I really wanted to go to the Danum Valley Area to see some more wildlife, and get deep into the Bornean Jungle before I left, and to have a chance to see Bornean Pygmy Elephants, but there's only two places to stay in the ares - one of them being a 5* resort, with prices to match and the other, the Danum Valley Field Centre, for researchers, being fully booked by all accounts. However, i was determined to go, so decided to go off on a little adventure to see if I could make my way into the valley somehow. All the buses to the Valley Area go from Lahad Datu, so I got an early morning bus from Sandakan, and arrived in Lahad Datu at about 9am. Loaded up with my now 20kg bag ( I haven't bought anything, so don't know where the extra 4 kg has come from!), I tried to find a taxi to the Field Centre, but couldnt, and noone seemed to speak a word of English, they didn't even understand 'taxi' when the malay is 'teksi'! There wasn't another white person in the while town, and people were staring and laughing and prodding me. One guy even brought his young daughter up to me to point and show her 'the white girl'! Was very surreal, and I was about at the end of my tether when I found a taxi! I had to wait until 4pm to get a minivan to the centre, and met George, a kiwi girl and Madeleine and John, a couple from Surrey who had all arrived with the same idea as me - stubborn determination to get to the valley outweighing any sensible concerns about where we might stay! But we all felt a bit better once we had a little group of us! We bounced along the dirt track for 81km/3 hours until we reached the centre. We spend most of th journey spotting elephant dung, and then, as it got dark, fireflies. The view was stunning tho - the clouds were down in the valley, and we were just in acres and acres of primary rainforest - although we saw huge numbers of logging lorries throughout our visit ; they claim that it's sustainable logging, but there is no way its sustainable the number of trees we saw leaving each day - is very sad.
We arrived at the hostel, which far from being fully booked, was completely empty. there was noone around at all, and so we had 2 48bed dorms to ourselves. Was like being on a school trip, was great fun! Me & George had decided to self cater, and had bought a few last minute supplies, so once we'd settled in, we headed to the kitchen to cook our delicious meal of 2 minute noodles, processed cheese and a strange can of black beans in coconut and sugar sauce. The kitchen was filthy - covered in mouse/rat droppings, cockroaches, thousands of ants, and very few pots/pans. We managed, tho having to use a knife and a brick as our can opener, but was fun! After a night cap of rum and coke kindly supplied by John, we headed to our bunks.
THe rain hamered down in the night, and we woke up to a very muddy rainforest. We decided, after a delicious breakfast of poached yolks (we lost the whites!) beans, toast and a sprinkling of mouse droppings and pan bottom, to go for a trek to the canopy observation tower. We headed off through deep muddy trenches, across streams, and up and down banks. After a couple of hours we reached the canopy tower. It was in fact a 60m high tree with a ladder up it. Just a ladder, nothing else. Even looking up at it terrified me, and I didn't even consider climbing it - it looked insanely dangerous! However George the fearless, and then later, John the not so fearless but not terrified like me and Madeleine, climbed up the ladder. They're insane! I decided to climb a few rungs just to see how it felt, but it wobbled all over the place so I quickly climbed back down. I gave it another go, and got a bit higher this time, about 3 m off the ground, but again came back down - it was terrifying, even at that height! After a few minutes contemplation tho, I remembered my promise to myself before I left, not to let fear stop me doing anything, and so, with a new stubborn determination and the encouragement of Rudy, a Malay guide we'd found along the way, I started to climb. I honestly have never been more terrified in my life. It's a vertical ladder, over 40m high into the canopy, with nothing to stop you falling, or to catch you if you fall. I was shaking with fear all the way up, dripping in sweat and hating every moment of it. It was just sheer terror! The view at the top was nice, but nothing more, and I couldn't even feel relieved knowing that I had to get back down again! The lcimb own was even more terrifying, and I just stared at the lichen covered trunk, not daring to look down or even around! As the people on the ground saw me, they started singing 'she'll be coming down the tree when she comes' and later, 'tree falling' to the tune of tom petty's free falling - NOT FUNNY! I made it down safely anyway - god knows how, and was glad that I rose to the challenge - hated every second, but I did it!
We trekked for the rest of the day, and saw lots more elephant dung and got very excited, but didnt see any, though we did see an amazing fluorescent green vine snake and a Black Bornean Gibbon which was cool!
The next day we had planned a tour to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge - the 5 star resort. We were given a driver and a truck, but due to the complete lack of organisation of the field centre, no guide! We made our own way around - and trekked up this huuuuge hill to 107m high, and looked down over the canopy - the view was amazing, but the walk nearly killed me! We went for a few drives around in the trailer of our truck, and saw wild orangs up in the tops of the trees, which was amazing! George and I made tuna sandwiches sat at a table in the posh restaurant while Madeleine and John had a posh meal - but stole us some fruit!! After lunch we went to the canopy walk which is a15-20minute walk across rope bridges about 50m high in the canopy - there were a couple of rather long ladders involved which normally I'd have been nervous on, but I think any fear I ever had of ladders has been well and truly conquered! We saw a troop of maroon leaf monkeys swinging through the trees, which apart from the Western Tarsier completes my sightings of Bornean Primates! Was a gloriously sunny day, and we had a fantastic time. We drove back at dusk in the hope of spotting some of the elusive pygmy elephants, and we saw fresh tracks and smelt and heard them , but disappointingly, no sightings! George and I rode half way back to the field centre in the trailer of the truck which was fun, and listened to all the crazy noises of the jungle at night.
The next day we headed back to Lahad Datu back down the extremely bumpy muddy road, saw a logging lorry that had slipped off the road into the river, and hundreds more that hadn't - it's crazy how many trees leave the rainforest each day. We got back to Lahad Datu and I went to the airport and booked a flight on a two propellor tiny jet plane to Kota Kinabalu to catch my flight to Bangkok.
After a 40 minute flight I landed in KK, and checked into a really nice hostel in the centre of town, for only 20RM a night - you can tell we're not in Sepilok now! I went for a wander along the seafront to the filipino handicraft market which was cool and thenight market was huge - hundreds of stalls selling fruit and fish and noodles - it was buzzing! I sat on the harbour eating some mangustines (A strange purple fruit with sweet sour seeds - I love it!) and rambutan watching the sun go down, and now am about to have an early night ready for my 48 hours travelling to get to Koh Tao where I'm working at the clinic!