could expect to discover. The park was divided into 4 different types of forests, all of which varied in altitude. Johnny explained that the most part of the wildlife were in the lowest forest (0 – 1200m), anything higher than that didn’t have much to offer, other than different types of tree.
• When we got outside again, we were told to walk down the hill and Johnny would meet us in the car park in the minibus. This was for the next part of our trip, the botanical gardens. The gardens were just the right size, it took around half an hour to walk the man made pathway. During the walk, our friendly tour guide showed us various leaves, trees, and fruits. He explained that the thin bamboo branches were used for fishing, a particular leave (when gently scraped) produced thread, and the miniature bananas were food for the monkeys. There were also dark berries, these were really tasty. They resembled the flavour of blackberries, only a lot sweeter. At the beginning of their lives they are bright pink berries, they blossom into tiny flowers, then when they wilt they become an edible fruit.
• At the end of the walk we climbed back into our private minibus, and Johnny took us to a restaurant for dinner.
• It was during this meal that Rachael checked the foreign office’s website. I wish she hadn’t, it turned out the bloody pirates had made the situation even worse. Our plans to spend a night at the national park, followed by a day trip to Sepilok to see the orangutans, then a river cruise to watch animals in their natural habitats was ruined. The terrorist pirates had gained more land, and the places we wanted to go were in those areas. Rachael began to worry (as she does), and seeing as she was only with us for 10 days, we decided to go back to Kota Kinabalu that evening instead.
• The food was lovely and just what we needed to keep us going. Johnny joined us towards the end of the meal and we explained to him the situation. He said he’d be happy to take us back with him later on that evening, then he took us to the next part of the trip: the Porin canopy walk and hot springs.
• The canopy walk was much like the one we did in Taman Negara. The only differences were, this one wasn’t closed for maintenance at any section, and there was a group of children on a school trip. There were 6 adults, and countless children all from a school in Dubai. I know what you’re thinking, “what sort of school takes kids on a trip like that?!” Well we thought the same, the most exciting trip we got in school was to a toilet roll factory, as part of a technology class field trip. The teachers were a good laugh, and they agreed when I asked if the airports were the most stressful part of such a trip. One of the male teachers held back, and joined us as we walked along the wobbly walkways. He was from New Zealand, and like us, sneaked his cameras on (none of us were going to pay the £10 they were asking for, just to take pictures). We took it in turns to take photos of each other, then carried along the 5 bridges to the end. The views were stunning, green forests for as far as the eye could see, and 43 metres below us was the forest floor.
By comparison, the hot springs were terrible. After we said goodbye to the school group, we paid a visit to these hot pools. It was all included in our package so we felt as though we had to go, even if it didn’t look that appealing. The area stank because of all the sulphur in the water, this was the cause for the waters temperature. Each section was divided into 4 tubs, and you had to fill them yourselves. I’d say each tub was roughly 4 feet deep, and there were only two taps to fill it with. You can imagine how long it would take to fill. Sarah was the most keen out of us to get in. She gave up filling it after a while, and sat in all of 1 foot of water. I only hung my feet over the edge, as we decided not to stay for long. I waited for the girls to get dried and dressed. During which time I witnessed a small jumping spider, I snapped it on camera, then the girls were ready to go.
• We found Johnny sleeping in the minibus, and felt bad after waking him up as we think he felt embarrassed. It was 4:30pm when we left, we thought it was best to get back as early as possibly, because at that point we believed we might be able to get a flight sorted for the evening. Our new plan was to fly back to KL, catch another flight over to Kota Bahru, then ride a boat from the jetty to the Perhentian islands. But given the way our luck had panned out so far, we weren’t holding our breaths.
• The return journey appeared to take a lot longer than earlier. But it didn’t matter, as we got to see the most phenomenal sunset any of us had ever seen. Because we were descending from a high altitude with sheer drops to our sides, (at points) we could see a purple sky with a rich orange ball shinning over all the patchwork fields. Unfortunately there wasn’t anywhere safe to stop at the time to take pictures of it. We had to settle for an image of trees and road side, but as you can see in the picture at the bottom, the sky was still just as immense.
• Johnny told us, before he left us, that he worked for a hotel around the corner called Hotel Sixty3. He went on to explain that they were good for cheap day trips, and should we want to do another we should visit them. It was dark when we reached the main town, and the time had just gone 7pm. Sadly we couldn’t check back into the hostel we left earlier that morning, and ended up staying in a rival hostel next door. The rooms were just as hectic (crammed wall to wall with 4 bunk beds), we dumped the bags, and went in search of food.
• There were two food markets, a Malaysian one which specialised in seafood, and a Filipino one that had all sorts. Including fruit! We purchased a couple melon sets during our visit, as well as 10 ringgit worth of mango steams. We decided in the end that we’d return to the Malaysian food market for tea. However, after being warned (by a guy at our last hostel) that 4 travellers died from eating a certain fish, we played it safe. We chose the vegetable and steamed rice dish, as who ever heard of a vegetable killing someone! It was pretty plain, afterwards we returned to our hostel to sort out the new escape plan.
• Arghhhhhhh, why would nothing work!!!!! The mango steams we purchased were all stale, bar 1 or 2. The melons didn’t taste too great either, then finally, the flights we attempted to book weren’t working either. One of the 2 went through perfectly. We had a flight off the god forsaken spit of land to KL booked and paid for. But the follow up flight to Kong Bahru, for some unknown reason, wouldn’t accept our forms of payment. 4 times we attempted to pay for the bloody thing, each time it said the cards were rejected! Rachael had managed to pay for the first flight just fine, yet the second time AirAsia were having none of it. Even when I attempted to use my MasterCard. I guess their saying “for everything else, there’s MasterCard”, was a load of bull!! We gave up in the end, suggesting we try again in the morning. When hopefully, for the third time, this curse would well and truly go away.
• Back in the room Sarah used my phone to Skype her sister, which meant I was unable to type up my blog. I fell asleep on the bed and that’s the last thing I remember.