Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sabah Orchid Tour Day 5 – Oct 4 2009

And so Day 5 arrived. It was down to the valley to Poring and then up to Mesilau Nature Reserve that day.

After a rather quiet breakfast, with the only “excitement” coming from a stick bug crawling near someone's table, we gathered at the newly finished viewing platform for a group photo. The clouds were kind and did not obscure Mount Kinabalu so we got a really good group shot. I was the only one who was keen on making faces and silly poses though, so in the end I gave up and just gave a straight smile like in a Colgate commercial.

Perfect day for taking photos and driving down to the valley.

That’s Mary, trying to take our group photo with a macro lens. If we moved back any further we’d be rolling down to Poring instead of driving there.

Why do travelers always leave things behind when checking out? I left two towels behind (hung them up to dry just before going out! How dumb was that?), John forgot his hat and Tom left behind his travel adapter. When we reached Mesilau, we called up the park HQ and they informed us if they found anything they'd send it over the next day. The next morning, we were informed that nothing had been found (really, nothing at all? hmm...) Oh well, at least nobody forgot anything important like their passports, cameras or laptops though. And never ever leave your mobile behind, wouldn't want anyone viewing those "secret" pictures and messages now, would we?

We bid goodbye to Kinabalu Park and set off to Poring. Made a quick stop at Kundasang to get some cough lozenges for Jeong and sped off to Ranau and got to Poring Hot Springs around 9:30AM.

Poring is located about 45 minutes from Kinabalu Park HQ. It’s down in the valley so it’s quite warm and humid here. It was a weekend so the place was packed with many visitors, particularly locals who were there for the hot springs. I’ve been to that area before and I can just imagine how packed and full the springs were that day. The place really was a hive of activity that Sunday morning.

It really was a stroke of luck that I noticed a sign posted saying “Rafflesia” at the far end of the parking lot outside. I knew there were Rafflesias along the way to Poring but I never expected to find growing so near to the park! The villagers who farm/own the land the raffs are found wanted RM20 per person but we bargained this down to RM10. When I asked how much I had to pay, the villagers said I could go in for free!

The first of many hanging bridges we crossed this entire Borneo tour.

We drove along a dirt road passing through farm land and then were taken by a villager to view the stinker. To get to the flower, we crossed our very first hanging bridge in Sabah and this was a mini-event for some in the group!

The Rafflesia flower was about 60cm across (2 feet) and would have been wider if the petals didn’t curl back. Rafflesia keithii. It gave off a strong, pungent smell of fermented cabbages (to my nose anyway). Honestly I didn’t find it that stinky at all. All that talk about raffs smelling like carrion really is just hyperbole me thinks. Maybe some species do stink but R. keithii certainly didn’t smell anything like rotting flesh.

Pictured here is an average-sized flower about 60cm across with a developing bud on the right.

The Rafflesia is a curious flower. Flowers are either male or female and pollination is only likely if there are male and female flowers opened at the same time. The developing buds are also sensitive to bacteria and rot easily before reaching maturity. The giant flowers and buds are the only visible parts of the parasite which feeds on a specific host, a species of liana (vine). Being host-specific makes it even more endangered. Luckily, villagers realize the potential of these giants and care is taken not to damage them or the developing buds.

Some Rafflesia species can attain a size of over a meter across. This flower is two days old.

Each giant flower takes about 9 months to develop from a small bud but opens for only a week. The one we saw was two days old and emitted a pungent but not overpowering smell. It was far from being the stinker as described in many accounts.

Is this the line to the loo?” The Rafflesia caused a flurry of shutter clicks and everyone tried to get a whiff of it.

I really enjoyed that mini excursion to see the Rafflesia. I’ve never ever seen one in bloom before. The species found near Kuching is Rafflesia tuan-mudae, which I have only seen in bud or rotted away. R. tuan-mudae is also found in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Many tropical fruit trees were also fruiting in the orchard that we passed through. Durians hung from high branches, fallen langsat fruits littered the ground and shiny Star fruits sparkled in the bright sunlight. It felt like a school trip!

From viewing the Rafflesia, we moved on to Poring Hot Springs park. Again, I got in for free as I was mistaken for a guide (I never said I was one!) but I managed to get my group (those riding in my car) discounted rates for senior citizens.

Like I said earlier, Poring on a Sunday is just a hive of activity. There were so many people especially school kids on excursions, families on picnic outings and local visitors that we were glad to make our way quickly to the much quieter Poring Orchid Conservation Center which is a short walk away.

When we arrived, Tom went up to the ticketing office but no one was around to collect fees. We proceeded to explore the orchid garden and were both shocked and surprised to find a female orang utan resting in the area. It looked very pregnant but docile. We did not approach or get too near it as these animals are highly unpredictable, and probably easily irritated when expecting. A macaque monkey with its own baby kept the orang utan company. After taking some photos, we left it alone. She was generally disinterested in us and just lazed away in the shade.

The orang utan and monkey friend.

At one point, it came down and laid down right in the middle of a footpath. The way it stretched its arms and scratched itself while trying to doze off reminded me so much of a human being!

The orang utan taking its beauty nap in the middle of a foot path. I didn't get close to it but took this picture (zoomed in) from afar.

Among the orchids we saw in bloom were some beautiful Cleisostoma, Sarcoglyphis, Coelogyne, Phaius and Phalaenopsis species. There were some paphs in spike but none in full bloom. No Paphiopedilum rothschildianum plants were in bloom. Perhaps it was too dark? In contrast, many of the Rothschilds at Kundasang War Memorial were spiking and blooming.

Pity the tag on this pretty Sarcoglyphis orchid wasn't legible.

This Phalaenopsis maculata has a very beautiful and unique color. My own plant as well as others I have seen are more drab.

Phaius species.

The yellow, fragrant upper flower of Dimophorchis rossii.

I think this is Calanthe sylvatica.

After combing through the garden and taking lots of photos, we decided it was time for lunch so we left Poring Hot Springs and drove back to Ranau. We made a stop at a roadside kopitiam (cafe or coffee shop) and ordered some fried rice. There were some fruit stalls selling fruits but prices were very high, as expected, since they catered to tourists foreign and local. Though the fried rice was very bad, we all enjoyed some good ice cream. Maxine, thank you for the treat!

A quick stop at Shell, Ranau to refuel and then off to visit Kundasang War Memorial. We arrived around 3PM and gathered inside the AV room to view a video about the Kundasang Death March. The War Memorial was set up in memory of the thousands of Australian and British soldiers who perished during the march, as well as the local people who helped them.

Viewing a video on the Kundasang Death March.

After the video, we proceeded up to the Australia Garden, British Garden and finally the Borneo Garden at the uppermost level. The Kundasang War Memorial is divided into three tiers. The British Garden features mostly roses while the Borneo Garden has a wonderful collection of species orchids from Sabah such as the striking Paphipedilum rothschildianum and Dimorphorchis rossii.

Bulbophyllum biflorum, growing on a wall in the Australia Garden.

The Borneo Garden.

There are so many beautiful species of orchids here. Many were in bloom too. We spent a good long time photographing them until it started to drizzle again. Here are some photos but there are simply too many to share in a blog post so do head over to my Flickr photoset for the rest of the photos.

Bulbophyllum lobbii

Phalaenopsis amabillis

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum, one of the most striking slipper orchids in the world!

Unidentified Dendrobium species.

View of the surrounding villages and farms from the viewing point.

At about 5PM, we made our way up to Mesilau Nature Reserve. The road up is steep and I was very concerned about negotiating the gradients, especially because the Unser was old and underpowered (the rental company reps warned us when we got the cars and unfortunately it proved to be true). Maxine then rode in the Innova to ease the load on the Unser since the Innova’s a more powerful model (it’s really only a difference of 0.2cc but I suppose the Innova’s engine is much more efficient).

It was getting dark so we couldn’t spend any time to get out and explore for a bit, the road leading up to Mesilau Nature Reserve. Pity ‘cause I had found some interesting plants and orchids growing by the road sides on my previous visit.

We checked into our units at Witti Lodges just as dusk fell. It was very cool and quiet up here, with only the sound of a slight breeze in the trees and a gushing creek breaking the silence. A most relaxing place to be…

One of the twin rooms in our lodge.

There is a TV but  3 local channels only. Why would anyone come to a place like this to watch TV anyway, right? However, an international news channel might be a good idea, or at least a free daily newspaper.

Mesilau is higher up than the Kinabalu Park HQ and therefore it gets quite cold at night. Movable heat radiators are included in each bedroom and these doubled up as clothes dryers for us (place your clothing on a chair next to the heater to be safe, NOT on it). For the first time in days we were able to do some hand washing and wear dry clean clothes again! Take caution however, never ever leave your clothes on it switched on and unattended!

Witti Lodge

Dinner at the Renanthera restaurant.

A quick shower and rest and it was down to the Renanthera restaurant for dinner. It wasn’t too bad, slightly better than I remembered from the last time. Our table enjoyed a very interesting conversation that night, topics ranged from the economic crisis to the 1997 Asian financial crash to the chaos in Indonesia that year.

The next day's itinerary, Mesilau Summit Trail! Day 6 would prove to be one of my favorite days this entire trip. Till the next report, cheerio!

Visit my Day 5 Flickr photoset here:

1 comment:

Edna said...

aww...so cute lah the orang utan..siap baring tengah jalan lagi tu hahaha

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...