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Sat. Jan. 19, 2008

            We had an early start from Vancouver today.  Having my first alcoholic drink at 11:00a.m. on Singapore Airlines (champagne of course!).  I am happy to report that the chairs lay down almost flat!  We get to sit upstairs on the 747 in business class for the next 11 hours.  Have had a snoop through the menu and am certainly not going to go hungry.  Canít wait to arrive in Borneo but right now am looking forward to another glass of champagne and a wonderful sleep before I get there.  Ta- ta for now.

Tues. Jan. 22, 2008

            Managed to go for a walk last night in Tawau around the hotel and of course got lots of stares and even a couple of whistles.  I was dying of heat since women are not supposed to show their shoulders.  I was missing my tank tops upstairs in our room.

            Could not stay awake until 7:00 pm, so went to bed around 6:30 pm.  Woke up at 10:00 pm to use the washroom and again at 3:00 am.  Dozed in and out of sleep until 6:30 am and decided to get up and go downstairs for the buffet breakfast.  We are feeling pretty good now after all that sleep and am even going to crawl back into bed and close my eyes while Damon is in the shower.  It is only 8:00 am.  We are driving to the lodge today and canít wait to see what the day will bring.

            Drove about 5 hours to Borneo Rainforest lodge which took most of the morning.  We arrived to our fabulous accommodations, had lunch, got settled and started on our hike.  We got about 5 minutes into the hike when it started to rain.  It is unsafe to be in the jungle during a downpour because the rain may cause trees to lose their branches or there may be a flash flood.  Before the downpour, we ran into a Liana which is a climbing vine.  That is a first for me.

            We sat on our deck before dinner and saw a couple otters swimming in the river, birds, and a flying squirrel.  We also saw a bearded pig which was very exciting until we found out it is a resident at the lodge.  Still neat to have seen it so close.

            We went on a night drive tonight but the animals did not cooperate.  Saw a couple birds and some deer but that is about it.  Maybe we will have some better luck tomorrow during the night walk.

            Time for me to go to sleep as we hit the trail at 6:30 am for some bird watching.  I will certainly need some coffee for such an early start.  Goodnight.

Wed. Jan. 23, 2008

            Went for an early morning hike but didnít see too much.  We met a couple (Martin and Denise) who have joined our group.  They live in London.  We talked a little bit about our weddings which was nice to remember again.  It seems so long ago now.

            Our hike later in the morning after breakfast was a difficult trek.  We climbed 300í to the top of a look out which was amazing and went for a dip in a fresh water pool half way back down.  It is so humid here in the rainforest that even sitting here you get hot.  On our way back down to the lodge we found a lizard that had just dropped a couple of eggs, right on our path!  She had not even had time to bury them yet.  I hope they are safe on that well used pathway.  We have just finished watching a couple monkeys in the trees across the river jumping from branch to branch.  Very cool!  This afternoon we are going for a relaxing and short walk and tonight we are going on a night walk.  I am really looking forward to seeing some amazing things.  It all depends on the animals though.  Wish us luck!

            Saw lots of frogs and spiders and a couple of sleeping birds.  Saw a tiny bug that glows which is probably to attract the opposite sex.  Thatís all we saw tonight but the sounds here are amazing.  The cicadas (grasshopper type bugs) are extremely loud.  The night is humming with activity.  As I was sitting here on the deck, a deer went running by me.  Had to yell at Damon to come out here quick, he almost missed it!  We had such a busy day today with an intense trek and a couple little ones, added with a restless sleep last night, and I am exhausted!  I am even looking forward to sleeping on that hard bed.

PS  Still watching the deer.

Thurs. Jan. 24, 2008

Went for a walk this morning and did not find much.  Had a lazy afternoon sitting on the deck reading and watching for wildlife.  Saw something floating in the water and knew it could not be a croc or an alligator since they did not have them here.  Thought it may be a lizard or a snake and after a little research found out it was a monitor lizard.  We watched it float down the river and out of sight.

We had decided earlier that we would go back to the fresh water pond for another swim at 3p.m. but when we arrived to meet Amrafel he said there was an orangutan sighting and would we rather go check that out.  No brainer there.  Watched the orangutan for about 2 hours swing from tree to tree and almost got peed on.  It started to rain but luckily we had our brand new bright yellow matching rain coats.  I was so proud of trekking through that dense bush not even caring about the leeches.  I was on a mission.

The male orangutan we were watching had a cold which you could tell because he was eating the bark of a certain tree which they only eat when they are sick.  He threw down a piece of bark so we were able to see the teeth marks on it.  He finally settled in for the night at around 5p.m. and we got to see him build his nest which he made by breaking off the branches of trees and covering himself.  Truly amazing and once in a lifetime!

While we were still so excited about our encounter with the orangutan we ran into some other primates Ė red leaf monkeys and macaques.  The macaques are very territorial and can be quite dangerous so we had to be careful while we watched them for about 20 minutes or so.

What an amazing day!  We are so very lucky to have had such a wonderful experience.  Some people leave without ever having seen a thing.  We are going to try our luck again with the night drive so hopefully I will have something else to report.  For now, I am going to have a shower and head out for dinner and celebrate with a glass of wine.  Salut!

There is now a Japanese film crew staying at the lodge so we had fantastic lighting when an owl stopped by for a quick hello during dinner.

P.S. The wine hit the spot!

On the night drive this evening we saw a sleeping pheasant, mouse deer and a flying squirrel.  We also heard the elephants but they were not near to us.  On the way back to our lodge the deer came to say hello and hang out right by our balcony.  They are regulars I think.

Tomorrow is going to come to early so it is lights out for us.  Bonne nuit.

Fri. Jan. 25, 2008

Had a long drive to our next lodge and was disappointed to find our room had two single beds.  Can you imagine!  On our honeymoon!  I hate single beds and it is right against the wall so I can whack my hand against it all night.  I am not really looking forward to my sleep tonight.  Needless to say I was not a happy camper in that respect.

After getting settled in our ďnot so greatĒ room we headed out on our afternoon boat tour which was incredible.  We saw lizards and tons of monkeys with their babies.  We watched the macaques for a while and went further to find a family of proboscis monkeys.  They are very funny looking with the biggest noses you have ever seen.  The male looks like a fraggle (remember them?)  The female has a pointier nose than the male.  We watched them for quite awhile and then the male decided life would be better on the other side of the river.  He took a leap as far as he could and belly flopped in the water, a rare occurrence to see, and swam the rest of the way and made it to the other side.  Very cool indeed.  Usually it is the female that goes first, in case there is a croc, so the leader of the family is still alive when it is all said and done.

Damon is still sick so he has suffered all day and is now resting beside me (on the other bed) and I think he will not eat a thing for dinner.  We are not sure if it is food poisoning or the flu.  I think it is the latter.  Must get ready for dinner, they are going to ring the bell soon Ė donít ask.  Hope the food is good at least.

Food is good and they even had french fries!  Had a couple and they hit the spot.

The night cruise was great!  Saw lots of beautiful sleeping birds, owls and crocs.  Our guide picked up a baby croc that was about 6 weeks old.  Soooo cute.  We also spotted a cat but he was quite far away so only saw his red eyes when the spot light was on him.  I may think of a couple more things to add tomorrow but I am so exhausted from our early morning with the orangutan.  A demain.

P.S.  On our way to the lodge we ran into two herds of pygmy elephants.  They had babies with them so we are lucky if we even got a picture of their backsides.  They are very protective of their babies so they quickly ran into the bushes when our car came around the bend.

Saturday January 26, 2008

Got up at 5:30 a.m. for our morning boat tour and jungle walk.

Watched the proboscis monkeys again this morning.  They are my favourite monkey.  We also saw a rhinoceros hornbill which is an amazing looking bird.  We saw lots of other birds which I canít remember all of them.  We saw egrets, herons and many small colorful birds.  We are going on a walk along the boardwalk at the lodge and will learn about the trees and plants I think.  There are only 4 people at the lodge right now so we will be a small group.

I forgot to talk about the early morning walk which consisted of trekking in calf deep mud and mosquito infected jungle.  We didnít see a thing.  That is sometimes the case.  Must go.  Donít want to be late for the walk.  The naturalist here is a little strict.  Adios.

Loved the nature walk.  We were shown and explained about quite a few plants.  We even got to taste a few.  Two of them had a wonderful sour flavour and one of them was quite spicy.  Winston also told us about the poisonous plants and how to use them to kill animals and also humans.

Must go to lunch so will continue later.

The nature walk usually last about an hour but since our group was so small I think Winston was really enjoying himself.  Our group was only 4 of us.  There are supposed to be 17 people for dinner tonight so the peace and quiet will be no longer.

Must say I had a great sleep last night and I wonder if that had anything to do with my own bed.  May have to re-think the bed thing.

We now have a couple hours to kill before our afternoon boat tour.  Not sure what I will do but even doing nothing is OK with me.

Had a very exciting afternoon.  Lots to tell.  Went for an afternoon boat cruise and saw two snakes, viper and python.  Swiftlet birds nests, almost like the nests for birds nest soup that the Chinese pay a ton of money for without the saliva though.

We went to see the bats sleep under an overhang of a huge cliff when I heard what sounded like a land slide.  I was terrified as I thought the whole cliff was collapsing and we were right under the overhang.  Turns out that we were very lucky to be where we were as a huge tree snapped in half and came tumbling down the cliff landing a meter away from the boat.  Our guide got soaked from the splash.  Thank goodness we lingered for as long as we did because 5 more seconds and this could have had a much different ending.  It was not our time to go I guess.  Fifteen seconds of sheer terror feels like a lot longer.  When the whole thing was over I found myself crouched and facing the opposite way and thought my life was over.  I had to have two beers to help my frazzled nerves.  I was the only one who heard the sound of the tree falling.  Everyone else just heard the huge bang when the tree hit the water.  We are all thankful to be alive.

After our terrifying experience, we got word (thank goodness for cell phones, even in the jungle) that the elephants were near.  We raced to the spot in our boat, asked the local if we could use the path in the back of his yard, and there they were.  Unfortunately we were in a mosquito infested area and I am sure I got a few more bites to add to my collection.  The lodge we are staying at has two elephant crossings.  These are gaps in the boardwalk that allow them to pass through.  Elephants always use the same path so we are hoping they will come tonight.  We have requested a knock on the door, no time restriction, if this happens.  They have also been known to use the lodge, outside our rooms, as scratching posts.  Apparently this can be quite terrifying if you donít know what is going on.  People have thought it was an earthquake in the past Ė yikes.

After all the excitement I am ready for bed.  I am looking forward to sleep and hope it is interrupted by the elephants.  Hope I have more news tomorrow.

Sunday Jan. 27, 2008

I am happy to report that the pygmy elephants woke us up at 5:45 this morning.  Watched them from our bedroom window crashing down trees with their trunks and trampling the plants.  It is amazing the destruction they cause.  The locals have sound guns blasting every 5 minutes or so to keep them away from their gardens.  Dogs are barking, elephants are screaming and the tourists are all trying to have a look at them.  No wonder the elephants are agitated.

Went for breakfast, packed and got in the boat for our 2Ĺ hour boat ride to Sandakan which we will fly out of tonight.  Before heading to the airport we are going to the Orangutan rehabilitation centre.  They rescue animals whoís habitat was destroyed by the palm oil  plantations or their mothers murdered by humans who might want the babies as pets.  They teach the Orangutans how to survive in the wild and release them.  Very neat to see the Orangutans up close and personal.  We were there for feeding time so we saw four Orangutans which included a four year old still clutching to its mother.  They are not sure which male is the father but think he is the one who has already been release back into the wild.  Not only do they have Orangutans but also macaques.  They are very playful and mischevieous and very fun to watch.  One even had a two week old baby with her!  The baby was trying to climb up the stairs to the feeding platform and shook all the way up as the muscles are not very strong yet.  He did make it up into his mothers waiting arms.  So cute!

We made our way leisurely to the airport and I am now waiting to check in for the flight.  We are of course early and no one is at the counter to take our luggage.  Must be off as someone is here now to help us although I have no idea how people get to budge ahead when we have been here more than an hour.

Monday Jan. 28, 2008

We have just spent our first day in Brunei and it is quite beautiful.  I will start off by saying that there is no alcohol sold here.  Could have used a beer while we sat by the pool for a couple hours this afternoon.

Damon and I were a little shocked when on our flight over they say a prayer before the safety briefing. (Royal Brunei Airlines)  I am not sure if that worried me more!  We were not really sure what was going on at first but when looking at the front screen we realized we were in the middle of a muslim prayer.

Went to see the biggest mosque in Brunei and it really was beautiful.  Everything was gold plated and it seats 500 women and 3500 men.  There are of course separate sides for men and women.  Did you know women donít have to go the mosque and pray every week but the men do?  Probably because women have to take care of the children and make the dinner.  When we got to the mosque I had to wear this black potato sack because I'm a woman.  Damon thought this was very funny and couldnít help but have fun at my expense Ė ďyou need to walk ten steps behind meĒ he says.  Ha! Ha! Very funny Damon.

We also stopped at ďHis highness the SultanísĒ palace.  Canít really see it from the road as it is hidden but the entrance way is magnificent.  The Sultanís daughter came home while we were looking at the gates so we caught a quick glimpse of the back of her head and her whole entourage.

Damon and I were fascinated with the fact that you may have up to four wives here. 

Here are the rules:

  1. Your first wife has to give permission
  2. You have to be able to provide for all the wives.  Separate houses etc.
  3. Your time has to be divided equally.

This came up when our guide mentioned that the Sultan divorced his second wife and married another.  Now he only has two wives.  It took Damon and I a couple of seconds to recover from that one!

The two of us are so exhausted tonight from our early morning flight and busy day.  As soon as we got to our hotel we were hand washing some clothes in the bathtub.  No coin laundry here.  For lunch we went to the shopping centre for something quick and easy.  I was starving by 3p.m.  For dinner we walked to the night market and each got a plate of noodles for $.80 Canadian.  They were really good too!  I even got Damon to splurge on a Sprite!

We are staying at the Sheraton hotel while we are here for two nights.  It is so nice to be able to have a hot shower and not have to worry about bugs.  This is an absolute luxury!  It feels so nice to have a soft bed again.  Speaking of which, it is time to hit the hay as my writing is now getting sloppy.

Tuesday Jan. 29, 2008

Went for another huge hike today.  I canít believe how hot it is here.  Our clothing was soaking wet after our trek.

We took a 45 minute boat ride(boat taxi), a 20 minute car ride and then hopped on a motorized canoe and arrived at our hiking start point and walked up this steep, rocky, slippery path to a canopy walkway.  Damon took one look at this and there was no way he was going up.  I however was up for the challenge and climbed 50 meters to the top.  What a gorgeous view and a little nerve racking.

After our canopy walk we hiked back down, went for the most refreshing swim in the river and had a wonderful lunch.  Came back to the hotel (I love air conditioning) went to the pool, had a little nap, a shower and time to hit the town.

We walked around town for a bit and the kids all love yelling hello to the tourists.  We wave back, say hello and they burst into giggles.

We went back to the night market for dinner but I decided to splurge on a $4.00 dinner tonight.  I had sweet & sour prawns with rice and Damon had beef with noodles.

While we were eating dinner it started to rain and it is amazing how quickly they get those umbrellas up over the tables.  They even get lights strung from there somehow.  We are now back in our room drying our clothes with the hairdryer as our clothes are still not dry even after two days.

We leave Brunei tomorrow at noon on Singapore Airlines and I look forward to some champagne at take off since this country is not allowed to sell alcohol.  Canít wait to wear tank tops again and have a beer on the beach.  We are so lucky to live in Canada, especially as a woman.  This country has wonderful things also, like a VERY low crime rate and housing is cheap and school is paid for through college.  They also get free medical care with no waiting.  There are wonderful things but isnít freedom to wear and say what you want when you want important too?  If you are Christian you can not preach your faith.  Oh well, I am not the one who lives here so it doesnít matter to me.  People seem to be happy enough here.

Must check on my clothes, surely they will be dry by now.

Feb. 1, 2008

Woke up early yesterday morning to make our way to Kuredu Island in the Maldives.  I have never been in a float plane before so was feeling a little nervous.

While we were waiting for our plane to the main island Male, this guy approached Damon handing him his passport and customs card.  I told Damon, I think he wants to borrow your pen so he can fill out his card.  He shook his head no when Damon tried giving him his pen.  We realized he wanted Damon to fill it out for him.  He was from Bangladesh and didnít speak a stitch of English.  Damon was not happy about filling this out for him but did as much as he could.  Everything in the passport was hand written and he only had one name.  We knew he would have problems when Damon couldnít fill out where he had come from and why he was coming.  We assumed to work since there were quite a few of them.  After filling out the customs card another one approached wanting the same thing.  The look Damon had on his face made me giggle because it was exactly the look uncle Peter would have given in the same situation.  After filling the second card, along came another.  At this point I could not hold my laughter in anymore.  Seeing Damonís frustration over this was too hilarious.  After Damon finished the third customs card he said to the guy ďnow donít go telling all your friends.  Iím not doing any more.Ē  I thought I was going to pee my pants!

While on the float plane we saw a pod of dolphins but other than that, non eventful.

We finally arrived in Kuredu and I am telling you it is heaven on earth.  No mosquitos, the whitest sand I have ever seen and turquoise water.  We are very close to the equator and that sun feels hot!  Right after getting settled in our water villa, we went snorkeling right off our deck.  We saw the biggest parrot fish I have ever seen and we could hear him crunching on the coral.  We saw many colourful fish but decided to head back to the deck as we could feel our backs burning.  It is nice to be able to go into the water right off our room.

After our hectic day of doing nothing we decided to go for lunch and a couple beers, mmmmmmmm so good!  Came back to our villa and watched a huge sting ray right off our deck.

Our villa has a light that shines down on the water so we are able to see the fish swimming underneath us..  Quite a few fish were hanging out there until a reef shark decided it was hungry.  There was a huge splash, which scared me to death, and we are still not sure who won.

I think I got the flu Damon had earlier in the week because an hour or two after lunch I had my head in the toilet bowl.  Hope it is all over and done with today because I have things to do and people to see!

As I sit here on the deck, I am watching Damon go for a morning snorkel.  Canít wait to hear about his excursion.

Mon. Feb. 4 2008

We are now on our way home, boo hoo.  We are stuck at the airport in Male as our flight to Singapore doesnít leave until 11:00p.m.  The last float plane left at 3:30p.m.  Oh well, we are sitting in the last of the sun on the pier and will enjoy one last sunset.

The last few days have been fantastic!  We have been snorkeling in our ďfront yardĒ walked around the island a couple of times and met a wonderful couple from England (Paul & Katie.)  We have had a few beers and lunch with them a couple of times and invited them to share our sparkling wine we got from the hotel since we were on our honeymoon.  Damon wonít drink it and I certainly wasnít going to attempt it on my own.

We went on a sunset cruise and found some dolphins along the way.  They were jumping and spinning and swimming right along side the boat.  They are so quick so it was really difficult to get a picture but how amazing!

Our days mostly consisted of lazing on the deck, eating, drinking, sleeping and the odd walk.  We needed a little relaxing time after all the adventure and hiking the previous week and a half.

Not feeling to keen on going back to work and putting on makeup and doing my hair.  Havenít done that since leaving Vancouver.   Once or twice I felt like putting on a little gloss and mascara.  It is to hot and humid.  It would just melt off.

What a wonderful trip we have had I can truly say the honeymoon is over.

Orang Utan

 

 

 

 

     

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