Born To Travel is taking flight

After three years at this site I have filled my Media Gallery and am now migrating to –

https://borntotravel55.wordpress.com

If you are a new reader I hope you have enjoyed reading about our travels as Karen and I have trained, bussed and walked around Japan most recently and Nepal, India, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Spain, Fiji, Borneo and even the odd post from Australia in the past. If you have been following my ramblings from here at markallison55 – Born To Travel thanks for joining Karen and I as we have travelled around. I have enjoyed reading your comments and you know I appreciate even the quick clicking on the Like button to let me know you have found something in a post that informs or interests you. Look forward to hearing from you at my new site and I look forward to reading about your traveling adventures for we are all ‘born to travel’.

Cheers, Mark

April 2020 – But wait there’s more!

Note: I am now separating posts about our overseas trips from our travels in Australia. Look forward to hearing from you at my new sites –

https://borntotravel69.wordpress.com and https;//borntotravelaustralia.wordpress.com

 

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Kumano Kodo – Day 5 – Koguchi to Nachi-san

Awoke to the calming sound of running water. Again breakfast was a lovely meal with such a large number in the dining area. It was good to sit at a regular table even if we were on a stool as the legs were a bit stiff from our walking. By 8:00 we were at the trailhead stamping our Pilgrim passports without having to walk anywhere!

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The first section of 4.8kms would see us climb nearly 800m in elevation and was nicknamed ‘body breaking slope’. By the time we had completed it we had certainly given our lungs and legs a good test, that’s for sure! Not only was it sharply uphill but the rock steps had plenty of moss covering them and if you tried to walk on the edge of them the tree roots made it tricky too.


imageAt one point when we stopped to catch our breathe just about everything was moss covered.

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Anyway upwards on onwards we walked.

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At one point we had a bit of an obstacle to clamber around

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But after about two hours we finally reached Echizen-toge pass. I used the timer on the camera to give us photographic proof.

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The trail continued in an up and down fashion for nearly two kilometres.

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Occasionally we heard and saw small streams.

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Eventually we came to a place with a shrine, remains of an old tea house and a shelter with seats so we took a well earnt break and ate a snack. A couple of other Aussies came along and we chatted with them. They had an update that parts of the next section of the trail had been damaged by storms so we walked along an adjoining forestry road for about a kilometre instead. We could see evidence of the storm damage as we walked.

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Back on the real trail we had an uphill section walking through water

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but the bonus was we also saw some waterfalls.

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We also had an amazing view across the mountains not long after. Just love the layers of mountains.

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As we continued across a couple of saddles the wind started to bite. So we were pretty pleased to come to Funami-maya tea house remains. It was a it late but another shelter with seats had been constructed here. The view down to Katsuura and the Pacific Ocean was sadly a bit unclear due to the misty, cloudy day.

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Due to the cold wind we put jumpers on before eating our final bento pack of the Kumano Kodo.

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Once finished we moved on ever downward. The signs on this part of the trail were now on stone pillars.

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My knees were not appreciating it but the end of the steps came soon enough, so said the sign. The pile of walking sticks added weight to this line of thought.

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However there turned out to eat about another half hour of steps down to the shrine complex at Nachisan!

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Once there we looked around at the shrine complex. A number of the buildings were bright orange whilst others were plain wood.

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Sadly we couldn’t find where to stamp our Pilgrim passports so we headed down to the triple level pagoda with views to the famous Nachi-no-Otaki waterfall.

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From there it wasn’t really clear which way to go to our accommodation but by continuing down the road we finally made it not long before dinner.

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Dinner was another delicious Japanese meal.

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The good news was we sat at normal height tables with Colin and a couple of young Dutch guys who had walked past us earlier in the day on one of the steep step climbs. The dining room was full with many of the others we had met along the trail or at the various accommodations. So I’m sure they all felt the same sense of fulfilment we did and I’m pretty sure their legs and bodies were as tired as ours!

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If you are reading this and thinking of doing the Kumano Kodo, yes, we would recommend doing it. Just make sure your knees and hips can stand up to the downhill parts and I’m sure your lungs will handle the uphill bits. As an old hiker once said to Karen and I, “you can do it, just so long as you want to and can put one foot in front of the other.”

(Your comments and questions are most welcome.)

Kumano Kodo – Day 4 – Yunomine to Koguchi

Our day started with a lively breakfast at our minshuku in Yunomine. After breakfast we gave our hosts an Australian animal 2017 calendar to thank them. This of course led our hostess to reciprocate by giving us a Japanese bandana in return.

We met travelling companion Colin on the way to the bus stop. Lots of walkers and others clambered on. Along the way we passed two of the other onsen towns. At Ukegawa our driver was kind enough to go past the bus stop and drop all the walkers at the trailhead. (Later on we realised this meant we missed the place to stamp our Pilgrim passports.) Started with a walk past the houses of a few locals before a steep step climb then into the rhythm of a continued climb for quite a while. Some of the trail was quite smooth

imagebut other sections were quite uneven and rocky steps. Reached one of the passes at 329m after about 4kms so had a bit of a break.

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The trail continued up and down but mostly up for some time. The sound of running water made it a peaceful walk. From time to time we crossed small wooden bridges and could see some of the small streams.

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After another 1.4kms we came to a shrine area with an outstanding viewpoint so we stopped for a few photos. It was called Hyakken-gura lookout.

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At about the halfway point the trail met a forestry road with public toilets so we took the chance while we had it. The view from nearby was quite good too so we sat down for a snack.

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As we resumed we seemed to be walking along a ridge part and the trail was smooth and well treed. At one of the many tea house ruins there was a shelter with tables and seats so we stopped for lunch. In our lunch pack there was a large leaf enclosing four rice balls of various flavours and then a bamboo leaf bento box with an assortment of other items. Some really delicious but a few of the pickled vegetables didn’t appeal.

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Not long after, a view down to where we presumed our destination Koguchi was, provided a photo opportunity.

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The trail now went through an area with lots of ferns along its edges beneath the many tall cedar and cypress trees.

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The village below came into view again as the trail descended.

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Sometimes the trail was well stepped but other sections were large rocks covered in moss and very slippery. Just as well we had our poles for balance and support. From time to time we also passed stone pillars which had poems inscribed on them.

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The uneven mossy rocks made the downhill going quite tricky. At times we used the edge of the trail and walked in dirt or mud to avoid the rocks. My right knee was giving me quite a bit of pain by now on the mostly downhill sections.

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Finally we came to the river we had seen from high above. As we crossed it we spotted a few keen fishermen.

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From there we actually went through a short tunnel in the hill.

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On the other side our destination, the converted high school building at Koguchi, came into view.

 

imageSo down the road we walked. After checking into a very spacious room with a small adjoining sitting room with a view of the river

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I asked the kitchen staff for some ice to put on my aching knee which they were able to give me. Sat down for a while icing my knee with a towel wrapped around it until water started to drip.

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Karen had gone for a bath. On her return I also went and had a good soaping and brief shower before enjoying a massive bath all to myself. Very soothing. Dinner at six o’clock was a noisy affair as there were twenty walkers from Japan, Spain, USA as well as several other Aussies. Beautiful food as we have come to expect at dinner time in all the places we have stayed. The tempura was especially wonderful.

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After sitting in the lounge area using the wifi for a while we headed to our room. Sleep on the thin futon mattress finally came.

If this, or any of my other posts about the Kumado Komo walk have interested you or helped you please let me know by making a Comment below or clicking on the Like button. Questions are also welcome. Happy hiking!

Kumano Kodo -Day 2 – Nonaka to Hongu via Hosshinmon

Slept well for a while but by about five o’clock my left hip and right knee especially began to ache badly so didn’t need our alarms to wake up at 6:30. Breakfast was artistically presented. Rice with lots of small dishes. One even had ham and lettuce on it. Melon and a piece of orange were a refreshing finish. Packed and rested until our bus at 7:49. Due to our huge effort yesterday opted for a bus part of the way to Hosshinmon-Oji. After leaving the bus the first part of the trail was on the road. Soon after we turned onto a narrow country lane which took us through a number of small rural villages. After a while we came to a stamping point for our Pilgrim passports. As it was an area with seats we stopped to have morning tea and also take in an awesome view.

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As we continued we passed a number of shrines

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and even a pillar with many small rocks stacked up against it by previous pilgrims. Our mascot Kirby joined them.

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About a kilometre past Fushiogani we came to a spot where a lady was selling vegetables. She told us that this was the turning off point for pilgrims going to Koyasan using the Kumano Kodo Kohechi trail.

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From here the trail was reasonably smooth for a while.

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At times we found it amazing to see how the trees could grow in such rocky places. Given they were up above us we were pleased they were well rooted.

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Like the day before we came to a sign tempting us up to a viewpoint which again we did. The climb was well worth it. Later on we would see the tori gate in the distance for the massive structure it was.

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We continued downwards for some time until we reached the tori gate on this side of the Kumano Hongu Taisha grand shrine complex.

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A short walk through a small forest and we were there.

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We had a good look around

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ensuring we found the shrine with the pilgrim stamper.

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Next we had a steep descent down stairs which in former times, and now too, many pilgrims and visitors use to come up to the shrine complex.

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We sat and ate our lunch in the gardens before heading over to the adjoining Cultural and Visitor Information Centres. We had a good look at the static displays as well as a couple of informative videos before going out of the town through the huge tori gate we had seen from high above earlier in the day.

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Our last few kilometres were extremely punishing. Firstly an ascent of just over a kilometre of very steep steps followed by an equally steep staired descent which my old hips and knees definitely didn’t appreciate!

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Eventually we made it to the shrine at the entry to Yunomine,

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our stopping point for the next two days. Thank goodness we had a rest day coming up to rest and soak our worn out joints in an onsen!

If this, or any of my other posts about the Kumado Komo walk have interested you or helped you please let me know by making a Comment below or clicking on the Like button. Questions are also welcome. Happy hiking!

Kumano Kodo – Day 1 – Takijiri to Nonaka

Awoke about six and finished packing. Ate western breakfast at 7:00. Checked out of Tanabe City Hotel and walked down to the station. Karen went with our walking companion Colin to pick up beautiful Bento lunch boxes while I took the cases to the bus stop. Caught 8:02 bus to Takijiri. Arrived about 8:45 and transferred our cases to the luggage transfer man’s van. Had a brief look in the Tourist Information Centre before crossing the road.

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Had a photo at the Kumano Kodo marker rock then stamped our Pilgrim folder for the first time.

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Started just after 9:00 on a very steep starred first section with two Swiss girls. It took us to the first of the many 500m markers but it went up 100m! After a brief respite it was up, up again for another kilometre. At that stage we took an option to go up to a viewpoint.

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Quite steep stairs but the views were great.

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Then back down a different way to rejoin the Kumano Kodo. There were lots of signs plus even some for Not the Kumano Kodo! Continued up and down until we came to Takahara. I was a bit behind and spotted the shrine.

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Went in and signed the Visitors book and stamped my Pilgrim passport. Karen and Colin had walked further to some seats and a great viewpoint.

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I told them it was a short walk back to stamp their Pilgrim passports too. Turns out later they found the little shrine house and used the correct stamp. I had used a different one. We all ate some of the sushi items and the prawns from our Bento boxes for morning tea as it was warming up.

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The path as we left Takahara was really steep again!

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Kept rising for the next 2kms but at least we could hear the peaceful sound of running water. Soon after there it was.

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Eventually we reached Daimon-oji where we stamped our Pilgrim passports again.

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After that more uphill but at Jujo-Oji saw no stamper for our Pilgrim passports. Kept going for another 3kms over reasonably flat and smooth surface so made good time. We stopped at the Three Fold Moon signboard for lunch from our Bento boxes.

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Quite steady downhill after lunch, some alright but some very dodgy and slippery rock surface. As we approached the Osakamoto-Oji we heard water which became steadily louder. Eventually we came to a series of bridges that crossed the stream with its numerous small waterfalls.

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Very peaceful but the wooden bridges were quite slippery and a bit dangerous we thought.

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At Gyuba-dojo Guchi we took a snack and toilet break as the trail met the main road here. Made the decision to keep walking as if we stopped we had about an hour and forty minutes to wait for the bus. (My knees regretted this decision!) uphill to Gyuba-dojo statue for a stamp then a bit of a descent until we came out to Chikatsuyu township which seemed to be on a secondary road. Crossed the river on a bridge. Great photo spot.

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Then the Kumano Kodo followed mostly sealed tertiary roads uphill, in one section steeply uphill to Hisohara -Oji where it levelled out.

imageOne of the gardens had quite a bit of novelty value so we let our trip mascot, Kirby the frog, rest there for a photo.

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Our walk continued until we came to Tsugizakura for our last Pilgrim passport stamp of the day at the shrine (Oji) there. Here we left the official trail for a detour to our accommodation. We even saw one of the signs telling us it wasn’t the Kumano Kodo!

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The next section took us steeply downhill past a spring for over thirty minutes to the rural village of Nonaka where we finally met the main road again.

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All that climbing seemed such a waste when we had to descend so sharply to get to our accommodation at Minshuku Nonaka Sanso.

imageHowever on our arrival we were warmly met and made to feel welcome with a quick orientation of the property. After settling in went for a soap up, shower and bath. Next Colin and I had a beer with a young American/Japanese couple – Sara and Ian.

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Karen joined us after her shower/bath. Another four young Americans were there too. Had dinner on two tables. Beautifully presented as you can see

imageand by far the most delicious food we have had in Japan. The plum pickled in beer being a highlight. (Bottom centre of this photo) After chatting for a while we retired quite willingly to bed (a thin futon with a layer of foam beneath) for an extremely well earned sleep. Had walked the best part of 22kms.

If this, or any of my other posts about the Kumado Komo walk have interested you or helped you please let me know by making a Comment below or clicking on the Like button. Questions are also welcome. Happy hiking!

Danum Valley – day 2

We awoke to a warm, humid, misty morning. We met our guide, Daryl, near the shop and headed off, walking up the road for our early morning canopy walk.

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After about ten minutes we were able to see the canopy walk from the road. Obviously a few others were up early too.

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The rainforest was a real pleasure to be in. As we walked Daryl pointed out and told us about many of the trees and plants in the rainforest. This one was particularly fascinating. Apart from the lovely flower its foliage was touch sensitive.

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As you can see in this photo once the leaves are touched they retract downwards and close up.

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Once we were walking on the canopy walk it didn’t take long to be high up over the river valley below.

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The cables seemed to be attached to the trees but on closer inspection we saw that they were not actually touching the trees at all.

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One thing on the trees that you couldn’t help but notice were the armies of ants.

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At the end of each span we climbed a stairway to enable us to move along the next section at a higher or lower level.

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Even though we moved around quietly it mattered not as we did not sight one bit of wildlife whilst up in the canopy area. However on our return walk along the road we did see a family of these bush turkeys crossing the road.

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We returned to the dining area for a magnificent buffet breakfast spread. It was probably just as well we tucked in because right in front of us and looking up to the right was the ‘view point’ we would be trekking up to. We would need to have lots of energy!

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After changing into hiking boots and putting on ‘leech socks’ we gathered our hiking poles and daypacks, which held water bottles, binoculars and cameras and off we trekked on our long walk to the lookout at ‘Coffin Cliff’. Up the same road we walked for a few minutes then we crossed a swinging bridge.

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Here’s the view of the river below.

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It wasn’t long before we saw some of the lovely flora.

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Our first spotting of fauna was this Gould’s frogmouth.

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As we walked steadily uphill we passed this small waterfall which was off to our left. The sound of the flowing water was quite peaceful.

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Not long after we came upon a sleeping lemur. Its position made it seem as if it was attached by suckers to the tree.

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We couldn’t help be impressed by the huge trees as went.

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Some of the plants and fungi were quite small but if we were alert there was lots to see.

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The trek up was quite strenuous and took us over an hour to reach the ledge where a few log coffins were laid out, but there was nowhere near as many as we had seen previously at the Agop Batu Tulug caves. From there it was a short climb to the lookout point. Given it was in the low 30s and very humid the sweat was freely flowing by this point so we were pleased to stop for a rest and a drink break.

These next two photos show the views from the lookout. The first one is looking down at the resort. The large building is where we had eaten breakfast earlier and the smaller ones are the chalets.

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This view is a bit more to the left.DSCN3747

This photo is proof we made it!

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Daryl chose a slightly different path for the downward walk. In spots it was quite steep, muddy and slippery so the walking poles were invaluable. Part way down Daryl stopped us as he had heard a noise above us in the trees. It was a family of three gibbons, not something seen very often he told us. The gibbons were eating the foliage. At one point the male moved around quite a bit swinging a bit lower towards us but it was hard to take a good photo as they were so high up, probably 25-30 metres above us and partly hidden in the foliage.

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From there we continued until we met the path going back up. We came to the point where the lemur was on our return journey and there it was still sleeping. Fortunately the light was better so this photo was more successful.

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We kept moving, finally reaching the lodge as lunch time was nearly finished. Daryl went and spoke to the dining staff who were happy to still serve us. So we quickly went and washed ourselves and flopped down at a table with a view back up to the lookout and enjoyed our lunch.

Following that we returned to our chalet for a cooling shower, change of dry clothes and an afternoon nap before our scheduled afternoon walk through some of the nearby beautiful rainforest.

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We completed a composite walk which encompassed four smaller trails, the Nature Walk (which we had walked part of on our first afternoon), the Danum Trail, The Hornbill Trail and finishing with the Tangki Trail. Sadly we had not seen wildlife.

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However just as we returned to the lodge area we came upon a red leaf monkey trying to help her baby which had its leg caught in-between a tree and a very thick vine. Try as she could she couldn’t free the little one. In the end our guide and another guide shook the tree and vine and it finally came free, although the mother was keen to come down and remonstrate with the saviours! Here’s a somewhat blurry photo of the mother with the baby’s head partially hidden by foliage.

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After showering and changing we made our way to the bar for pre dinner drinks, bumping into two English guys who we had seen several days earlier in Sepilok at the Sepilok Nature Resort. After a drink and a chat we made our way to the dining area where we had a very enjoyable buffet dinner and relaxed.

However the day’s activities weren’t over. Just in case we had some energy left Daryl took us on a torchlight walk in the hopes we could spot some nocturnal wildlife again but no luck, unlike the previous night when we had done the night safari in the truck.

Tomorrow would be our last day in the Danum Valley and we were still hopeful of sighting an orang utan in the rainforest here. As this was really high on Karen’s wish list I hoped and prayed Daryl would be able to help us find one. All will be revealed in my next post!

 

Back in Kathmandu

Temple in Kathmandu's Durbar Square.
Temple in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square.

On our arrival we were picked up and taken to the Shangri-la. we collected the rest of our gear and headed to our new rooms for a bit of a rest. Karen and I bought food from the hotel bakery then did a trial pack. It quickly became clear that Karen needed more space so an extra bag was added to the shopping list for later on. Krishh had arranged a vehicle and lady guide for the five of us to go to the mountain top stupa (monkey temple) and then into the main Durbar square. The stupa area was very busy. The temple didn’t seem that religious, in fact it seems to more of a market place. At the end we walked down a huge flight of steps to the car. Next we drove to central Kathmandu or as close as we could get due to the festival. Out of the vehicle we got and followed our guide along the streets up to the Durbar square area which was jammed with people. Apparently there are hundreds of temples of varying sizes here. We went into the former residence of the king and then to the Kumari’s temple and home. She is the so called living goddess. Amazingly whilst there she actually came to the viewing window, just a small, very young and lovely girl. No photos allowed! We made our way back to the vehicle for the short drive to the Thamel area where re-met Krishh who was once again going to be a shopping trip guide for us. Judy started with paper goods then pashminas then we purchased a new coat for Karen and a new waterproof bag to put our trekking gear into separately. Carol, Rod and I did a bit of book buying to round things off. Krishh then took us to the Rum doodle restaurant for dinner. I ate a huge hamburger meal (meat again!) and Karen had a veggie burger. Speeches by Kran and Krishh followed with extra bits added by all. It was a great way to finish our time together. Krishh organised taxis to drive us back to the Shangri-la for a well earned sleep.