Thursday, April 05, 2007

How not to get to Imbak Gorge...

... or I’ve been Noramlyed* again.

There’s a place in central Sabah called Imbak, a long valley of virgin forest hemmed in by high ridges on either side.

Dennis Yong, birder par excellence, flew in from Peninsular Malaysia to join me, my husband his student assistant, and some researchers from Sabah Parks. We set off in a hired 4WD. We stopped in Ranau to buy food for our stay.

And saw these women selling vegetables by the roadside. And what looked like a small bag of fried chicken. A closer look told us that what we were looking at was wild monkey meat. In particular, we discovered by questioning the sellers, Pig-tailed Macaque.

We took the photos, after which they said that if we were going to put the photos in a magazine, then could we sent them a copy? It evidently did not occur to them that there might have been something not quite, um, proper about about killing monkeys and selling the meat.

{Sidebar: On the way back, outside of Telupid, we stopped at a restaurant that said they had sop tulang (soup made with bones), but one of our party could read the Chinese on the menu. You could choose the kind of bones - crocodile, terrapin, frog ... or monkey. And the restaurant advertised itself as being halal. Needless to say, my understanding is that neither monkey nor frogs can be halal and I doubt that crocodile - as a predator - can be either. We ate at the next restaurant along.}

Then on to the town of Telupid, where we were to meet our guides from the Tampoi Camp, Imbak Conservation Area, which is run by the Sabah Foundation (Yayasan Sabah).

Now Telupid is not exactly a major tourist attraction, although it did have a travelling fun fair visiting (the Eye of Telupid, anyone?). It was closed during the day. Doubtless the night life was, well, fun – but then we had no intention of staying to find out. We were meeting our guides at lunchtime.

Their 4WD never arrived. Note the reason why in Photo 2 – no front wheel…

We had to go in search of them, and pick up one of the guides from alongside the road while the others were left to deal with tow trucks and repair shops. As a consequence, instead of heading off after an early lunch, we finally left Telupid at dusk. A whole afternoon whiled away in what had to be one of the dullest towns in Borneo, travelling funfair not withstanding.

The first part of the journey was down road through oil palm plantation, past that and into production forest. [The photos here were taken on the way back.] The drive during the night was a nightmare. The dust was horrible and coming the opposite way was one logging truck after another, noisy behemoths with blinding lights glaring at the front and drooping tails at the back where the giant logs sag over the end of the truckbed.

In the dust, it was hard to see the road…and such was the first couple of hours of the journey. Then we came to much more lonely roads – where it had been raining. So we went from dust to mud. And there was a river crossing and a river that was suspiciously higher than usual - and with a stronger current thatn in this photo. In the dark, remember.

In the end, out luck ran out and we ended up irretrievably bogged (next photo). We ended up not only hungry and tired, but very, very muddy too. My husband and I went on to our destination, arriving at 11pm to get help…the camp rangers went to rescue the stranded car, and our car and bags finally rolled into camp at 12.30 midnight. Once I had my bags, I could at last have a dipper bath (cold water piped in from a stream), eat dinner and tumble into bed under the mozzie net - in a room without outside walls at 2 a.m.

We had left home at 6 a.m. the previous day!!
And this was what we woke up to in the morning… The sound of Bornean Gibbons and the White-crowned Shama and Whiskered Tree-swifts, the sight of trees with their lofty crowns in the mist. We are in paradise.

*The kind of thing that inevitably happens to any member of the Noramly family when they travel


Sharyn said...

I am sitting here absolutely gobsmacked by this trip.

Anghara said...

Nuh-uh. You are in EDEN - primeval, and all that. Paradise would probably have to involve some kind of advanced plumbing arrangement...

Glenda Larke said...

Lol! At least ther were sit-down flush toilets...