January 18th 1984

posted in: The way back | 1
Making our way to the boat

We had been told to expect our boats at 8 am, but we arose early + packed, + still had time for a bite of breakfast before they came.  They pulled up on the sand a long way out – the tide was just about at its lowest – so we had to walk out to them.  Perhaps this was just as well – the HQ where the hostels are is right next to the beach, but we hadn’t been out on it at all.  I was glad we did, if only to have a brief look at the strange rock formations, just another of the things the Park has to offer.  It is an excellent place all round, we’ve decided, not spectacular perhaps, but charming + well-run.  The monkeys are fun to watch – we annoyed them  terribly by tying down our dustbin lid to thwart their foraging – + tho’ I’m not really qualified to judge I’d say there was plenty in the Park for the serious student too.  What we enjoyed most was the peace + relaxation – for that reason I’m pleased we happened to be at Bako in the wet season.

The trip back to the fishing village was a far different matter from the journey out.  For a start, the weather was vastly improved,  being warm, dry + sunny.  Secondly, with the tide being so low, we had to take a different route, + even tho’ our driver obviously knew the waters well, he was keeping a wary look out for sandbanks, + stood up from time to time to give him a better view down into the very muddy waters.  I think he should consider using some of the money he’s made out of us to buy a new spark-plug for his engine – we stalled twice + misfired often, + it made us slightly nervous on one occasion, with the engine dead + us drifting fast in the wrong direction, to see him cleaning up the plug with a toothbrush.

When we arrived in the fishing village (also called Bako), we had a lengthy wait.  Even more than we’d anticipated, since the express boat back to Kuching didn’t leave till well after 1.  I chatted with the teachers, mostly with the younger female.  She’s quite nice (it’s her husband I rate the jerk) + was, it turned out, a former Australian hockey international.  They 4 had tried to enter Sabah from Kalimantan, but had been turned back at the border.  This cheered me a little (not that I wished them malice) because for some time now I have been regretting  that we did not go that way from Sulawesi, + it may well have been that we would have suffered the same fate.  They were forced to fly all the way over to Jakarta, + then up to Singapore + across – a very long, very expensive detour.

Val, all this time, was  buried in ”Theophilus North”.  Our book situation had improved considerably in Bako, when first Cliff had swapped an Australian novel, “Monkey Grip” for “Gorky Park”, + then one of the teachers had presented us with “Foundations Edge”, the 4th + latest in Asimov’s saga.  This meant having to have a book to return to him – hence Val’s haste.

Finally, after what seemed several ages of seeing the boat moored tantalisingly close, on the other bank + just up river, it motored over + we could board.  The journey back was very fast, largely because the tide was racing in, reversing the river’s normal flow.

On arriving at Kuching, our first move was to check with the shipping agent as to when the next boat would be leaving, as that would affect our subsequent plans.  We discovered that we certainly wouldn’t be leaving tonight – this was rather a relief, since if so we would suddenly be in the most appalling rush.  There was a boat to Miri tomorrow, + one to Bintulu the day after, so we would have to decide which one we wanted, each offering different advantages.  The trip to Bintulu was shorter + cheaper, but the one to Miri left a day earlier, + had the additional advantage of having an early morning ETA, meaning we could leave for Niah National Park, our ultimate destination, that day.  In other respects there was little to choose.  Both towns were supposed to be appallingly expensive to stay in; they were roughly equidistant to Niah.  We were unable to choose today, postponing a decision until we could obtain more information tomorrow.

Next stop was the Cathedral Guest House.  I should explain why we had not rushed here immediately, worried frantic about my money-belt.  I had passed a message to the Cathedral via the Park Ranger, + had received a reassuring reply.   Nonetheless, it was a relief, on arriving at the Diocesan Office, to be handed it back.  Maybe I’ll be more careful in future.  Maybe.  They were also able to give us a room, without all the fuss we’ve experienced recently.

Once we’d moved in, we decided to try to do something with what was left of the afternoon, so we went to the museum.  We had hoped to see the curator, to obtain the necessary official permit to visit the Painted Cave at Niah, but the office was shut, so we revisited the new museum building, to carry on from where we had been forced to leave last time.  Once again however, to our surprise, we were beaten by the bell.  I had however seen just about everything I wanted, but Val, presumably being more thorough than I, was still left with another visit if she wanted to “do” the place thoroughly.  I say it again – it really is a remarkable museum.

We moved on next to find a meal, selecting, by way of a change, an Indian restaurant, appropriately enough on Jalan India.  And it was alright, without being anything very special.  Nothing like as good, I’d say, as the Indian restaurants back home.

My lack of apparent concern about the missing money-belt and passport at last explained, and a relatively efficient journey back. Decisions to be made about our route tomorrow… but that’s another day.

  1. Pamela Blair

    Interesting story, Chris. It’s hard to imagine where you are because the place-names are unfamiliar to me, but I’ve had a money belt lost as well! I’ll send you that story separately.

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