I'm so behind with this damn blog! Ok, so on the 16th we left Rasa Ria (now to start roughing it!) for the airport in KK where we flew to Sandakan, the flight got in about 20 minutes early (it only took 25 minutes) but I'd been told to expect a fast and bumpy flight due to Air Asias kamikazee pilots! We got in and were driven the half hour to Sepilok from Sandakan, so far I hadn't seen the extent of the oil palm industry but we drove past acres of plantations on the drive! When we got to Sepilok rest house we were shown our rooms, I'm sharing with Katie. We unpacked and were given a 'light' lunch - Malayisan light lunch is not so light me thinks! It was expertly cooked by Amoi and was delicious! I think I had better not do any sunbathing while I'm here - If anyone sees me they may mistake me for a beached whale and call greenpeace, thats how good the food is!
We went to watch the 3 o'clock feeding at the tourist platform it was fantastic! I couldn't believe that these are the Orang-Utans that I'm going to be getting to know over the next couple of months!
When we got back a few of us walked to the nearby resorts, where we saw a huge bright red millipede!
The next day was the 17th! My 21st birthday! I woke up and opened my cards and my present from M and D, they got me a Fay Page necklace! Charmaine had done the birthday fairy thing and left me a little something on my bed! Kirsten and Kate also got me a card and another necklace! I decided to wear all my birthday jewellery including the bracelet Kathryn got me, so I was well and truly blinged out! Haha! We had a tour of Sandakan organised during the day, we left at 9 and met John our tour guide who would be organising all our excursions which look AMAZING! The first stop was the crocodile farm, we had the choice of staying on the bus but entry was free so I went in with mixed feelings - on one hand farming crocodiles for food and fashion prevents poaching the wild population, at the same time I was concerned for the welfare of the animals in the farm, and thought it would be better for them to have a good quality of life while they are alive. The feelings I left with were very much one sided, the conditions were terrible, the normally solitary crocodiles were packed into small concrete enclosures filled with small pools of stagnant water. Some had lost their tails and one had an enormous abscess. That wasn't even the worst if itm there were porcupines, tortoises and terrapins in tiny concrete enclosures, 2 ostriches in tiny pens one with an open sore on its back and then there were macaques packed into a barren cage. It was awful, I think I really take for granted how good the welfare of most animals is back home and that animals would never be allowed to be kept in conditions like that.
The next stop on the tour was the war memorial which is the site where 2500 Australian and British POWs were held captive by the Japanese in WW2 and forced to build an airfield. They were taken on a series of 3 260km 'death marches', only 6 men survived. After that we went to a Chinese temple where the religions practiced were Buddhism, Taoism and Goddess of Mercy. It was amazing, and we learnt that the nazi symbol actually means the harmony of the 4 elements, earth, wind, fire and metal which would givce world peace. The statues and decorations in the temple were stunning, and there were complimentary books for visitors, I took one which I read on the bus, it's really interesting all about practicing mindfulness.
The next port of call was the water village in Sandakan, where I bought quite a bit of jewellery in a little shop, I didn't feel so bad about spending money though as a) the lady ran a cat shelter and it went towards that, b) all the jewellery used local natural stones like freshwater pearls and c) it was v cheap!
Next we stopped off at, of all places an English tea room! I had Borneo rainforest tea (just to mix things up a little bit!) which I am going to have to stock up on before I leave! Anyway, true to form while we were there it pissed it down with rain! On the way back to the rest house we stopped off at the supermarket at mile 16 and purchased a few essentials, for instance very cheap, nameless alcohol (about RM5, or less than a pound!) We also found some amusing items such a a deodorant called 'Smelly-no-more' and some 'Romantic love rubbers' - Oh yes, you guys know what presents your getting from Borneo!
When we got back I went to do some laundry and came down to find that everyone had decorated the rest house! Selina gave me a bracelet which I have a sneaking suspision she bought from the water village, as while we were there she asked me my opinion on said bracelet.
After I blew out the candles on my cake we went outside where Dusain (one of the rangers) gave us some rice wine, which we drank from a bucket with a piece of bamboo, it was actually pretty damn good! All of the volunteers and the guys from the film crew came for birthday drinks at the jungle resort, it was great! I was so happy everyone came along it really was the best birthday!
The following day we had off which was a damn good job as I felt ROUGH! We did go and watch both the feedings at 10 and 3 though, other than that I just veged out!
Next day was our induction at Sepilok! We met Sylvia whos the boss lady but shes so lovely! When I first saw the Orang-Utans in outdoor nursery 2 I nearly cried I was so damn excited! We went up to outdoor nursery where I would be working first and were harrassed by some of the older Orang-Utans, they were amazing! I really couldn't believe I was really here and finally going to be working with these amazing animals! I am literally living my dream! What a cliche! Loving it! We watched the afternoon feeding and Julie pointed out the dominant male who was not on the platform but lingering behind the platform so none of the tourists spotted him! In the evening we had our introductory dinner, expertly cooked by Amoi who entertained us with her guitar playing!
Had another day off on sunday so we went to mile 4, most of the shops were closed but we had a wander round and went to pizza hut of all places, which is waaaay cheaper than english pizza hut by the way! Had an early night as we were starting work the next day! I'll update this when I finish my first 9 day placement which so far is amazing and I really don't want it to end!