So what do you pack for the Bornean Rainforest? I trawled through a million websites, agonised over where to buy leech socks, packed 6 long-sleeved shirts (as against my regular lightweight t-shirt/tops) and gloated over my Kindle – no more packing heavy books (and their many back-ups).
I landed in KL, hooked up with Rohaan who had gone ahead on work, and we spent a happy day mall-hopping. We even managed to catch the latest movie, John Carter – that our doorman at the hotel insisted (after the Mayan apocalypse), was the most awaited event of 2012. Our holiday was off and running.
Two days later, we were headed toTurtle Island – but not without some gentle argument about whether we really need to carry along my big black suitcase. Rohaan suggested we pack our stuff into smaller bags as we were spending just one night at the island and two nights at a resort on the legendary Kinabatangan river. He already had one very heavy backpack full of his
toys camera equipment.
‘We can leave the suitcase at the hotel,’ he begged. We were spending a night there after the tour was over.
‘Nonsense’, I insisted. ‘There’s nothing to worry about.’
I mean this was Asia after all. Someone would help us with the bags.
‘Trust me. You won’t have to carry it.’
If only I hadn’t said that. The fun began even before we reached the jetty. The doorman of the hotel (and the cabbie) took one look at the big fat bag resting at our feet and politely stepped aside. Rohaan hauled it into the boot of the car.
‘Let them do it!’ I hissed. As usual I was ignored.
We reached the jetty. It was a small shed with a few boats bobbing about outside on the sea. Our fellow passengers began to trickle in. My blood began to boil. How can you spend even one night at a strange place – miles away from home – and still manage to pack everything into such ridiculously small bags? I looked around for support. Someone must be carrying something bigger.
An Asian couple had a small purple suitcase sitting primly at their feet. It was about the size of the basket that my mum’s Persian cat sleeps in. I looked away. Four friends from Luxembourg were laughing and joking. They were all carrying backpacks that looked smaller than the one Ishaan carries to school. A darling elderly British couple walked in. Ann had hurt her hand (it was a minor fracture). Her arm was in a sling. She carried a smart blue and white handbag on her shoulder. John had a backpack strapped to his back. That was it. Our suitcase meanwhile, stood tall, black, and proud.
Time to go. Rohaan gave me a despairing look. He suggested leaving some of our things behind at the office at the jetty.
‘In what? Plastic bags?’ I sneered. ‘Don’t bother,’ I added. ‘We’ll do what suits us.’
Suffice to say, it was all downhill from there. Rohaan had to carry the suitcase into the boat (where it occupied a full seat) and then off the boat. We lugged it across acres of sandy beach to get to the resort – then lugged it back to the boat the next morning.
I did some deep breathing. Once we’re done with all these damn boats, I thought, we’re home and running. Just one smallish car journey stood between us and the resort at Kinabatangan. Silly me.
Half-way through the drive we were bundled out of the car and made to cross a bridge – ‘So sorry…bridge is repair…’ – that consisted of three planks of wood. We got back into the car, but not before the driver respectfully stood aside and let Rohaan do his thing.
Ok. It has to end now, I thought.
The car stopped soon after. At a jetty. It was the Kinabatangan River resort, you see. So Rohaan carried the bag into one more boat and then out of it – and then we pulled it across many miles of pretty wooden bridges and uneven stone pathways to get to our room.
Oh well. You win some you lose some. But what really hurt (no, I’m not talking about our knees), was the teeny-tiny fact that I had forgotten to pack my swimsuit and cap – I really missed my cap at the Gomantong caves where the bats are freely shitting all over the place. In case you’re wondering, I used an umbrella.
I did carry my sack of beads though (about half-a kgs worth). After all, who knows when you’d need something to trade with the head-hunters, right?
p.s. In my defence, it has been a long time since this old, much-married, mother-of-two has stepped out backpacking, island-hopping or generally doing anything remotely adventurous. The price of motherhood? Naah. I just like to blame the kids.