Wednesday, April 03, 2013

My Life in Words: Borneo - Part 3

I'm going to try to fit my entire second week into this post, so as to not bore everyone too much. I feel like I have written a fair bit on this trip, but everything has just been so interesting.

After the mountain we spent 2 nights in an Eco-lodge close to Poring hotsprings. With the exception of a cockroach the size of my hand which I had to kill the first night, the place was ok.

While there we went to poring hotsprings, which is a bit of a misleading name. I suppose there were hotsprings there at one time, but now it's just bathtubs which you can soak in and one small roped off section of natural hot springs. While most of us did take a hot bath to soak our aching muscles, the more interesting part was the activities around the baths and pools (which were overridden with children who are on school holiday). There was a nice canopy walk, as well as a waterfall where thousands of tiny little fish gave us all a free fish pedicure.

The highlight of the day for me, however, was seeing a giant flower. I know how that sounds, but it was surprisingly awesome. After lunch, we had the option of paying 20 ringgit ($6) to go see this flower. It's called a Rafflesia and is native to Borneo. It takes 1.5 years for a single Rafflesia to form underground and then a full year for it to bloom. When it does, it only stays in bloom for 3-7 days before dying.

Furthermore only 10% of Rafflesia actually bloom and no one has ever successfully planted one. We were quite luckily to see one in bloom as they are so rare. Throughout Borneo, there are random patches of land where they grow, but no one knows why or how. They are technically called a flower, but their growing properties are like a fungus. Apparently the odor they emit (periodically) is so foul that anyone in the area will be seriously offended. Scientists still have no idea what their use is and why they form. Interesting stuff, for a flower.

I mentioned soaking our aching muscles in the hot baths. Everyone was seriously hurting after our hike for a good 3 days. It was pretty hilarious. All 11 of us would rock up at a restaurant or attraction barely able to walk; hobbling down stairs like geriatrics. We were a pretty decrepit group for a few days. For me, it was my calves which were killing me. I had the most painful massage of my life 2 days after the hike which really seemed to help.

The next day we headed back to KK where we went to an Orangutan sanctuary for baby and young orangutans. Orangutans are the most solitary breed of primates as as such, the mother will separate from the young at just 2 years old. With poaching, habitat destruction and people keeping them as pets these young orangutans have no chance and have become a critically endangered species. This sanctuary I visited rehabs the young orangutans.

When they are old enough, there are moved to a large facility in the east (which we were supposed to visit but couldn't because of the terrorists) before being released back into the wild when ready. There were 4 orangutans at the sanctuary I was at - all either confiscated as pets or found abandoned in palm oil clearings. Only 2 made an appearance while we were there, but it was pretty special. They got so close (only a few feet away) and were swinging all over the place. Often they would almost pose for photos and had an ability to keep us all entertained (I think they understood our laughter). It was a nice experience.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: My Life in Words: Borneo - Part 3