Another late night followed by another early morning: I ejected myself from by bunk at 7am and was already at the seaport for 8am, not that it made any difference, the very same woman who told me to come back this morning told me that they don’t sell tickets for the ferry to The Philippines: I had to go an agency halfway back to town. Which I grumpily did, and eventually I got my ticket. Damnit: I could have had a lie in; the boat wouldn’t be leaving until 7pm. Bah!
Well there was nothing for it but to return to the backpackers, eat some breakie and head out to the nearby Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre. I arrived about 11.30am only to discover that the park shut down between 12 and 2, but a ticket was good all day, so I bought one and headed out into the jungle for a quick recce before I was kicked out for lunch.
A wooden decked path ran in a circular route from the gatehouse and back again. There were some monkeys hanging around (literally) near the Orang-Utan feeding platform out in the jungle, but no Great Apes. After waiting a few minutes I resigned myself to just seeing my close cousins at afternoon feeding time and started back for the gatehouse.
On the way back I was ambling along, squinting up at the tall trees all around just in case a ranga leapt into my line of vision. Just then I happened upon a juvenile ranga happily sitting on the wooden fence to the left of the walkway – literally yards away. He looked at me, I looked at him: jingo, a close encounter! There was nobody else around, just me and my little man of the forest.
He ambled over to me, and I stood there like a lemon holding my video camera thinking whatdoIdo? whatdoIdo? when suddenly he reached for my jacket pocket, seemingly to steal my iPod.
Oi! I shouted (hilariously enough) and pushed his hand away. Naughty little tyke. I then realised he’d been attracted by the yellow pen sticking out the top of my pocket. Boris (I as decided to christen him) then casually turned away and started to walk on all fours back towards the gatehouse. I needed to go that way anyway, so I followed him. We walked together for ten minutes before we reached the fork in the walkway. Another couple were walking back the other way and I motioned them over to us.
There Boris, possibly loving the attention he was getting, lounged about like Hugh Hefner, posing for photographs until the park warden came out of the gatehouse. Quick as a flash, Boris was back on his feet and making a beeline back to the jungle – he obviously didn’t want to get into trouble. There was definitely a special connection between us, one that transcends yellow pens and ginger beards: Boris and I walked down the exact same evolutionary path for over a billion years before our distant ancestors branched out and took our chimpanzee cousins with us. And you only need to look into the eyes of one of these magnificent creatures to realise that maybe, for all our achievements, it would have been better for us – and the planet – had we stayed in the forests were we belonged.
After lunch I returned for feeding time, and got some nice shots, but it was nothing to compare with my one-to-one with Boris. Riki and Liam off yesterday’s bus turned up and we ended up returning to Sandakan town together for din-dins and beers. By 6.30pm I sensed it was time to exit stage left (stage right, even), and very soon I was down at the docks, clutching my bags and climbing up the gangplank of the ship that would be taking me to the one hundred and eighty second country of The Odyssey Expedition: The Philippines.