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Saturday, 01 September 2007

The Wild Island of Borneo - Page 2

Written by Sherry Ott
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Borneo…maybe you’ve heard of it - but do you even know where it is? I’m sure that if I gave you a globe you’d all have trouble putting your finger on it. What if I told you that it is the world’s third largest island…and it contains three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. At one time it was a wild place inhabited by headhunters, but it’s now a lush island in the Pacific near New Guinea and the Philippines. My curiosity with Borneo started about seven years ago when I was living in San Francisco. I was up late one night watching television. I came across the show “Eco-Challenge.” It was an adventure race that was shown on cable (before the craze of reality TV).


Russ and I were dwarfed at our big table for six, but we spread out and looked at the menu. The menu was all family style, with two portion sizes, small (feeds 4 to 8) and large (feeds 8 to 12). We looked at each other and kind of panicked. Russ was a guy that could put away a lot of food - but a rice serving for 6 people even seemed a lot for him! There were tons of wait staff mulling around us - most likely amused by the Caucasian couple trying to figure out what/how to order. They had little earpieces - most likely getting information from the kitchen or hostess. I imagined that there was a big warning going through their ears at that moment…”Code White, Code White! Caucasian couple at table 54 - they look confused and about ready to bail - someone go assist them ASAP!”


Sure enough, an older Chinese woman came over and asked, “Do you need some help?” We both said a relieved “YES” This lovely lady led us over to the fish tanks and helped us pick out a grouper for two…perfect. Then she let us order some individual sized bowls of soup and rice and we were saved! The meal was fabulous. We were surrounded by boisterous Asian families celebrating Chinese New Year – what a great way to ring in the year of the Pig!


Russ and I had worked with a local Borneo travel agent to plan our activities back in December. We were both rather busy and couldn’t seem to get to it ourselves. The travel agency put together a good itinerary; at least it seemed like it at the time. I guess I overlooked exactly how much time we were spending on the road to get to these various destinations. Suffice it to say - we had ample opportunity to see the countryside as many days we were in the car commuting longer than the activity itself.


trainWe decided to go white water rafting on the Padas River. We had both gone white water rafting before and were looking forward to some good rapids. We seemed to overlook the timetable that laid out our day…2 hour bus ride, 1 hour train ride, 1 1/2 hours rafting, 1 hour train ride, 2 hour bus ride back to hotel…oops…I guess I should have read the fine print better!

Our driver picked us up 15 minutes early, which made us miss our free breakfast at our hotel. Now there are two things that I hate. I hate missing breakfast, and I really hate missing a free breakfast. I grabbed a bag of trail mix that I had in the hotel room figuring that I could eat it on the bus instead. The guide put us on a tour bus with virtually no information exchanged besides ‘hellos’ - no one really told us what to expect, what to bring, or where we were going.


After an hour of driving and me fuming about not having breakfast - I decided to eat my trail-mix. I got it out and was about to open it when I noticed that ants were crawling all over inside of it. They were in ant sugar heaven…I was in a sick hell. After another hour of bus driving, we arrived at a train station in which they once again told us nothing but we simply followed the crowd out to the train tracks.


We waited around for a train and after about 15 minutes in the hot sun a single rail car pulled up. We all piled on to this old, dilapidated train car like sardines. Luckily Russ (being a good 5 inches taller than everyone else) got on quickly and got us a seat. We then set off for another hour and finally got out and followed our guides - for the first time in 3 hours, they actually told us what we were to do, leave our stuff here since this was our ending point. We hopped back on the train slathered on sunscreen and went to the beginning of the river rapids.


(Page 2 of 8)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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