A visit to Borneo, beautiful islands, amazing culture and kadazan headhunters (1/3).

mebp I’d heard loads of cool things about Borneo.When my old mate JK told me he was organising a multi- activity trip there, I couldn’t resist going.
The flight was from Heathrow early in the morning.I stayed with my friend Kathrin in London (we previously worked together at Arthur Andersen).We went out for the evening and met up with Yuko, who I’d met in Egypt.In the morning, I rose early, with a sense of adventure and headed for the airport (a lot simpler process, than I had expected, I normally struggle with the underground).

The flight out was 12 hours. The selection of available films was limited. The good news was that the flight wasn’t full, so we stretched out in the empty seats.

JK and I enjoyed a game of Who wants to be a millionaire. We actually won 3 times (although we had to play nearly 1000 games to achieve this !).

Slightly annoying, was the confusion over my flight from Kuala Lumpur to Borneo. I ended up flying 2 hours later, on a different plane from the people in my group.

street1 I’d arrived in Borneo, 3rd largest Island in the world.I got into my room, got a shower, had a 2 hour nap, and then went out exploring the town.I have always loved the Jungle.Left unfettered, it knows no boundaries and will literally take over everything. I saw this especially in the Angkor watt and even in city area’s of Bangkok.On one occasion, where hotel construction had been delayed, a primary Jungle had grown right next to a main road in just a few days.

Here in Kota Kinabalu, things were much the same. On the right of this picture, a small rainforest was constructing itself, complete with plants, insects and fish.

Here in the water, you can see a fish swimming about.I have no idea, how it could have gotten into a man made gutter, but its testimony to the shear magic and power of the Jungle. street2
nightout In the evening, there was the usual first night out which went on far too long (mainly my fault) and left many people tired and dehydrated the following day.That said, it was a holiday after all. A lot of the people hadn’t met before, but things went swingingly (but we didn’t do any swinging !).
As we broke into smaller groups and got to know each other, I got chatting to the excellent Steve.Steve is a great bloke, but very focused, and you can see from this expression, he wasn’t very pleased with the shot he had just taken. steve
pubsigns Some of the signs they had on the wall. Just go to show that Ale Houses around the world aren’t that different.
In the morning, I rise early (well, 9 o’clock) and head out to the “islands” that I had been hearing about.Along travelling with me were Dan, Richard (who I had met previously on a navigation course) and Jonny Crocket, the owner and director of Survival School. harb1
meboat We set of from the Sutera harbour resort hotel.Its a 5 star hotel, with its own port and Marina. On previous trips, the lads had stayed there, but this time we were going for basic cheap accommodation.It was felt the money was better spent on real adventure, and I had to agree.We suit up with our flotation jackets, and the boat puts to water.

It was pretty cool.

Initially, it “put-put’s” out to water, but once clear of the Marina, it flew across the bay.

We arrived at Mamutek Island.It was like something from a Malibu advert.The water around this small charter boat, shows just how clean the beaches are. boat
jetty We disembark, and head along the Jetty to pay our Island tax (I didn’t mind, it wasn’t much, and goes towards keeping the island clean, and more than worth it).
Looking out along the beach. Fantastic.The lads had decided to go for a swim and rent some snorkelling equipment.I arranged to meet them later, and went exploring the island. beach1
It wasn’t a very big Island. A path from a secluded part of the beach, led to a trail that cut right across the backbone of the island.The vegetation and plants were amazing and this was a nice introduction to the more serious jungle trekking I would do later in the trip. isljungle2
tent There is no permanent hotel on the Island, and a few people there, were doing a diving course, so had erected their own makeshift accommodation.It looked like a refugee camp, but the people staying there seemed pretty cheerful.
I had a quick “go” of the snorkel.There were some very bright coloured fish in there.This picture doesn’t really capture it, but it was a beautiful day. snorkling
sweeper As we leave I notice this man. His job is to literally sweep the beach and keep it tidy.Several times, I heard government sponsored radio advertisements encouraging people to keep their beaches clean.A slightly more laid back evening (again at the Irish bar) and then the next 2 days climbing Mount Kinabalu.
After an early night, to recover from Mount Kinabalu, I decide to spend the next couple of days finding out about the local culture.There are 30 identifiable ethnic and religious groups who live together in Borneo, in an environment of peace and relative prosperity.Throughout my trip, I found the people friendly and extremely helpful and wondered why, the Chinese were hosting the Olympics and not these fine people.I had heard of the famous Gaya street market, which is held every Sunday in the main high street, right near our hotel. market1
market2 The thing I really wanted to buy, was an authentic Parang (Malaysian Machete) which I had first seen, 20 years previously, in the SAS Survival Handbook, by John “Lofty” Wiseman.Unfortunately, technology had moved on, and all the machete’s in the market, were mass produced.I found a fairly authentic one in a nearby shop, which I would later take into the Jungle, whilst trekking the Salt Route.
Aside from Parang’s, the market, had literally everything you need or think of, and here a local politician holds a surgery at one of the stalls. pol

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