Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sabah Orchid Tour Day 2 Part 1 - Oct 1 2009

An interrupted rest
After Tony’s talk the night before, I hit the sack soon after a quick shower back at the hotel. Unfortunately, I only got about 3 hours of sleep before a choking cigarette smell woke me up. The entire room reeked of second hand smoke and I felt like I had just had a bowlful of cigarette ash for supper.

The inside of my mouth and throat felt really dry and bitter from breathing this toxic air. It was past midnight and I contemplated switching rooms but then I thought if some asshole’s been smoking out in the corridors then the other rooms would most definitely be reeking as well. So I got up and opened the windows and switched off the aircond to let in some fresh air. This did alleviate the problem somewhat so I settled back in to sleep.

1 City Hotel

Not a half hour in and I awoke to a tickling sensation across my face and then I felt some creepy crawly in my hair! I bolted up and turned a light on, it was a freaking cockroach the size of a 747! Apparently it had got in through the opened windows. In the moment, I grabbed the closest thing to me to crush it, a soft fluffy pillow. :P The little bugger got away scratch free and I spent the rest of the night awake and fidgeting about. The slightest sensation such as that from the comforter tassels shot me right up brushing franticly at invisible roaches.

Anyway, I managed to fall asleep for about 10 minutes when that little bugger scrambled across my face AGAIN! Geez what was it after? This time I was ready and squashed it flat with my bare hands. I didn’t care if it was dirty, I was quite determined to make sure it didn’t live to race across another hotel guest’s face! I even crushed and dislocated its head to be sure before leaving it atop the toilet cistern to show housekeeping the next day (not the hotel’s fault though as I believe it got in when I opened the windows).

Well, you know what they say about roaches, they’ve been around for millions of years and no amount of crushing can truly kill them. It was gone the next morning, no trace of it wherever I looked!

Someone’s missing a leg. ;P

So back to the smoke problem, because I had to close the windows, the cigarette smoke was back and how time flies when you’re squashing roaches, it was nearly 3AM! I turned on the TV and Band of Brothers was on so I watched that till I fell asleep an hour or so later. Got up again at 6AM and was out the door by 7AM to request for a new room on a different floor which the hotel staff politely obliged (they apologized for the smell and roach too). So I really only had about 4 hours of sleep time the entire night. I was a walking zombie came breakfast time.

Breakfast – roti canai telur
I ran into half of the group out for morning coffee on my way to the bank. We all then went to the 24 hour mamak food joint right across from my hotel and everyone had roti canai telur (Indian flat bread with egg). Everyone seemed to enjoy theirs but having had much better fare elsewhere, I thought the roti was too dry and very bland. Everyone cleaned up their plates except me, with more than half left over. Were you guys really that hungry or are did my taste buds go all wonky after inhaling all that polluted air the night before?
Next thing to do, pick up our rentals at the airport so we all set off in three taxis.

Burning fuel
After burning a litre or so of fuel taking the cars for a spin, I suddenly realized I had a Garmin Etrex Vista hCX GPS with a super sensitive receiver and preloaded maps for the whole of Sabah complete with topography maps and ice maker in my bag! With the GPS it was easy to drive all the way up right to the doorstep of Kipandi.

Kipandi  Butterfly Park
The drive up to Kipandi is a pretty nice and scenic drive in the direction of Penampang and Tambunan. It’s not too difficult to drive there if you have a GPS telling you which way to turn but even without one, once you’ve been up there, it’s unlikely you’ll forget the way the second time.
After passing rolling hills to our left and right, sweeping valleys, sloping roads and steep gradients, we finally arrived at Kipandi! Everyone took out their cameras and started snapping away at the tiniest thing that moved (bees and wasps) and the commonest of Borneo orchids (Arundina) out on the parking area even before paying the requisite entrance fee of RM20 per person. Tony and the Kipandi crew were already waiting for us up at the reception area.

Kipandi is a really nice place to visit if you’re into insects and species orchids. There’s a small collection of Hoya, Nepenthes and Aeschynanthus (lipstick plant) species as well.

Tony first introduced us to a unique local fruit very popular in Sabah, buah tarap (Tarap fruit, Artocarpus species). I have only ever tasted this fruit once during my previous trip to Sabah as my mom  loves it and bought a whole fruit hoping I’d help her finish it. I didn’t like it one bit then and I didn’t like it this time either.

Tony Lamb introducing buah tarap to the group.

Digging in! In a few minutes almost the entire fruit’s gone.

This fruit has a very strong pungent odor, smells like kerosene to me. I call it the kerosene fruit. It’s supposed to taste heavenly but it tasted more like wet cotton with syrup. Now I don’t know about you but cotton isn’t very tasty to me. Everyone else in the group disagreed however, and pretty soon the freshly split fruit on the table was reduced to only skin and seeds. “Yum, tastes like chicken!” said someone (ever notice how everything new tastes like chicken?). “Oooh, this tastes like papaya and bourbon!” said another. “Wow! It’s like eating cake with all the icing minus the calories!” exclaimed one other. However, the over-the-top remark of the day was this - “This is so good I just farted and nobody noticed!” A bit inappropriate when you’re standing around in a circle of 11.

I made up all of the above remarks of course, harhar!. ;P I simply guessed what they each were thinking while sampling (or devouring!) the stinky fruit.

Short introduction and welcome note from Dr. Steven Chew.

We were then given a short introduction by Dr. Steven Chew, the resident entomologist who then took us up the insect museum. Very impressive collection of butterflies of various species from Sabah and across the seas. Stick insects, beetles, roaches, you name it! He then took us into the butterfly garden and we saw a number of very colorful and beautiful large specimens gliding through the air. One came into to land on a nearby vine to lay its eggs. We saw one particularly interesting caterpillar, a big fat thing with soft rubbery hairs sticking out of its body.

A tour of the insect museum.

Big soft and rubbery caterpillar.

In the butterfly garden were also some interesting plants. One in particular, botanic name escapes me, looks like a cross between an aroid and a pandan. It flowers at the very base of the plant and produces flowers which stink like fresh droppings of a monkey. Its main pollinator are bugs that are attracted to such a stench.

Fascinating wild orchids
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Besides the insect collection, Kipandi also features a large collection of wild orchids mostly collected from deforested areas (logging, development, plantation etc.). The garden here is very well cared for, the blood and sweat of one Linus (he gave me his card but I misplaced it) whom I understand is the manager of the place.

The shade houses feature all kinds of orchids from the smallest Bulbophyllum species to giant Grammatophyllum species. We were also in luck as it was Coelogyne season, specifically C. radioferens and C. dayana (or is it C. pulverula now?).

The way the garden is laid out also gave me a lot of ideas how to redo my own orchid house. They had tree fern trunks driven into the ground and aroids, ferns and other ground plants to help keep the soil together around the trunks. On the trunks were orchids of all kinds and the cool and misty mountain weather really helps to keep the plants in good condition.

Please hop over to my Flickr page to view the photos taken at Kipandi. I think words cannot do justice to the beauty of some of the species found in bloom there. I will let the pictures do the talking.
(flickr pro account expired, pictures in above set no longer accessible)

Day Two to be continued in Part 2.

1 comment:

Edna said...

'someone's missing a leg' LOL. I hate cockroaches!

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