Sunday, 21 November 2010

A whole host of beasties

Hey there everyone, me again! I'm back from Sukau on the banks of the Kinabatangan, where I spent the last four days, and boy was I sad to leave. It was the most relaxed place I've been since coming to Borneo, getting up at 5am to go out on the boat and watch all the animals waking up, off again at 4pm to see them getting ready to go to bed, then out with the flash lights at 8.30 to spotlight for crocodiles and owls. The Kinabatangan is unbelievably rich in wildlife, mainly because of the vast tracts of palm oil plantations that run from K.K to Sandakan and beyond, trapping the animals in an ever diminishing area bordering the river. It does mean though that in the space of four days, I have seen the following animals:
  • Fish eagles
  • Storm Cranes
  • Kingfishers (there are 11 types of Kingfisher in Borneo, the one that appears most often in our boat rides has been the primary coloured Stork-billed Kingfisher- it looks as though it's been coloured in by a child with access to a very limited palette. It has a bright yellow face and body, blue wings and a vibrant red beak.)
  • Long tailed makaks (lots!)
  • Pig tailed makaks (evil)
  • Green Viper
  • Yellow and black snake- I can't for the life of me remember it's name, but it lives in trees and can kill a monkey!
  • Hornbills- lots and lots, Oriental pied, white crowned and rhinoceros to name but a few.
  • One very large saltwater crocodile, I'm guessing at around 7 foot- it was almost as long as our boat!
  • Lots of baby crocodiles
  • Water monitor lizard
  • Wild boar
  • Bornean gibbon (just hanging out in the trees next to our hostel!)
  • Lots and lots of proboscis monkeys.
  • Water buffalo,
  • Buffy Fish owl
  • Paradise viper
  • Black naped monarch
  • Fly catcher
  • Red breasted malkoha
  • Pygmy squirrel
  • Black squirrel
  • Long tailed parakeet
  • Ashey taylor bird
  • A beautiful slow loris- the first they've seen all year. He came out onto a branch on our last night and sat eating fruit for a full 10 minutes in full view of our boat.
  • 6 wild orangutan (incredible, there are no words!), three mothers with their babies.

Unfortunately my camera is pretty rubbish and doesn't quite have the zooming capacity to quite capture the majesty of the creatures that I have seen- if you want a slightly burred image of a distant slow loris though, I'm your gal!

The other benefit of staying at the Greenview lodge in Sakau was that we met some very interesting people, and Jonas and I didn't have to resort to killing each other- it can get quite stressful only speaking to one person for days on end and I'm pretty sure he feels the same. On our second day at the lodge, the driver Annie (a remarkable woman herself- a divorced muslim who managed to escape her violent husband by providing her mosque with evidence of 3 separate beating incidents. She now has a girlfriend, which is completely illegal in Borneo and she and her 5 children are all very happy with their new life.) brought 4 Australians with her. There were a pair of sisters, just back from a trip to Bolivia and a brilliant couple, Megan and Conrad who are both doctors of biology and so the perfect people to have with you when looking for beasts. They've given me a map of where to see tarzirs at Danum Valley, our next destination. I am going to miss them, they were fantastic company and Conrad can take full credit for the incredible slow loris sighting.

We left Sakau yesterday and reluctantly came to Lahad Datu. The less I say about this town the better- my mum will be reading this after all and I don't want to alarm her. We have to stay here because the people from Danum Valley will be picking us up from the local airport tomorrow, but it is definitely the worst place I've stayed in so far and I can't wait to be back in the jungle. I'm finding the muslim culture here in east Sabah very difficult, not because the people are unpleasant, far from it, but because as a woman I'm not consulted about anything. Even at the lodge everyone assumed that Jonas was my husband or boyfriend and so any decisions or questions were put to him, without any interest in my opinion. Generally I like to think of myself as being pretty independent and this lack of control is proving quite hard for me to deal with. Still, I just grit my teeth, sit back and let them get on with it.

Right, enough of this, I shall leave you all with a precautionary tale that our guide Jodi told us on one of our treks. Enjoy!

The very rude Italian

One of the guests at the Greenview lodge, on the banks of the Kinabatangan river, was causing trouble. He refused to speak to the other guests, preferring to sit by himself in a far corner and when it came to dinner time he barged the rest of the patrons out of his way in order to get to the buffet first.

By the time for the early morning trek came around, Jodi, the other guides and all of the guests were thoroughly sick of this rude Italian.

Now the pathway through the forest is extremely muddy and so the lodge provide wellington boots for all of the guests to wear before setting out. The rude Italian flatly refused the offer of these garments, choosing instead to stick to his wholly unsuitable (and very expensive) shoes.

The boat ride over to the start of the trail was a fairly long and uncomfortable one, with the rude Italian sitting at the very front, trying to get the best view. As they alighted on shore, Jodi tried to give them all a quick briefing on leeches, which are rife in that area of the forest. The rude Italian, instead of listening to Jodi's words of warning, strode off into the trees alone, his beautiful suit hanging loosely and his ankles bereft of protection

Five minutes later, the group heard a shout from behind a tree. A few seconds later, out of the undergrowth came the rude Italian, crying like a 3 year old and waving madly at his crotch. In the full view of the half dozen bemused trekkers, the Italian took off his trousers and crisp boxer shorts to reveal (in Jodi's exact words- you can imagine the hand movements) 'on his little leech, there were stuck two new leeches, with two more tucked in underneath'. The unwitting spectators just stared as the rude Italian leapt about, trying to get Jodi to remove his tormentors. Jodi of course, flatly refused.

"But how do I get them off?!" Wailed the rude Italian.

Jodi shrugged, " You could try mosquito spray" he suggested.

"Eugh no!" cried the rude Italian, haughtily "I can't stand the smell of that foul stuff. I wont allow it near my skin".

So Jodie just laughed and told the offensive man that he would have to wait for the leeches to finish feeding and that they would just drop off by themselves.

It took around a quarter of an hour, during which time the rude Italian attempted to hide his modesty behind a tree, whilst the mosquitos happily feasted away on his conscientiously unprotected bottom. The rest of the group meanwhile were having a fantastic time, watching the unfortunate fate of their unpleasant companion.

Now you may not know; the rude Italian certainly didn't, for he had failed to listen to a single word of Jodi's excellent briefing, but leeches secreat an anti-coagulant before they start to drain their victim's blood. So although his leeches had dropped, sated to the forest floor, the wounds that they had left upon his genitals now began to bleed profusely. He simply stood there, aghast. Jodi asked him to put his clothes back on so that they could continue their walk, but the man refused. The clothes that he had worn were far too expensive, he said, to be ruined by splattering (or soaking) them in blood.

So the rude Italian, still naked from the waist down (bar his beautiful shoes of course) sat back in the boat, still bleeding quite freely, for the full hour that it took to get back to the jetty. The other guests sat behind trying desperately not to laugh themselves silly at the stupid man's expense.

Good night everyone, much love to you all xxx

1 comment:

Freya Marshall said...

SEcond comment I know ......but I went to Kinabatangan river and did NOT see 6 Orangutans. You are seriously lucky!!!