We went to Mamutik island (off Kota Kinabalu) on Sunday and it was so pretty, with sand like a Caribbean beach! We spent the day swimming, sunbathing and eating before heading back and going out for dinner all together for our last night in the capital. Our coach picked us up nice and early on the Monday and we headed back to Camp Tinangol for a last couple of days on the construction site. On Wednesday we had a 7 hour bus journey to Batu Puteh on the Kinabatangan river. We were then put into pairs and driven to our homestay where we have stayed the past 5 days. I was paired with another member of the group who wasn't a particular friend beforehand but it worked out really well and I now hope to catch up with her in Sydney. The family I stayed with were lovely and made a big effort to speak English and to try to teach Claire and I some Malay! They had 3 children but also have a friends family with 6 children who live downstairs and they were running around too. The 2 year old daughter is so cute and always wanted to sit on my knee. I had my phone out one evening and they wanted to look through all of my photos but they didn't recognise me from a photo taken at my graduation ball! I think its because I am such a sweaty mess here!!
All of the food that they cooked us was traditional and really tasty. We had to eat with our hands because that is how they eat but we got used to it quickly. The toilet and shower were in the same style as our last camp and, although they used the collected rainwater, I felt clean after using them.
It rained throughout Thursday so we got very wet but it was still so hot and humid. We woke at 5am for our early wildlife boat trip and saw a few monkeys but no orang utans or elephants :( Then we had a briefing about the problem of deforestation in the area and went on a trek through the jungle. We didn't see any animals but the guides showed us special medicinal trees and we had the pleasure of experiencing leeches. I only had one on my hood but everyone who wore shorts got a few attached to their legs. On Friday we had a lie in until 7am (my sleeping patterns are very different to when I am at home) and had breakfast with the family before heading to the tree nursery where we helped to germinate bongkul trees. That afternoon we took a boat down the river to our overnight jungle stay. We had a demonstration on how to set up our hammocks and then had to choose two trees and set our own up. It started to pour half way through so we were soaked and it looked like a swamp where we were camping because the ground couldn't take any more water! After dinner the rain died down and we chatted for a bit but went into our hammocks early. Luckily they had mosquito nets and a tarpaulin attched although I have still been bitten to death over the past week. I have them EVERYWHERE and have just resigned myself to constant itching for the next 4 months. The hammocks were quite comfy and the whole stay was a really fun thing to do but a lot harder than I thought it would be.
The next morning we woke, had breakfast and then walked to a part of the jungle that had been ruined in a fire and was growing too many weeds and vines that would eventually destroy the remaining trees. We spent the morning clearing the area with machetes (im not sure my travel insurance covers that). In the afternoon we planted 150 trees there. The trees that we germinated on Friday will be planted in the jungle in 6 months by other volunteers.
We then went on another river cruise in the early evening to look for crocodiles and the other boat saw one but it had gone under the water by the time we got there. My friend assures me though that she saw about 20 on the trip that she went on in Cairns so I will eventually see some!
Yesterday we went to the Sandakan POW memorial and Puh Jih Syh Chinese Buddhist Temple in the morning. The memorial was very interesting because I didn't know much beforehand about the Japanese influence in world war II. The temple was on a 100m hilltop with a panoramic view of Sandakan bay so we got lots of pictures. In the afternoon we travelled to Sepilok orang-utan sanctuary which was amazing! We all had to keep quiet as we watched then which made it really intense. My binoculars proved really usefull too because lots of the food put on the feeding station was eaten by the pigtail monkeys and so some of the orang-utans stayed further back. I asked the guide if any if the orang-utans we saw were named Ceria (the orang-utan that nanny adopts) but he said it must have been elsewhere at the time.
In the evening we had a final dinner with our families and they lent us traditional clothes to wear for our farewell party where the locals put on a dance and a martial arts performance. It was sad to leave my host family this morning but I am looking forward to the next camp!
Lots of love xxx