Back to back tours are tough and I just finished the tour from hell yesterday, flew to Heathrow, spent the night there and am now at the airport waiting for my flight to Kuala Lumpur. As my last tour was an Alpine tour and it is still snowing in the Alps and my next tour is to hot and humid Borneo, my husband, Franz, had to come down to Heathrow yesterday with another suitcase that I had packed for Borneo. It took me ages to sort everything out and for a time our hotel room looked like a refugee camp. Sometimes I feel like a refugee.
I am excited about going to Borneo – it really is a beautiful Island but there is one thing that concerns me!!! I am absolutely petrified of spiders and Borneo is home to some of the largest spiders in the world.
We finally arrived in Kuching in Borneo after a 12 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur and then a 2 hour wait and a short flight to Kuching in the state of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo.
We checked into the hotel, did a city tour and I am now getting ready for tomorrow when we head to Batang Ai, where our hotel can only be reached by small boat. There won’t be much room for luggage so we have to leave our suitcases here at the hotel in Kuching. We have to pack a small bag for the 2 nights we will be in Batang Ai. Sounds exciting.
We left early for Batang Ai today with only our overnight bags. I have stored the main luggage at the hotel in Kuching. We stopped en route at a nice market and my guide Kalik went shopping for our picnic tomorrow. I love the colours and smells of asian markets.
Up here in Batang Ai many local tribes live in “Long Houses” , a kind of long wooden house seperated into small dwellings. Our hotel can be only reached by boat and the rooms are laid out through the grounds just like long houses with 4 or 5 rooms per long house.
One of my clients, a lady on her own, is sick and I asked her if she needs a doctor but she said she was ok.
Did a pre breakfast trek to see the sunrise, with a guide and his machette. After Breakfast we set of in long speed boats for the Long House to see how the locals live. Yesterday we had stopped to buy presents for the families living in the long house.
The long house was interesting – 35 families live in each house and each family has a kind of appartment with living room, kitchen and bedroom.Then there is a communal area for everyone. The families share a lot and there is also a chief. It is very harmonious. The children are sent off to school during the week and return at weekends and holidays.
We watched some tribal dancing and then the chief gave us some rice wine and rice whiskey. Before drinking this very potent stuff we had to raise our glasses and shout “oooh aaah” three times. When in Rome, hey.
It is very hot and even hotter in the long house. One of my clients, a lady on her own, was not feeling good yesterday and looked to be getting worse today. She was sitting on the floor of the long house, almost passed out. We agreed that she should go back to the hotel, so I arranged for a boat to take her back.
The rest of us took the long boats to another part of the river where we had a barbeque lunch and swam in the river. Well, I swam in the river and the clients relaxed. It was nice swimming in the river but very difficult to get out as the river bank was very muddy and I kept slipping – I ended up covered in mud. Talk about mud wrestling.
Our last activity for today was a short trek to a canopy bridge, which is attached to the trees with knots – not a single screw or nail is used. The bridge moves as you walk on it. Pretty scary!
I have just got back to the hotel and it is 7 am. The lady who is sick took a turn for the worse and we had to take her to the hospital. I got the call at around 11.30 pm – I was just dreaming that there was a snake outside my room (well we are in the jungle). As I mentioned before, the rooms are in blocks here and I had to get myself from block 5 to block 9 in the darkness of the night and let me tell you this place is a whole new world in the middle of the night! There were literally hundreds of huge flying beetles and I had to run and keep ducking to avoid them. My client was really sick and in a lot of pain and she seemed to know what was wrong with her. A guy from reception came to her room also and we all decided to get the client to hospital – the only thing is, we are deep in the jungle. The nearest hospital is an hour by boat and 2 hours drive away. No ambulances here!
The jetty is about 700 metres from the rooms and normally we would walk this but my clients was very sick so the hotel brought a small truck, with just one passenger seat which obviously the sick old lady took and I should have walked down to the jetty but with all the giant flying killer beetles and other huge insects and creatures, I decided to climb into the back of the truck and get a ride.
Many people think my job is glamorous and like one long holiday, but let me tell you, it certainly isn’t and if anyone saw me there at midnight crouched in the back of the truck, I think they would believe me.
It took 3 hours to get to the hospital and they have kept my client in. I have given all the releveant information to her insurance company and to my company. I just had time to have a shower and check out of the hotel.
Headed back to Kuching to be reunited with our luggage and catch a flight to Kota Kinabalu in the state of Sabah. The sick lady is still in hospital and won’t be rejoining the tour. I have spoken to her a few times and do feel bad for her.
I had no sleep last night so am happy that our flight is on time and that I have a free evening today. Early night tonight!!
Great day today! I really did feel as if I was on holiday. We visited 3 islands on the South China Sea. On the first one we trekked – easy trek but tough for some of the clients.
Island on South China Sea
On the second we saw some 6 feet long monitor lizards.
On the third we had a barbeque and free time for sunbathing and swimming.
We were back at the hotel at 3.30 pm and the rest of the day was free – life is sometimes like one long holiday!
Toured the area today and saw another market, with huge huntsman spiders on the ceiling. I tried not to look at them. we also visited a Chinese pagoda and I managed to climb the 400 plus steps to appreiciate the views and enjoy some much needed exercise.
My client is still in hospital and is now in the hands of the insurance company. That’s how it works – officially she has left the tour and no longer our responsibility. Even so, I have spoken to her several times today, but just for moral support.
Packed another overnight bag, left our luggage at the hotel and headed for the Kinabalu National Park. Mount Kinabalu is Malaysia’s highest mountain. The views today were just fantastic.
Today’s highight was the visit to the Poring Hot Springs. Well, the springs are nice but the real reason for the visit is the trek up to our next canopy bridge. It was a hike of 500 metres uphill so some of the clients struggled, but all of them made it. The bridge itself is in 5 sections and only 6 people are allowed on each section at a time. The drop is about 300 metres.
There is something about the sensation of stepping onto a bridge that sinks about 15 centimetres as soon as you have your full weight on it. My group of fairly old people had already gone and I really felt like chickening out but on the other hand felt that I should walk the canopy bridge because my group had and I did not want to lose my street cred. Once I started, I was terrified but there was no turning back as it was a one way system. After each section there was a kind of platform on a tree. As I reached the end of the first section, I realised that the first platform was full. Someone had frozen with fear on the next section and so everyone had to wait. One of my clients was rocking the bridge and my guide, aware of my fer of spiders kept telling me that I had a spider on my leg.
I think everyone, including myself, had a great sense of achievement after completing the 5 sections of the bridge. It really was a great experience.
Me on the Canopy Bridge
Lady of the Night
Last night we stayed at a lovely lodge, looking out to Mount Kinabalu. The grounds were full of lovely flora and fauna and after dinner we saw a rare flower named “Lady of the Night” because it only blooms after dark.
We trekked again today, visited a botanical garden before travelling back to Kota Kinabalu for one night.
On arrival at the hotel, the rooms weren’t ready even though it was after 3pm. I was not happy – my group were tired and hot and tomorrow we have a 4 am wake up call for our early flight. I insisted on speaking to the hotel manager, who informed me that the rooms would be ready at 5 pm, so I did a bit of negotiating and managed to get a free dinner at the hotel’s extensive buffet for my group. And it goes to show that you can’t please everybody. One couple came up to me to tell me that they did not want the buffet (which is a fabulous buffet, I have to say) but they wanted fish and chips. I spoke to the maitre d’ and he said they could have fish and chips instead of the buffet. Good result, I would say. But the couple in question are still not happy as they point out that fish and chips are not as expensive as the buffet so they are not being fairly treated. What can you say?
anyway before I went to bed for an early night, I called some friends at home and they mentioned that there had been a volcano in Iceland and because of the ash there were no flights in the whole of the UK – I found THAT hard to believe. Not my problem anyway!