Saturday, September 17 – Kota Kinabalu, Kinabalu National Park

This was a big exercise day! We started with another great breakfast at the hotel, then boarded the bus for the trip to Mount Kinabalu. It’s about a 3-hour drive over very rough roads. Our first stop was a market area, for a bit of retail therapy. Really nice handicrafts.
At a roadside stop we had the opportunity to hike into the forest and see a Rafflesia plant in bloom. It is the largest “flower” in the world, according to our guide, but apparently, in reality it is a type of fungus. Not pretty, but impressive. The bloom lasts just about 5 days, with day 3 being prime. We saw one that was on day 3 so we were lucky. We saw another that was several days beyond that and it had subsided into brown sludge. The walk into the forest to see it was interesting though it felt somewhat risky. We crossed a couple of streams on bridges of bamboo poles, climbed downhill from slippery rock onto slipping rock and so on. But along the way were other flowers, and the peace of the forest (jungle) itself. Oh – and insects. Got a bite or two, so hoping they were benign.
Next was the Park area, where we had a look at the hot pools/bathes that were very crowded. It’s a long holiday weekend and everyone had their kids for an outing. (National Malaysia BD). It was fun to watch but didn’t appeal for ourselves. Several members of the group headed for the butterfly garden and the rest of us began the climb to the canopy walk. It was hot and humid and the climb was long and steep. We were pretty wrung out by the time we got to the beginning of the walkway. It was great to be up among the treetops and see the forest jungle from that perspective. We were a bit nervous about it, but everyone made it safely and enjoyed it.
Back down on solid ground we were more than happy to get on the bus and head to a restaurant for la late lunch. It was yet another Chinese meal, but tasty. The setting was beautiful, on the side of one of the lovely mountains, surrounded by tall, stately pines of various types and flower gardens with brilliant colour. Very peaceful and lovely.
As we drove along we could see many terraced fields. This is a vegetable farming area, where crops like cabbage thrive. So there were vegetable markets and handicraft markets along the road. Our views of Mount Kinabalu itself were mostly obscured by cloud, but we did get glimpses of the peaks now and then. Our last stop of the day was at the Botanical Gardens, a National Park, where we toured an enclosed area featuring many of the species of orchid that abound here. Some were nearly too tiny to see but many were very visible and lovely. We nearly missed it because the doors closed just a couple minutes before we arrived. However, Sally-Jo convinced the attendant to let us in briefly. Glad we didn’t miss it!
Then back to KK, to refresh ourselves at the hotel before going to dinner. (Happily we checked the window of our room at exactly the right moment to witness a gorgeous southern hemisphere sunset.) The restaurant was small and we ordered individually, so 22 people pretty much overwhelmed the small staff. Food was tasty, we got beer and it was nice, but it was late and we were very tired and happy to finish our meal and head to the hotel. (Click the slideshow for large view)

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