5 days, 1161kms, 1bike 2 very sore bums - Day 3-5

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Where I stayed
Sukau B&B

Flag of Malaysia  , Sabah,
Friday, March 19, 2010

19/3/2010

We set off from Sandakan pretty early on the 19th, heading for Sukau, a tiny little village 135km South-East of Sandakan. The attraction of Sukua is that it is right on the Sungai Kinabatangan River (Sabbah's longest river). We had been told that if we organised a boat and a guide we would be able to see Proboscis Monkeys, Makaks, monitor lizards, tropical birds, snakes, crocodiles and  possibly some of the jungles rarer inhabitants, like the pygmy elephants.

The ride took a couple of hours but eventually we ended up in Sukau. A much smaller village than we had expected. Tiny in fact, the centre had a dusty main road with a mosque, a little falling down wooden general store, a school and a cemetery. This was surrounded by a scattering of houses, and alongside a big, muddy river. We followed the signs to Sakau B&B about 1km out of town.

The B&B was really big, but very empty. It was only going to cost us RM 20 per person per night (about $6.60) so we checked in. The large family that ran the B&B also worked there. There were several small children running around.

The friendly english speaking man in his twenties (Penny thinks probably a cousin or something) explained that usually they run boats into the jungle at 4pm and at 6am, each time for 2 hours. However, as the only other couple in the B&B had made a special request for a night tour (they had done an afternoon the previous day and a morning that day) there wouldn't be an afternoon trip, but we were welcome to come on the night one. I had was to be a brief lay down, which turned into a deep sleep all afternoon, while Penny played with an assortment of non-english speaking children.

The night boat trip was amazing. We saw kingfishers, owls and sleeping monkeys, all under a sky illuminated by stars and a crescent moon. We then had a brief trek into the jungle, we didn't see any animals, but the sounds were amazing. The feeling of being in that dense undergrowth in the pitch black was, frankly, eerie.

20/3/2010

The next morning Penny and I were up early for the 6am boat trip into the jungle. The morning was already warm, and there was mist on the water. Within 5 minutes of getting on the water we had spotted a troop of Proboscis Monkeys in the treetops next to the water.

We then headed to a huge limestone cliff with vines and branches hanging over the water, this was alive with a large group of Makaks. Swinging, playing and feeding right above our heads as we took photos and stared in awe.

Our guide then took us up an arm off the river, deeper into the jungle. We saw more proboscis monkeys, kingfishers, horn bills, and monitor lizards. By far the most intriguing of the animals we spotted were 3 fresh water otters. We spotted them while our guide was taking us in to get a close up of a kingfisher on the bank. They had already spotted us and started running in the direction we were heading, along the bank. Then they jumped into the water about 100m ahead of us. We followed them, but as we approached, they jumped out, and ran further down the river and jumped in again. This continued for a about 10 minutes, the otters didn't seem to actually want to get away from us (they could have easily headed in land beyond our view) but it seemed as though it was a little game for them. It was frustrating, as they moved so fast getting a photo was incredibly difficult - we ended up with 30 photos of the muddy bank of the river!

The little part of the banks of this massive river that we saw were absolutely teeming with wildlife, it was amazing. On boat ride back Penny and I thought about how we had only just seen the outer veneer of the jungle. The few things that happened to be on the water's edge at that particular time. There were god-knows how many plants, fungus and animals behind that in the depths of the impenetrable green.

Then it was back to the B&B for breakfast, traditional noodle and egg. It was still early, so we decided to jump on the bike and head back to Sandakan. We went to a fantastic hotel called the mayfair. Run by a Gruff Chinese man, the room cost the same as the Backpackers but had a private Ensuite and a plasma TV  and DVD player! All for less than 20 bucks a night. The hotel had a big DVD collection, so we spent the afternoon/evening checking emails, and watching DVDs.

21/03/2010
In the morning we got up early, and got on the bike and headed to Ranau (the town near the tea garden with the friendly locals). We planned to stay there the night.

The ride was as long and as the first day. However by this stage we had both began to develop pressure sores on our posteriors, sore backs and 3rd degree sunburn from our hundreds of kilometers and many many hours on the bike thus far. It took about 6 hours to arrive in Ranau, both of us incredibly relieved to get of the bike. We had a lunch specially cooked for us (as the little local food place didn't have any vegetarian ready) and then got iced malay coffees from the same place as on the way.

After spending a bit of time off the bike we both decided we just wanted to get the riding finished. It was only another couple of hours to KK and then we wouldn't have to worry about any riding the next day. So we awkwardly climbed back onto the bike and putted away from Ranau. On the outskirts of town we saw a sign to the Australian & British War Memorial. The guy who had rented the bike to us had said this was a must-see so we stopped in. Initially we we outraged at the RM10 entry fee but we were so glad we decided to pay. The memorial consisted of 4 gardens. The memorial was dedicated to the Australian and British soldiers who had died in the Death March from Sandakan to Ranau and to the local people killed and tortured for trying to help them. Of the 2434 prisoners at Sandakan, 1787 were Australian.
The remaining 641 were British. Only six survived  the death march. These were six whom had escaped and not perished in the jungle.

The first garden was the "Australia Garden" the Second the "British Garden"  the third the "Borneo Garden" and the last was a big fish pond in the middle with the names of those who died along the wall. Very moving. We had just ridden from Sandakan to Ranau, the same journey. Suddenly we didn't feel so sorry for ourselves and our sore bums.

The ride back to KK was largely un eventful apart from some sudden tropical rain and being stuck behind slow trucks. We got in last night at checked into our favorite backpackers, the Summer Lodge. Don't know if it was the lunch or the iced coffees but once we had settled in we both began to feel ill. So we've spent today (22nd) relaxing and hoping that we're not sick for our flight to Indonesia tomorrow!

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