To the Tip of Borneo

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So we decided the best way to get around for a couple days would be to rent a car.  Unfortunately, renting a car isn’t cheap here.  When you’re trying to budget 180RM per day and the car costs you 130RM (which we haggled for) it looks like we are saying saiya nara to our budget once again. 

Our destination: The Tip of Borneo, Kudat. 

We were originally supposed to join team Malta there but Kristi was really sick with (what we didn’t know at the time) dengue fever.  So now we are off on our own adventure to do almost the same thing.  We had been warned that everyone says 2 hours but it takes closer to 5 hours.  Well they are all wrong… we did it in 3 hours. 

Driving here… what an experience.  Being Canadian, we drive on the right side of the road so this is unique to me.  Everything in the car is backwards.  Whenever I would go to change lanes I would turn on my wipers;  when I wanted to check my rearview mirror, I would glance out my driver window; when I went in reverse, I would look over the wrong shoulder.  Then there are all kinds of new things to watch out for.  Drivers here don’t really drive in their lane consistently, roads are very narrow in the most awkward places and street dogs dart out at random.  To add to the mix, you have to watch out for goats, cows and missing sections of road where it apparently just sinks off the cliff.  This I can deal with.  The hardest thing about this drive is that some people drive 30km/hour over the speed limit and others drive 40km/hour under the speed limit.   Nothing worse than cruising at 90km/hr and having to slow down because someone is driving 50km/hr.  Kristi kept asking me to slow down and stop driving up peoples buttholes.

So we arrived at the Tip of Borneo around 3pm.  We were looking for a place called Tampat Do Aman.  Apparently we drove right past it and ended up at their restaurant on the beach call Tip Top.  Lucky for us since we had no idea that was their restaurant and we just wanted to eat and ask for directions from there.  We expected to pay a lot for food here but lucky for us, everything was between 8-20RM and it was all very delicious.  

We met the owner(Howard), ate, and went for a walk on the beach before following Howard back to the Jungle Lodge at 5pm.   He showed us our bungalow designed for 2 midgets and explained all the areas of the camp.  It was very cool because you could tell he was very passionate about this place.  There were compost toilets or outhouses that didn’t smell as bad as you would expect because they have big buckets of sawdust that you scoop down the hole afterwards.  A big communal area where they have a book swap, filtered water and a sitting area.  Then they built up some nice showers that have a covered area to hang your clothes, then you step under the shower that has an open roof and a view of some jungle.  Cold showers only which sucks in the morning when the temperature drops.  A 2 minute walk down a path and you come to a little gazebo like structure where you have views of a big clearing with thick jungle on either side and a pig pen off one of the sides.  We spent over an hour here just reading and taking in the sounds of the jungle. 

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The main structure that most people stay in is called the Rungus Longhouse which is built similar to how the Rungus Tribe would build their houses.  I was disappointed that we didn’t get to stay there but was really happy with our little bungalow. Howard originally came here to build a 5 star resort and ended up building this amazing budget place for backpackers and wilderness lovers alike.  He is currently upgrading the camp to include a restaurant and a museum full of artifacts collected by the Rungus people.  Everything that they do here, has some effect on the community.  They emphasize creating jobs for locals and offer tours directly through locals, sometimes the camp doesn’t even get a cut of the profit. 

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We were hoping that there would be a night tour of some sort but they didn’t have anything going on at the moment.  Howard was down an employee and said that it had been a “sparrow in the wind” (did I mention he’s English?) without him there.

We went down to the restaurant for dinner with the tablet where we sat looking out at the beach playing crib and yahtzee.  One of the tours offered was a day with a local where you go and spend a day with them while they work or do whatever they need to around the village.  There is no charge for this but it’s recommended that you give a 20RM donation to the family to show appreciation.  I like this idea for a tour as you know it goes directly to the family.  I have no problem giving them 50 or 100RM when you know they see 100%.  This reminds me of Nicaragua when we spent a day with a guy and his family in the Pearl Lagoon. It may have been the best day of my 2 months there.  This is what I want to do. 

Unfortunately, because the weather had been wet lately, there wasn’t a lot going on.  I imagine that they feel the need to do something special and couldn’t because of the weather.  I would have paid just to hang out with the family and try local food.  I probably should have verbalized this better and they could have made it happen but I chose a bad time to bring it up (dinner time) because it was really busy.  Oh well.  Hopefully we will get a chance to do this somewhere else.

We set our alarm for 6:30am and went to sleep.  Of course I kicked the mosquito net open in the middle of the night and woke up covered in bites.  Oops.

Morning came fast.  Ugh so early.  We tried to shower but with the temperature dropping, the water is so cold in the shower it actually takes your breath away.  I always shower in the morning as it’s my cue to wake up.  This was not the wake up I wanted. 

We met Howard on the street at 7am along with a 2 Dutch and 2 Germans.  We were all going on a 90 minute trek through the jungle.  Howard starts off by explaining that the Jungle is a very hostile environment and not a nice place to spend a lot of time in.  You are constantly wet either from rain or sweating and bugs are constantly attacking you.  He’s selling this well.  he takes us into an education center with pictures of all the birds and animals in the jungle here. We didn’t see any of them. They use it to teach local kids about the jungle here and how important the environment is. Then we head into the Camp’s property which they have fenced off and had it listed as a nature reserve.   

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Howard is a big nutritionalist and was very thorough in explaining to us all the plants we could eat. A big thing when he goes into the jungle is he packs light and they forage along the way.  It’s just too bad that it’s 7:30am and my ability to retain information is non existent.  At one point, Howard was looking on the ground and a fruit fell out of a tree above us, landing right in between everyone.  I picked it up as it rolled by my feet and it was the size of a racquetball and hard… we’re really lucky it missed everyone because that would have hurt.  Turns out, it’s exactly what Howard was looking for.  It was a small passion fruit.  We opened it up and tried it, it wasn’t ripe yet though so it was a bit sour.  I didn’t mind it. 

This trek was cool.  It wasn’t overly difficult and it’s very informative.  A great way to start the day.  I had no idea how much it cost but i figured it was worth it since I got some exercise, some knowledge and I left very happy.  There isn’t much to take pictures of unless you want a bunch of plants you’ll never remember the name of but it’s a great tour.

After the hike, we showered, packed our bags and headed to the restaurant for breakfast.  English style breakfast with 2 eggs, sausage (well it’s just a hotdog), hash browns, baked beans and toast.  I have been missing this.  So much better than fried noodles for breakfast. 

Since there wasn’t much else for us to do, we decided to rent bikes and ride up to the very tip of Borneo. We ride up the hill which was much bigger than it looked… maybe I’m not in shape.  At the top is a beautiful view of the crystal clear ocean water.  Words and pictures just can’t describe it and I was going to share a picture anyways but it turned out blurry so I don’t have one. I guess you’ll just have to go see it for yourself… or be a virtual tourist and Google it. 

When we arrived back at Tip Top, we settled up the tab which I had been dreading.  I’d much rather pay for things up front so I know how much I’m spending but this is a good way to forget about money for the time being and enjoy yourself.  Our bill was 300RM which is pretty good considering that was accommodation, 3 meals each, a jungle trek, bike rental and drinks.  I’m very content with our value for the money. 

The worst part about having the car for a short period of time is that we had to move on.  Both Kristi and I agreed that we would have liked at least one more night here.  Maybe it will be in our cards in the future.  If we do come back here, I think I would spend a week and volunteer since they offer this with a 3 day minimum. 

Sadly we had to leave way too soon but we are excited to get to our next destination: Kinabalu National Park. 

This is my life. 

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