There are limitless natural wonders and cultural experiences only hours away from Kuching. Kelsey and I read great things about Bako National Park and it sounded like the most rewarding option for a single day trip. We took the public bus one hour to the end of the line and then spilt the cost of the boat to Bako island with some other day trippers. We got out of the boat at the shoreline, walking past some impressive rock formations to the inner part of the island. The first creatures to greet us were the “wild” boars, a large mother with her two (adolescent?) piglets. They came right up to us, sniffing for food and trying to nibble on our sarongs. After checking the map, we realized that we’d only have time for one trail, so we choose a 2 hour trek through the island ending at a beach. As we set off on our journey I realized what a toll the evening before was taking on me… the first part was a short and sweaty uphill climb. Kelsey and I settled into a quiet rhythm (me trying to silence the urge to complain), soon enough on the trail we walked through a large group of macaque monkeys. They were sprawled on the path, as well as the surrounding trees and branches and didn’t bat an eye as we warily made our way past them. It was such a relief for us to be ignored by them and in stark contrast to the grabby temple monkeys in Bali.
After 1.5 hours of walking the trail let us out on the top of a huge boulder, overlooking a beautiful beach below. We enjoyed the view for a few minutes and then made our way down. After the hot sticky hike, we enjoyed a rewarding dip in the ocean. While we were swimming we recognized our taxi boat docked in the bay. The drivers are experienced enough to know what trails visitors will have time for and wait for their passengers at the beach, then they offer rides (for a fee) back to the main part of the island. It’s very clever, as most people are hungry by now or (in our case) enticed by the idea that we could skip the 2 hour hike back and squeeze in another short trail. Our driver was a wonderful guide who took us through the sea battered rocks and pointed out all of the resemblances (some well known, while other descriptions he said might be the work of his overactive imagination). Back at base we tried to start a new trail but didn’t get far before spotting Proboscis monkeys in the trees and bushes around us. The Proboscis is such a strange looking and fascinating monkey to watch, from the oversized nose to the long, lanky limbs but yet graceful in movement. We couldn’t tear ourselves away. Eventually we made our way further up the trail but soon realized we'd have to head back to the dock if we wanted to make our boat and the last bus back to Kuching. It was such a beautiful and rewarding day, I’m thankful that our late night antics didn’t keep us from going.
I felt a knot of sadness growing in my stomach as we neared parting ways with Kelsey who would meet a friend in Kuala Lumpur and spend the next 2 weeks exploring other parts of SE Asia. Although I knew that we’d meet back up for a final rendezvous in Thailand, I still felt like our little “road” family was breaking up. Life on this journey has reawakened a part of me that treasures adventure before comfort, reminds me that my immediate desire may not be the most important thing, and to let get go of the need to present myself and instead to just be myself. These thoughts have slowly crept into my consciousness over the course of this trip, with James in the same rhythm we don't have daily epiphanies. It was entirely different to have a loved one from back home suddenly drop into the wonderful insanity of travel in this part of the world and to experience with her has been magical.
Thankfully the day of Kelsey’s departure we were still under the spell of Siggahsana Lodge and nursed our sorrows with Edward and his friends. Playing pool behind us turned out to be a new friend, Joe, from Bako island. Edward kept us all entertained singing Rihanna and Adele covers at the bar and after closing we moved over to his friends bar/brick oven pizza joint. There we indulged in traditional rice liquor and somehow managed to ride back to the lodge in the back of a pick-up truck. It was a fun and fitting ending to an awesome week in Kuching.