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Published: September 3rd 2007
Have just returned from a week spent deep in the Borneo rainforest, yrt another amazingly cool experience. Another one of the places (after Prague, Lake Baikal, Mongolia and Wolong) where I could have stayed much longer.
We flew to Kucking in Sarawak, Borneo almost two weeks ago and spent a few days here - very sweet town and the hostel, Singgahsana Lodge, is by far the best I've stayed in. We visited the Semangoah Orangutan rehabilitation centre where the orangs live in the semi-wild and can be viewed when feeding and the Matang Wildlife Centre where they work on the rehabilitation and possible eventual release of orangs - they had two of the coolest orangutans I've seen, Gus and adorable 2 year old female and Aman, a monster of 140kg who used to be blind but was the first orangutan in the world to have cataracts surgery and now can see fine.
On Friday we were off to Batang Ai near the Indonesian border - a 4hr bus trip where we were picked up by some of the Iban tribespeople we were staying near for an hour trip on the longboat (essentailly a canow with an outboard engine) up river. The river is actually a huge valley that's been flooded by a dam project but the scenery as we got deeper into the rainforest was stunning - great way to travel. Eventually we arrived at the lodge we were staying in - basic but really nice, built on a waterfall so we had the constant sound of water to send us to sleep every night.
We went on three (increasingly tough) jungle treks during the week - to try to spot any wild orangutans and to carry out orangutan nest counts (they sleep in different nests every night so they can be a good indicator of where they are located). The treks were very hard in places, especially at the beginning where it was a straight ascent for 20-30 minutes and with the jungle humidity, but very rewarding when finished. The third trek was best where trekked through the jungle then down along and through a waterfall before wading across a fgast flowing river. Saw plenty of nests but no obvious orangutan sightings (there was apparently one resting in the trees but just saw some brown hair (?) through binoculars). At the end of every trek we jumped fully clothed into the river to chill out - felt great until the last one where i forgot to take my camera out of my pocket (RIP).
The days between treks were spent with the Iban tribe at their longhouse - a group of about 30 comprising several families, really nice and friendly people. The girls did some traditional weaving while the lads went fishing (traditional roles in the tribe!) - managed to catch a couple of fishbut was embarassingly outscored by the Iban kid Iko who was showing us what to do. Also went for dinner there a couple of nights and attempted some of their traditional tricks and riddles (not very successfully).
Back at the lodge and the afternoons were spent bobbing in the river with the sun shining down on us - any more relaxed and we would have lapsed into comas. In the evenings, our Iban guide and cook Francis made some terrific meals, especially considering the lack of facilities and the fact that everything we needed had to be brought with us. All washed down with beer and traditional Iban drinks - tuac (rice wine) and langkaw (the strong stuff).
All in all a pretty perfect week and gutted it's over. Back in Kuching now, the tour is over and everyone's left. I'm relaxing here for a few days to prepare for India (and recover from the last night of the tour session), off to KL and maybe Singapore tomorrow. Will try to post pics when I can.
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