Sunday, July 1, 2012
We packed, then ate breakfast, one last meal with our new travel pals. We remembered to take some photos of the room, and then we were out the door by 7:30. Unlike our travel in, where we were on a riverboat for a couple hours headed up a sparsely populated river, we left in a van, immediately got onto a main road (it was literally 50 feet past our room, which was farthest from the river), and then drove through oil palm plantations from Lodge all the way to Lahad Datu. So the hotel did a fantastic job of making it seem like it was in the pristine rainforest, when in fact the river was basically a narrow "safe zone" for animals. Yahya had told us many times that Proboscis monkeys never went more than 1/2 mile from the river - now having seen the surroundings, we joked that they literally couldn't go more than 1/2 mile from the river. The whole setup reminded us of the M Night Syamalan movie "The Village," where for most of the movie you watch the ongoings of a small village in 1700-1800s time, only to find out (Spoiler Alert) that the village resides in a forest reserve in present times, and only the adults in the village know the truth - everyone under the age of 30 has no idea what is going on, and are none the wiser. We just hope the animals along the river have all they need in terms of food and cover.
In Lahad Datu, we were dropped off by the Kinabatangan Lodge folks, and walked into a very nice office for the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, where we were headed. The Borneo Rainforest Lodge, by all accounts, actually was in the middle of the jungle, so we were a bit surprised by how upscale their office was. The good part of that was that we saw we could pay with credit cards, which was good to know since there would certainly be no ATMs around. Isabello drove us from Lahad Datu to the Lodge, and we're assuming that, unbeknownst to us, he was setting the pace time for a race to occur later in the day. To say he was driving feverishly would be an understatement. He was doing fine, but the jerks in front of us who refused to let him pass did not - they didn't slow down for a monitor lizard in the middle of the road, and we watched in horror as the monitor lizard scuttled away after getting hit. Amazingly, it looked "okay" under the circumstances. We hoped we wouldn't see it in the same place in two days.
The drive was just under two hours (new record, Isabello?), and we were starting to feel unwell right at the end, so we got there just in time. The lodge was way fancier than we were expecting. It was nicer than some of the places in Botswana (which, to be fair, is a bit of apples and oranges because of this being a permanent structure, but still), and was on par with some of the Aman Resorts we'd seen. We walked seemingly forever to get to our room (17), but it was worth it. Somehow we ended up with some uber-deluxe room, with its own outdoor tub. It was definitely one of the nicest rooms we've stayed in. The only ones that jumped out as perhaps nicer were the Lidgbird Pavillion in Lord Howe, our place at the Banyan Tree in Bintan, and the various Amanresort rooms.
At the room we re-charged some stuff, since there were no plug adaptors at the Kinabatangan River Lodge. After getting some lunch, we came back to the room and figured out what needed to be washed. We went to the gift shop, and in addition to some souvenirs Crystal got some cold medicine. Presumably she caught a cold from Alit, who seemed like he was about to lose a lung the whole time we were in Bali. It wasn't like we were coming into contact with that many people. Before heading out in the afternoon, Justin walked around on a self-guided tour while Crystal read.
In preparation for our afternoon excursion, we got dressed for war with leeches - lots of layers, all sprayed with bug spray. We had contemplated getting "leech socks," but these were very hard to find in the US (go figure), and we weren't going to buy something for one time use. We'd read they really didn't like bug spray, so we all but doused our socks and shoes, figuring even if they ended up on our socks, they'd quickly drop off. On our hike, we went across a couple rope bridges (they bounced and swayed, but seemed very stable), then uphill just a bit, and like magic, there were 4 orangutans. It was 2 sets of mom and child. Unfortunately they were way up in the trees, so it was hard to see them with any particularity, but the coloration was unmistakable.
But then it started pouring, much like the day before - and once again we were soaked in no time at all. We walked in our theoretically rain proof jackets back to the lodge, ending the afternoon excursion prematurely. But at least we saw the orangutans first. Given the amount of room our jackets took up (not a ton, but a fair amount, since we had only 3 bags between the two of us), we may have been better off with plastic ponchos. Since we were soaked, we were ironically quite cold by the time we got back to the room, which didn't help Crystal's cold at all. So, in the opposite of Amanjiwo, Crystal went to bed while Justin went to the bar and had dinner. He came back once to see if Crystal wanted dinner, but she was totally out of it.
It had stopped raining, so they were having the planned "night drive," and Justin decided to go on that. There were seven people in the back of a truck, and there may not have been 7 animals total - at least visible ones. The good part was that the temperature was nice, and there was no rain. Ironically, the best sightings were just before returning to the lodge. Less than 50 feet from the lodge there were a couple of deer eating some shrubs.