Man, I’m comatose this evening!
I am writing this from the outdoor common area at the Sepilok B&B
in Sepilok, a small town outside of the Malaysian city of Sandakan
home to the Sepilok Rehabilitation Center
, a nature reserve and rehabilitation center for orangutans
. I’ve had some long days on my nearly 9 month trip, but this matches any of those days to date. We have been going virtually non-stop since shortly before 2 this morning!
We began our trek to Low’s Peak, the summit of Mount Kinabalu
, at around 3 a.m., among the last to join what was already a procession of what must have been 200 tourists en route to the summit. Compared to yesterday’s 6 kilometer slog up to the hut complex at Laban Rata, this morning’s 3 kilometer walk to the top of Low’s Peak proved to be much easier from a slog factor vantage point, but technically hairier. For a good portion of the hike, we ascended up a rock face using a rope as guidance and for support along the more steep rock faces. It would have likely been possible to do the hike without the ropes, but certainly not in the pre-dawn hours and only at a much slower pace.
Arriving at the summit around 45 minutes before sunrise, we staked out a piece of rock about 7 meters below the summit and sat and waited for the sunrise. It was cold up there - not cold like I had experienced in the early morning hours at Lenana Point on Mount Kenya
or Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro
, but cold enough to be uncomfortable and to make me glad I did not send home my goretex jacket, warm pants and gloves. Dawn on the summit offered a scenic vista of the surrounding areas of Borneo
, but the views offered did not make us want to linger there. Moments later, we were en route down the mountain.
We descended the 10 kilometers down Mount Kinabalu
quickly, stopping briefly at the hut complex at Laban Rata to pick up our bags and eat breakfast, before continuing on to the trailhead. Within 45 minutes of reaching the trailhead, we had changed, picked up our bags and were already waiting at the bus stop outside Kinabalu National Park
. As luck would have it, within 2 minutes of our arrival at the bus stand, a bus heading to Sandakan
through Sepilok stopped here, and we were off. Impeccable timing!
The scenery on the 3 hour bus ride to Sepilok was largely unremarkable, as we merely drove through palm tree plantations from where palm oil
is extracted. It seemed to be a never-ending array of palm oil
plantations, simply one after the other. Perhaps not surprising, given that Malaysia
allegedly collectively produce around 90% of the world's palm oil
A large portion of Sabah
’s jungles and forests have been cleared, with much of the remaining natural forest having been accorded protected status. We passed mostly small villages of stilted houses on the drive, largely Muslim
. While the areas we drove through did not appear as prosperous as KK
and its surrounding environs, with many ramshackle and dilapidated homes dotting the landscape, abject poverty I have seen elsewhere in much of mainland Asia proved noticeably absent.
Our bus dropped us off along the highway next to the exit for Sepilok, and within seconds of our arrival, a cab pulled up to take us to the Sepilok B&B
several kilometers down the road. Tomorrow morning we are going to the Sepilok Rehabilitation Center
to check out the orangutans
As we are en route the Kinabatangan River
’s longest river and home to much of Borneo
’s endemic wildlife, and coming to Sepilok involved only a short detour, we opted to make a stop here en route so we can check out the orangutans
For a cost of the equivalent of US$17, the Sepilok B&B
is quite good value. There is free WiFi here, a nice outdoor area with couches and tables and simple but adequate rooms with attached bathrooms. Our room lacks air-conditioning but has a ceiling fan. Given the lack of air conditioning, we have a strong incentive to hang out here in the common area until we are ready to go to sleep. It's a lot more comfortable out here!
Tomorrow we have a busy schedule. The feeding of the orangutans
at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Center
takes place 2 times daily: at 10 a.m. and at 4 p.m. We are going to observe the orangutans
there in the morning. At around 1 in the afternoon, a car from the guesthouse along the Kinabatangan River
where we have a reservation tomorrow night comes to pick us up for the 1½ hour drive to to get there. A tight schedule perhaps, but probably doable.
Since we arrived in Sabah
, we have managed to pack quite a bit of activities into a short time frame with few logistical issues. I hope our string of luck continues...