My title? My favorite candy as a child and I still can't pass them up when I see them in the store!
After several years in the Foreign Service traveling the world, I retired on July 1, 2014. What I've seen, who I've met and where I've been have been nothing short of amazing. I'm sad to see this chapter of my life come to a close, but retirement so far has been a blast. I've tried to chronicle my travels, thoughts and experiences here.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Temburong, Brunei and My Big Hike
So...I was asked if I wanted to go to Temburong, Brunei
and climb the stairs to the observation site and look out over the tops of the
trees of the Rain Forest, or canopy. I knew I wanted to see some of Brunei while I was here for
4.5 months so I was happy to be invited. Sure, I said. I was told that there were 1000 steps to the
top. When I took a trip to Sri Lanka, I
managed to climb the approximate 1200 steps up the rock known as Sigiriya Rock. Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress built
1600 years ago with the ruins of a castle at the top. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and
downright amazing. I did need some encouragement to keep going..."we are
almost there!" Let me tell you, I was told that so many times, I felt like
Jack of Jack and the Beanstock! I
finally made it and the view was a one of a kind, 360 degree drop dead gorgeous
view. I was so glad I fought on and made it to the top.
I thought...if I made it to the top of that rock, I can
climb the 1000+ stairs so I can look out over the canopy of trees of the Rain
Forest in Brunei. But...that rock was 5 years ago.
There were 3 of us on this trek and our guide. We
started out in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei taking a water taxi through the maze
of waterways that snaked through mangroves and miles and miles of wild palms.
The trip lasted about 35 minutes and was most pleasant. When we arrived and
left the water taxi behind, we were met by our guide. We piled into his van,
very old but apparently dependable. The
countryside was really pretty. It's a whole different feeling about the
countryside when you're in the rain forest. Lots of greenery, monitor lizards
Soon the van pulled off the road on to a dirt and
gravel parking lot. Breakfast! We need energy, our guide says. Breakfast was Roti with egg. Roti is a delicious crepe-like dish, very thin
and a fried egg (yolk broken) cooked inside it.
Roti with egg
It was pretty darn good. With tummies filled, we headed back to the
van and more driving. The road was pretty bad and he had to nearly stop for
some of the potholes.
Soon, he pulled off the road again and we were told we
had arrived for our second boat trip.
boats are called long boats and they are long...maybe about 25-30 feet long and
about 12" deep. We boarded our wooden boat, one at a time, based on size. Things needed to be balanced,
For the trip in,
I was in the front and could sit on the 6" wooden board that they referred
to as a seat. I chose to call it a 1 by 6 masquerading as a seat. My butt will
never forgive me for this excursion. We
donned our life vests and headed up (yes, up) the river. Within minutes we approached
our first rapids. Remember I said we headed UP
the river. The 'captain' who was
manning the outboard motor at the rear revved it and we charged ahead full steam. Another
person was perched on the very front of the boat and had a long stick, maybe
bamboo, ready for action. I wondered why...to kill an alligator? Bat away a
savage bird? No, her job was to look out for big rocks and push the boat
away from them.
You see, the water was only about 12" deep and the bottom of this river was covered in rocks, some larger than others which would do damage to the bottom
of our boat. Oh, I forgot to mention that prior to boarding this boat I saw the
'captain' with a can, shoveling out water from the bottom of the boat. My
confidence was not at its highest level.
Every once in a while, the gal up front would point her
finger to the right or left and he would guide the boat right or left. Other
times she would frantically work that stick in the water, hitting a rock and
pushing the boat away from it. I have to say that after a while, it didn't
bother me because the scenery I was seeing had the full attention of my eyes.
This Is The Rain Forest! Trees were over 20 stories tall, so many different
varieties of palm trees...monkeys in the trees...huge hornet nests. The banks of this very
shallow river were solid beautiful white or black rocks, worn smooth by the
current of the water. We probably forged
upstream over 5-7 rapids. These were kind of mini rapids but the Captain did
have to rev up the engine to get us up and over them and the stick lady up front had to
work hard, guiding the front of the boat away from and through the rocks. And yes, we did hit
many many rocks.
After about 40 minutes we arrived at the beginning of
the hike to the top. We all had to sign our names in a huge ledger...name,
nationality, age. When I wrote my age, the man looked at me and gave me the
look, as if to say "Lady, are you sure you want to do this?" I just
smiled. Little did I know....
Soon we arrived at a hanging bridge, not a bad bridge at all. A suspension bridge. The view was beautiful from it. Very well made. Very safe.
A new guide took
us under her wing and with backpacks in place, we headed upward behind
her. I say upward because the first few
stairs went up, then we went severely down, then a few back up, then more down.
I asked if all these steps were part of the 1000 steps to the top. She turned
to me and just shook her head. Oh hell...I was going to be worn out before I
started the 1000 Steps!
The steps. Oh, those lovely steps. They are made out of
wood. Some were 9" deep, some were 4" deep. In some places there was
a wooden rail to keep you from falling into the forest. Some places it was a nylon rope with knots
tied every few feet. Some steps had a 5' rise, others had a 9" rise. I think
there was a whole lot of drinking going on when the stairs were built! About
every 100 or so steps, there was a covered spot to sit. Catch your breath. Wait
for your heart rate to drop below 125. Curse yourself for thinking you could do
Did I mention that my 2 friends were in tip top
condition? Regular hikers. 30 years younger than me?
About half way up (when I was informed that I was only
half way up) I suggested that the guide and my friends go on ahead. I needed to
rest more than they did and I didn't want to hold them back. I convinced them
that I was just fine but they needed to keep their pace and I needed to keep mine.
So off they went.
If I sat and rested and felt myself able to take deep
breaths again, able to not feel my heart beating out of my chest and able to shake
off the wobbliness in my legs, I felt I could move on. Going at my own speed was better for me. I
would stop and pretend to be admiring the beauty and vegetation as others
trotted by me. Damn them. I do think I was the oldest one on that 1000 Step
staircase to the top!
At one point, I decided I had had enough. No mas. So I
sat for about 10 minutes and felt much
better. I realized that to have come this far and not reach the top would
surely be something I would regret forever. So, off I went again. Poco a poco.
Little by little. And finally I could hear lots of chatter...Chinese chatter.
The last group that passed me snickering, I think. Sure enough, I reached the
top. Our guide was sitting there and she looked at me and said "You
OK?" I wanted to say.."Hey, do
I look OK???" But I just said "Yes...I
wanted to make it to the top."
She pointed to the metal structure and said "Top
There stood this tower, about 6' square or so, made out of
metal. With a big Warning sign. It was probably 20 levels of 7 steps each. And that was what would take
me to the top and a catwalk to the FIRST level! I decided I was as far as I
could go. I sat there for about 10 minutes and then saw my 2 friends walking
down trail from the topmost top. He said
I could make it up the metal structure and the view was great.
My mind said go for it. My legs said are you kidding
us? I took a deep breath and headed upward. I stuffed my iPhone into my bra
since I didn't have pockets in my pants and I damned sure wanted a picture once I got up there. Up, up and up some more I went. I made
it. I was at the most Top of Top I was going to get. Even if I had wanted to make
it to the very top, I would have had to go up yet another damn tower and that meant
down this one and up and down the taller one. Not happening.
I was happy with my view.
It wasn't like the ones you might see if you google Rain Forest Canopy. I
had made it to the Canopy level, not the Emergent level. The Emergent level is
where your are at the tops of the trees or above.
The way down the steps was much easier. I had brought
an old pair of sneakers and the bottoms were slick so I had to be careful to
not slip on leaves and on inclines, or declines. The long boat ride back was fun but I was
now in the back and no room to stretch out my legs. Riding the rapids were much
more fun going with the current and I was able to get a few videos.
Back at where this hike began, we were served lunch
of chicken curry, rice and vegetables. For dessert, we had 2 bunches of those
wonderful little finger size bananas. Love them!
Today is the day after. My quadriceps and calves are
screaming at me. "What the hell were you thinking???" I have taken
Advil. The Empire State Building has
1800 steps. I climbed over half that distance. And took the stairs back down, not the elevator.
It is clear to me that when I return home in November I
will be joining the health club again. And
this time around, I'll use it.