WHERE IS THAT? Part 3

  • [ ] Now other people start to appear in the seating area, but it’s clear to see that many more people are usually expected by all the remaining empty bench seats. By now it’s getting so near the light changing and the rest of the group have not appeared. There are Swiftlets flying around catching insects.
  • [ ] Ah, the others appear! The time gets near, then suddenly the bats start to appear out of the cave, they are swirling around the sky, in their thousands, they appear in waves over about half an hour. High up we watch a Bat eagle trying to pick one off. It succeeds but it loses the grip on its prize and the little bat falls from the sky.
  • [ ] It’s all over and darkness has almost come. What a wonderful experience. We get up and make the three mile trek back to the lodge in darkness with our flashlights helping us see the way because the bIts pf lighting here and there along the trail are quite dim. We eat dinner.
  • [ ] We get back to our room, we know we have no Wi-Fi there and it’s been virtually impossible to connect at reception for all of us, we turn on the Tv and watch the BBC world news, I begin to worry about the escalating Covid 19 and countries closing borders. Mr. B always says why worry about something you can’t do anything about. But I am beginning to think maybe the tour will have to end very soon.
  • [ ] The next day, we get into narrow low long boats, the river is right next to the hotel. The life jackets make us feel even hotter and thank goodness we get a bit of a breeze as we motor along. We see small simple wooden homes on stilts and some local people in similar boats and some are fishing, we wave and smile and they do the same back to us. We stop at a local village where they are more modern ‘Long houses made of concrete. The villagers have some crafts displayed and I quickly chose a small carved blow pipe and arrows and a pretty sarong.

We arrive at a boat dock where there is a large deck, toilet facilities and a small snack bar. Nearby are very steep steps that take us up to a cave system. We start the climb, there are hundreds of steps. I have to stop for breaks, it’s so humid and my heart is pounding with the effort. We make it to the cave entrance. Inside there are many more steep steps up and down and it seems to go on forever. It’s fantastic inside. So worth the very difficult climb. We leave the cave, we head down those steep steps. Lucky for me that I don’t have knee troubles, so the descent is easy for me apart from making sure I don’t slip on the wet steps.
That evening, the tour director, who has been looking more and more worried, comes over to the group and says to order any drink we like on him, he has news. Things have been changing fast, the National Park has closed, the border with our next destination, Sabah state, Borneo, has closed. They want foreigners out of the country, the hotel was likely to close, they could no longer serve us food inside the restaurant, we would have to eat outside from take out containers. We had to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
The travel company work hard to find us flights out of the country before there was a lockdown. The next day we were told there was a morning flight to a town called Miri, about a half hour flight. Officials took our temperatures before we got on the flight. From there we flew to Kuala Lumpur. The airport was about an hour’s drive from the city. A local transport company picked is up, there was very little traffic. It was dark, we noticed the famous Petronas Twin Towers with the high bridge joining them on the skyline. We have often seen them depicted in adventure movies. The roads are wide and modern, the buildings look modern too. We reach the main part of the city and the minivan pulls off the main highway. We enter narrow seedy looking streets with run down buildings. We eventually stop at a hotel. We hear it is the only hotel in Kuala Lumpur that remains open. The lobby looks fine and the staff happy to see us, they are kind and helpful. They take our temperatures. They explain the regulations. We cannot leave our rooms, we must eat from the limited room service menu. Our room is small but it has a good sized bathroom, tea and coffee, a TV, it could do with an update, but it’s somewhere to sleep and we are in a big city and not in the middle of an isolated rain forest like we were in the morning with limited outside contact. We settle in, still uncertain if we can get out of the country. The next morning, our Tour Director emails us from his room and tells us flights have been secured for us, but it’s not for another day. We spend 48 hours in the room, alternating between lying on the bed, getting up and doing a few exercises, ordering from the menu, carbs galore, I’m so hungry considering we are doing nothing. We watch the BBC News on the TV, the same thing over and over, Covid 19! We read our books, we watch a couple of downloads on our iPads and repeat the routine over and over. It’s hard to concentrate, will we get out before everything stops and we are stuck in Malaysia.
The time comes to leave the hotel, we wonder whether the drivers will turn up, we are not sure whether they are breaking the law coming for us. Our driver jokes and tries to shake our hands, we all laugh and he looks just like Idris Elba

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