16.10.2011 - 19.10.2011 28 °C
On the Sunday morning, we were picked up at our hotel and whisked to the Goamantong Caves, where it promptly began to rain. We braved the 20 minute slippery boardwalk to get to the caves, which are home to thousands of swiftlets, whose nests form the basis of Chinese bird's nest soup. The nests are made out of the birds' saliva, so not sure why they're valued at around US$500 per kg!
After our stop off at Goamantong, we arrived at the tiny hamlet of Sukau, in the Kinabantangan jungle. Branching out from the village along the river, there are a number of B&Bs and guesthouses that offer jungle treks and river cruises to tourists. We stayed two nights here in quite basic lodgings, and managed five river cruises and a short trek through the rainforest. We saw probiscis monkeys, long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, hornbills, kingfishers, two wild boars, a family of orangutans, and a solitary full-grown adult male orangutan, who was in the process of building his nest for the night. So, we stopped and watched him go to sleep. During the night cruises, we saw a reticulated python, owls, swiflets, and crocodiles.
Claire got sucked on by a leech. Everyone found them attached to clothing, but Claire's was the only leech who managed to draw blood. From her neck.
Really amazing to spend some time in the rainforest, but so sad that we had to drive for so many miles through palm oil plantations to find any remnants of the jungle. The guys we shared the tours with were really cool - Rob and Debs from England, and Marten and Elin from Sweden.
From Sukau, we got a lift up to the main road from a local who topped his car up on the way with a 5l jerrycan bought from the local "petrol station" (friendly guy in a hut). We flagged down an express coach that was heading towards KK, which dropped us off outside the Kinabalu National Park. We managed to find a hostel just outside the park itself, because staying or eating anywhere inside the park is horrendously expensive. Found out to our detriment when we misheard the price of the buffet lunch as 15 ringgits. It was a very lovely meal, but we were shocked when the bill came to 100!
After a cursory stroll around the park HQ on the first evening, we returned in the morning to do the 6km Liwagu trail, which loosely follows the Liwagu river from the start of the summit trail back to the park HQ. Saw some interesting mushrooms. We chickened out on climbing to the summit at 4095m - for one thing, the paperwork, red tape, and expense were offputting. There is a competition there in a few days' time, though, in which people (mad people) run up to the top and back again. The record is currently something in the region of two and a half hours. Most people take two days to do it.
Highlight of the hostel was sharing our dorm room with a guy from Stanford in the Vale, Jamie Mayall. Small world.
Back in KK now for a couple of days, after which more adventuring will occur.