Nya, nya nya, nya, nya. I've been to the jungle in Borneo. I've been getting used to the city life in Kuching. But now, yesterday and today, I've taken trips out of the city and into the countryside.
Yesterday I hooked up with Dan from England, who has been traveling around Asia for a year or so. He is currently partway through a journey from New Zealand to his home in London. His self imposed limitation: no air travel. He got from New Z to Indonesia via freighter ship and has been riding buses and taking ferryboats on lots of islands. He hopes to make it home (after China and Russia and??) by August. He's got good stories.
Yesterday we dashed off to Gunung Gading National Park to see the world's largest flower: the Raffelasia. Express bus. Local bus. River ferry. Walked into the park and got the "map". Set off to find the flower. Can't hide the world's largest flower, right? Wandered around and had a great time in the jungle (on clearly marked trails) looking at trees and tarzan vines and beautiful butterflies and moss and streamlets. Lots of bugs screaming with delight (or something). Until finally, bold adventurers that we were, we stumbled back to the entrance and paid the five ringgets for a guide that we were too cheap to pay at first. He took us right to two flowers that I'm sure we would have found ourselves after a couple weeks.
Well... They're big. The largest recorded was about 93 cm across. But it happens that there are three species and the largest was not currently blooming anywhere that anyone knew. So we saw two of a slightly smaller species. Only 35 cm (13 inches to you and me), but it seemed bigger right there in the midst of the Borneo jungle.
For today's adventure, Dan and I hopped another bus and went to the Semengohk Animal rehabilitation center. The sign clearly stated that it was not a zoo and not to compare it to any zoo we'd ever seen. There were large kennel type cages filled with interesting Borneo former-wildlife. Crocodiles. Turtles. Big porcupines. Hornbills. Hawks and owls. Sun bears. Gibbons. Bear cats.
But the real treat was the orang utan. There were three caged. But there are several living in the surrounding forest, any of which might show up for feeding time. Or not, depending on the natural food source availability. They are, after all, being rehabilitated. And it was our lucky day. Just before the food showed up, so did an orang utan. Film was squandered in vast quantities by all of us watching white people.
Then most of our crowd of 15 or so left. And then, and even better treat, a mother and her baby came into the area. Not to the feeding station, but to the bear cat cage where she took the fruit from them through the bars. The little baby elisited "so cute!" type sounds from the female observers and, well, maybe from me, because, frankly, it was so cute. It clung to the mother, usually to her belly as she climbed and stretched and walked and ate and seemed to be all over her without ever getting in the way (a lesson to children everywhere). Eventually there was no film left and we all went away.
Wandered some small trails through the forest and saw interesting lizards and inch-long ants and pitcher plants and mud and bryophites and all kinds of cool stuff. Then caught the bus back.
Ate like pigs at a food stall for about the equivelent of $3 (for both not each). And hey. It's just another day in Borneo.
I've temporarily given up the idea of bicyling and am working from the angle of walkabout and busabout and boatabout. Seems to be the more practical alternative at the moment. Although there is an official mountainbike trail not to far away, and I am working on contacts to find someone to ride with.
I've been trying to learn a bit of Malay so I can talk to the locals, but here in Kuching (where almost everyone has some form of English--though I can't always understand it) the main language is some form of Chinese. So I just mumble out the name of where I want to go and people shove me in the right direction. It's working so far.
Yes, I am well. Yes, I am drinking out of the tap and eating almost anything. And YES I am having fun.
I hope you are too. Thanks for the email! I'm getting more of it read than I am responding to. I'll send pictures when I can get my computer hooked up to something.