Day 241: Hot Tub Time Machine

Thur. 11th April 2013

Hot tubs waiting for usBreakfast was a bit of a challenge this morning. First off, our legs seem to have stopped working after all their exertions over the past few days, so even getting from our room to the restaurant was hard going. Then there was the menu. Basically, this hotel is used to catering for locals and not westerners and so not only is the menu rice and noodle heavy (can’t be doing that for breakfast) but the scrambled eggs have been decimated and even the toast and butter are both sweet and the jam tastes of nothing other than sugar. The black coffee came with both milk and sugar and there was no orange juice – or indeed any juice other than watermelon (aka water). So I settled for an omelette and Janet for the sugar-rush toast.

Don't mess with me!Today would normally be a free day on this Intrepid tour based around Poring Hot Springs. Usually, we would be in a hotel opposite the Springs complex and would be able to come and go as we please. However, Intrepid have just changed hotels to the Damai Eco Ranch after receiving so many complaints about the previous hotel. It must be pretty bad as Damai is no 5 star resort – indeed, you know that you are going to get lots of bugs anywhere that has the word ‘Eco’ in their name. Anyway, from here we have to get a minibus to the Springs and so that limits the flexibility a little.

Lots to do herePoring Hot Springs are set within the Kinabalu National Park and so our climbing pass (to be turned into a fridge magnet on our return home) also gives us access to the complex – though some of the attractions have an additional charge. We are interested to compare the complex to Hanmer Springs in New Zealand and we hope there is a bit more to keep our interest here. There is more variety at any rate with a canopy walk, butterfly garden and waterfalls (amongst other attractions) along with the hot tubs filled with sulphur-stinky, naturally-heated water.

Who's a pretty boy then? An Agamid Lizard (we think)On the grounds that once we get into a hot tub, we might never get out, we decide that we should do the other things first and so head off for the canopy walk on our tired, stiff legs. Last night, during her briefing, Stacey did point out to us that the canopy of a forest was up nevertheless, even with that warning, our legs are not very happy about the 500m uphill path to the tree canopy. It is hot, humid and sweaty walking through the jungle. It is a reminder that Mt. Kinabalu would have been even tougher if we had started at sea level. On the plus side, I did spot this Agamid Lizard just clinging to a tree at a very convenient height and posing patiently for us. Very considerate.

Me Tarzan?Climbing up to the first platform at (well, near) the tree tops then we’re pleased to see exactly what we were expecting. Last time we went for a ‘canopy’ in Ecuador we were on zip lines. Here it was just narrow, swaying, bouncy walkways based upon aluminium ladders strung together with rope – so much less scary than a zip line!? At least the, similarly constructed, ‘Monkey Bridge’ in Mulu only had a shortish drop into a river, not a 50’ drop onto trees and rocks.

Looking out across the tree topsThey did at least provide fantastic views out over the tops of the trees and across the valley below. From here, the trees looked like Broccoli (ironic really, as the boys used to call Broccoli ‘little trees’). We walked from tree to tree, not dallying in the middle of the walkways. The last segment of the was the longest of all – it must have been something over 50m and so we kept our focus on our feet. One step at a time. Only when we got to the last platform and were taking the stairs down did we see the broken ladder sections on the ground. What is the preventative maintenance programme for these walkways, I wonder?

How deep dare I go?Next up is the waterfall or, to be precise, the nearer and smaller of the two waterfalls marked on the map. the farther one is some 3.5km away. Much too far for today’s sore and stiff legs. Its wonderfully cool by the falls with a breeze coming off the water combining with the spray to cool us down after the heat of our walk up to the canopy. We could go swimming but instead settle for a paddle and try for a few arty photos (that didn’t work out). There is also a free pedicure as the little fish come and nibble at the dead skin on my feet – really quite tickly and distracting.

Good of the butterflies to pose for usIn Ecuador, we visited a Butterfly Garden and weren’t overly impressed (though that is perhaps a little harsh given the quantity of butterflies and the fact you could get them to settle on your hand) so we were going to give the butterflies a miss here. As we met up with the others, they enthused about the Butterfly Garden and so we decided to give it a go. The entrance led through an exhibition area which was lined with butterflies pinned to display boards – the sizes, varieties and colours were all striking. The garden itself was enclosed and covered by high-sided, green plastic netting to keep the butterflies in (or predators out) and the butterflies were flying around within. Some just flitted from flower to flower but some, at least, landed long enough with wings outstretched to take a photo (or twenty!).

Pink HibiscusBy this time we were a little late and so we headed off to join the others for lunch in a restaurant just outside the park (cheaper and better food than those in the park). As usual, the food is really good, so I resist the temptation to go for Fish and Chips and instead join a couple of the others with the set meal of the day. A 6 course Chinese meal for just £3.50. Amazing value. And now the hot tub will need less water in it to fill it!

Lots of hot tubs to choose fromTime is ticking on. We’ve not tried the hot tub yet and the bus heads back to the hotel at 3pm. We also haven’t reckoned on the time required to fill the tub with hot water. The 2 person sized tubs are clustered in groups of 4. All you have to do is pick an empty one, put the plug in, turn the taps on and wait. And wait. And wait. Not the biggest flow of water but we get there eventually and with just a trickle of cold water the tub was just right. Hot enough that you need to ease into it but OK once you are used to it. It was great just to sit in, lie back and stretch out our legs and let the hot water ease our muscles.

Communal area at Damai Eco RanchBack at the hotel, everyone clusters in the communal area to chatter away about the day and swap yet more stories of yesterday’s climb. We sit chatting and joking into the evening. We have found that in these more basic hotels with their small(er) bedrooms, people congregate in a communal area to talk. In the plusher hotels with their comfy rooms people hide away and whilst the hotel might be bigger and have more people they are much more impersonal and less friendly.

[Editor’s note: We have used song titles for our blog posts before so I saw no reason not to use a movie title today – even if it’s not a very good movie. Borneo has been pretty full on and the last few days in particular have been tiring. Today has been much more relaxing. Perhaps there was no time machine in the hot tub but we did feel that, for a little while, the clock had stopped.]

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