Sepilok

One sunny morning we went to an Orangutan sanctuary where they were open in the forest but they looked after the Orangutans and gave them food if they wanted. We walked around looking for Orangutans but didn’t see any on the first little bit, then we went to the feeding platform. After a while an orangutan swung in and grabbed the bananas with his fee, climbed up a rope and switched it to his hands. Then he hung from the rope upside-down clinging on with his legs and eating with his hands, then he went away. Next we went on a small walk to see more orangutans. We saw some movement so we stopped and looked and we saw an occasional head pop out of the tree. We went on still looking for orangutans. We wandered a little further and we saw an orangutan nesting, making a seat in the trees, made out of leaves for himself. Finally we went to the orangutan nursery. There was a play ground for the nursery. I enjoyed it but they also made me feel sad because I knew lots of them were getting killed in the wild.

After the orangutan sanctuary we went to the sun bear sanctuary. We went in, and at the very entrance there was a fish tank, then we went properly in. Sun bears naturally get a yellow v on their chest and the rest of their body is black and grey. We walked around on a raised boardwalk looking for the sun bears down below or in the trees. First we saw one lying down surrounded by trees and bushes. I liked it because it looked cuddly and it was generally nice. One of the sunbears escaped earlier that month and they haven’t seen it since. They were worried it may get trapped in a cage by humans either wanting to keep it as a pet or to get its gall bladder and sell it for money. We saw lots more sunbears and we also saw one called Bintang which is a type of beer. I thought they were nice.

The orangutans and the sunbears are being killed because the rain-forest which is their home is being chopped down and replaced by palm oil plantations and they can’t get any food. I think this is really bad, we wouldn’t like it if people stole all of our food and homes. We should stop chopping down the rain-forest and plant new trees. It might take a long time but at least it is helping. We should also stop buying things with palm oil in so they give up growing it if they’re not getting any money. I have understood this more by seeing it and if someone had just told me or I had read about it I probably wouldn’t have believed it. One of the good things about travelling is you understand more about our planet.

Week 17- Kinabatangan river and Danum Valley

What a fantastic week of wildlife watching this was! After exploring the sun-bear sanctuary in Sepilok, we were collected by minibus and transferred to the Kinabatangan river for a 3 day stay in the jungle at Uncle Tan’s wildlife camp. This was our first chance to see orangutans and proboscis monkeys in the wild as well as too see how much we have toughened up since our first camping trip in the Daintree rainforest 2 months ago where Jago was absolutely terrified and swore he’d never camp in a rainforest again! This time we swapped the luxury of our campervan with clean ensuite toilet for mattresses on a raised wooden platform, covered with a roof but open to all the creepy crawlies, snakes and jungle rats, with just a mosquito net for protection. We loved it, and we were so exhausted when we rolled in to bed every night that there wasn’t a moment for Jago to worry.

When we reached the river, we continued our journey to the upper reaches by boat, enjoying a relaxing cruise in the sunshine with egrets lining the route and seeing a very large saltwater crocodile on the way. Despite these enormous beasties living here, the locals still wash in the river- a risk that I definitely wouldn’t take. The camp was set in area of protected rainforest, a small pocket left after the destruction of so much of it for palm oil plantations. There is meant to be a residual thin band of rainforest right along the water’s edge to allow the passage of animals along the river banks but our guide told us that even some of these strips have been destroyed for palm trees as the farmers are just unable to resist the income it generates. Flooding is often a problem in the wet season so the permanent structures at the camp are all on stilts- a large central dining area with adjacent football pitch, a shared *western* style toilet  and a boardwalk to the sleeping shelters, each of which had 3 mattresses inside. There were no showers, just a few water butts full of muddy river water and we quickly decided that we would cope with each other’s smells and go without a proper wash for a few days. After settling in and putting all our food in plastic buckets to deter the rats, we enjoyed relaxing in the dining room and playing cards, followed by a tasty buffet dinner. We had entertainment from the guides who played guitars, drums and tambourines and enjoyed a sing along- what they lacked in talent they more than made up for with their infectious enthusiasm. We finished the day with a night time cruise, where we enjoyed wonderful sightings of kingfishers, night herons and owls. On return we managed to spot a civet in a tree next to the camp, and we were pleased to have seen at least one mammal this trip!

Monday was a long and full day, although all at a relaxed pace. We were awoken at 6am for a morning cruise. I was worried the kids wouldn’t make it up after the late night, but they quickly succumbed to the lure of biscuits in return for getting out of bed. Being on the misty river at dawn was a magical experience, one of those moments when I felt totally in awe of the beauty of our natural world. As the sun rose, the mist cleared and the river transformed before our eyes in the space of an hour. After breakfast back at the camp, it was time for a football match with the guides vs me, Jago and Piran. We were all very out of practice and our skills have clearly declined (not that I was any good in the first place) but we really enjoyed our first proper match since leaving home as gradually more guests joined in and it became a proper contest. It is a shame that there haven’t been more times like this- I had envisaged there would be loads of football matches at the campsites and villages we visited, as Jago particularly loves it so much and clearly wished he could spend the whole day kicking the ball around. It was a fantastic start to the day!

 

We spent the rest of the morning learning about the plants and trees in the jungle as we explored the area on foot. It was very muddy and the number of mosquitos was phenomenal. Despite using mosquito repellent, Piran especially was covered in bites, one of which blistered and caused the surrounding skin to shrivel up. I have no idea what caused it but it looked very nasty indeed. I am very relieved we seem to have got away without contracting dengue fever.

In the afternoon the kids and I opted to go fishing in the river whilst Rosie had a sleep. We were joined by Hanford, a music teacher from Melbourne, who was fantastic company with his calm, patient manner and his knowledge of how to use a fishing rod which he passed on to us over a couple of hours. I found it an incredibly relaxing way to pass the time, with sea bellied eagles and hornbills flying overhead. By the end we could all attach our bait and cast off, although everyone needed untangling from time to time. There was huge excitement when we managed to catch a fish, and by 4.00 everyone had managed to catch at least one catfish for dinner except Piran. I will be eternally grateful to our guide, Tam, who agreed to carry on until at last, with huge relief, Piran managed his first catch. We had caught roughly 15 fish between us which Tam barbequed for dinnner. Never before have the children eaten fish so willingly and enthusiastically!

We had a quick turn around when we returned from our fishing trip, straight back out onto the river for an evening cruise before dinner. This time we were rewarded with large groups of proboscis monkeys, silver leaf monkeys and grey macaques climbing trees and jumping from branch to branch. Hooray, mammals at last! We also watched the flying foxes heading out for the night, a whole flock of vampires in the sky. I couldn’t help but wonder why they are prolific in northern Queensland and here, but we haven’t seen them in between- have they never lived in Bali and Lombok or has their home been destroyed? There was certainly a great dearth of birds in those countries too. As if all that excitement wasn’t enough for one day, we finished with a night walk in the jungle, even more muddy than before with even more mosquitos, where we were treated to glowing mushrooms, an amazingly beautiful lantern bug and a cute tree frog.

 

Our next day began at 6am again for our final cruise of the trip before heading on to Lahad Datu after breakfast. Again there were huge troupes of monkeys in the trees at the water’s edge that we sat and watched at close range for an age. At one point Cara commented “I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m actually starting to get bored of monkeys!“ In between wildlife spotting the kids found it hysterically funny playing with Cara’s camera editor, putting makeup on the people in her photos. Our guide took us a bit further down the river this time, to a place where he had seen orangutans a couple of weeks earlier, but the only nests in the trees were old and they had clearly moved on to another place. Nevertheless, we had seen lots of animals and birds, made new friends, enjoyed lots of different activities, had our meals cooked for us and relaxed for 2 days. It had been a fantastic camping adventure.

We had booked one night in Lahad Datu to rest, sleep and wash before continuing on to Danum Valley for another 2 days of wildlife watching. The first thing we did on arrival was to shower in our first hot water since Kota Kinabalu- bliss! Then we managed to find a delicious Indian meal and a supermarket where we stocked up for the next few days before retreating back to the hotel room for the rest of the day and an early night. There was a market opposite our house, but this was the first town I had felt unsafe walking in since leaving the UK so we didn’t linger for long. I could see a large slum by the seashore from our window, looking like the village of illegal Philippino and Indonesian immigrants that we had seen on Gaya island, and there were people begging on the streets and picking over the piles of rubbish. The children haven’t yet learnt not to talk loudly about money and wave cash around, so this prompted a short lesson about the fact that some places can be dangerous and the need to be tactful and careful at times. Luckily they seem to have taken it on board without getting anxious, and hopefully we won’t encounter many other places like this on our travels.

Rested and refreshed we said farewell to Lahad Datu after breakfast on Wednesday and made our way to Danum Valley, a large area of primary rainforest where we would be staying in the hostel at the field centre. It was a long 2 hour drive on gravel roads into the middle of the forest, but it was well worth it. The views from the hostel were blissful, and as we were the only guests in the 48 bed female dormitory we had loads of space to ourselves. We cooked lunch as soon as we arrived which quickly attracted our welcoming committee, a very cute bearded pig who lay down and watched us expectantly, much like a dog hoping someone will take pity on him and give him some scraps. He joined us for most of our meals there! After a lazy afternoon in the sunshine, we decided to go for a short walk in the late afternoon. Jago, who was still tired from Uncle Tan’s had a sleep instead, but the rest of us headed for the self guided nature walk which was meant to take 30 minutes. After an hour it became clear that we had got lost, yet again! The trail that we were on had lots of elephant dung on it, as well as cat’s footprints and it was exciting to think that there were wild pygmy elephants and leopards roaming nearby us. We managed to find our way out of the jungle before dark but our plans for an early night were stymied by the discovery that a complete lunar eclipse was taking place that evening and everyone wanted to see it. We watched as over the course of 3 hours the full moon gradually disappeared from the bottom up until it had completely vanished. We were so lucky it was a clear night, and everyone was captivated by the show. The children went to bed at this point, but Rosie and I stayed up long enough to see it gradually start to reappear before we turned in. Whilst we were sitting out, a leopard cat casually strolled over to the platform we were on and disappeared underneath. It was so fantastic to be staying somewhere that exciting animals just appear on your doorstep!

The following day started with a hike through the jungle with a guide from the field centre. Straight away we came upon a group of red langurs up in the trees, lovely monkeys with a similar colouring to orangutans. For the remaining time we had a good walk noticing how different the primary rainforest is from secondary rainforest, much denser and without the prolific climbing weeds that I have seen covering the ground and the trees throughout the rest of Borneo, much like the bindweed that we get at home. We saw a multitude of tiger leeches and for once there were no complaints about wearing the socks. We also found termite mounds, cicada towers, wild ginger flowers and lots of interesting looking mushrooms. But still no orangutans!

After another relaxing afternoon around the hostel we went to sit in the observation tower by the road. There we met a couple who had been in the area for a few days already, who told us that most of the wildlife is around the field centre and they had seen loads of animals without trying! Apparently today was the first day the orangutans hadn’t been seen by the centre since they arrived. I felt a mixture of hope, and of despair about how unlucky we had been not to see any of these magnificent creatures in the wild. On the way back to the hostel we detoured to the beach, a sandy area by the river which is safe for swimming in. Though it was starting to get dark Jago couldn’t resist a dip. It was so beautiful here, both at the hostel and by the river, and the afternoons in the sunshine were so relaxing that we didn’t want to leave. We arranged that evening to extend our stay by a few hours, to leave after lunch rather than breakfast.

Our day finished with a night drive, piled in the back of a jeep with a large spotlight and a couple of men at the front shining torches in to the trees. They managed to find a civet, a flying squirrel and a slow loris, but the stars of the show were the group of pygmy elephants on the road in front of us that we followed for a while before they turned into the forest, effortlessly trampling the jungle flat as they went. Despite being ‘pygmy’, the only one that was small was a baby in the group- the rest were still very big, up to 2.5m tall. What a treat! I certainly felt that our luck had turned, as apparently it’s quite unusual to see these giants in the wild.

Continuing our theme of late nights and early mornings, we awoke at 4.30am on Friday to go and see the sunrise from an observation tower at the top of a hill. In the dawn light we could see the cloud beneath us shrouding the rainforest like a blanket. It was one of the most magical and spiritual sights that I have ever seen. Slowly it started to get light as the birds started to sing- first one, then a few, then a whole chorus, as beautiful colours streaked across the sky with the landscape changing every few minutes like a series of beautiful paintings, and finally the sun burst over the horizon sharing its warmth and brightness all around. In the west the full moon shone bright, competing with the sun as to which could be the most majestic, and all the while we were gazing over a sea of cloud. I wonder if I would ever fail to be moved by such an experience if I saw it all the time.

It was hard to imagine that the day could get much better, but after breakfast we headed down to the river for a final attempt to find an orangutan. Rosie and Cara had gone ahead of the rest of us, and half way there we met Cara running excitedly towards us with the news that they had found one! Such a perfect morning! We joined them in viewing one lone male, sitting in a tree over the bridge, reaching out and breaking off long pods, much like beans, and slowly chewing his food before chucking down the empty shell and gathering the next one. He didn’t rush anything, just taking his time, and it struck me that we could gain a lot from copying his unhurried pace of life. Seeing his wise-looking eyes, I was reminded again how like humans they are and again felt a great sadness about the destruction that we have wrought upon our planet. I sat with him for over an hour whilst the others eventually went back to the beach for another swim. It was such a privilege to spend that time in his company and I did feel very blessed. Eventually I had to bring myself back to reality and said goodbye, returning to my family to join in the fun, splashing about in the river.

As we drove back to Lahad Datu that afternoon, ahead of our flight to Kuching at 7am the next day, we had one final spot of a pig-tailed macaque by the side of the road. It had been an amazing week and I felt very content. I would love to come back here one day with Ben and spend longer in Danum Valley, it was definitely my highlight of Borneo. We celebrated our good fortune and bid farewell to Sabah at a great Chinese restaurant that evening, thrilled to have a meal without noodles for a rare change. It was a great end to a great week. I absolutely loved Sabah, and am certain I will return here again one day in the future.

Danum Valley

We went to Sepilok before going to Danum Valley to spot some nature. We went to two sanctuaries, an orangutan sanctuary and a sun bear sanctuary. I loved the orangutans and Jago thought the sun bears were cute. The orangutans were red and swung through the trees like Tarzan. First we went to the feeding platform. An orangutan swung on a rope to the feeding platform and took some bananas. Then he climbed up a rope with the bananas and dangled from his legs to eat. Next we went to the orangutan nursery where we saw baby orangutans playing in the trees and having their food. The sanctuary was a big area for animals to live in and be cared for.

 

Next we went to the sun bear sanctuary. Sun bears have yellow V’s on their chest. They walked around eating watermelon and sun bathing. Before sun bears reach the sanctuary they are treated badly, Bintang (a sun bear) was kept in a cage and another bear was going to be killed for their gall bladder. Sun bears are nice but I like orangutans more.

We went to Danum Valley for three days. Danum Valley is a protected area of rain-forest with lots of walking tracks. We arrived and found our dormitory in the Danum Valley Field Centre then Mum, Rosie, Piran and I set off for a walk. We started off on the self guided nature trail but got a bit lost! We didn’t see any wild life but we did see a lot of elephant poo. We walked following various paths through the rain-forest. We found a tall observation tower and a crossroad, we headed down the path that said it led to the field centre. When we got into the open we saw we were by a river with rocks all along it. We crossed and found ourselves at staff quarters. We got directions from a man on how to get to the dormitory.

When we got back we found Jago asleep on his bed. That night there was a lunar eclipse, a lunar eclipse is where the shadow of the earth blocks out the moon. Mum let us stay up late to see it because we might never see one again and because we were excited.

The next day we got a guide to take us on two walks. The first things we saw were red monkeys, they were hairy and red. They were very fast and a bit annoying because just when I got in a good place to look at them they jumped into another tree. We carried on walking and went along a bit of the path we got lost on the day before. We finished the first walk and started the second. On the second walk we saw lots of termites’ nests. They were small mounds of soil with holes in.
That evening we went on a night drive, we sat in the back of a truck and clung on. First we saw a civet cat. We couldn’t really see it just the flashes of its eyes. We carried on driving and saw a few more things that I can’t remember. Then we saw elephants, they were only pygmy elephants but they were still massive, about as tall as Daddy. They were big and grey and stomped down anything in their way. The elephants were one of my favourite animals we have seen so far. We turned around and headed back. The last thing we saw was a slow loris, every minute it moved ten centimetres!

The next day we went on a morning drive. We drove to an observation tower and watched the sunrise. The ground below us was covered in cloud and the sky was filled with amazing colours, red, blue, pink and orange. When we got back we went on a final orangutan hunt. Rosie and I went first, we went across the bridge and saw an orangutan! It was sitting in a tree eating what looked like bean pods. After half an hour I went back to get Mum, Jago and Piran. We ran back and I showed them the orangutan. Then Mum stayed to watch the orangutan and the rest of us went for a swim. A bit later Mum joined us but then we had to go. I think Danum Valley is a nice and fun place to go. My highlight of our stay there was seeing the elephants.

Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Adventures

After seeing Orang Utans and Sunbears in a sanctuary, we decided to go and look for them in the wild. Mum said that it was very unlikely to see them but she hoped that we would. We got a car to the Uncle Tan office where we had lunch and then drove on to the side of the Kinabatangan river where some boats were waiting for us. There were four other people with us and they got in one boat and we got in the other boat.

We had a cruise down the river towards the place where the camp was. Our guide was called Tam and he spotted a white bellied eagle and two crocodiles, one big and one small. The big one was the size of Dad and maybe bigger. Mum also spotted what she thought was a snake because it was in the water and looked the same as one but it was only an oriental darter. An oriental darter is a bird that has a long neck like a snake and it hides its body in the water and waves its head around to scare off predators.

Soon we got to the camp and some other people were getting on boats and Tam said they were going on a evening cruise. He said we would be doing that the next day. He showed us around the camp and we saw the dining room, our beds that were actually mattresses on the floor, the football pitch and the bamboo house. The was lots to do and Piran and I decided to play football but we only did for 10 minutes before we got hot and sweaty. Mum said we should play the next morning when it was light and cool.

We then had dinner and it was very good. There was jungle fern, chicken, beef, vegetables and pumpkin. After dinner we went on a night cruise down the river. By the time we were on the boat it was 9:00pm so we had a torch to use. We went down the river and then headed down a side river. Just when we turned, I saw an barn owl and Tam said that it was very rare to see them on the river. We headed on a little while and we soon saw a kingfisher. It was on a branch sleeping and it was very brightly coloured with red, blue, green and yellow.
We saw three other kingfishers but none of them were like the first one.

We also found a bright bird in its nest but all we could see was one eye and a beak. We turned the boat around at 9:45 and headed back to the camp. When we got back we saw a black civet’s eye up in a tree near the bamboo house. In the bamboo house we were told we were going to be woken up at 6:00 in the morning so we could go for a morning cruise. I was looking forward to the morning cruise but not the waking up early. It had been a good first day at Uncle Tan’s and I really enjoyed seeing the kingfishers but I couldn’t wait to get to sleep.

The next morning Mum woke me up so I got dressed and went to get ready for the cruise. We all got on the boat and on the river we saw an eagle and another oriental darter but it wasn’t in the water. We saw a few more kingfishers and some weird, green, hairy fruit dangling from a tree. We also saw a hornbill sitting on a branch above some pink flowers.

When we got back from the morning cruise breakfast was ready. There was noodles, vegetables, meat and chicken dough balls. I took a bit of everything and the dough balls made my tongue feel very strange. After breakfast we had a football match and everyone played except a few people. It was 30°C and I was very hot and sweaty but I managed to score two goals. Piran also got hit in the face by the ball so he had to stop playing for a little bit.

After the match we had a walk and on it we were told about poisonous plants and how to survive when lost in the jungle. We were told that if you cut a vine in half and the inside is red you can drink the water from the vine. We were also told that there was a fern you could eat that can give you all you need to live. The guide told us that a man got lost in the jungle for 12 days and when he was found he was still alive because he had eaten the ferns.

At the end of the walk we had lunch and it was the same as dinner, then we had until 5:00pm that night. We slept for a while and then Mum, Cara, Piran, someone else we met called Hanford and I went fishing on the river.

When we got to the spot where we were going to start fishing we were told how to use the fishing rods. I got it wrong the first time so Hanford helped me get it right. Hanford is from Melbourne in Australia and he is a music teacher. We then sat for about 5 minutes until Cara caught her first fish. We spent two hours and a half sitting there and at the end Hanford caught 2, Cara got 4, Mum got 4, Piran caught 1 and I caught 1. We had to stay for half an hour longer so Piran could catch a fish and when he did we went straight back to the camp.

After that we had a evening cruise where we saw proboscis monkeys, silver leaf monkeys and macaques climbing in the trees. The proboscis monkeys had long noses and big bellys and were very funny to watch. After a while, Cara and I got bored of them because there were so many. We also saw lots of flying foxes going to get their dinner. When we got back we played cards and taught Hanford how to play a game Rosie made that we called Rosie’s Rummy. After that we had dinner and then a night walk.

On the night walk we saw a frog, two species of lantern bug and I got attacked by a flying fox. The lantern bugs were really cool. One of them was like a rhinoceros and the other was like a moth. The frog was on a tree and very camouflaged and the flying fox swooped down in front of me. When we got back we got ready for the last night at Uncle Tan’s.

When I got woken up in the morning, Mum said that everyone was going for the morning cruise and I needed to come quickly so I pulled on some clothes and went to the boat. We all got in and we started down the river again. We only saw proboscis monkeys and kingfishers so most of it was sitting in a boat looking at the river.

At the end we all got out of the boat had breakfast then we looked at a board that had all the things we saw on it and it was full. Next we got in a new boat that would take us back. Once we were all in the boat, we headed off and soon we were back at the car that would take us to the next place we were going. I really enjoyed Uncle Tan’s and my favourite thing was the football match and the kingfishers.

Indonesian ideas

Bali and Lombok provided wonderfully clear lessons on the benefits and dangers of tourism and really made me cause to pause and consider the way our travels impact on others. Although even at its over-developed worst, Bali still won us over with its charm and friendliness. To start at one extreme, we spent a morning in Kuta for our Christmas shopping which is wall-to-wall western shops and bars catering mainly to Aussies in search of a cheap week away. We followed this with a stop at Jimbaran for a sea-food platter as a late lunch. Our timing was fortuitous in someways as it was very quiet and we saw a different side to the place. It felt like being backstage at a theatre half an hour before the curtain goes up. Every Bali tour that we saw advertised includes a stop for a romantic lobster meal at Jimbaran as the sun sets in to the Java sea. When we arrived, the beach was a mess – lots of plastic rubbish washed up alongside all the branches and leaves. However, as we sat having lunch, a small army of waiters appeared to rake the rubbish in to piles just out of view of the tables that were being set up on the beach ready for the evening. By the time we had finished, each restaurant (all serving identical menus) had about twenty feet of beautifully swept sand in front of it (and massive heaps of rubbish just beside and behind it).

We set off for a walk down the beach to wait for our driver to retutrn and didn’t have to go too far before we saw the local fishermen whose hard work was going to be eaten that night. Again, in contrast to the smartly turned out waiters, these blokes were clearly living much closer to the breadline, with the evidence of many make-shift repairs to the boats, nets and pots. Here, there was no one to sweep up and the rubbish just accumulated in great drifts. Heading back to the restaurant via the street running down the back of the beach, we saw a third side to Jimbaran. We wanted to buy some water so went in to a small local shop. It sold a fairly random collection of items, fortunately including big bottles of cold water – unfortunately, when we tried to pay it turned out thaat they didn’t have two pounds-worth of change in the shop or betwween the rest of the family sitting out the back in their courtyard. We ended up buying half-a-dozen bottles of water to solve the problem.

This experience has really made me think about where our money is going as we travel. The restaurants are charging tourists £50 for a lobster meal, but that’s not ‘trickling down’ to either the fishermen down the road, or the family running a shop next door. It’s not doing a lot of good for the local environment either given the mounds of rubbish hidden just out of site of the visitors. I’m guessing the restaurants provided some low paid work for local people as waiters and waitresses but surely most of the profit is heading out of Bali to the owners of the restaurants whomever they may be.

We saw more positive sides of tourism in other places, generally the smaller and less developed, such as Sideman in Bali or Senaru and Tetabatu on the slopes of Mount Rinjni in Lombok. Here we spoke with Taxi drivers and guides who really valued tourism as providing an almost ‘middle class’ quality of life compared to the hard physical labour of farming or construction which were the other options available to them. I say ‘middle class’ because although comparatively well paid, when we went to lunch with one of our guides, Mul, his two room house was brick built (instead of wood and woven read like his neighbours) and he had an outside toilet (instead of nothing at all). I think it really hit home to Jago particularly, having raced ahead of us on the back of Mul’s motorbike, how basic their life was here – proud of having an outside toilet and a couple of little brick rooms in a muddy corner of the village with passion fruit vines overgrowing the back yard.

In Tetabatu we stayed in a proper ‘homestay’ having a couple of bedrooms inside a family compound up in the jungle. The power was off more than on, so we spent the evening reading by candlelight. Our guide walk the next day took us through the communal compounds and small field systems that the village use here, stopping to chat to everyone we passed. It was interesting to notice our different attitude here – instead of haggling along on Bali, always half feeling you were being ripped off, now we cheerfully paid the first price mentioned, glad to be supporting people who were living a tough life. It was also sobering to talk to people more-or-less our own age who were already worrying about health care and retirement – understandable given the differing life expectancies and lack of an NHS!

 

Week 16- Kota Kinabalu to Sepilok

Monday was our final day in KK and having recovered from our illnesses, we thought we really ought to explore some of the city. Since arriving in Gili T the kids had started to develop an awareness of the Islamic faith hearing the calls to prayer there, seeing numerous mosques in Lombok and noticing more and more women dressed in the hijab. There was an enormous mosque around the corner from us in Likas Bay, designed by an architect to appear to be floating on water, so we decided to continue our religious education with a visit here. After another lazy morning playing Carcassonne, we were well into the heat of the day by the time we set off and it felt like a very long, slow walk even though it was less than 2km. We walked along the water’s edge and saw (and smelled) local fishermen in their rickety wooden boats, one of whom was now standing by the side of the road trying to sell his catch. There was a wide cycling path with exercise equipment at various points along it, that nobody was using. It was clear that not many people walk here if they can avoid it! Eventually we made it to the mosque, and hired some clothes to cover our hair and shorts before entering. I have never actually been inside a mosque before so I have nothing to compare it to, but it was a very simple but large space with a few men inside praying on mats. I was struck by how ridiculous all the arguments about church pews in the Anglican church are, when all that is needed here is a small square of floor space. It was astonishing to hear that up to 12,000 people worship in this mosque at once- I would have thought that we would fit a maximum of 1000 if this same space was being used as an Anglican church! It was nice to see that normal life was going on inside here as well, with one side being used as a school building, but slightly disappointing to see souvenir stalls in the outer courtyard. We followed up our visit with some research on the main religions we have encountered so far- Christian, Hindu and Islam, and the kids taught each other what they had learnt over the next couple of days. It has been nice to see a recent post on Facebook quoting Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”, and I certainly hope that our children will return home from this trip with respect and tolerance for all the many different cultures, beliefs, and ways of living that we encounter.

My own faith was also strongly on my mind at this time, as Ben’s stepmother Meg had deteriorated quickly since he arrived in Cornwall on Saturday. I am so grateful that he had some time with her before she weakened, and that he was able to be with and support his family at this time. On the Monday night Ben called to tell me that Meg was in her final hours, and I was able to prepare myself whilst the children slept, to spend time thinking about how she had welcomed me in to the family and always been so easy to talk to, how she always made such an effort with her lovely house, immaculate appearance and fabulous cooking, how the kids always felt so loved because of the way she spoilt them with her sweet treats, and how I will miss her greatly. I was very glad to have Rosie with me, who gave me some lovely cuddles that evening, and my heart went out to Ben who was missing out on my physical support at this time. In the midst of all this, I couldn’t help but reflect somewhat selfishly on how perfectly the timings had all come together, with Ben’s return home and Rosie’s trip out planned a month earlier whilst Meg was still relatively stable, but resulting in him being with his family at exactly the right time and me not being left alone with the kids. Ever since we had decided to go travelling, the thought that Ben might not be able to get home at the right time had prayed heavily on our minds and we have certainly had periods of 3 or 4 days at a time where we’ve been ‘off-grid’ and in remote places over the past few months. I could not help but feel that everything came together too perfectly to just be coincidental. Having lost my faith in God a couple of years ago, I am now finding it very difficult to keep denying his existence any more.

It felt good to be on the move again on Tuesday morning, after nearly 5 days in KK, and we headed off early to the Klias river, midway between KK and Kinabalu National park, for a morning of white water rafting. It was a fantastic sunny day and I needn’t have been nervous about whether or not Piran would manage to cling on to the raft because the river was mostly as flat as a pancake! It was classed as grade I-II rapids, which was a great start for Piran and I who hadn’t done it before, and I would definitely have the confidence to take him on something a bit more challenging next time. Despite the lack of adrenaline, it was a really nice river cruise with plenty of rainforest to look at, swallows darting over the water and water-buffalos with their friendly egrets lounging on the banks, as well as a few monitor lizards. We had fun splashing about during a water fight with another raft, and a relaxing time ‘body rafting’ at times, being carried along in the current, floating on our life jackets. Getting back in to the raft wasn’t something I managed to do gracefully, but with the help of both our guides I eventually managed to clamber back on board! We all enjoyed ourselves and the large buffet lunch at the finish point was an unexpected treat.

We carried on from here to the national park at the foot of the awesome Mount Kinabalu for the night. It was a scenic drive as we climbed higher and higher on bendy mountain roads, ascending into the cloud and cooler weather. We could see hills covered in rainforest for miles on end, a beautiful sight. We arrived at our lodge which had basic accommodation- just a couple of mattresses on the floor- but with access to cooking facilities, a shared lounge, and a nice veranda where we could see the clouds racing by and where we were treated to a glorious sunset later that evening. Ben had texted whilst we had been rafting to let me know that Meg had passed away in the early hours of the morning, so we had a tearful afternoon grieving and remembering her, and eating biscuits in her honour as she always liked to bake for us. Piran in particular has found it very difficult thinking about and talking about Meg dying, and being separated from Ben has made this harder for him. I remember Jago spending hours crying when he first learnt about my father dying several years ago and for him back then, as for Piran at this current time, it triggered anxious thoughts about whether Ben and I will die soon, and how we will all find each other in heaven. Cara, whilst still upset, seems more accepting of things and she helped me to distract Piran as we cooked dinner together, managing to clear away the tears for a short while at least. These are such big concepts for young minds to process, but we keep talking about Meg, keeping her memory alive, and I am hopeful that there will come a day soon when Piran will be able to do so without tears forming.

On Wednesday morning we ventured in to the National park for our first leech walk since we had got lost in the Indonesian jungle. Rosie had brought out some leech socks with her and there were lots of complaints about how they wouldn’t stay up and how uncomfortable they were, but at least nobody got bitten whilst wearing them! It was our first trek for a long while and we were all out of practice at walking up hill in the heat, but we managed to complete our trail and we didn’t get lost which was a bonus. We didn’t manage to see any of the wildlife that Borneo is so famous for but with trips to Sepilok, the Kinabatangan river, and Danum Valley planned for later in the trip I wasn’t too disappointed. Still, I can’t quite believe that we didn’t even see a monkey! We stopped for lunch just outside the park where we learnt never to ask for a ‘half boiled egg’ (ie soft rather than hard boiled) again, as after 2 attempts Cara’s lunch was still raw. We then headed on to Poring hot springs, which is still in the National park but on the East side of Mount Kinabalu rather than the South. The hot springs were not at all what we had been expecting after all our experiences in New Zealand of big, clean pools and hot flowing streams. They had been built by the Japanese and comprised a series of individual baths with taps containing the hot sulphurous water that comes up from beneath the ground. It didn’t feel terribly clean, but after draining and rinsing a couple of baths, we were willing to give it a try and the water was certainly very hot even if the environment wasn’t terribly relaxing. There was a large cold swimming pool near the baths which made for a refreshing dip, and the locals nearly had a heart attack when the kids jumped in at the deep end, shouting at me that it was ‘deep, deep’! They seemed astonished when I informed them that my children could swim, and one of them even asked me to teach him. The kids realised (probably fleetingly) that they were lucky to have been taught this skill! Returning to the hot bath after the cold swim was lovely, and when it started to pour with torrential rain I found it quite refreshing to stand in the downpour to cool down, and then jump back in to the hot water again. We whiled away a few happy hours here, and were glad we had time to return again the following day.

After our short walk on Wednesday, we were ready for a 7km hike in the National park to visit a waterfall on Thursday, and we set off with plenty of water   and a few snacks at 10am. All the literature said it would take 2-3 hours, but of course we hadn’t anticipated the stops along the way, the leeches, the mud and the time to cross 2 streams on precarious stepping stones. This will forever go down in Piran’s memory as ‘the day we didn’t have lunch’! The first 1.5km was pretty much uphill the whole way and very hard work, at times feeling like it would never end. We had our first experience of tiger leeches which, unlike the brown leeches which are on the forest floor and attach to your shoes, hang about on leaves and jump on at waist/arm height depending on how tall you are. Although he didn’t get bitten, Piran got a couple on his hand which was quite an unexpected surprise! Jago, who had decided that he didn’t like wearing the leech socks, managed to get bites on his feet and his tummy before revisiting his decision and putting them on after all. The path was quite slippery at times and Rosie slid over several times much to the kids’ amusement. Despite all this, it was a great walk! There was a bat cave on the way up where we stopped for a while to see the bats swooping about and hanging from the ceiling, and we could appreciate the strong smell. We managed to avoid falling in the streams despite the slippery stones and we had some wonderful views out over the hills and saw some cool insects. We had a real sense of achievement when we finally made it to the waterfall, although it was a bit too cold and powerful to swim in. Needless to say, the way back which was downhill all the way was very much quicker. The kids did amazingly well given that we didn’t arrive back until 4.00! They had missed out on lunch, and also missed out on the slide pool back at the hot springs which they had wanted to play in, which closed just as we got there. Despite the disappointment, we all jumped in to the hot baths with no hesitation today, ready to ease our weary feet, and we had a relaxing finish to our day. After dinner in a local cafe, we managed to get a lift back to our accommodation in the back of a pick-up truck much to the kids’ delight. We are certainly getting about in lots of ways that they wouldn’t be allowed to back in the UK!

Friday marked the start of our wildlife watching adventure in Borneo as we made our way to Sepilok, home to Orangutan, Proboscis monkey and Sun-bear sanctuaries and the gateway to the Upper Kinabatangan river. This was the thing I had most been looking forward to out of all of our planned travels, and I was super excited. First we had the challenge of making the 5 hour journey there on public transport! We had planned to catch a bus towards Sandakan and ask to be dropped at Sepilok, but there was a bus to another nearby place ready to leave just as we reached Ranau, so we quickly jumped on board rather than risk a long wait for the better option. The bus was clean and air-conditioned, with a toilet on board, but I hadn’t anticipated all the bendy roads as we travelled through the hills and mountains and before long all of us except for Cara felt incredibly travel sick. I am not sure how we all managed to get through the first two hours without one of us being ill, but I was incredibly relieved when we stopped at a roadside cafe for lunch. After some fresh air and food, the travel-sickness medication that we had taken about an hour into our journey had started to kick in, and luckily we all coped better the rest of the way. We are now erring on the side of caution with any travel around hills and taking pre-emptive medication just in case! I had been told that much of the Borneo rainforest had been destroyed in order to establish palm oil plantations, resulting in loss of habitat for the fabulous animals we had come to see. This couldn’t have been brought home any stronger than this 4 hour drive with nothing to see except miles and miles of palm trees extending in every possible direction. Heartbreaking. We were dropped off at the junction to Sepilok where we managed to negotiate a taxi the rest of the way and finally made it to our accommodation, pleased to have successfully made our way here. We were rewarded with a wonderful chorus of insects and birds morning and night, and beautiful rainforest surroundings.

Our first stop on Saturday morning was the Rainforest Discovery centre with a long canopy walkway where we hoped to see plenty of birds. It was lovely being so high up in the trees, although the children had forgotten the need to be quiet and patient for wildlife spotting and they became bored pretty quickly, preferring to play with Cara’s new camera instead. We saw a few beautiful small bright red birds and a couple of hornbills, as well as a great sighting of a giant tree squirrel which we followed for a long way despite its fast movement along the tree branches. I could happily have spent all day there by myself, but we wanted to visit the Proboscis monkey sanctuary at feeding time, so we moved on after a couple of hours. As we approached the sanctuary there were lots of grey macaques by the side of the road which was encouraging after seeing so little wildlife for the past few days, as well as a lovely view of a hornbill. On arrival, the Proboscis monkeys were already hanging around the feeding station in anticipation of food, and we had a fabulous half an hour watching them playing, carrying and grooming their babies, running about and jumping. One monkey sat up on the viewing deck, and it seemed clear that he was watching us with as much curiosity as we were watching him. Some of the monkeys ran standing upright on their back legs, and I couldn’t believe how human-like they were in this pose. We enjoyed hearing their funny grunting noises, and lovely dangling noses and pot bellies, as well as the big hornbills who flew in to be admired, clearly jealous of all the attention the monkeys were getting. After feeding time, the monkeys all scattered back to the forest and we all felt very glad that this small bit of land was protected for them. By the time we had eaten lunch and made it back to Sepilok, we didn’t have time for any further visits that day so we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon playing darts and cards and watching Doctor Who before having our ‘treat night’ a day early whilst still in civilisation.

We headed to the Orangutan sanctuary first thing on Sunday morning in the hope of seeing our first orangutan of the trip. The orangutans here are mostly rescued as babies, and raised here until they are able to fend for themselves in the wild. They have a ‘jungle gym’ where they learn to swing on vines, climb trees and forage for fruit. Once they are older they live wild in the local rainforest but food is put out for them a couple of times a day, in case they are unable to find enough without help. This food is always the same, in the hope that they will eventually get bored and gather their own; once they are independent they get released back into the larger areas of primary rainforest further southeast in Sabah. When we visited, only one orangutan came in for the bananas that were being offered, but it was so wonderful to see him. He swung so effortlessly along the rope to the feeding platform; it is quite amazing to think what their strength must be like when I can’t even do 2 rungs on the monkey bars! He chose to hang on to a rope by his feet, and peel his banana with his hands, slowly and deliberately, staring out at all the people watching him. I find it impossible not to be moved by how like us these creatures are, and find it so hard to imagine why people would deliberately harm them. When he had left, we found another orangutan around the corner which built a nest in front of us, snapping off branches of the tree it was in and laying them flat until it was ready for him to sit in. Once he was tucked up inside, we could no longer see him and he could have slept there unnoticed for hours. Very clever. We finished our trip with a visit to the nursery where we saw 3 super cute babies swinging in for lunch, and some naughty black squirrels stealing their food. When it was time to go in, the babies held hands with their human trainers and walked out of the viewing area looking just like young children being taken home for a lunchtime nap. We all loved it, but Cara was particularly smitten, and she left here having decided to spend her birthday money on adopting an orangutan when we get back to the UK. I love her!

We finished our time in Sepilok with a trip to the Sunbear sanctuary where we all fell in love with these cute little bears that had been rescued from captivity. They are good climbers and we managed to see one climb up to the top of a tree effortlessly. In fact one of the bears had escaped a couple of days earlier by scaling a very tall tree and managing to climb across to another tree outside the sanctuary boundary. The staff were worried about it, as locals still kill the bears either because they are frightened of them or because they are worth a lot of money, particularly for their gall bladders which are used in Chinese medicine. When she is found, I hope they will take this as a sign that she is ready to be released back in to the wild!

With all these easy sightings of some of the fantastic animals to be found in Borneo, Sepilok had whet our appetites for seeing animals in the wild, and so we were very ready to finish the week by heading to Uncle Tan’s wildlife camp on the Upper Kinabatangan river. It had been a very emotional week but I think it was made easier at our end by having so much to see and do, and so much to look forward to. Borneo is a beautiful place.

Week 15- Back to Bali, and on to Borneo

Monday was our final full day in Lombok and we spent it back at Selong Belanak after enjoying it so much on Saturday. Jago and Ben spent the whole day surfing and we all had a relaxing time. We have discovered that we all seem to be pretty content by the sea, and I am beginning to wonder how we will cope when we leave the islands of Thailand behind us in a couple of months after such plentiful access to beaches so far.

On Tuesday we had a short hop by aeroplane back to Bali, whereupon we headed to Canggu for our final couple of days in Indonesia. It was funny landing back here again, reflecting on how undeveloped and different Bali had felt when we first arrived here from Australia, and now how advanced and developed it felt when coming from Lombok! Instead of noticing all the huts, basic accommodation and run-down areas, this time I noticed all the Western-style buildings and shops and the clear evidence of wealth here in comparison. There is a large expat community here, and Canggu had some wonderful restaurants, shops and resorts around. On our first night we went to an Indonesian-Italian fusion restaurant and had the most amazingly delicious food of our travels in beautiful surroundings, whilst we planned how to spend Cara’s pretend birthday, our final day in Indonesia, before Ben was to head back to the UK for 3 weeks.

Cara chose to spend her pretend birthday at Splashworld, a small waterpark in Canggu. The Western prices were quite a shock to us, but we had a fun day drifting around the lazy river, wrestling on the slippery pole and racing down the slides, whilst Jago spent most of his time on a Tarzan swing, dropping off a rope into the pool in gradually more elaborate poses. Emotions were running quite high in anticipation of Ben leaving, and each of the children were unusually tearful today with lots of ‘incidents’ of getting hurt on slides (which would normally be just brushed off rather than turned into a big deal), as well as lots of rudeness and arguing, and both Ben and I both found it hard to keep calm and patient, despite knowing how important it was that the kids should have a happy day, particularly Cara. Days like these are certainly challenging for us, and are one of the hardest things about travelling- not being able to have time alone, away from each other, to come back full of patience and renewed energy. The old ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ is something we don’t get to test at the moment! On the other hand, we are being forced to work through these difficult times rather than just ignore them and hope they go away- something which I am sure will stand us in good stead for the future despite how hard it feels now. If we can emerge from our travels able to talk through our annoyances and problems and come up with solutions together, then I hope that alone will have made the whole year worthwhile.

We ended the day at a swanky beach club, Finn’s, where we enjoyed a drink before dinner, before heading on to a smaller restaurant over the road for dinner. The staff managed to rustle up a candle for Cara’s pudding and a ‘happy birthday’ song and it was lovely to celebrate her wonderful 9 years, together as a family, before heading back to our hostel for the night. She has grown up into such a lovely girl- fun, kind and compassionate, and I am really appreciating having a year where I can spend so much time with her and join in all the family celebrations rather than having to work on birthdays.

We set off to the airport on Thursday, all travelling together as far as Kuala Lumpur before splitting for Ben to carry on to Heathrow and us to Kota Kinabalu. For a while it wasn’t clear we would make it to the airport in time as there is a kind of local taxi mafia in Canggu that intimidate Uber drivers to stop them working in the area. Needless to say, the local taxis are twice the price of an Uber. When we were in Canggu a couple of Uber drivers agreed to transport us on the condition that we meet them in a quiet place away from the local taxis. One told us that Uber drivers have their windows smashed and stones thrown at them. When we ordered an Uber to the airport , the driver I was matched to was actually a local driver who was effectively blocking Uber by accepting all the nearby journeys and then saying he wanted twice as much money, in cash. After cancelling our journey with him and rerequesting, we just kept getting him! It certainly put us off ever using one of those local taxis again, and luckily we were able to organise a much more reasonably priced driver through the hostel who still managed to get us to the airport in time. I am very grateful that we live in a society which values the right to work without intimidation and violence.

It was sad saying goodbye to Ben, but the kids were fantastic at all pulling together in his absence, particularly Jago who helped carry the others’ rucksacks and looked after Piran whilst Cara came down with a diarrhoea and vomiting bug at exactly the wrong moment! Poor Cara was sick twice on the journey to KK, and again as soon as we arrived at our Airbnb, but she kept going valiantly despite feeling terrible. I was so grateful to the host of our apartment, Almend, who met us at the airport when we arrived at 11.30pm, and drove us to our home for the week overlooking Likas Bay. It was such a relief not to have to negotiate taxis so late in the day, with tired and ill children.

 

Our first few days in KK were essentially taken up with diarrhoea and vomiting! It gradually worked its way through us all, and sleep was very interrupted as Piran was woken by it every night. I was so glad it hit us at a time when we didn’t have any plans apart from hanging out for a while, and when we were in a comfortable apartment with a washing machine! We managed to clear it just before Cara’s birthday on the Sunday which was perfect timing. We spent our days playing Carcassonne, writing blog posts and watching Blue Planet, which we have started working our way through since Gili T. Despite the illness, it was an easy few days and I really enjoyed just spending some time with the kids where I could give them my full attention without feeling like we ought to be sightseeing, and eventually we were well enough to venture out to the swimming pool. We made it to the shopping mall one day to buy some presents for Cara’s birthday but otherwise we didn’t venture further than the grocery store for the whole of Friday and Saturday. It was a surprise to me how glad I was to be somewhere with more of a Western culture at this time, but I really appreciated how easy it was shopping in a mall with fixed prices and everything we wanted, as well as having plentiful access to Ubers. Although KK was a pleasant-enough city, there wasn’t an awful lot to see and I wasn’t too disappointed not to explore it further.

On Saturday night, my sister Rosie arrived, to my absolute delight. Having not seen family for the past 3 months, it was so wonderful to have her with us and we were all very excited! Cara had prepared a welcome banner and the kids had instructed me to throw balloons in the air and do a happy dance when she arrived, which I willing obliged. They were so pleased to see her when they woke up on Sunday morning, Cara’s birthday. A double celebration! Cara wanted to go to the beach and do some snorkelling, so after breakfast and a happy reunion we headed to Sapi Island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman national park for the day. I had been worried that it might be a great disappointment as there were hundreds of TripAdvisor reviews saying that the water was dirty, full of rubbish and the islands full of so many tourists that you can’t move an inch, but we decided to go anyway as others had given me a completely different impression, saying there would be beautiful beaches and crystal clear sea. As we headed out in our speed boat, clinging on for dear life and grateful for our life jackets as the driver lurched us from side to side, we could see lots of plastic bottles floating on the water but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the reviews had described. The water was indeed crystal clear and we could see hundreds of fish swimming around the jetty both here and at Gaya Island where we went next for an island-to-island zipwire as a birthday treat. The zipwire was great fun as we took it in turns to speed down the wire dangling in our harnesses over the sea, but of course it was over all too soon. After getting our adrenaline-fix, we sat down on the main beach for our picnic lunch followed by a spot of snorkelling. Unfortunately the sea was cordoned off into an ‘allowed’ swimming area which hardly had any fish. Cara and I made a short foray into the deeper ‘forbidden’ waters where we could see a tiny bit of coral and many more fish, but the lifeguards were going crazy whistling at us and there was only so long I could ignore them! Not the best snorkelling we have done, but it was a fun outing nonetheless. Afterwards we were joined by a huge monitor lizard which was great to watch, reminding me of the iguanas that Ben and I had seen in the Galapagos islands. It would have been lovely to sit and sunbathe for the afternoon but the kids were keen to head back to the apartment for birthday tea and a game of cards before going out for a celebration dinner. We had managed to find a chocolate swiss roll which Jago decorated with kit kat and Milo breakfast cereal, and we lit a match for Cara to blow out instead of a candle. It was very different from a normal birthday, without so many family and friends and with fewer presents, but we did our best to make it good fun for her and Rosie had brought some balloons to decorate the flat with. We finished the day at Little Italy with pizza and garlic bread which was delicious. It had certainly been a full day of birthday activity, and apart from missing Ben, Cara had a fun time. Happy 9th Birthday to my wonderful daughter!

My birthday

We spent five days in Kota Kinabalu in Borneo which everyone calls ‘KK’. Dad left and went to Cornwall to help Nanny and Grandad. On my birthday, Auntie Rosie arrived to have a holiday in Borneo with us! We went to Sapi island and did a zip line then went snorkelling. We got a rocky boat over to Sapi island. The waves weren’t big but we kept bobbing up and down really high and tilting sideways so I thought I was about to fall off.

When we got to Sapi island we got another boat across to Gaya island. We had to climb up a hill to get geared up and go on the zip line. I went first on a tandem zip line with Rosie. We whizzed down and screamed. It felt like I was flying, glued to  Rosie. The zip line went from Gaya island back to Sapi island. We could see coral and fish under us. Our ride went on for a while then finished, we watched Mum, Jago and Piran race down. The zip line was awesome.

Next we went snorkelling. We didn’t see much, all the fish were where we weren’t allowed go. We saw a massive monitor lizard – it was about as long as Piran is tall. It had lots of scales and looked slimy. It climbed up a rock and ran into shrubbery. When Mum and I were walking back from snorkelling, we spotted a jelly fish on the beach. Mum managed to get it up on a stick and we went and showed it to Jago. He was quite scared of it. The sand was smooth and pale, and the sea was warm. We went back to the flat and played games then had birthday cake. Jago decorated the cake with KitKats and Milo balls to make it look nice. I had a fun birthday. It felt strange without Dad but it was more peaceful.

Borneo feelings

On the 18th of January we were saying goodbye to Dad. It felt very weird leaving him when we had never been away from him for longer than 1 week and this time we wouldn’t see him for 3 weeks. Dad was going to go back to England because Nanny wasn’t very well and he was going to look after her. Mum and Dad said it was the best time for Dad to go because Auntie Rosie was going to come and join us in Borneo so then if Dad went we would still have 2 Adults and 3 Children.

When we met Rosie 3 days later it felt even weirder than when we said goodbye to Dad because she had her rucksack with her and we were in another country. When I woke up and I found her there I almost called her Dad because that was who I was used to.

Then a week later, when we were at a place at the bottom of a mountain called Mount Kinabalu, Mum got a whatsapp message from Dad saying that Nanny had died that morning. She came down from our room and told us and we were very sad but soon Mum said we should eat some biscuits to remember Nanny. We ate some chocolate biscuits and played cards but the biscuits weren’t as good as Nanny’s. Nanny was very fun and kind and she was very good at baking. I thought she was very good at making ice cream and she made really nice cakes.

Borneo felt very strange without Dad and with Rosie because Rosie would wake up late somedays and other days she would be first but that was fine with me. Although with Dad, he woke up just before me everyday. Every time Mum told someone that we didn’t have Dad with us they would tell Mum that she was very brave travelling without Dad. Mum just said that it was easy sometimes and hard sometimes.

I thought that when we saw pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys I wished Dad could have seen them too. Although there were times that I was glad not to have Dad there because he can get very grumpy sometimes! Sometimes I worried about what was happening at home but most of the time I didn’t think about it. I was mostly happy but sometimes I get annoyed about not having enough space to get away from Cara and Piran. Travelling is still fun and I really enjoyed going on lots of boat trips down rivers in Borneo.

White Water Rafting

While we were staying in Kota Kinabalu in Borneo, we were driving to Sabah and had a stop to go white water rafting. The raft was a blow up boat with holes in the bottom. We had two guides who steered the white water raft.

 

We took a ride down a mini waterfall. There was a little thud but the thud didn’t hurt. Then I started to paddle a little bit harder. When we got to a old wobbly bridge like a suspension bridge we jumped out of the raft and swam till it got shallow then we jumped back into the raft.

All I could only hear the sound of the water rushing by. All around us there was forest and jungle. We saw water buffaloes that are big cow like creatures with big horns with egrets  all over them. Egrets are white birds with long necks and they pecked off the bad skin of the water buffaloes.

 

The rapids weren’t very strong but there was the occasional big wave. I  enjoyed this, I recommend this!