Danum Valley Summary

After Mabul and Lahad Datu, we went to the Danum Valley Conservation Center.  Shawnee has already posted a lot of pictures from there, so I’ll just add a few things.

We had a guide named Dominic who we shared with 4 other people.  He was very serious and knowledgeable.  he would tell us the origin of every tree, plant, etc.  He liked to make a point by saying, “Some say that. . . ” and then tell us why that was completely wrong.  Every time we walked more than 300 yards away from the lodge, we were supposed to have our guide with us.  Shawnee hated this rule.

We ran the rest of the group ragged.  By the third day, we were the only people who wanted to go out for an early morning hike with Dominic.  I’m glad we did, because when we got to a waterfall, Shawnee found a juvenile orang-utan just 10 yards away from us that the guide didn’t even notice.  It was amazing, particularly because Shawnee and I had a great time swimming in that same waterfall the day before.

The leeches did a pretty good number on us, but no permanent damage.  I had one bite on my chest that wasn’t healing, but then we realized that the head of the leech was still stuck in the wound.

We also hiked to the top of a large hill that gave you a great view of the valley below.  Shawnee posted a picture I took of her drawing in her journal from the lookout point.

All in all, the resort was great.  We saw two orang-utans, tons of monkeys and mule deer, and all kinds of strange plants and insects.  But after two straight resorts, we were a little resorted out.  So then we lived with a family in a river village, which was a completely different experience.  Bring on the bucket showers, squat toilets and eating rice with your fingers . . .


Two reasons to be thankful for my wife

First, she stayed up until the wee hours of the morning downloading pictures onto the blog from a crappy computer in Sandakan.  Good to have the photos up on the web in case our camera dies during the trip, which is a definite possibility.

Second, we packed everything for our 5 week trip into one backpack.  That has been a huge help for us, because it has allowed us to be very mobile and get in small motorboats, etc. easily.  And Shawnee was completely on board from the start to do that.

Just thought I’d pass those on.

Kota Kinabalu

We are now in Kota Kinabalu and we leave for Singapore (and a 6 hour layover) tomorrow.  We’re planning on having McDonalds at the airport and we’re both very excited.

After living with a family in a river village for 2 days and only washing our clothes in hotel sinks, we were ready for a laundromat.  But they don’t have those here, so we had to drop our laundry off at a laundry service.  We were so desperate to get all of our clothes washed that we’re both in clothes we haven’t worn yet on the trip because we dropped all the other clothes off.  We look like a couple of transients.  Which I suppose we are, in some ways.

We’re on the internet at this gaming center, with more than 75 computers and a bunch of kids playing online games.  The girl next to me is playing one of these virtual role playing games where she has a character in a virtual world.  She’s dancing in the game to accumulate points so she can buy things for her character in the virtual world.  It’s 9:30pm on Saturday.  Awesome.

Final Mabul Thoughts

1) At one point, we went for a walk in the village on the island next to the resort.  There is a long walkway over the water from the resort and there is a guard where the walkway meets the island.  When Shawnee and I got there, we saw the guard and several other villagers watching a cockfight.  The roosters clearly had been going at it for a while because they both had bleeding wounds on their backs.  All within 100 feet of a swanky resort.

2) It is often difficult for westerners to understand the guide’s names.  So the guides often respond to anything remotely resembling the westernized name they have given themselves at the resort.  For example, the dive master at the resort introduced himself to us as “Nick” (we thought).  So we called him Nick for three days.  Then we asked another guide where “Nick” was, and he said, “Oh, Richard, he’s over there” and pointed to “Nick.”

I finally figured out that he must have introduced himself as “Dick” and then just responded when we called him “Nick”.  So I started calling him “Richard-Dick-Nick” to Shawnee.  I found this very funny.

Thanks Ray!

Just before we left Chicago, Ray sent us the most wonderful care package.

Not long ago, I had told him we were moving to California so that we “could have babies on the beach and wear flip flops all year long.”  In the package, he sent us a nice note wishing us luck with our move back to the place where we fell in love, some sand, and flip flops for both of us. It was very thoughtful and creative.

The only pair of sandals Mike brought on this trip are the flip flops Ray sent. So thanks Ray! Mike’s putting a lot of mileage on his sandals!

Ray, my Mom, and our friend Marisa are usually my travel buddies. Our last trip was to Disneyworld in Florida where they ran me ragged. We have pictures of me sleeping all through the magic kingdom. As you can see from the rain forest lodge photo, I am doing a good job napping my way though this trip as well.  Just yesterday, our guide along the Kinabatangan River snapped a photo of me on his phone napping on MIke during our 6 a.m. river cruise.

Our next stop was Borneo Rain Forest Lodge. To get there we had to stay a night in Lahad Datu, which I’ve already raved about. One thing I forgot to mention was that there was a 2ft long monitor lizard swimming in an open sewer/drainage ditch. He was gorgeous. Giant and all black with tiny royal blue lines down his back. After seeing so many beautiful animals swimming around Mobul it was really hard to see such a magnificent creature trying to mouth open someones bag of litter while swimming in some of the nastiest water I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, to get to the resort we took a three hour bus ride back into the rain forest. Two of those hours were on bumpy dirt road. We counted bumps for thirty seconds each, just to give you an idea of how rough the ride was. I counted 45 and MIke counted 34.

It was well worth the ride though. The forest was gorgeous. Most people come with a list of animals they want to see. This creates a kind of checklist/where’s Waldo vibe that we weren’t really down with. We just like to hike and figure if we see something, we see something. This attitude paid off when on the last day we stumbled upon a juvenile orangutan. Our guide said he was probably six. He was so small he had to of just left home–home being his mom.

The other highlights for me were hiking up to an old graveyard and swimming in a natural waterfall. In the graveyard, there were still bones from over a hundred years ago. Even one casket was left. he tribes people were buried with personal items and carried higher up the mountain based on their status. One casket way up had a blow pipe in it. Which was used to hit birds and to also stab mammals. He must have been a real warrior to be up there so high. I am just realizing now that I was so moved I forgot to take pictures of the place. darn.

me on the jungle canopy

If you want to see more rain forest pictures, we’ve uploaded a bunch onto snapfish.