Thursday, February 6, 2020

Jungle Cruising And A Canopy Walk

Who doesn't want to go on a jungle tour that includes kayaking and a canopy walk? Although I had no clue what a canopy walk was. I have added to my travel toolbox. I have had good luck with them so far. I came across this day tour on their site, booked it and was in the van the next morning at 7:00 AM. We were driven to the jetty and had a 45-minute boat ride upriver and through the mangroves. It was gorgeous. The ride, not the boat. The boat was battered but river worthy, I had hoped.

Twelve of us got off the boat and wandered through a little market town to the entrance of Ulu Ulu Temburong National Park. A typical mixture of travelers. Russians, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, and a Hong Konger. Donna was the same girl that was on the river tour I did the previous day. It was nice to see a familiar face, no matter how brief our "boat tour friendship" was. Our two intrepid guides, Dani and Fatin we young, friendly and enthusiastic. Our river guides I never found out their names but they were great at managing the longboat which held 4 people. Myself, Donna and the Russian couple, who turned out to be really interesting. She was a lawyer and he was an Engineer. They had decided on a working a nomadic lifestyle and were the first month in. They both worked online but I did not get into details about it. They were just so happy to be out of the "office world". Donna, it turned out was an incredible traveler with great stories and pictures about being in all the "stans", including Afghanistan. There are so many non-traditional and interesting people in the world.

We all got in our longboats for a deeper journey into the Borneo jungle. There were four boats each holding four people, the boat captain, and his assistant. The river was low and they had to manage not bottoming out along the way. I had no concerns and figured they knew the way. This was not their first attempt on this river. It was a fantastic ride winding our way through the jungle with the river 4 to 6 inches away on either side of me. I took a few quick shots and then put the phone away. I enjoyed the thirty-minute ride just taking it all in.

We arrived at the park entrance and carefully climbed out of the boat. We registered and got our briefing for the day. We would be getting back into the boats for a ten-minute ride to the trailhead.
There would be a 1000 step hike which we would take our time on. There were 3 rest stops along the way. At the top, we would arrive at the canopy walk. I still had no idea what that was and I figured it was worth the surprise to find out.

The hike was easy enough and I figured this was another good workout for my upcoming climb to Mt. Kinabula. (again if I only knew then). The trails had rest stops every 300 steps or so. Our lovely guides were cheering some of the stragglers on but nobody was in a hurry. We lined up and crossed a long suspension bridge that swayed a little to much if more than 5 people were on it, so no more than five people could go on it. I like walking across suspension bridges. It brings me back to the epic walks along the Everest Base Camp in which we crossed some high and incredible suspension bridges. This time we were here not giving way to pack laden Yaks.

The views were nice and the jungle was deep green. When we reached the end of the trail we came face to face with the monstrosity that was the "canopy climb". There was no turning back now.

Well, now I know what a canopy climb and walk are. I did not take many pictures out of fear for my life but Click Here and Google will be happy to help. The actual canopy climb is a series of aluminum steps, ladders, and walkways that are covered with a "protective cage" that seems to become less obvious the higher you climb. I am sure it was stable but I was not confident with the fact that some corners appeared to be held together with large heavy-duty plastic zip ties.

As we all lined up there were some safety rules. Only one person on the ladder section at a time. Only one person on a walkway at a time. No more than 5 people on the climbing apparatus at one time going up and going down the other side. No running, jumping or horseplay because yes some people need to be told such things.

It was not scary in the sense that I was petrified that the entire apparatus was going to come crashing down into the jungle with me going along for the ride. I was not afraid I would fall because it was very safe. It was unnerving climbing into the tree canopy being open and exposed to the outside world. The higher you climbed, the wobblier your legs got but the more fantastic the views were. At 150 feet I was about the tops of most of the trees, so the name "canopy walk". There were various viewing platforms, which I hung on to for dear life. My camera was doing just fine in my pocket. My Russian friends were behind me seemed to be struggling as well but laughing none the less. I quickly took a photo of them crossing the highest walkway. Bird, monkeys and whatever else lives this hight in the trees, you can keep it. It was nice to visit but don't invite me for tea because I will have to make up an excuse not to visit again.

Every once in a while there is something a bit too much even for me and I want nothing to do with it. Welcome to the Natural Fish Cleaning Station. Dani (the girl in the green shirt and backward hat) was a hilarious guide. "We are going to go see a nice waterfall (it wasn't) and I have a surprise for you. I was suspicious. We go to the falls and she immediately took off her shoes and encouraged us to do the same. I stood suspiciously knowing something was up. She laughed at me and called me a few names but I did not budge. Suddenly as if on cue, the Japanese girl shrieked in panic. "The fish are biting me!"

This bring us to the fish cleaning station. People pay money all over Asia to put their feet into large tanks and have whatever fish are in there clean the dead skin from their feet. In this case, it was all-natural and totally not going to happen for me. I recognized the type of fish, freshwater algae eaters. I have had them in my aquariums all my life. The Chinese girl loved it and she stood and the fish gathered and hung on her feet and ankle. I counted 30 of them. The Japanese girl warmed up to it as did everyone else, except our hero. Nope, not going to happen.

The day finished with an hour-long kayak ride back to camp. the kayaks were inflatable and tough to handle. I did get stuck in the river a few times and ended up kneeling to get any consistency. It was fun enough. Lunch was massive and afterward, I walked across the river to see what was there as we had time. Dani came with me and she found various bugs to photograph that I would have never seen.

It was a nice day and again, a great reminder that outside of the capital city there is a huge jungle ready to explore. My flight to Kota Kinabula was early the next day. It was a prop plane that always freaks me out. I got to the airport early and to no surprise, there was nobody there. I mean no people what so ever. I came to Brunei as the Omega man, I was leaving as the Omega man.

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