Ba’kelalan and Lawas to Kota Kinabalu
The small 18 seater plane took only 30min to get to Ba’kelalan, an area of nine small villages. I then made enquiries about getting a lift out to Lawas. While talking to people I got to meet Kim Hoskin who had been there for three years writing a book called ‘Plain View’ about the Vietnamese war, a really interesting guy but we managed to get around to the three topics you should avoid…religion, money and politics!
I did eventually get a lift with some military guys in a truck, it was a hilarious trip, the banter with them ripping in to each other, along with us hanging on to each other as the potholes attempted to throw us off the back and getting wet through going through the enormous puddles.
There were cars abandoned along the road side that had not made the perilous journey. It took five hours for the road to level out as we reached Lawas. I spent the following day chilling around the hotel making the most a proper room and bed after so many nights in a tent.
Lawas is ok for a stopover but not much there of interest.
From there I took a bus to Kota Kinabalu where I was picked up by Catherine, the Mum of my friend, Shaley. Meeting Catherine and John was really great; they were so nice, helpful and friendly, we chatted about allsorts from traveling to politics and it was good to stay with them and gain a local perspective.
I did some sightseeing on the Heritage Trail from the coast through the markets etc. I took the bus to Mt Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in Borneo, to enjoy the views from the foot of the mountain and research the climb. Unfortunately it started to rain although after a slight improvement I did get to view an amazing sunset over the mountains. There are frequent warnings about how dangerous the mountain is in rain and mist so disappointingly I had to give the climb a miss. With more rain forecast I decided to move on although it didn’t start as planned. Waiting at the side of the road I decided I was hungry, while getting food I missed the bus, then I got chatting to Emily a lovely German woman and managed to miss the next bus. Finally I was on my way, taking the ticket collectors seat at the front of the bus – oops!
Sandakan and Tarakan
My first stop was to the markets, everyone was really interested in the visitors and this along with the aroma, food and atmosphere made it one of the best I’ve ever been to.
I loved my trip to St Labuk to the Proboscis Sanctuary; it takes in orphans and displaced monkeys that have been threatened by the palm oil industry. They are really interesting to watch especially as their nose becomes more prominent when they are eating! The next day while waiting for a bus I met a Sheffield uni student that had done the exact same course, in the same place as my sister.
We arrived at Sepilok to see the famous Orang-utans walking along the rainforest decking to the feeding station. It was a truly remarkable experience; the monkeys live in the wild and are free to come and go as they please so don’t always show up. I was lucky however and even got to see a baby one. I found out later that the sanctuary was featured on a programme by Paul O’Grady earlier this year.
I got a bus to Tawau and ended up having to stay there 2 days waiting for a ferry to Tarakan. Positives – I enjoyed the celebrations of a festival either Ramadan or Eid. Negative – Border control was so confusing I ended up getting an unextendable month visa.
Getting to Tarakan I had no idea where to go/stay and taxi drivers either ignored me or tried to charge a fortune to go anywhere. I was getting pretty desperate when a pastors wife who had also been on the boat took pity on me. She kindly offered to put me up in their house behind the church. They showed me around and I went back out to wander down the main road watching the fascinating festival celebrations.
It’s not every day you find 200 grand on the floor so I was quite astounded at first and then worked out that it was actually only the same value as £10!