Feeling like a bit of a change from all of these city tours we’ve been doing, we’d chosen to explore the Mount Kinabalu National Park today. Well, the early start and the activity descriptions nearly put us off, but we realised that, unless the destinations staff make it quite clear that a particular group is going to be climbing steps, walking through uneven terrain and so on, then someone is going to overestimate their ability and spoil the whole shebang for everyone.
So, the warnings for this particular adventure were pretty serious. Wear sensible shoes. Expect to be climbing steep inclines and so on. At times, I wondered if I was up to it!
We’d had another welcome party as we’d arrived and they were pretty scary. Some wore skulls around their necks and one of the first things we learned was of the headhunters of Borneo. Hmm.
But out into the countryside, we soon reconsidered. This was a lovely landscape. I wanted to say “unspoiled” but actually, most of what we could see was overgrown, abandoned rubber plantations, let go after the price of runner plummeted when synthetic rubber was discovered.
Anyone of my generation attending a British school in the 1960s would surely have learned about Malaysia’s rubber industry and drawn pictures of the tapping process. Seldom done now it seems, although the price of rubber has begun to improve once again and people are reconsidering. Anyway another one of those geographical topics in the picture as well – these people practise slash and burn agriculture too.
We were heading for the National Park of Mount Kinabalu, up there in the clouds, where it remained all day. 4000+ m above sea level, we weren’t going to the top, we hoped – though all of those warnings had us all feeling pretty scared, I can tell you.
On the way, we passed frequent signs to Catholic churches such as this one. Though Malaysia has a large Muslim population, here in the countryside, other religions are more prominent.
The journey was quite a long one - more than two hours – and so we made a brief stop at a market along the way, These bundles of pineapple plants were amongst the more interesting things for sale.
The rest was mostly tourist tat – T shirts and suchlike.
Though I did succumb to another longyi length – $6 for more than two metres of fabric unless I choose to wear it as intended.
Anyway, we were nearly there and all of us were wondering what on earth we’d let ourselves in for.
We needn’t have worried. Our guide, Nelson, led us around the Botanic Garden at first: A kind of warm up perhaps?
Actually, this was a chance to spot particular things, to know where to look and what type of ting to keep an eye open for. This is a small ginger flower.
Mostly, we were walking upon even surfaces and the going was perfectly fine.
There were interesting and unusual things to see, too.
So we were well entertained.
The plant life here ranged from the curious
To the slightly strange
to the important but totally insignificant (those two little patterned leaves towards the top fo the photograph are an important and endangered species, believe it or not)
and of course, the spectacular, carniverous plants too.
This was all our “training”, for the next step was to walk the trail through the forest, looking out for what we’d been taught to look out for.
Firstly, the going was a little rougher now. Not only were we faced with an uphill struggle, the ground was uneven and most of us had our eyes down, concentrating on our feet. Shame – I’m sure we missed lots, but in the circumstances, there wasn’t even much of a chance to take photos, so focused were we.
I didn’t even take any photos! OK, so it was more of the same rainforest landscape, but really, the fear of stumbling made me concentrate on my footing, and reaching the lunchtime buffet came as somewhat of a relief. For all the dire warnings it hadn’t been bad at all. Phew.
Nothing that a bowl of tapioca pudding with sweet palm sugar wouldn’t sort out, I’ll say.
After lunch, we had to make our way back down the rickety road, through some mist and rain which had come down in the hour or two we’d been up there
Past what looked like a Chinese cemetery on the main road going into Kota Kinabalu but which I hadn’t been able to take earlier because I was sitting on the wrong side of the bus!
arriving home to our lovely ship around 3pm. It being Saturday, the traffic had been lighter than expected, not that we were complaining! Once again, someone was painting.
What a contrast to this rustbucket that sailed past just as I was closing our balcony door. I know which ship I’d rather sail on!
And that’s another day done. We met our friends for drinks a little earlier than usual because we had a South East Asian dinner planned in the restaurant. A group of six can preorder a regional menu and tonight we looked forward to something in keeping with the area in which we’ve been sailing. It was delicious and beautifully served – once again, we were thoroughly spoiled.
Before we returned to our suite, we went to the theatre to watch one of the most popular shows – Cirque D’Amour. Amazing costumes and breathtaking acrobatics, we decided to call it a day as soon as it finished.
Dare I say we have an early start tomorrow?!