Nic the Brit
23 March 2011 | kuching, serewak BORNEO
After being “kidnapped” in Labuan by Bubbles and her merry crew (not quite as it sounds as I came skipping and singing happily into the open arms of Bubbles, glad to be liberated and to be with some likeminded people). I found myself the only Brit on board, so here I am in the South China sea, listening to country and western music, chewing on some dip (tobacco and a dirty habit!!) and the only “brew”(tea) I can persuade them to drink in the afternoon is cold beer. Still, that leaves all the more tea for me, 92 cups of happiness left, believe me I’m counting.
My initial meeting with Bubbles is what can only be described as watching a Mother, calm and collective gathering all her children’s belongings as they throw at her, school bags, coats, toys etc. Yet what we really have is a happy active crew all going about their duties, filling water, diesel, food and beverages a hive of activity getting her ready for her voyage. Dutifully Bubbles carries all of this and us, and she does so with the grace and wisdom of a grandmother, her knowing bow safely carrying us over each lapping wave, keeping us dry(ish), afloat and safe.
So here’s me on board with a group of Mercians sailing, with the Spinnaker flying as we elegantly cut through the waves, country music blaring and tobacco dip spitting across the South China Sea. This is our passage from the lovely Brunei back into Malaysia to a city called Kuching (translates to Cat). We know this will take approximately 3or 4 days depending on the wind. Fully prepared off to the deep blue we head. The isolation of the ocean leaves you completely reliant on the strength of the crew. All you have is each other, the life stories that have (so far) bought us here, what we want and where we want to go. Immediately, being in such close confines, you know more about the 3 other people on the boat, than you would in any other normal situation. You’re happy and content with what are 3 strangers.
Leaving Brunei we rather excitingly have some Dolphins at the bow of the boat, a rare childlike excitement engulfs us. Urgently and eagerly shouting “Dolphins!” scrambling over water vats and aptly named Holes (the dingy) to get to the front of the boat, where we all stand to watch them play off the bow, listen to them whistle to each other and there’s us, the crew (for now at least) of Bubbles, grown adults, eyes wide, grinning in awe of seldom seen nature, like children with a rare treat at Disney Land.
The normally calm sea gave us insight into her potential; I woke early, due to the motion of the boat and went on deck to be greeted by a less than enthusiastic Jimmy. With waves crashing and rain driving into us jimmy declared that he’s “not so fond of rough weather!!” (There is a more elaborate colourful statement but it’s not appropriate for the blog, so use your imagination). But we rode the storm out and by about 9am the same day normal sailing, intermittent napping, scoffing and drinking was resumed and Jimmy was once again happy, more comfortable with Bubbles tranquil glide along the composed sea.
It was that same day we got introduced to two things 1) a Wahoo, a very tasty fish and 2) primal man. The announcement (more girlish than manly sceams!!) of having a catch on the line we had been trailing for two days led to what can only be described as a regression. Years of evolution undone in seconds and what I got to witness was men dragging their knuckles and primal whoops of joy at their catch. Then what levels every man is size, the delightful length of this fish was 50 inches (if you’re interested), so out came tape measures and cameras. Their faces in these photos that look so proud, adoring and loving at this fish, an expression we may not witness again until their wedding day or the birth of their first child. The hunter gatherer had reared its head; something that I think never leaves us or at least is highlighted in such isolated circumstances. After the fanfare the fish was disemboweled, filleted and its heart devoured by Alex (which was filmed by the way) lightly beer battered and in the pan, where we gorged on our “produce” the Wahoo was greatly appreciated.
Kuching!! As always land gives us opportunity to use the internet, shop for supplies and site see. The Orangutan was high on our list. So we headed to Kubah National park. We saw lots of Orangutans but stuck in my mind was the solitude that they were kept in. Peter a mature male alone in his cage, his crime was just for being a mature male. If ever the proverb “Eyes are the window to the soul” should be used it is here and with these thoughtful introspective creatures. A brief glimpse at our close genetic relationship was shared with Kirk and Peter. Peter holding his hand hopefully through the bars towards Kirk (who was eating sugar cane he had pinched from the wardens unoccupied wheel barrow of animal food), Kirk offering the sugar cane to peter who quietly and gently took it from his hand.
Bridging other animal/ human boundaries was Alex who climbed into the crocodile pen exclaiming “I just want to swim with them” the crocodiles needless to say did not want to share the pond. “Snap, snap” went the hungry crocodile. Running as his life depended on it (well it did) Alex jumped back over the wall. Jimmy had not stayed to watch this, stating that Alex had some sort of learning difficulty (read between the lines again) for doing such a thing. Kirk and I filmed it; apparently you can get $200 for entering a home movie on America’s dumbest videos.
Off to the jungle!! After the animal sanctuary we had an impromptu hike, to a view point approx 4km. This hike is now what I call the pointless view point walk. We walked and sweated in the humidity of the jungle to a broken down platform that would have once been the point to the hike. As with every hike it’s important to be prepared, correct shoes, sun cream, insect repellent, water etc. We had all of this only for some reason we left all of the above in the car!! Giving us real one to one time with nature. By this I mean leeches. I’ve never wanted to get to know a leech up close, so I can say I was less than pleased to have them attached to my feet. The removal of leeches should be done carefully, however I preferred the more hysterical screaming foot shaking approach. The boys on the other hand kept theirs on to see how big they would get. So if you ever hear screeches in the jungle it’s not necessarily a wild animal but some poor girl with leeches stuck to her feet.
My quest for afternoon tea remains strong, slowly I’m making changes I’m encouraging the Mercian’s to embrace this humble cup of dried leaves that makes so many British happy and forms a fundamental, understated part of our lives. So Cheers to Bubbles for keeping us safe and here is to the next leg of our tea drinking, crumpet eating journey.