8 Apr 2012

Australia + Borneo

Melbourne - 6 months ago on the boat from Panama to Colombia we met the lovely Katherine and Keith who were on their way to live in Melbourne. They were kind enough to invite us to stay on our way through and true to form we had a fabulous few days living it up in this wonderful city of cafes and culture and just go']/od living. A thousand thank you's to K&K, wonderful to see you again, best of luck with the new life!

We then headed north to Sydney on the weekend – as we found out upon arrival - of mardi gras – ooops - which meant there was nowhere to stay, so we drove further north to Port Stephens for a week of very little - to recover from our frenetic NZ tour :) - apart from sitting on and walking along the amazing beaches.

We did spend one day on a wine tour in the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s prime wine producing areas with 150 wineries, famous for its Shiraz in particular. It all began in 1828 when its primary purpose was to reduce rum consumption, the region now produces some world class wines.

Returning to Sydney for a few days we met up with some long lost friends and enjoyed the amazing sights. With that skyline and the harbour setting it is impossible not to be utterly sucked into the attractions of life down-under.

Stroll through the botanical gardens on a Sunday afternoon and then imbibe some delicious aussie vino in a water side resto just below the opera house, take the ferry to Manley on the Monday eat some great food and then chill on the beach, on Tuesday hang out on Bondi - beware of the thong (flip flops) wearing budgie smugglers (speedos) - and then walk the cliff-top path to Coogee etc etc...

But then Sydney doesn't (there is a little bit of healthy rivalry in these parts to say the least) welcome the formula 1 circus to town every year.

What can I say other than - birthday weekend, grand prix in Melbourne, it doesn't get much better than that. An amazing venue - never quite appreciated just how central Albert Park is or how good the Aussies are at putting on a show, simply spectacular.

We then flew to Singapore for a night – crazy Singapore - and then to Kota Kinabalu,the capital of Sabah (East Malaysia) on Borneo. Four days of more jungle beach chilling and excellent chicken curry in a spot only accessible by boat and then four days back in town buying genuine dvd’s, eating great seafood and of course visiting an Orangutang (means ‘man of the forest’) sanctuary.

It is an extraordinary experience to get up close and personal with these creatures with their very human like characteristics. Unfortunately as with much of the wildlife we have seen on this trip there is a sad story behind the cheerful exterior of Orangotang conservation. They are facing extinction in the wild in the next 10 years if deforestation continues at its present rate in this part of the world.

We learnt that it is estimated that of the 16 million species of plant and animal on the planet about half are found in the rain forests. In South East Asia these forests and all the life within will be gone by 2020 unless something is done to curb the rate of destruction.

The sanctuary we visited is situated right next to a Shangri la hotel. The hotel doesn’t fund the sanctuary but both establishments benefit from the others presence and the hotel was instrumental in establishing the sanctuary in the f1qirst place. It strikes us as a very sad state of affairs that we seem to be relying on hotel chains to save this part of the planet, but at least someone is doing something positive in a pretty hopeless situation.

Let’s hope that in the next decade the conservationists get their way so that we don’t all end up having to check into posh hotels to catch a glimpse of the few survivors of the rain forest Armageddon.

Our deepest thanks to Tara for her exceptionally welcoming and stylish hospitality – keep up the good work, the planet needs you!

Then back to Singapore (including fish spa) and then to London where the weather was unseasonably warm and pleasant, why did we ever leave...?