WHERE IS THAT? Part 1
WHERE IS THAT?
When friends asked us where our next adventure was, we said, Borneo, most said, Where is that? When we told them, they still looked confused. Why do you want to go there? Because we remember studying about it in elementary school, learning about how the people live in ‘Long houses’ hunt with blow pipes and poison dart frog venom and are head hunters, and oh yes, it’s one of only two places on the planet that has Orang Utans! We remember watching David Attenborough exploring there on our little black and white TVs.
So here’s how we ended up going there, a long story because if you are quarantined in the house because of the Covid 19 virus threat, you might have time to read it.
We love sub Saharan Africa, we have been there six times now since 2007.
My hairdresser went with another company I had never heard of, a newer friend mentioned she had travelled a couple of times with that company and could recommend them, so I googled the company and looked at their website and forum. On the forum, anyone who posts shows the number of tours they have done, many were in the high twenties, many did not have high praise, seems that customer service, waiting in long phone lines, late cancellation of tours, agents telling you incorrect things were rampant. But then I noticed they went to Namibia, I well knew it was supposed to have the most beautiful scenery in sub Saharan Africa. Tauck had a tour to Namibia for a short while, but it was not popular and was soon stopped. We called to enquire about a date the next year, to learn it was being canceled. So we quickly looked and said, ok what about November? No, no places, wait a minute, yes one, no good, wait a minute, yes two, yep that’s how that company operates! So knowing that once you show interest, the next time you call you wait and wait for the phone to be answered, we booked it then and there.
Namibia was wonderful but the Organisation and the finesse was not there, and worse, the other 12 people were odd, pushy, cheap, in a wheelchair or smelled appallingly of sweat, I could go on. We will never travel with them again, however cheap their tours are. They bombarded us with one maybe even two big postcards a day offering thousands of dollars off their tours, daily emails too. So many we have to call and say, stop! But I continue to read their forum, you learn so much from forums. But this forum is unique, the members frequently mentioned other tour companies which I think is not good for that company. They mention maybe ten or more other companies. I don’t post there because you can easily end up by mistake making your email be your forum name and then finding it hard to change. And anyway the Tauck forum is enough for me, I don’t do Facebook, so it’s my only vice.
One day I see that Borneo is being mentioned as a destination with another company, people rate the company highly, I check it out on line and this very small company has some unusual but interesting destinations, places Tauck do not go to, with really full itineraries. I can’t find one negative review about them on line. I see that someone on the forum has been on quite a few tours with them and have posted their email. I decide to email her and ask what she thinks of the company, she loves them, she says the best Tour Director they ever had, led one of their tours.
We call the company, they answer straight away, we book the tour 18 months out, the tour is a guaranteed date, they only go there once a year. Their flight specialist is excellent and offers several choices of air, with business class seats so much cheaper than we could book, we book the flights with them. The tour info is wonderful, very specific and actually not just generic lists of clothing like you get from Tauck. We get excited, it’s a long time off and we have other tours to take before then.
The tour date approaches, Covid 19 suddenly appears on the horizon. This tour company operates like Tauck and does not want to cancel in case it is not in the end necessary. We carefully watch all the news about Borneo, Covid 19 is virtually non existent there. We pack our bags. On the morning of the day of departure, we call the company, is it still a go? Has anyone canceled? Yes, two of the ten, one is ill, one is too frighten to go. Ok, we lock the suitcases and go to the airport.
We arrive one day early in Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, we are asked to fill in a health report at the airport, we have to state our seat location on the plane, we are impressed, and our temps are taken. We are collected immediately and driven to our hotel. The roads are busy with traffic in the modern capital but the streets are virtually deserted, most of the people we do see are wearing masks, that’s not unusual in this area of the world. We get to the hotel, we get a lovely big suite with views over the Sarawak river out of our window, there is a broad walk along the river across the street and we can even see the fountains where fireworks light it up twice a night and the water dances to the music. We hear it’s very safe to walk around. The tour director has recommended a particular museum, the next day we walk by the river and go to that museum. There are various statues of cute cats around the city, some on road roundabouts. Apparently Kuching can mean ‘Cat city’
The next day we meet our other tour members, someone else has dropped out very last minute. We already knew their names from a list we got several weeks ago, we already know the tour director is going to be that ‘best ever’ one.
We eat the welcome dinner at the hotel and next day the tour begins.
- [ ] We meet at 9am, it is very warm and humid, we knew it was going to be like that and whatever time you meet, the temps are going to be the same, so a lie in was nice and anyway there are few tourists, the flights from China stopped several weeks ago and the Chinese made the bulk of the tourism in the area.
- [ ] We explore the city. To be honest, I did not keep a detailed diary, I spent any free time I had looking at Covid news on line and days were full. But during our four days in Kuching we thoroughly toured the city and surrounding areas, going out to the rain forest, visiting a cultural Village with awesome replicas of ‘Long houses’ wonderful local dancing, crafts and so on.
- [ ] I get the opportunity to have a go at an authentic blow pipe.it’s about six feet long, hollow and there is a spear at the end. The tribesman puts a dart in the end and I blow it out at the target, it hits the bullseye, I have two more goes and they both hit the target but not the eye, but I am thrilled! Now if you can find me a poison dart frog and collect some poison from it, I’ll kill anything or anyone you like with one blow!
- [ ] Another day, we hiked up a very long incline of about one and a half miles up a concrete trail in incredible humidity and through the rain forest. There was a slim chance of seeing Orang utans at this location but they did not cooperate, it didn’t matter, despite sweating like pigs and puffing and panting, we enjoyed it all. There sure is no way you might even think you could wear an outfit for a second day on this tour.