This morning we got up at about 8am, just about 12 hours’ sleep, which was much needed. We made coffee with our instant Starbucks, but the flavor liquid thing was terrible. We realized later it has aspartame, which we both can’t stand, so it was kind of a bummer, but we went out on the patio to choke it down before taking a walk on the beach.
As soon as we stepped out, the camera and computer instantly fogged up majorly (since we’d been in the ac). We tried for a few minutes to use them and just decided we’d hit the beach right away. We thought maybe we had a breakfast voucher, so we’d *hopefully* go get real coffee and food after our short visit.
We had to go through the grass and after 5 minutes of being in Puerto Rico and stepping on a fire ant mound, we were careful where we walked! The sand was really pretty clean, some random litter, but just here or there. The water was warm too- and I am happy to report, my toe does not hurt in the water! We will see how my fins feel, but I have hopes. My hiking shoes are pretty good for keeping the pressure away- and of course flip flops are great, though my toe looks pretty bad to others I am sure. What can you do!?
We walked a little way, found some crabs and little creatures in their shells. I picked up a small piece of coral for my collection, but I forgot to get sand. I brought these tiny glass vials- like the size of your thumb nail, so I can add to my mini collection of things from around the world. I noticed at this time I was seeing floaters in my vision- and Bryan said he saw it too.
We’re not sure what this was about- we joked we’d already gotten a parasite like the guy we saw on “Monsters Inside Me”, right before we left. We watch that show even though it’s so gross because I am certain it will help us at some point when we’re afflicted with something weird from our travels. I always joke to Bryan that I am studying and it will be that episode that might save him some day. We are of course joking, but hey, you never know!
After our short walk on the vacant beach, we went to find brekky. The chick at reception said we did have a voucher- SCORE- and I went to dive into the selection. Much of it was meat- and tailored toward Asians with squid and other such delights- but there was an omelet station, pastries, bread and stewed pumpkin. I tried each one of the pastries- the only one I wasn’t sure what to expect from was the purple and green one, which turned out to be a gelatinous coconut thing and was good. Our omelet was just veggies and totally hit the spot- my mouth is watering just thinking about it now, as we are waiting for lunch…which around here (dive resort) is 130!?
We had to head out for a nearly 2 hour drive to Mt Kanabalu and we wanted to have time to hike around a bit, so we had to get going.
Although I was pretty sure I was saying it right, I asked one of the girls what thank you was and she said “terima kasih” (the-ree-mah kah-see) and I just burst out laughing. I mixed up thank you for welcome, so I was telling everyone “welcome” welcome” and this is why they were laughing. So much for my cramming before we left! But at least I had it straight now…and would double check before I tried such a thing out again!
We got on the road (not even out of the complex) and the first thing we saw were squirrels running across the road. I couldn’t see them because I was trying to find the camera, and they were really fast- but we’re pretty sure they are the black squirrels that Bryan told me about. That’s right: black squirrels!? They eluded me this time, but perhaps soon we’d find them again.
We also saw a pack of stray dogs- which Bryan told me they had signs at the hotel which I missed that said not to leave your shoes outside (as many in Asian and Muslim cultures tend to) or the dogs would take them.
They look like the “Taiwan” dogs that we have saved with Motley Zoo- kind of slender and leggy, but then look a bit like short haired shepherds mixed with pits? There were even a few spotted ones, kind of like a Blue heeler. They looked relatively fed although mangy- and they are really pretty frightened of people.
Finally we’re o the road to Mt. Kinabalu and we were delighted to find out they share the same enthusiasm for large statues in their roundabouts that the Australian’s seem to (at least at one point in time). We first passed a large pineapple which I wasn’t ready for, so missed that but I knew what to expect and was ready for the pair of fish and tea pot- and later the lettuce, cow, and ship!
The road is very windy and you can just barely get going at a good clip when you end up behind a truck that is going SO slow up the hill, you are barely moving. It would be like this the near 2 hours- or really what would be 1.5 hours in distance if not for the added time being stuck behind these trucks. The roads are also quite windy and remind us much of New Zealand, although the cliffs are not as precipitous and there are guard rails here for the most part- and there are none there.
To make matters worse with the slow trucks, it isn’t like there’s very safe places to pass- and very few passing lanes, so really you just go for it whenever and wherever, no matter what the lines or signs say. People come up behind you at breakneck speed passing the 3 cars in front of us too…it’s a little nuts. There are no rules and no one really seems to care. If you are stuck in the lane when oncoming traffic is getting closer, they will flash their lights- but not slow down or change course. The people you are passing do however typically tap their brakes and indicate either you should pass, or make room for you…but it is really a risk every time. And we had to do it 100+times!
I also had to take my Bonine because the windy roads tend to make me a bit queasy, especially if I am looking down at my phone for directions or whatever- any kind of reading in a car makes me ill. Thankfully I seem to be fine when I take the meds- whether or not it helps or it’s a placebo effect I don’t know, but when we travel I bring a lot and use it in the car, when we fly even (as that has started making me queasy sometimes) or if we go on a boat or helicopter. I hate that I get sick so easily now- even roller coasters are hard for me to do anymore- and I love them.
Along the way we got some relatively nice views of the mountain- got a few pics with the clouds floating around which was really pretty. It’s such a jagged top with a relatively long “comb” effect, it’s pretty cool. Actually in 2015, there was a major earthquake and one of the rocks on a peak called “Donkey’s Ear” broke off! It’s not super significantly different, but you can tell. Sadly too, 15 people lost their lives- 4 of them were 12-year-old kids.
We made it to the main park, where there’s a little windy road that leads to a lookout point. We decided to hear straight to the top and then check out anything like viewpoints or hikes on the way down…but by the time we got to the top, the clouds rolled in and it was a big view of nothing but fog- just like Mt. Rushmore 2005.
All I wanted to do was see that darn peak, as it was just after my mom died. She’d told me about her cross-country trip at 19 and it was like a legendary kind of need to see it for myself kind of thing. Even more interesting, my dad had given me her car- so we were driving her car across country- very cathartic…that is when you can see the sights?! devil’s Tower was a bust too…
Just as we got to the gate of the park, the clouds rolled in and did not leave. I was pretty disappointed- more so than I would be under normal circumstances- so we took a picture and joked we’d Photoshop it into the background…and we now have a few of these pics of “us, anywhere” as though you could green screen in whatever you wanted. The next would be a cliff in New Zealand- and apparently Mt. Kinabalu from this lookout viewpoint!
However, there was a great consolation prize: a TON of squirrels! Of course I noticed the “do not feed the wildlife” signs before we headed up the stairs, so I was amazed to see a ton of people hand feeding squirrels?! They had peanuts- which oddly enough they bought from the snack shop just below the platform…and I figure they probably make more money selling peanuts for you not to feed the wildlife, than even entry fees to the park!
I just want to be clear, I did NOT- I repeat, did NOT- feed the squirrels anything but what people had dropped or the squirrels had missed. The best was when a kid would drop a whole handful so I could really get in some good quality time with them! I figured I was not breaking the rules if I wasn’t actually giving them food they shouldn’t have that wasn’t already there for the taking.
I could have stayed here all day- and would have, except that I did know Bryan wanted to do some hiking too (as did I). I said my goodbyes and reluctantly turned away to find something else to explore. We had noticed a Botanical Garden which sounded of interest, so we drove back down to that point and parked the car. Again, the map was not very good, but we walked over to where the gate seemed to be- and sure enough, there it was, exclaiming “welcome” overhead, but the gate was locked?! Why? We did not see the Botanical Garden.
Across from that we saw a trail called the P something trail and decided we’d try that. It was my favorite kind (I say this with a ton of sarcasm): the straight up, exert all your energy right away kind and I was already loving it. Big huge steps and tree roots and slick leaves.
Now don’t get me wrong, I really do like hiking or I wouldn’t do it- but I enjoy it SO much more, when it’s a relatively level, leisure walk compared to constant exertion. I hate exercise and if it doesn’t feel like it, we’re good. I try to like exercise but I have accepted I just don’t…and probably never will. But I do like hiking- sometimes more than others.
Now I am sweating my butt off and we’re going up and up and up, level off for a few seconds- just long enough to tease me- then up again, or even down (to which I know we’re going to need to go back up again)…I slipped on a slick rock and thankfully did not fall on my butt- I put my hand out and broke my fall (which would have been right onto my phone)…though as my hand hit, my foot kept going and I wrenched my arm pretty good and did this huge high kick which Bryan kept commenting about later. It was a temporary problem- but I was worried about breaking the camera, so I kept on pretty gingerly, until we came to a sign that noted this trail was closed beyond that point.
What?! This part of the trail looked so nice and even and the part I wished the rest had been. Next to that was a steep muddy runoff/ wash which we didn’t think was a trail- so we decided to keep going. I wasn’t super keen on going back the same way and this trail was supposed to meet up with a larger looping one at some point…so we kept going.
This indeed was a pretty easy trail- although slick with wet leaves. It was pretty level until we started doing some switchbacks and could suddenly see a road. What do you mean?! This map was so lame, but we determined it was the main highway and if we just went “this way” then we’d get there. Bryan was hesitant, wanting to go back the way we came, but we were so close to civilization then I wanted to just plow forward.
We ended up just outside the front gate, climbing over a “Trail Closed” sign and through some brambles…but we made it, and this time walked back up the road. Bryan seemed a tad disappointed I took the so called “easy” way out, but this is just how it is when I am hiking: I worry that I can’t get back because I will be too exhausted and if I think we’re lost I start to picture “I Shouldn’t Be Alive”- a show we used to watch about people who got lost and nearly died. NOT that I panic, but it is easy to get mixed up, especially when you have a shoddy map, even if it was given to you by the park itself!
We finally got back to the car- maybe an hour and a half later. We decided to go back to the top again and see if we could see anything since the sun was breaking through a bit. We again drove up to the top, but the clouds were still covering the mountain- and the squirrels were too full, if you can believe that! There were hardly any coming around, even when some people bought them peanuts.
There was a moment when we caught some of the valley and a little of the base, but otherwise the clouds pulled in again- and just when Bryan asked me if I wanted to try some more hiking, I didn’t even get a chance to answer and it started pouring down rain. Thankfully we were just a few hundred feet from the car- but that decided for us.
We decided to leave the park to get a head start on the trip to our next stop: Celyn Resort. As I put in the directions a bunch of bad reviews came up on booking.com about how the road is terrible (they made it sound impassible) by car and that someone stole their slipper (which looking back, knowing what I know now, I bet he left them outside and it was a dog). I was thinking we were in for some fun, but I know how reviews are so ridiculous most of the time, and if I really headed them, I would never buy or do anything. Most people don’t even make USEFUL reviews, they just want to complain- and don’t care how it affects anyone else in the wake of their so important opinion. *rant over*
The GPS tried to tell us we had arrived at the resort at least 4 times before we even left the park- so it seemed this was going to be an interesting journey. Neither of us can remember how long it was, but probably in the vicinity of 2 hours max. This is when we began to understand the importance of the themed roundabouts- as we became very familiar with the lettuce one- going back and forth and around a few times. Why they don’t give directions like that, “make a right onto the dirt road about ¾ of a mile past the lettuce”, would make so much more sense…and probably like my USEFUL review of the resort will have in it! That is, I guess, if I ever write one (though I usually do when its really good)- but that’s also why reviews annoy me: because not enough people write them for good things, and it always skews the reality.
When I looked off to my side, the sun was shining beautifully in this terraced valley with some little houses and it just looked so magnificent- but this became the picture that never would be. When we could find a place to stop, the power lines were in the way- or Bryan would miss the spot I was pointing out. After no joke, like 3 tries we gave up…but it still bugs me because it was an amazing picture and very “picture perfect” for the area…alas, no go.
We were also struggling with the directions, which wanted us to go down the road another 10 miles just to do a u-turn and come back- also not connecting us to the resort in the map. I was starting to get a little worried, when we passed a dirt road, and I thought, “maybe that’s it…if we don’t find it soon, we will try that”…another pass and Bryan and I at the same time, both saw a tiny sign for the resort- indeed, on that dirt road. So around the lettuce again and we took that turn up a steep dirt and gravel road.
It turned into some pavement- albeit, broken- and then into more dirt and gravel, but honestly, this was hardly “impassable”. While I get that maybe Bryan’s and my perspective is a bit skewed since Madagascar and Africa, these people weren’t driving sports cars for goodness sake. ANY car could do that road- and people do because they LIVE up it and use it daily.- so I don’t know. To their credit, maybe in rain and it might have big puddles and wash away, but my guess is more that it’s someone who had never been off pavement ever in their life. First world problems, you know!
It’s about 3km up this road and we got to see some locals’ homes which are interesting. Most are on stilts and usually wood- although sometimes there’s a concrete foundation (I am guessing this is more expensive and only those who are a tad wealthier can do it), but usually it’s wood with a metal roof. They are often painted bright colors- I joked they must only have about 5 colors of paint in the stores. One is the funky grapey purple our house used to be (not by choice, we just didn’t paint it until we sold it), another is a peacock blue, a school bus yellow- orange, mint green and some kind of pink- sometimes pastel, sometimes hot pink. There seems to be a lot of pink cars here too- men’s cars…and “tuner” cars, with spoilers and writing on them. Writing over the windshield of trucks is big too- one we saw said “Good in Me”, another, “Chicks Hunter”. Usually the English is not great, whatever it is…it keeps you guessing sometimes what they really meant!
The driveway to the resort is a seriously steep one- paved- and we head to the top. It looks just as the picture does, although minus the view because we still can’t see Mt Kinabalu. We park in front of signs that say “Park at your own risk”, which seems kind of intimidating, but I think is more meant to mean, “your shit is not our problem”…but it makes it sound like the car will fall off the cliff or something!
It also seems we could be the only guests- maybe there’s one other room of guests?
We head into reception and get situated- our room is K26, just above 23. In this instance I am glad it’s not 23 because there’s no view- whereas 26 is on the second story and has a good one (without clouds in the way).
On the way up the stairs though Bryan says “Beetle mania” as we see a ton of dead beetles lying around- hundreds. They look kind of like Japanese beetles, but are about 3-4 times that size, so maybe the size of your index finger top knuckle to tip? There’s also a variety of pretty moths- some about 4 inches long with their wings closed. There are some in the pathway so we move then and step around the beetles and get to our room.
It wasn’t much to look at, but eh. More so was there was no ac and no screen door (so far no one has had screens)- although there is a tiny window near the bathroom that opens. It is stuffy in there and we need to air it out before it gets dark because they it will just be full of bugs.
It’s a simple queen bed and a totally 80’s bathroom- but the place also doesn’t seem that old either. And it’s HUGE. I can’t imagine that there was ever a time it would be full? There are so many buildings- and I am guessing none of them are kept up super great either as a result. It seemed like either in it’s heyday it was amazing and has just fallen out of favor- or sadly someone spent way too much and created too broad a scope to really keep it up well.
However, it is more than livable despite being a tad run down- and in a beautiful place!
We decide it’s time to crack open the warm ciders we have been carrying, and the bad wine- after borrowing a corkscrew from the restaurant bar which never looks open but she said it is, any time. What she means is you wake up the guy napping in the massage chair recliner and then you can eat!
We head back to relax a bit and then we feel like it’s getting to be close to dinner, but first, Bryan is going on a bug safari and I can join him if I’d like. We start walking around the property trying to find different beetles and moths- and honestly, we found quite a few.
They are all so interesting and such crazy varieties. One of the beetles was about the size of a lens on a good-sized pair of sunglasses! We saw a ton of geckos too, who all seemed to be about 5 feet apart- as though this is their bubble of personal space.
It’s starting to get dark and I am hungry so I am trying to aim the safari toward the restaurant…Bryan finally can’t get any good pics any more without using the flash, so he agrees. They turn on the lights just for us and everyone shuffles into action.
A young girl, probably 14, shows us the menu and gets us water. I thank her (properly, not “welcome”) and she smiles and seems happy. A young guy comes to take our order and we try to explain we’d like a curry sauce with veggies and tofu- and he points to something vegetable and asks “garlic or oyster sauce”, to which we say in unison, garlic…and it seems we’re getting 2 dishes! But this is fine.
He tells us we will never be able to eat the large size order and to get the regular, so we laugh and thank him for that.
While we’re waiting it has gotten dark and the window to the restaurant overlooks a jungle valley- and all we hear is tapping…realizing every bug from the jungle is trying to get through the glass. Moths galore, beetles hitting the window and then piling up and climbing on each other…it’s actually kind of loud! Oddly enough, we had just watched an episode of a show called, “Black Mirror” which had some bees that did this…it was a tad frightening after seeing that episode! It made it seem as if you went outside you’d be covered in bugs instantly- but of course, not so as long as you’re not a light.
The curry was good- reddish and more Indian, mattar paneer-like than Thai, which is I think what we expected- but good. And definitely tofu and no meat! The other dish was actually really good- steamed/ sauteed veggies in a soupy sauce and lots of rice. We ate as much as we could and asked for takeaway, “bawa pulong” (bah-wah puh-long) and the young guy smiles and laughs. We are just glad to know we have lunch for tomorrow- which is a planned 6.5 hour drive the total other side of the island.
We start walking back to the hotel and just as we reach the building we’re in, I was about to take a step and pull it short because there’s something big in my way- it was a rhinoceros beetle, at least 5 inches long! It’s pretty dark so we had to use the flash on my phone to see it, but it was really cool. It’s the kind you usually only see under glass in a museum (sadly). I am so glad I saw it because I would have been devastated to step on that.
We got up to the room and when I went into the bathroom and turned on the light, something moved really fast on the wall- a gecko! It ran behind the mirror of the dressing table, so I pulled the table out and was going to show Bryan, but I think this scared it either to go inside or between the desk and the drawers and we never did see it again.
I laid down on the bed for a minute while Bryan went to do something and I saw a sign on the ceiling that said “kibat” and had an arrow. I wondered what it meant and instantly thought it must direct Muslims which direction to pray (toward Mecca). I looked it up, indeed that was the case. It is the first I have seen like that- not sure how common they are…but interesting.
It’s not terribly late but again, we’re pretty tired so we decide to go to bed- as we’re hoping to be up at 608am to see the sunrise…and hopefully shining on Mt. Kinabalu!