Monday, September 12, 2016

John Sunter: Mount Kinabalu – my first ascent above 4000m


Whilst walking the Inca Trail, I traversed above 4200m over a mountain pass.

4000m is the magic number for mountaineers (of which I am not actually one, but I can dream) and I had never actually done a 4000m peak.

Mount Kinabalu (which lends its name to Kota Kinabalu) is the highest mountain in South East Asia, standing at 4095m.

Quit a few of the people on the trip had climbed Kinabalu previously and didn’t want to do it again.

There were just 4 of us this time, Jason, Sarah, Richard and Me.

The gate on a building near to the start of the walk gave this warning.

I wasn’t sure if it meant strange looking people will be threatened with 1st WW rifles, or perhaps that people with unauthorised firearms would be intimidated by strange dancing men !.

Our guide Johan showed us this board which outlined the route.

Start to finish, the peak is 8 kilometres.

That’s about 3 times my daily walk to work, much steeper though, so it was going to be a lot harder.

The walk to the start of the route was really relaxing and we passed this waterfall.

Annoyingly all the comfort of the walk downhill to the start had to be made good as we were now at an even lower altitude than at the start.

Once again, the Park fee’s we paid had been put to good use.

The guides were all licensed, and carried identity cards and official credentials.

There were ready prepared steps throughout most of the lower sections of the walk and occasionally handrails like this one.

What was cool, was to see the change in vegetation, as we ascended higher.

The Nepenthes rajah is an insect eating plant.

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A smorgasbord of entertainment in store for Miri Country Music Fest 2017


The annual Miri Country Music Fest (MCMF) 2017 will showcases a list of bands that includes old-time favourites in the likes of Tantowi Yahya, Raggy and Mountain Wind Band.

The performing line-up is aimed at creating another exciting edition of the MCMF, which will be staged the ParkCity Everly Hotel Miri on Feb 25 and 26, according to the organisers.

The bands are Tantowi Yahya and Friends from Indonesia, Raggy Project (Penang), Russell Curtis (Kuala Lumpur), Shane Smith and the Saints (USA), James Thompson and the Strange Pilgrims (Australia), Casual Ceilidh (Brunei), Adi and Maha (Kota Kinabalu) and Miri’s very own, Mountain Wind Band and Country Road Band.

Tantowi, who has a big fan base in this region, is coming back due to popular request. He will be accompanied by Rani and Friends – another familiar favourite of the MCMF, having performed in several previous editions of the festival.

Other exciting MCMF comebacks are Raggy Project and Country Road Band – both performed in the first year of the festival three years ago, as well as Mountain Wind Band which was featured in this year’s MCMF.

Raggy, who has been appointed the ‘MCMF Ambassador’, performed with another band in 2014. Since then, he has been a familiar face at the festival – both as a performer and a member of the audience.

Next year, Raggy will return with a bigger setup – a five-member ensemble that promises classic country and bluegrass music fans a fun-filled time.

Just like Raggy, Adi Wow also performed with a different five-member band in 2014.

For next year, he decided to appear as part of the duo ‘Adi and Maha’ – a couple of talented musicians from the ‘Land Below the Wind’, set to wow the crowd with their energetic tunes.

Both Country Road Band and Mountain Wind Band will go all out next year at the nation’s only country music festival. Each band will come as a five-member setup.

MCMF 2017 will also feature first-time performances from Russell Curtis, who has been compared with established country singers like Blake Sheldon and Rascal Flatts; and Australia’s James Thompson and The Strange Pilgrims, who had just released two albums.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Every Footstep an Adventure: Guide to Borneo Orangutan Trekking in Tanjung Puting National Park


When I was a small child, you wouldn’t find me playing house, but instead running high and low with a raggedy brown duffel bag in tow — I was playing Explorer. I would stuff my trusty brown bag with a few pairs of underwear and some essential travel gadgets.

This meant, of course, my plastic red hammer, a skipping rope (to help me climb!), a tiny compass, and a few other items that would change as the situation did. And then I would wander around the house pretending I was journeying through a harsh mountain range or across vast ice fields or deep in the heart of a remote jungle.

You can imagine how excited I was then when, a few weeks ago, I visited Indonesia for the first time and I found myself exploring the far flung places of my childhood imagination. One of the first adventurous activities I partook in when I arrived was orangutan trekking deep in the Borneo jungles of Tanjung Puting National Park — and it was incredible.

We are walking single file along the jungle trails, deeper into the Borneo rainforest. As I pause and gaze around at my surroundings, the silence of the forest is broken by the snapping of a branch. I whirl around and gasp. Just a few meters behind us, high in the trees, I spot my first wild orangutan.

He gazes back at us with a thoughtful, inquisitive expression on his face. As we whisper among ourselves, I wonder what thoughts are going through this gentle giant’s mind. And then, just as suddenly as he had come, we watch as this auburn-haired creature grabs another branch and swings away through the treetops.

I had so many new experiences and amazing adventures in Tanjung Puting (and Indonesia as a whole!) and I’m finding it hard deciding what to start writing about. I mean, how do I even begin to convey my thoughts and express my feelings about a trip that has changed my life? I’ve learned so much more about the world and I’ve learned so much more about myself and what I’m capable of — I have no words.

But I’m a blogger and somehow I have to find the words, so here goes nothing!

While wild orangutans are the main draw of Tanjung Puting National Park, also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, and, don’t get me wrong, that was an indescribably great experience, I experienced so much more than that in Tanjung Puting.

From meeting friendly locals to trying delicious Indonesian cuisine, from being surrounded by such beautiful and different jungle vegetation (as compared to my home country of Canada) to seeing wildlife such as proboscis monkeys, gibbons, bush pigs, and fireflies, from getting to know people from around the world to learning more about Indonesia — it was all so amazing.

After a one-hour flight from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, I found myself on Borneo in the city of Pangkalan Bun. From the airport, I took a bus to the Port of Kumai and, along with four other people from around the world, we set out on a two-day-one-night adventure in a klotok, a traditional Indonesian riverboat.

With our guide and boat crew, we cruised down the Sekonyer River and headed into Tanjung Puting National Park where our goal was to encounter wild orangutans in their natural habitat.

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Friday, September 09, 2016

Hollywood set to make feature film on life of Sir James Brooke


KUCHING: Hollywood is set to make a feature film on the life of Sir James Brooke, the first Rajah of Sarawak.

American film producer Rob Allyn, who has a string of box office attractions to his name, plans to produce the film with British producer Simon Fawcett.

The inking of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the project between the production team and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture is scheduled to be held at The Riverside Majestic Hotel here today.

Some of the scenes of the movie will be shot in Sarawak to boost the state’s tourism and filming industry.

“The project will be launched with Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg. The state government is fully behind this project, we have producers from the United States and United Kingdom involved in the project as well,” Brooke Heritage Trust chairman Jason Desmond Anthony Brooke told The Borneo Post when met at a courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem at his office in Wisma Bapa Malaysia here yesterday.

He was accompanied by the film producers Allyn and Fawcett, Tourism Ministry’s permanent secretary Ik Pahon Joyik, who is also Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer, as well as Assistant Minister for Arts and Culture Datuk John Sikie Tayai.

The courtesy call was to discuss on the project which is a working partnership between Allyn’s Margate House Film and the Brooke Heritage Trust.

Jason is the grandson of the last Rajah Muda of Sarawak, Anthony Walter Dayrell Brooke.

The film, to be entitled ‘The White Rajah’, would touch on the great untold saga of James Brooke falling in love with the beauty, wildlife, the people and cultures of Sarawak.

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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Becoming You: Wonderful Indonesia - A river cruise through the Borneo jungle on a Klotok


I would never have believed you (or anyone else for that matter) if you had told me that one day, I, a very average mom of 2, would travel to the exotic island of Borneo!

Never in all my travel dreams (and there are many!) did I imagine myself sailing down a river through a jungle, or sleeping on a traditional Indonesian boat while lying next to 6 strangers and listening to the sounds of nature at night, or trekking through the dense jungle alive with poisonous creatures, or staring into the eyes of a huge orangutan

Nope, these are the things of National Geographic, or David Attenborough documentaries, or at the very least those exotic Instagram accounts that I follow with envy… These are not the experiences of my suburban life!

Except when they actually are!!

I recently had all of these experiences, and so many more, on my amazing #TripofWonders to Indonesia.

It’s impossible to capture the entire experience in one post so I’m going to have to cover each highlight and destination in a separate post. Expect 8 over the coming weeks!

I advise you to look away now if you can’t handle an overload of photos of my incredible trip, but I hope you won’t leave. I hope you will stay and be infinitely inspired by incredible Indonesia.

After a day spent unofficially exploring Jakarta and an official welcome dinner, it was time to head off on our itinerary to discover the first of our 4 destinations scattered across the Indonesia archipelago.

The first flight of 10 internal flights landed at Iskandar Airport in Pangkalan Bun and we headed off on a bus to the river port. We were greeted by an amazing group of traditional dancers who performed a welcome ceremony for us…

After the beautiful ceremony and a meet and greet / selfie session with the dancers, we head off to what is to become our home for the next 48 hours… A traditional Klotok boat.

If I’m honest I was very nervous about what to expect. I had read on the itinerary we would be spending the night aboard and having only just met my fellow travellers the night before I didn’t know how I would feel about spending the night sleeping next to them in such close confines!!

I shouldn’t have worried. By the end of the first day we had spent so much time together chatting about every topic under the sun that they all felt like fast friends! Not to mention the bonding that happens when you’re experiencing the most extreme humidity (and subsequent sweating) you’ve ever encountered!

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