Catching Up with Travels since KK

I have not blogged since we left KK. This is mainly because we’ve all been struck down by illness. Ian and Marilyn have had the aching limbs and fever followed by a flu (?dengue) and I’ve had the trots. This delayed our departure a few days. Bryan has remained healthy after giving other fleet members his cough. On the second night, we landed at the lovely anchorage of Pulau Kulumbok, just east of the Tip of Borneo. The water was clear and there was some average coral on the reef  but a beautiful beach. Schools of little squid circled the boat but nobody had the energy to catch them..and besides, they make a mess. Once we rounded  the Tip of Borneo , we headed for the town of Kudat.

Dusk with SV Tiki

Dusk with SV Tiki

 

Kudat was in the midst of the Kudat Marine Festival. We were a bit late to join the dragon boat team and none of fit enough. It was a great atmosphere , with a big funfair, an ancient ferris wheel, purple fairy floss and families having fun. There was a big wing ding and the Chief Minister for Sabah arrived in a helicopter to inaugurate the Tun Mustapha Marine Park. This park will allow Malaysia to prosecute Phillipines illegal fishing whilst protecting some areas for replenishing fish sticks. It won’t , yet, stop shark finning.

The down side of this was the meeting with ESSCOM ( Eastern Sabah Security Command) . They were reassuring in that they did not try to downplay the risk to the fleet of Abou Sayyef abduction. This was particularly salient in the light of the abduction of 6 Malaysian tugboat crew just south of Sandakan last week. We were instructed to travel within 5 nm of our “Safety Ship” and at anchorage have a roster for lookout over night , with the yachts with kids tucked in the middle. They answered all our anxious  questions and had a good plan for an attack. After this several boats withdrew and headed back to KK. I obtained a big water pistol and filled it with bleach which I was going to use to squirt the attackers in the eyes..but , good news , I have not had to use it….well actually I am a bit dissappointed.

Both nights the watch worked well and I think that there is growing confidence in ESSCOM.

Mean looking roll cloud over the Turtle Islands

Mean looking roll cloud over the Turtle Islands

LAST NIGTH WE WENT TO THE Turtle Islands. We watched a huge mother turtle lay her eggs . We then released several baskets of little hatchlings who were very cute. Photos to follow.

Big Momma, 1.3 m long

Big Momma, 1.3 m long

The eggs are dug up and placed in a safe enclosure.

The eggs are dug up and placed in a safe enclosure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hatchlings ..very cute.

Hatchlings ..very cute.

Today, were parked outside the Sandakn Yacht Club.

Skating in Sandakan

Skating in Sandakan

Were not going further than Sandakan but we have been so lucky to have been guests of Marilyn and Ian and hope they have a great time in the Kinabatangan  River and diving at Sipidan, which are the major draw cards of this journey. They will then return to Kudat with the oversight of ESSCOM.

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A Long Drive in the Mighty Kembara

We ventured way past Ranau on the road to Sandakan and found the Sabah Tea Gardens where we had a tour of the tea factory. I have never thought much about the contents of my teabag, apart from liberating the dregs over the side after use. I now know that the tea from this company is organic and contains no yellow dye , which is a common addition to less superior teas. Tea bags should only be dunked for 30 secs whereas leaf tea should be brewed for 5′. The top three leaves are picked by hand from the plant and after various drying processes ( the machinery is pretty ancient) it is packed ( by more recent machinery and ladies). We ajourned for for tea and scones at the very picturesque tea house. The tea was very nice but the scones were..well…green and a bit rocky. I will have to send then Catrinas recipe with lemonade.

The next stop was Poring Springs, which is part of the Mt Kinabalu Park. We skipped the smelly springs , though the pools looked quite inviting, quickly did the canopy walk. Any hope of seeing wildlife was dashed by the screaming of a petrified child. We then , luckily, exhausted by our 30 min walk, elected to stay in the park overnight  there as it rained for 5 hours straight.

Today, we did an epic drive from Ranau across to the towns of Tambunan , Keningau, Tenom and down to the coast to Weston, a village on the Weston River. There were times when the mighty Perodua Kembara struggled to get out of first gear, especially with the 1/14 gradient over the Crocker Range, but it never gave up. The roads were pretty good and any missing bits were marked with a sign.

There we did a mangrove tour to see proboscis monkeys (5) at a great distance , and fireflies (lots).

Spot the proboscis monkey

Spot the proboscis monkey

Back to the boat and the ESSCOM briefing , tommorrow.

The water village of Weston

The water village of Weston

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The Sandakan Death March

My uncle, Walter Hogg, Uncle Wattie, joined the war effort as Australia was sending troops in a last ditch attempt to save Singapore. This was in 1942. Singapore fell soon after he arrived, he was shipped off to Sandakan in eastern Borneo ( which was a British Crown Colony , I think). He was Corporal  in the Postal Corps. I have no idea what they did as there were only 2 postcard that ever came out of Sandakan from him, tick boxes with Japanese inscriptions. He made it through till March 1945 when he succumbed to malaria and starvation before the death march. From 2500 initial troops, about 500 or more were marched from Sandakan to Ranau. The only ones who survived were 6 who escaped. Looking from here out through the hills it must have been savage as the hills are big and were covered in jungle.

The  memorial at Kundasang (near Ranau)  , which was apparently set up by the people of Sabah ( not the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who funded Labuan and the Thai Burma Railway cemetries) fell into disrepair and was revived with he financial assistance of a KK businessman. There are 3 gardens surrounded by stonewalls, Australian , British and Bornean. Again, Uncle Wattie is memorialised in a plaque.

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Heading for the Hills

To start the day of our inland adventure, we checked out the view of KK from the Old Signal Station. Unfortunately much of the spectacular harbour view is now obscured by sky scrapers.

Looking South

Looking South

Looking north

Looking north

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

we tootled down the hill, north towards University of Malaysia , Sabah to see the Tun Mustapha Building. This modernist piece of architecture was built in the mid ’70s by erecting the central lift tower the affixing the circular steel frames out from it and glassing it in. We were looking forward to the view from the top but it is Govt offices. Next door is a truly the spectacular Goverment House..not yet complete.

Tun Mustapha

Tun Mustapha

Government building ..yet to be finished but looks magnificent

Government building ..yet to be finished but looks magnificent

KK Mosque

KK Mosque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THEN we’ve done a mammoth drive in our borrowed Perodua Kembara ( a tiny 4WD) up to Kundasang. The drive wasn’t all that massive but the little car likes to stay in 1st and 2nd gear and had lots of trouble overtaking big , slow trucks. It’s just not the sort of power Monaro Bryan is used to. We have just flaked out at the Kinabalu Pine Resort with a lovely veranda looking up to Mt K which is very impressive. We’re off to the War Memorial.

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Sunday at KK

Marilyn get shorn.

Marilyn get shorn.

A sleep in, a chat with other yachties then a hot quick look at the Sunday Market ( bought a fan) . Now at hair cut.

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Selamut Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Its the end of Ramadan and the last 2 days, people are on holiday , Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and celebrating by visiting family and eating. The streets are decorated with green and yellow woven packets resembling packets of rice woven with pandanus leaves. Families are out shopping sometimes in matching Muslim outfits which are very cute.

We had a celebration of our own with the scurrilous (? scrofulous) crews of Sigata ( Lesley and Phil from NZ) and Terry and Ady from Beau Soliel which hales from Sandringham. They found a series of waterfront bars and dragged us to the Shamrock. Whilst the other ladies had Cosmopolitand and the lads Kilkenny pints , I could not resist a Flaming Lamborghini. Phil has  gone back there to have one tonight.

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Today I dived with Scuba Junkies, who proved to be great. I wasn’t feeling great to start with and some sinus squeeze took some of the joy out of it , but the coral , nudis, lion fish, moray and nibbling shrimps ( they nibble your fingers) made it worthwhile. No photos. My camera is in a box en rote to Oz.  A few feisty little fish had a go at me but my skin is too tough. I also discovered that Clownfish are trannies. If the big female dies , a male turns female and takes her place.

 

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Out to Sea and back to land.

We joined Songbird 50 and have the other aft master cabin with white sheets!!!! We have our own ensuite. The weather was looked up, tides considered and the cruising guide consulted and we set off for Pulau Tiga 30 mn away. “We”, the crew, didn’t have to do any of this. Too slack! The sails did go up briefly when a little bit of wind came up but the iron headsails got us there.

Playing at being Captain

Playing at being Captain

 

 

Le Boudoir

Le Boudoir

 

Vos Toilette

Vos Toilette

The galley, with dishwasher!

The galley, with dishwasher!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The boat...this pic doesn't do it justice

The boat…this pic doesn’t do it justice

 

 

Pulau Tiga was the site of a Survivor series long ago and the “Survivor Resort” looked like the perfect place for sundowners. They, unfortunately, didn’t have any guests or cold beer but we’re happy for us to BYO.

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A lizardy friend

A lizardy friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The view

The view

The snorkelling was pretty good and was even better then next day round the corner at Pulau Kalampurnian and Snake Island where we saw 2 tiny Lion Fish but no famed sea snakes. It got a bit lively during the night , when a bit of wind came up and Ian sat up watching as we were close to reef. We went to bed and slept well. Ha! We’re crew and leave all the excitement to the Skipper.

The following day we motored another 30nm to Pulau Gaya just 10 nm off the of Kota Kinabalu. There , we found a beautiful resort called Bunga Raya Resort and Spa and found a place to anchor on the slope of the reef. It was a bit tenuous..but not really my problem. The reef was interesting with some colour and lots of fish. I even saw a black and white brittle star.

We enjoyed a sundowner or two with our old pals from the South Pacific, Robyn and Simon on Kiwi Coyote then a very swanky dinner at the resort. They have 2 pet wild boars who hang round just as dinner is finishing. It is a little disconcerting when they come up to you snorting away with their long noses.  We then had another peaceful night.

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Our Captain , Ian , wanted to get a few jobs underway so booked for us in Sutera Harbour Marina at KK from 4th to 17th , so we have now been here 2 days. The marina is very nice with 2 hotels and a golf resort and 25% discount on meals and marina fees. We have already booked a dive trip and the North Borneo Railway excursion and may be the remaining time , when not doing boat jobs, can be spent in one of the 3 pools. Hard life!

Hotel gardens

Hotel gardens

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Over, but not yet out.

I thought, as we are still sailing in foreign climes, that I would blog our further sea travels , just a bit more. We are in The Federal Territory of Labuan. I had never heard of this place until we decided to go on the East Malaysia Rally. It is a duty free island and the lure was to stock up on alcohol and fuel. We are here to take a ride 180 mm on a beautiful 50 ft Lagoon catamaran, Songbird, with Marilyn and Ian who are also from Melbourne and whom we met in Thailand. We plan to get off at Sandakan. It will be interesting being passengers ..relaxing , perhaps. It will be fun to catch up with all the people we met before we left the Rally.

My first impression of Labuan was ..wow, this place is very affluent. The airport is quite new , the roads really good and the standard of housing is superior. The roads , especially in the big town are treelined and the verges manicured. The hotel we are staying at is nice, super clean and has a lovely pool. We don’t stay at this standard of hotel often but we have stayed at some where things don’t work.

Its oil and gas. Labuan is off shore from Brunei at the southern edge of Sabah. But Labuan has a significant history and some more recent history involves Australia. The Brits got it( coercion v helping the Sultan of Brunei defend his patch ???) way back in the mid 1800’s. It was strategic for shipping as it sits in the South China Sea . It also had coal for the steam ships plying trade from Asia to Australia and Europe. Britannia rules the waves. It was a British Protectorate and in the late 1800’s the Brits laid cable for a telegraph from Singapore , via Labuan to Hong Kong which sounds amazing. The British heritage may explain the grid layout of the main town and the tree lined streets.

It became the headquarters of the Japanese war effort in SE Asia for 4 years and was taken by the Australians under General Wooten who had a surrender signed at ” Surrender Point” on the north coast. We’ll check out the north coast tomorrow.

When we were travelling in Northern Thailand we visited the Thai Burma Railway and the war graves cemetery. They have a data base and I discovered that my uncle , though he died at Sandakan, was buried here. We checked the register and though his name is on a plaque , he has no separate grave. There are so many graves that have only ” Australian Soldier, name known only to God.” It is a lovely garden though and a sobering reminder of the loss of a generation of such young men.

It the Holy Month of Ramadan and though fasting is what it is famous for , I think that eating with friends and family is also an important part. The hotel has a buffet at night and the place is teaming with people after sundown, making up for lost time. They are a bit dressed up. Side streets and parks also have food stalls and families are out meeting up and having a good time. The parking attendant trying to bring some order to the hotel parking lot told me that it is “like this every day for the month”. He was looking a bit frazzled.

Songbird is arriving tomorrow , so we’ll do a bit of shopping and try to find an alcohol outlet. They appear not to be well advertised.

 

 

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Goodbye Gypsea Rover

As youprobablynow know, Gypsea Rover is in the process of being sold. She has been a great cruiser and kept us safe. A combination of a reasonable offer, the low Australian dollar and the opportunity to sell in USD, a bit of travel and boat fatigue and family commitments helped us make the decision.

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Yesterday we arose at 6:30…..too early for some, then headed off on land to hike UP 1500m through steep jungle. Most of us were soaked through when we reached the goal…a large pool of COLD fresh water tumbling out of a rather modest waterfall. No wildlife seen. Transport was provided ( in the back of a ute) back to the little town of Tektek where the yachts are anchored. In dire need of a sit down and drink we went to the local cafe where Catrina spied a man making roti. You start with a little ball of dough then skilfully stretch it very thin, pop it onto a slightly convex skillet, fold it and put egg and other things in it , slop on lots of oil and serve it with dahl and some chilli. Super yum. I have had it with mango which is also very good.

After a rather long afternoon rest we had sundowners with Marijke and Hilderbrandt from the NZ yacht Carrie. They are friends from the Pacific Circuit Rally in 2013 and came up last year. Catrina and I discovered that Marijke not only  knits but spins, dyes wool and weaves. You just can’t fit a decent loom on a boat so Marijke has a set of diagonal looms made of wood and nails which she uses to make squares for afghans and cushion covers. Knitting /weaving circle TBA.

Today we found small patches of beautiful coral in the bay where we are anchored.  I also took the opportunity to get some reef which had been developing on the keel off. I love being under the boat with the hooker purring away and just fish for company. The water is very clear. Tommorrow? More of the same …s’pose Id better do some washing and cleaning.

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