Saturday, March 26, 2011

Borneo: Cheap Rum, Pirates and Treasure-Hunters

Oh Kudat.... what a town. Up until the early 60's, Malaysia still had head-hunters, and cannibalism was an accepted practice. They just pulled a Japanese WW2 tank from the jungle two weeks ago.

Craig works for the British Merchant Navy about two months/year, and spends the rest of the time on his yacht in Malaysia searching for sunken treasure off the coast of Borneo---doing pretty well for himself.

Self-Proclaimed Mayor of Kudat, historian and treasure-hunter
One evening David sat me down and gave me a stern warning: if someone were to ever board our ship and try to take us hostage, then I have permission to....

1) stab, kick, shoot and do whatever possible to kill and push the invaders overboard

2) if we are captured, then I should not speak a word of English and only talk in Russian, because all the weaponry that the Malaysian pirates use is supplied by the Russians, so I'll have a better chance of living if I hide the fact that I possess dual citizenship.

Tai-chi at sunset
weird statue in Kudat's center---Sarah says it's a persimmon, I think it's a coconut
 Damn. I'm really not that great at handling the heat, and it seems I haven't learned my lesson after turning into a burnt raccoon in Nepal. Sunburns are a daily occurrence. I'm going to come back to the States with some wicked tan lines.
painful and an epic tan line
 Torrential downpours are so strong that you have to yell to hear anything. If I'm out on a run and see the clouds coming in from the Philippines, I make a mad dash back to the yacht, but the sheets of rain always overtake me and I end up completely soaked. White t-shirts are not the best choice of clothing here....

some serious clouds
it rains. a lot. the umbrella pictured is now broken
 Working with the grinder to repair some decking. Lots of maintenance jobs on board. Screwing, sanding, grinding, pulling, twisting, hammering, painting etc....

Still wearing the glacier goggles. No luck finding replacement sunglasses yet
I find myself quoting J. Clarkson's quite often: "I need some tools, where is my hammer?" Usually this is accompanied by a mix of Russian/English swearing, as whatever I'm trying to fix refuses to cooperate (like the damn gearbox).

Scraping silicone and glue from the decking.
Sarah masking and painting
Giant monitor lizards (up to 11 feet long) sunbathe on the rocks and are powerful swimmers. The locals consider them a delicacy.

The sandals look innocent, but they have savagely torn up my feet. I'm trying not to get some unknown tropical infection while I'm here, but my footwear is making that task difficult. I've adopted the barefoot lifestyle as it is the only remaining option that's keeping my feet from being covered in bloody blisters.

 Rats. I was woken up in the middle of the night by scuttling sounds in my room. I tried to hit the rat with a bottle stashed under my bunk, but it was 3 am, dark and I had been dreaming of skiing up an underwater mountain, so I was completely disoriented. There's a huge bruise on the top of my head from where I hit my head on the ceiling in my nightly rat-chasing attempts.

Russell getting a lesson on what to do with a rat: "Rats Russell, get the rat! Where's the rat!"
Traps I set up in my room-- I had to be careful not to step in them myself.
Russell can sit, shake, lay down, and roll over. I'm currently teaching him to stand on his hind legs, with limited success. The chewy toys get destroyed by those teeth. "Froggy" and "Teddy" have had many legs amputated and open wounds with stuffing coming out sewn up.
Such a happy dog
I find myself dreaming about Ama Dablam. It usually appears as the backdrop to my slightly hallucinatory-like dreams (my subconscious is screwed up, you don't have to tell me).
Ama Dablam

I don't know if it's the heat, but I often think of Lhotse, Nuptse, Everest, Cho Oyu, the South Col, Annapurna, Makalu..... The tropics are great, but it's all tame. Too tame. The sandy-white beaches, the palm trees full of coconuts, the comfortable life on a yacht and the warm ocean water. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself.

These two months of scuba diving among coral reefs while drinking copious amounts of rum are great, but later? When I have to go back to Middlebury? Vermont is starting to feel like a manicured lawn full of pink, plastic flamingos and surrounded by a barbed wire fence.

Why can't I just be normal for once?

Winter on the Arctic Ocean---I miss this
Skiing across greenland anybody? parents are getting a bit worried.... [end tangent]

The sunsets here are unbelievable.
 Most of the locals are Muslim, so my attempts at buying a second pair of shorts has so far been fruitless. Lots of overnight laundry is the only way to solve the problem.

Cute kitten I found on the sea wall
 Going for runs or sea-side walks is a bit uncomfortable. They don't get many westerners around these parts, especially solo girls, so the locals usually yell out "Hello!" and then start laughing or wolf-whistling amongst themselves. Most of the time I just ignore it, but I did stab one guy with an umbrella by accident.
Local fishing boats.
The markets here have very peculiar things for sale including pig hearts, chicken feet and lots of dried fish.

pig heart anyone?
Dried jellyfish or squid... I couldn't tell
Chicken feet. Apparently you're supposed to boil them
The meat market. Smells horrid
Sarah was really excited about finding bananas
About 20% of Malaysia is inhabited by the Chinese, so lots of temples and weird food. 

A GIANT cockroach on the grapes

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