90 acres of paradise – the ideal writer’s retreat


Tach’s Van

Arrived at my daughter’s property Tuesday armed with mozzie repellant and nagging doubts about the pack of wild dingos she explained were roaming the area attacking the animals. They had completely decimated her chicken coop over the last few weeks, attacked the horses and dogs and savaged her latest pet, Piggy the wild boar. The goat fence around the van where my daughter has lived for the past 2 years was no deterrent apparently.

Piggy and Honey

Tach had mentioned a few times that she had built me a “little shack” at the top of the hill and tried to assure me that I would be perfectly safe up there as “you’ll see the dingos coming for miles…”. Imagine my surprise when she showed me the “shack”

Tach’s new mansion

She has built a 3 bed fully fly-screened mansion, totally solar powered with 270 degree views over the Barron River Valley and beyond.

At last one of the family has forsaken their hippy past !

Access is problematic, however, in the wet season. There are 8 (yes EIGHT!) creeks to cross to get to the property.

During the big wet even 4WDs can’t get through so vehicles are left on the bitumen some 3km away and Tach and Dennis use a canoe to get to work. Sometimes even this gets too dangerous so they have to take a 8 km detour, walking over the railway bridge (built circa 1920).

This year the water rose to within 1 meter of the bottom of the bridge…..

Yesterday we went for a tour of the property boundaries to inspect the fencing on the Quad bikes and it took over 2 hours.

  

Anyway, the ideal writer’s retreat. Lots of toys and animals to keep me amused during those writer’s block moments.

Looking forward to spending the next month here, focusing on Book 2 “Kalimantan”.

     

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Dusun Country


Elephant Trunk Clam

An amazing 3 days in Kota Kinabalu, making lots of new friends and contacts in preparation for the expedition into the interior of Borneo later in the year.The local seafood speciality known as the elephant trunk clam is probably the most phallic delicacy I have ever encountered – delicious with a soy and durian sauce !

Big thanks to Fez for showing us the real KK with all it’s colour, excitement and Lady Boys, to lao tsiu for the Tai Chi lessons and Buddhist Wasan Day blessings, and a special thanks to Nick and Beth from the local hospital for introducing me to the wonders of tropical medicine. I never realised before that there are 9 different types of malaria, one of which is only found in Northern Borneo and is transmitted from macaques.

On Saturday night we found ourselves at the spectacle known as Sabah Fest, where all of the local dance groups meet to celebrate the fascinating history of the area, and Beth and I were dragged on stage to join in the fun.

Of the original indigenous coastal dwellers there still exists the Ida’an and the Orang Sungei on Sabah’s east coast and on the south west coast the Bisayan and Brunei people. North of Kudat is the large undeveloped island of Banggi, here the indigenous and peaceful tribe of the Banggi still live, their language is completely unrelated to any of the other four linguistic groups found in Sabah.

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The largest indigenous tribes are the hill tribes, the Kadazan and Dusun tribes and their sub-tribes, often referred to the Kadazandusun, and the Murut. The Kadazandusun live mostly in the interior of Sabah, they are mountain people who believe the mountain is a resting place for the spirits of their departed, and thus it is sacred to them. The Rungus are arguably the most traditional of the indigenous tribes, a sub-tribe of the Kadazandusun the Rungus live mostly in the north near Kudat, many still live in longhouses. The Murut a group of several related tribes once lived in the longhouses like the Rungus, now they have mostly moved into single-family houses in the Tenom area and make a subsistence living from small-scale agriculture.

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The Bajau have become the second largest group of Sabahan’s with two distinct communities each with their separate languages. One group live on the east coast in houses on stilts and depend entirely upon the sea, much like the nomadic Bajau found through Southeast Asia. The other group live in Kota Belud and have settled to become very successful agriculturalists famed for their skill on horseback.

The whole adventure culminated in Beth, Anna and I finding ourselves locked out of Nick’s house at midnight with no cash between us – only one thing for it but to scale the security fence, risking my crown jewels along the way before making a dash for the door before the security alarm went off.

It was then time to get downtown to Razzamatazz and wait for my 4am flight in the company of assorted crazy American divers, German tattooists, French submariners and Australian sea cucumber farmers, while ignoring the FA Cup final and the constant advances of the local ladies of the night. It was all getting a bit messy until all the girls ran out screaming as the religious police raided the place at 3am and then kindly proceeded to organise my cab to the airport !

Sabah, I will never forget you.

 

 

Kota Kinabalu


 

Anybody out there have a fear of flying ? You know that white knuckle feeling when you wake up in the middle of the night  with a hostess lying across you and the sound of plastic cutlery showering around you as the “Please fasten your seatbelts” sign beeps loudly above the screams of the other passengers ?

Well, I have the ultimate cure.  Valium. Available on the NHS.

Recommended doseage : 1 per 4 hours of flying.

Got to Kuala Lumpur groggy but calm at 7 o’clock this morning. Had a bit of trouble remembering my name for the disembarkation card, but apart from that had a lovely flight. Even managed to blag my way into an emergency exit seat with extra leg room !

Now sitting in a lovely hotel in downtown Kota Kinabalu, air conditioning set nicely at 27.5 degrees, looking forward to a night out at the local Couchsurfers monthly get together at the Borneo 1945 Cafe.

Hoping to meet some rasta orang-utans.

Missing you all x