What time is it? To be honest, I’m still not sure. I don’t cope with jet lag very well. Chris and I left London on Monday morning, and 15 hours of flying later (which seemed like no time at all, and during which I only had one panic attack – before even getting on the plane – and one armrest grabbing incident) we arrived in Kota Kinabalu. By then it was Tuesday morning. In a semi comatose state we just about managed to get checked into our hotel and up to the room before collapsing into bed. Just a couple of hours, we told ourselves, to refresh and take the edge off.
Some four hours and three ignored alarms later, we finally woke up. Fail. When I started writing this post on Thursday morning and I had just about slept through the night. In two hour chunks, and with the aid of a little nytol. Oh, and waking up at 4am for a snack. So yeah, I don’t deal well with jet lag.
KK itself is a narrow a cluster of crumbly-looking shopping malls, ad hoc market stalls, high rise hotels and resorts, and building sites in various stages of completion sandwiched awkwardly between the gloriously blue South China Sea and the rich green foothills of Mount Kinabalu national park. We’re starting our trip here with a few days of relaxing (getting over the jet lag) and setting up some more adventurous activities for the coming weeks.
Luckily the Tunkut Abdul Ramen National Park – a string of tropical islands off the coast from the city – perfectly suited the relaxation requirement. We hopped on a small motor launch bound for Pulau Manukan, in the south of the archipelago, and twenty bumpy minutes later we arrived here.
I was suitably pleased that my meagre smattering of Malay – a mumbled terima kasih (thank you) as we disembarked – prompted a broad grin from our otherwise dour boat captain, who then asked whether I spoke the language.
The main beach of Manukan is a narrow sweep of coral white sand fringed with palm trees that gradually give way to dense, hilly jungle. The main activity appears to be snorkelling, which by the locals is undertaken in a full wetsuit and rash vest with flippers and a buoyancy aid. Which seems excessive for wading around in three feet of bath-warm water, but I am not the world’s greatest snorkellist so who am I to judge. We decided to earn our dip in the sea, and a cheap nasi goreng (fried rice) lunch, by tackling one of the island’s walking trails, a narrow path that winds its way up through the jungle along the top of the ridge of hills in the centre.
The dense forest blocks out most of the fierce sunlight from overhead, but the occasional warm patches across the path were popular sunbathing spots for lizards, both small and alarmingly large. For acclimatising to heat and humidity there is nothing quite like a rainforest walk, as the atmosphere is an order of magnitude more oppressive under the dense vegetation than out in the open. Within a short period of time we were both drowning in sweat, and looking forward to a swim.This charmer is called rattan – you may have heard of it as the stuff that conservatory chairs are made of – but to the British Army in the tropics it became known as the ‘Bastard Tree’. Jungles are generally soggy underfoot, and the unexpected elevation changes can cause even the most sure-footed to slip. You grab a branch to break your fall, only to receive a handful of long, wickedly sharp spines. Hence, bastard tree.
Our walk completed, we made a beeline for lunch and a dip in the South China sea.
I’m already preparing the next batch of photographs (and video!) for future travel posts, and also have a couple of crafty pieces in the works. So ciao for now, until the next time I manage to get my laptop to connect to this dodgy hotel wifi.