Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Kota Kinabalu II and Mantanani Island

In which some boys try to steal our fire and I rip up a terrible batik
Starring Sprout who is dramatically injured in battle

Back in Kota Kinabalu we met up with Jon from the rig who picked us up by car and took us out for a seafood dinner.  This was of a different calibre altogether from our waterfront market stalls.  We solemnly surveyed the tanks of full of depressed looking fish – the exact species we had just been admiring in the open ocean just 24hours before and in the end settled for a local jungle fern speciality and some large prawns (already dead!).  After that it was a tour of some of his favourite bars – Jon is apparently something of a KK legend and not only knew people everywhere we went but was frequently featured in the photo montages on the wall.

The next day we left for Mantanani Besar Island off the very northern tip of Borneo.  It’s rather a long trip – three hours by bus and then an hour by boat. The boat was full of Malaysians on a work trip who were completely fascinated with us – one guy with particularly Rastafarian hair was taking pictures of us almost continually until we told him to cut it out.  The sea was rather alarming rough so we roared out into the surf and then cut along the coast trying to outrun the breaking waves. 

The island was worth it though – about as deserted as you could ask for with limited electricity and a sandy floored dining room. Our room was a wooden hut on stilts with a palm leaf thatched roof and a outdoor bathroom that provided the additional novelty of being rained on while you’re brushing your teeth. 

The rough weather meant that diving wasn’t an option for the first two days so I spent most of the time lying in bed feeling very sorry for myself as my cold (a.k.a dengue fever) just wouldn’t lift and to top it off I then got an eye infection that left me looking like I’d done a round in the ring with (insert famous boxer's name here).  We did do some walks around the island – there’s a wonderful bay on the far side that had no one at all on it – and there was an interlude of batik painting during a rainy morning which ended in me ripping up my rubbish artwork in a fury of what I will call ‘flu fever’.  

Jo occupied herself with worrying about and naming the resident feline population of which there were many starving and decidedly ill looking members. Her favourite was ‘Sprout’ a little black and white ball of fleas that appeared one morning sporting a large sterile bandage around its belly.  This turned out to have been ably applied by an Italian called Antonio over an open bite wound in Sprout’s abdomen – the result of a fight the night before.  “He is my son now,” said Antonio thereby clearing Jo of any further responsibility for investigating the UK’s cat immigration laws.

I didn’t start to feel better until the second afternoon when we got permission to build a fire on the beach. The shore is absolutely littered with drift wood of all varieties so getting a bonfire started is really just a matter of a dragging some of it a bit closer together and striking a match. We did have to use the opening chapter of Cath’s novel as starter fuel but it was going brilliantly very quickly.  Of course it was only about ten minutes into enjoying being in charge of a fire that two boys turned up and immediately tried to take charge. 

On the last day, the weather improved and we were rushed out to the dive centre – a stilted wooden construction in the middle of the ocean. The diving wasn’t as great as Sipidan but we saw turtles and plenty of rays and there was a strongish current that meant you could literally just lie still and be slowly drifted over the corals. 
Then it was back to KK for another night out with Jon (this time we took him to OUR seafood market) which included sampling some durian fruit.  Infamous for its disgusting smell which is something akin to rotting rubbish -  I’m happy to report that it has a matching texture but a distinctly different flavour.  

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