Where was I...?
Sorry, dear reader - I have been distracted by work recently. Lots of stuff happening in November, so my holiday memories took a back seat.
Britain does not have the monopoly on rain, but at least in Malaysia it rains quick and hard then dries just the same way. In the last week of October with Hurricane Haima off coast we had a couple of gorgeous tropical downpours. I found it very restful to watch the rain drops ping off the ornamental pond in an almost musical rhythm....
The staff are most pragmatic and well practised about it - clearing outdoor tables is a work of minutes and the sunbed mattresses are tucked under to avoid the worst of the rain.
One bonus of the rain was seeing this little man - or girl....a water monitor decided to come to bask by the ornamental pond. My server Izza asked what I was looking at and I pointed saying 'that large lizard', she chuckled and replied 'huh, him SMALL lizard!' :-)
Doing some research, I bow to Izza's knowledge - this was indeed a small, young water monitor - they grow quite big!
And saving for my last night, the excursion everyone recommended - the fireflies.
We were picked up by Nasim again and whisked to the same dock, ten minutes from the hotel. As the sun set we cast off and headed north on the Mengkabong River in the hunt for these elusive insects. With Mount Kinabalu watching over us we zipped up the river waving to fishermen and other tour boats.
Now I have never seen fireflies and had no idea what I was going to see, so this was a final adventure for me.
As we entered the mangroves for the second time it got dark really quickly and, with the rain holding off and the moon obscured, conditions were perfect for fireflies. The mother next to me had explained to me that we were there to see fairies, according to her three year old daughter Bea, so we were ready to see fairies.
The boat came to an idle and we looked about in the dark expectantly. Nasim told us no camera flashes and no torches as they would frighten off the sensitive insects. The local boys have learned the best way to encourage the flies to light up and respond to them, so we waited hopefully.
There are no words expressive enough to describe the first sight of a whole bush lit up with fireflies. Like a hundred tiny LED lights they sparked up and then danced about in the bushes. Bea was, in her innocence, absolutely right, they weren't flies they were definitely fairies, skipping about in the dark and having little parties.
As we turned corner after corner Nasim kept us on tenterhooks before flashing his torch under his shirt to encourage the little flies to light up. About half way through he showed us how he could attract the flies to the boat, so much so he could catch them.
One of my enduring memories is sitting in a boat in the dark peering into my cupped hands and seeing a tiny firefly lighting up my fingers. There were six adults and two kiddies on the boat and the choruses of ooohhhs and aahhhhs came in waves as we were immersed in the nighttime mangroves.
While the understandable ban on flashes meant no decent photographs, I was so blown away by the incredible beauty and dreamscape effect created by the fairies, I wouldn't have been able to drag my eyes away to take pictures anyway. At one point there were so many fireflies lit up we didn't know where to look first and I felt the first tears pricking my eyes that the next day I would be travelling home from this magical place.
Pictures courtesy of the interweb to give you an idea of the experience I will never forget;
I arrived home at the hotel at 8pm ready for some dinner and with time left to pack ready for the morning departure.