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Published: January 11th 2015
Tax office. Not a bad place to work
Divided into 3 countries, Borneo is something of a cult tourist hit. It's not so much the urban attractions, although there are obviously cities on this island, but rather the alternative that lures those tourists in. Welcome to the jungle.
Borneo's jungle comes in 50 shades of green (there has to be a sequel book in there somewhere) that is clamorous and alive enough to evoke, perhaps falsely, a sense of immortality.
We chose Kuching as our landing point partly because the city seemed exotic in its own right and partly because it is on the doorstep of forest that houses 2 tropical rainforest wildlife dignitaries.
Borneo is Orangutang and Proboscis Monkey country and we had our eyes on a sitting with both. Turns out Kuching is a charming town with a languid riverside setting and a cosmopolitan buzz that amalgamates seamlessly with a kick-back pace. The people are well-educated, smiling and welcome visitors like long lost siblings. They also have "quick wit" engrained into their DNA. On mentioning to one of the workers at our hotel that there were a lot of rats roaming underneath the tables at the open air food market, her repartee was appropriately
sharp; "We have an old Chinese saying (why are all Chinese sayings old, by the way) - The more rats at a restaurant, the better the food-". I didn't know the rodent palate ran that deep but the food in said open air market was something else. You could survive on the aromas alone. So perhaps that old Chinese saying cuts mustard.
Around 40 clicks outside Kuching is Bako National Park, a domain for the first of our fauna wish list. A couple of days there, we were told, would guarantee a close encounter with the Proboscis Monkey. It took a few hours of hiking through foliage that, if not for the man made trails, would have been impenetrable, before we finally stumbled upon a colony of the big-nosed primate - back at our hike's starting point at the park's camp. We could have saved ourselves a few hours of our time and a few litres of perspiration by sitting on our balcony and waiting. But hey, where's the challenge in that?
You will probably hear the Proboscis before you see them, crashing through the upper canopy of the forest. The good news is they are totally indifferent
Low tide in the mangroves
to human proximity. It's as if we don't exist despite the number of lenses pointing up and the cacophony of tourists below ogling them like sailors on shore leave.
Proboscis Monkeys are one weird looking critter. They look as if you poked a few holes in that nose, Miles Davis could whip out a blue note. Their faces seem to have been created by a cartoonist.
Speaking of cartoons, if there's one season I hate more than Wabbit Season, it's Fruiting Season. Why's that? Glad you asked. Well there's a wealth of free range goodies hanging off trees that Orangutang gorge on this time of year. This translates to them not requiring the freebie handouts at designated feeding stations. We cast our critical eyes above for any hint of movement. We pricked our ears for a cracking branch. Nothing, nada, zilch. Were they strategically camouflaged directly above, indignantly peering down and snickering at the losers below? Or were we simply looking for great apes in all the wrong places. It was like playing chess with yourself, continually outsmarting ourselves. What irked even more was that everyone else was hitting pay dirt. Each "we saw 5, including the alpha
Who you calling Big Nose?
male" was like a bamboo stick under the finger nail.
But before you go and grab the tissues, do you think we shall raise the White flag? No way Jose. Tell em Arnie - "I'll be back".
Incident of the Week.
It was business as usual in Kuching, hot, sweaty, a light drizzle and dense traffic. That was until Godzilla's little brother crawled out of a drain for a stroll down Main Street. The 2 metre water monitor, thrown into a panic by the subsequent commotion he had stirred, scurried through the nearest doorway which just happened to be a busy pharmacy. It took 5 seconds for the first blood curdling scream to pierce the air followed by a dozen startled patrons racing into the street. All customers now safely out, the lizard made himself at home under the counter. 2 sets of pharmacists eyes locked directly onto mine with a look of; "you're from the same country as Steve Irwin, DO SOMETHING!" Sorry lady, Steve Irwin was a lunatic, those things have teeth. Good luck.
More images at www.colvinyeates.zenfolio.com
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