Day 228: I Wanna Be Like You Hoo Hoo

Fri. 29th March 2013

[Yes, the music for today’s post is ‘I wanna be like you’ from the film The Jungle Book]

Just hanging around!The last time we slept in a dormitory was in hammocks in a big open barn in the Pantanal in Brazil. This experience was quite a bit more civilised. Not only were we on proper beds (and only 4 beds to a room) but there were also far fewer bugs and creepy crawlies around. It wasn’t too hot either and so we had a pretty reasonable nights sleep and only a few bites to show for it. Our stand-out worst breakfast of the trip (so far!) was also at Pantanal and here the Park canteen only just cleared that barrier. We also needed to keep an eye out for the macaques who would have your breakfast if you gave them a quarter of a chance.

Definitely a HornseyWhilst we were waiting for the boats to take us back to the park entrance, the cry went up that the Proboscis Monkeys were back. They were in trees a bit closer than yesterday and there was the added bonus of blue skies in the background. These really are striking creatures and this is the only place in the world to see them. Once again, we have been very fortunate and privileged to be able to see them.

Apparently, I need to stick to thicker branches nowAfter spending some time watching them, I came to the conclusion that they might be good climbers and have good balance as you might expect but they really are clumsy and they do have very little common sense. Yesterday, we watched them try and use the telegraph wires to help bridge a gap in the trees over a path and they just seemed to get tangled up. Today we watched as they climbed out along thinner and thinner branches in search of leaves until suddenly the branch gave way. Periodically we would hear a snapping sound followed by the rustle of something heavy falling down through leaves. Perhaps they are the animal world’s comedy gold!

Boats all ready to take the next set of tourists to Bako NPIt was also good to have sunshine for our boat transfer back. The river and the boats all looked more appealing than with yesterday’s grey skies. As an extra bonus, our hotel rooms were ready for us when we got back to Kuching in mid-morning. Strangely, the Borneo Hotel doesn’t seem to be very busy – from the reviews on TripAdvisor, I’m not entirely surprised.

Today is our last best chance to get provisions and kit before our 4 days of trekking in Mulu National Park. We need to carry all of 4 days clothes and 1 day’s water on the first and last day of trekking and so we decided that we need a bigger day pack. Fortunately, not only is there a good outdoor shop in Kuching, but it has a sale on – so I’m able to tell Janet that we saved some money!

I'll go bananas for these!Our prime reason for coming to Borneo was to see the wildlife and, in particular, the orang-utans. So, we really are quite excited about our trip this afternoon to Semengoh Wildlife Centre. This is a rehabilitation centre for orphaned or abandoned orang-utans and the intention is that they are taught the jungle survival skills that they didn’t have the opportunity to learn from their mother. (We also find out that orang is the Malay word for ‘person’ and (h)utan is ‘jungle – so orang-utan means ‘jungle person’).

Feeding stationWhatever, our expectations as to what we would see were really quite low. Whilst we are going at feeding time, there is a lot of jungle and the orang-utans will only appear if they want to. If they have found lots of food elsewhere, they won’t bother coming to the feeding stations. I think that even if we had only caught a glimpse of them through the trees we would have thought it a worthwhile visit.

Can I get a banana while Ritchie isn't looking?What we saw was completely beyond our wildest expectations. The first feeding station is just down the hill from the car park near to the park entrance. There, on a wooden platform, was Ritchie, the alpha-male of the 23 orang-utans in the centre. He had installed himself (the only word to use) by a big pile of bananas which he was happily working his way through with the help of a smaller (female?). Ritchie is huge, like a sumo wrestler with extra long arms and legs. You don’t mess with Ritchie – he has been known to chase wardens and visitors if he is in a bad mood.

So long and thanks for all the bananasLike a sumo wrestler, though, there is a sense of grace with the power. Whilst, I thought the Proboscis monkeys were clumsy, there is no way that I would say that about the orang-utans. When we had finished gawping at Ritchie and his friend, we walked along a short track through the jungle to another feeding station. Here, on trees and ropes around another platform were what we first thought to be 3 orang-utans of various sizes. When we looked more closely, we saw that what we first took to be a lump on the back of one, was in fact a baby orang-utan clinging on to his mum.

Baby clinging on tightlyThey were literally just hanging around and would come down a tree or a rope whenever they felt like having another banana. They are incredible creatures. Clearly so at home in the jungle. Able to use hands and feet pretty much interchangeably to support themselves or feed themselves or to climb without any apparent effort. At one point two of them climbed up a slender tree and then started it swinging to and fro until they could transfer on to another tree. Astonishing. I just keep coming back to the song from the Jungle Book:

Now, I’m the king of the swingers, A jungle VIP.
I’ve reached the top, and had to stop.
And that’s what’s bothering me.

Oh, Doo Bee Doo, I wanna be like you hoo hoo…

And it pretty much wasNeedless to say we were buzzing when we got back to the hotel. Yet another highlight and some more unforgettable memories. Malaysia, like Indonesia, is just full of surprises. One of them is that in this nominally Muslim country Good Friday is a public holiday. It did mean a few shops were shut, but more importantly it seems that everyone takes it as an opportunity to go out for the evening. We had a group meal out at TopSpot which I can only describe as a food court on top of a car park (sort of like the Victoria Night Market back in Melboure, but with only Chinese / Malaysian food).

Good nosh!Essentially, it is a car park sized area full of (plastic) tables and chairs and ringed with food stalls. The place was busy when we arrived and there was a queue for tables by the time we left. Many of the stalls specialised in seafood and there was all sorts on display – huge prawns, and fish in all shapes and sizes. As in the UK, the best policy seemed to be form a group of 3 or 4 and then order a few things off the menu and share them around. Amongst other things, we went for the crab and it duly arrived complete with hammer in order to to break open the legs and claws. Janet got a bit carried away bashing a crab leg and cracked the plastic plate. Oops! Still it was all really tasty.

Don't use a hammer on the crab with a plastic plate!All day, I’ve had that Jungle Book song running around my head. Its been a long time since I’ve seen the film, but in my memory it is so appropriate for the day. In doing some fact checking on the Internet for this post, we have just found that Kenny Ball sadly died on 7th March, so it is perhaps appropriate that this post is in his memory and particularly for one song that just seemed to sum up today…

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