Friday, December 28, 2012

That line in the middle of the Earth: Borneo

Brace yourself for an epic tale of adventure.

Sabah, Malaysia...(cue: tropical bird squaking and bongos...) aka the north lands on the island of Borneo. Beaches, mountains, monkeys...mosquitos...some cliché expectations stirring? A huge island quite close to the we had informed several unaware locals there. I was quite excited to trek through the oldest rainforest in the world...and have an insane jungle adventure.

Panic. Yes. Panic and uncontrollable chatter filled my head as and I saw the jagged mountain summit peeking through the clouds....getting closer and closer as the bumpy, jungle roads twisted up towards Kinabalu National Park. Against my natural instincts, we were also chugging up on the left side of the road full speed ahead. For months, I'd gotten ready for this...packed...trained...but the day had come! 4,000 plus meters of thin air and rock were minutes away!

As optimistic as I was, approaching a rainy park headquarters, was actually a foreshadow of the downpours to accompany us the ENTIRE climb. It took 6 1/2 hours to ascend to the Pendant Hut where we would rest up and prepare for the remaining 3 km to the summit. Did I mention how thin the air was this high up? Did I mention I climbed over 2,300 wooden steps and climbed rocks in a washed out river bed (which later turned back into an actual river on the descent...)?

Step...breath...step...breath. Waterfalls caught our attention as we neared the top...The stilted, wood paneled hut was a sight for sore eyes considering we were drenched and exhausted...yet as the night went on, and the temperature dropped to about 30 degrees F, served only as four walls from torrents of rain and gusty alpine climate. Met some fun characters as the night rolled on...and curled up in a nice warm sleeping bag to grab a blink of sleep before the ceiling above us shook at 2 am with our mountain guides stomping us awake.

My freezing, wet shoes waited for me as we prepared to climb three more hours up to the summit and hop onto the Via Ferrata for some rope fun. FREEZE! Yes, I mean stop...and literally freeze...With headlamps and ponchos, we kept trekking up as all other groups were turning around...the wind picked up...the rain blew harder...a small river started hogging the path up...we had to turn back. After bickering back and forth about the crap decision that had to be made, we figured that 3 more hours of this would be torture to find a closed Via ferrata.

Back to the hut...shivers and all...waiting for 7 am for sunlight to aid in the descent down the mountain. I stuck boiling water in my water bottle to sleep with and keep warm. Sunrise slugged through the fog. Sooo.... under two jackets, and two ponchos I was still soaked to the bone headed down the flooded trail. My only aim...get to the bottom. Just a note, if you attempt Mt. Kinabalu request Friendy (with no L) for your mountain guide. He was great. Also, don't do the climb during rainy season. Which, being a rainforest is most of the year...

If you think this account was a bad experience...think again. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! I found myself laughing most of the time. The Borneo jungle was amazing! Tree frogs, foot long-red leaches...people from every country trekking up with you...Epic. Epic. Epic fun! No, that wasn't a stutter.

Another adventure worth sharing is white water rafting! Kiulu River wasn't quite the ferocious river I was anticipating, but still met some great people and had some laughs paddling. I wondered, only people in our boat were falling out as we hit rocks head on....our guide was an idiot. haha. So were the Asians that kept splashing parasitic water all over us. We got them back...and paddled away as our guide fell out of the raft. Need I mention, a raft full of young American girls obviously calls for obnoxious male attention...

I was quite intreagued in the main shopping center in Kota Kinabalu when I saw an "Ear candle" sign. This was by far the funkiest thing my body has felt. A burning tube in each ear for about fifteen minutes managed to suck out about a 1/2 inch of ear gunk. GROSS! I know...but it brought on uncontrollable laughter from my part (and my partner in crime Melissa). The mute man and his son that did it for us served as even more ironic laughter.

Christmas day was spent island hopping to Sapi and Manutuk Islands. Sunny, beautiful, relaxing. The water was more green than I'd ever seen. The snorkeling, after finding the right places on the reef were beyond words. At one point I was floating in the middle of a school of tropical fish-clown fish, angel fish, parrot fish...I floated there amazed at how much effort must have gone into creating each one of those fish. God creates beautiful things for us to see...not to mention things to laugh at...considering I got bit twice by this obnoxious spotted fish protecting his "lawn".

I was pretty ecstatic when I found that the entire country, being mainly Muslim, eats no I definitely tried chicken and beef in every new form possible. From Indian, to Malay, to Christmas Eve room service...the food in Sabah rather mediocre. Jungle BBQ after white water rafting served the best meat ever! The fruit was amazing! Mangosteen (exploding looking plums...) and spikey green and pink Rahmutan (spelling?) are by far my new favorites. I still gag at Durian. Sorry...not happening people.

 I tried my hardest...but despite my efforts, suffered almost-dysentery for about 30 hours at the close of the trip...

Sunsets were by far the most spectacular sight I had while in Borneo....every night an explosion of colors overtook the skies to the west over the ocean... reds, purples, and oranges...along with the company of puffy clouds reflecting the sky's fiery colors. Breathtaking.

The weather was fantastic from Christmas Eve until we left tan proves the nice weather! I wish the climb would have been the same...oooh well.

So…Christmas in Borneo. If you are still reading, wow...thanks family. Ha. Not the traditional holiday I have taken part in for the past 24 years. It was a great change. So now, on the way back to Taiwan and back to normal life…I’m glad to escape the cat calling of creepy locals…but I loved every minute (well, give or take a few…) of this trip. The language is fascinating. The weather amazing, the people helpful…the wild life out of the ordinary (like the well know Probiscus, long nosed monkey…) One’s comfort zone needs to be thrown out once in a while. Plus our stay at Sutera Harbor Resort helped recuperate at the end of our hike…ha.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ni Hao Taiwan

Well, after an entire year I've decided to start updating this thing again....Let's see, well...I'm living in Taipei the capitol city of Taiwan...teaching first grade at an international adv. school. ADVENTURE! Though I don't have the beautiful waters of Saipan in my backyard anymore...and I miss paddle boarding terribly...there is a new's called riding a scooter downtown. NO...more like surviving a scooter ride....between dodging buses, other scooters, and taxi's....woo. Try imagining Rome traffic...and double it... by about 8. That's Taipei scootering. And every street looks the exact same..they say it gets

Anyways! My apartment couldn't be any more perfect...I have a ridiculous view over the entire city, and on Yang Min Shan you're just far enough to get away from the noise...The mountains surround the entire city, so it's like being in a bowl of green mountain in particular called "Sleeping Buddha" silhouettes beautifully as the sun sinks behind it every evening...that is if it's not typhooning We have a traditional tea room it's pretty cool to eat on the floor within bamboo and rice paper walls...

My classroom is finished! School starts on I'm ready! The people here could be any nicer (besides in traffic...) and we've been fed and carted around everywhere, it's been so nice! Going to the Taiwanese grocery store was a bit of culture shock last week...I've never played grocery charades before...the only way you can tell what your buying is by the picture.

My suitcases are slowly being unpacked...there are no fist-big cockroaches to battle at night here, so I sleep quite soundly...until the garbage truck comes in our gate blasting some creepy ice cream truck song...yes...the trash pick up must be announced. Not to mention Taiwanese are uber into recyling EVERYTHING. So I literally have 4 trashcans in my kitchen...WHICH is interesting enough, and it doesn't have an oven! Sigh...not many people bake here. They are into...ya know the usual...stinky tongues...chicken feet...mmm! I honestly had no idea duck's had tongues...

Hopefully planning on going to the beach soon...since it's the lunar calendar "ghost month", I just learned, the beaches are quite empty. The traditional people here basically avoid life this month due to spirits being unleashed from hell for a few weeks to try and attempt to switch bodies with a living that leaves out swimming, driving, and flying for them...AND they can't buy anything new because it may just have bad spirits hiding in them as well...stressful we though Halloween was bad!

But all in all, this place is great...God is good. I miss my family, both at home and around the world...but this is settling in nicely :) more to come...Wan an.