The Hunt of for the Milky Way Sabah- Ranau and Kundasang
So hubby and I survived the winter of Tambunan, and we had a simple breakfast of nasi lemak bungkus which was served with a bowl of soup at Tambunan Town (it's a Sabahan norm to have soup served at every meal, we discovered). The group said they were heading to the waterfall about 30 minutes away after breakfast then will check out and head to Sabah Tea Garden, Ranau (where do they get their energy???).
I said we would join them at the waterfall after freshening up at the hotel. Our hotel bed had other plans. It enveloped us and refused to let us go until noon so I meekly messaged Emma that we would join them at Sabah Tea Garden.
After we free-ed ourselves from the clutches of the bed, we made our way to Mahua Waterfall where we were greeted by green and hilly landscapes before reaching a fairly lonely road (really I think we only passed one car on the way there). After a lonely 20 - minute ride, we saw about 20 cars parked at the entrance which is a huge difference to what you would have seen at FRIM, Kepong on a Sunday.
Ticket prices are RM3 per adult (RM10 for tourists) and it's only a 500m easy stroll canopied by trees to the 17m waterfall.
We spent about 40 minutes soaking our feet then made our way to Sabah Tea Garden which is about 1 hour 45 mins away.
The ride was smooth until we turned off into the tea estate and had to drive at 5km per hour as the gravel was so bad.
In the distance, we noticed a clearing in the trees where a strange structure stood. Turns out that it is a mosque! The mosque was designed by an Australian named John Salmi. The construction of the mosque started during the KPD (Korporasi Pembangunan Desa) era by Datuk Harris Salleh (Tan Sri Harris Salleh now) for plantation workers to pray. The mosque was officially open on 1983 but abandoned a few years later due to lack of funds.
|Mosque at the Sabah Tea Garden. Photo from babab.net|
Sabah Tea Garden is working with Sabah State government to get funding for the mosque. There are plans to preserve the design and maintain it so Muslim can pray in it and visitors can take a visit to this unique mosque.
If you know any association/individual with expertise and funding to preserve this mosque, you can contact Mr. Martin Kong (GM for Sabah Tea Garden) at 6088 440 882
We checked in at the Sabah Tea Garden at about 5pm and our hungry stomachs grumbled away. The cool air wasn't helpful. The group who had checked in earlier were now catching up on sleep. They finally stirred from their sleep at 6pm and announced that we would be having dinner at the Sabah Tea Garden restaurant (located about 500m down the road from our cottage), at 7pm.
That evening we were joined by Melissa and Terence, who moved from West Malaysia two years ago, to open and operate a chain of car washes in Sabah. Melissa is the one with the crazy hobby and like me, managed to convince her hubby to join her on the hunt. Ellie also just arrived from KL to join us at dinner. We polished off our meals amidst excited chatter and agreed to meet at the reception area at 2am to go together to the mosque in the middle of the jungle, mentioned above. You need a 4 wheel drive to access that area.
Alas, rain and clouds throughout the night prevented us from going out for our shoot and so we slept in.
DAY 3- Kundasang
We got up early the next day and I took a stroll around the cottage area while hubby got ready. I wanted to see the Guesthouse where the rest of the group were staying but it proved too far to walk to plus it started to drizzle a little.
At 8am, we made our way to the restaurant for a hot noodle breakfast served with hot Sabah Tea. After buying some tea to bring back, we checked out at 11am and decided to explore the tea plantation while the rest of the group headed to Kundasang.
One of the tea pluckers there showed us the young tea leaves that are picked. In 1997, an Ipoh based company, Yee Lee Corporation Berhad acquired the entire shares from Sabah Tea Sdn Bhd and Desa Tea Sdn Bhd after the government decided to privatise the company, therefore enabling Sabah Tea to reach greater heights. Located 2,272 feet above sea levels, the harvests are 100% pesticide free as insects are drawn towards the 130 million-year-old rainforest surrounding the plantation.
Only the tender leaves of the pure Camelia Sinesis tea trees are selected carefully and processed for their black tea, thus it produces a distinctive taste with a full-body aroma, yet subtle in character. Unlike most tea brands, Sabah Tea consists of tea leaves that are picked from their very own plantation.
We left for Kundasang at about 1pm and made a short stop to indulge ourselves in one durian (RM30 per kg since it was off season). That was the most expensive lunch so far but I've to say the flesh was sweet and so divine. During breakfast, Phng Phng mentioned that Kundasang was famous for its honey BBQ chicken wings and so we made sure we got our hands on it once we reached the town about an hour away from Sabah Tea Garden.
After checking in at Nabalu Lodge around 3pm and catching up on some work which was unavoidable, we left for Kundasang where the group was putting up at a homestay 30 mins drive away. The roads were so foggy at 7pm and once we turned off the main road and into the gravel roads, I felt we were in a horror film with no one around and where the car would usually break down and we would have to seek help from some psychopath who works at a petrol station. Thank goodness we were safe and all we saw were cows laying in the dark corners with eyes reflecting our car lights.
We finally reached the Hounon Homestay at 7.45pm and the group was waiting for us with food all prepared. Felt so guilty for making them wait!!! My attempt of cleaning the dishes after that hardly made up for it. All of them retired for the night at about 9pm except for Dr Choy from Melaka, Harris (organizer and super photographer), Kak Ros, Emma (organizer, super photographer and energizer rabbit whose knowledge about the stars and camera settings and photoshop blow me away) and Luqman (organizer and super photographer). We waited for the time to pass with me continuing with some work and hubby was busy giving business tips to Emma and Luqman while Harris and Dr Choy were busy enhancing their photographs and Kak Ros keeping everyone awake and warm (the temperature dropped to 11 degrees celcius) with Tenom coffee.
At 2am, I couldn't keep my eyes open and the chances of driving back to our hotel in the fog was slim so I agreed to bunk in the girls dorm. At 4am, I was awoken up by the excited chatter outside our dorm. The fog had cleared and the stars were out in its full glory! It was sooooo beautiful! The Milky Way was also visible. Emma positioned hubby and me with the Milky Way above us and had our picture taken with us standing still for 30 seconds. It was worth pretending to be statues!
|Credit : Emma Zulaiha Sabah Stargazers|
We waited for the sunrise and snapped away as Mount Kinabalu shyly peeked from behind the clouds and appeared magnificently in the background of our photos.
The photo above was before we bid adieu to Kak Ros who had to go back to work and organizers Harris and Yunus. Now it was left to Emma and Luqman to man the fort.
We had a simple breakfast at 8am before driving back to Nabalu Lodge for some hotel breakfast and shut eye. On the way back to the hotel from Hounon Homestay we had noticed a weird sound coming from the front left tyre so we decided stopped by at the spare parts shop nearby after checking out at 2pm.
Turns out that the front left brake pad was worn out so we had it changed before paying a visit to the Freshian cows at Desa Farmstay 20 minutes away from the hotel. It started to drizzle when we reached and hubby suddenly had a stomachache
We had some ice cream (I ate most of it as hubby wasn't feeling very well by then) and took some photos of the magnificent landscape before taking a detour to the hotel at Kundasang town as hubby was feeling worse. His condition took a turn for the worse. After spending an hour in the bathroom, we drove to the next stop- Kampung Tambatoun which was in such a remote area that I got worried that he would be too sick to get help anywhere nearby. He insisted he just wanted to sleep when he reached.
|The evening light before we reached Kampung Tambatuon|
I updated the group on his condition and it turns out that he was not the only one with a bad stomach. Kak Ros, Luqman and Asiah were affected and we deducted it must have been the morning eggs. After what seemed like a never ending drive, we reached the homestay where hubby promptly fell asleep in our room.
Dr Choy kindly gave them all some strong medicines to hopefully stop the nausea and diarrhea. The rest of us had a simple yet delicious dinner prepared by Emma before calling it a night by 9pm. We were all feeling too tired.
I woke up at 4am when the lights went off and on thanks to Ellie who was attempting to wake us up without causing too much havoc. Everyone except for Asiah who was still really sick were already in the river taking photos. If I thought that the night before was super clear, Kg Tambatoun offered an even clearer view of the stars and the Milky Way.
As I gingerly made my way to where they stood in the middle of the shallow river, I slipped and literally wet my pants. The photo we took was worth getting wet though!
After taking a few shots, I cleaned myself up and went back to sleep. Hubby was still in deep slumber.
Next : Part 3: Kota Belud