A mum, dad and their three kids from Tasmania, go on an epic adventure in Borneo for 3 weeks in December

Category Archives: Planning

Passports, Packs and Pricks

Well, it’s about a month to go before we leave and whilst I am excited, there’s still stuff I have been procrastinating on which has me a bit worried.

The other recent bit of news is I finally manged to sort out passport applications for the youngest – Oscar (9) and Abbey (6). Being a tight arse, I found a couple of websites like Portrait Booth and 123Passport Photo  that allowed me to upload photos of them and crop them to exactly the right dimensions for Australian passport photos, save a JPG and take it to Harvey Norman and print for 10c each (I used three separate sites and printed all of them, and only one site actually fulfilled the exact Australian Government stipulations). The application forms are a pain in the rear end and what’s more, our guarantor (someone who’s known the kids for more than 18 months) made mistakes (spelled Clark wrong, and used a wrong date on the other) and they knocked back the applications at the Post Office, so we had to get that section done again. Grrrr. Hate bureaucracy.

I happened to be in Melbourne around stocktake sale time and was still undecided about a pack for me. I was narrowing down on the EPE Torino 55L exandable to 65L which has endorsement from the Chiropractic and Osteopathic College of Australia (sounds good) and is priced very well compared to the big brands. A travel journalist uses one and rates them, but I couldn’t find any other independent reviews, so it would have been a punt. They look great, but I would have bought it online and if the harness didn’t fit, I’d be forking out $20 return postage.

So back to the stocktake sales. Walking through Knox shopping centre I spotted a Snowgum store and at a loose end (I’m always at a loose end in shopping centres waiting for Nani) I said to the lad “they never have any good deals in here but we’ll have a look anyway”. Then I spotted a great deal on their Travel Pack – a 55L pack with a 10L day pack. Just the size I wanted (I’d travel with 45 if I didn’t have kids with me) and all the features I was looking for. It was down from $240 to $100 – couldn’t go wrong!

As I was rummaging through the features, I noticed an internal secret pocket with a zip but no puller (little bit too secret!) so I asked for a further discount – which they couldn’t do, but they threw in $20 of accessories (good customer service too!). Then after I paid for it, I noticed the zip on the back flap that protects the harness was all wonky, and the teeth weren’t lining up, so they rang their store at The Glen and put one aside and I exchanged it the next day. Success!

I have managed to buy a couple of other bits and pieces I think will come in handy – like this strong pegless clothes line from Ezyline. It’s very cool! I wanted a line so I could wash socks and undies and quick dry stuff that I might need the next day since I want to travel light, but I’d read warnings not to get lines with suction cups because they’re weak. So when I saw this ad on TV, I jumped at it and got a couple of lines that attach with ropes.

So aside from the long list of things I still need to buy – like tropical strength Aerogarde (remember the leeches), some lightweight shoes for the kids and a heap of other minor bits and pieces, one of the last things to do (oh don’t forget insurance) is pricks. We got a printout from the GP with a laundry list of vaccinations (typhoid, malaria, tetanus, Japanese encephalitis etc.) but I read down it, and none of them were really mandatory, or even necessary in places we were going, so I think just maybe the Hepatitis A should do the trick. So I think the task for this week is line the kids up and get some pricks. The six year old is going to just love that!


Jungle Creeepy Crawlies

Apparently the bats in Deer Cave at Gunung Mulu create tons of turds every day (remember Jim Carrey saying “guano” in Ace Ventura?) upon which feast a moving floor of cockroaches, which sets up a whole food chain. Yummy. But I’m not scared of cockies, although apparently Nani was traumatized as a younker when she was little by the nuclear ones in SE Asia, that fly and are the size of a large mouse. But I’m not worried about them. They don’t bite.

I hiked the Cradle Mountain trail as a teenager and an enduring memory is a of one bloke sticking his head out of his tent on awakening and seeing a giant leech (it had swollen after feeding all night) stuck on his mouth. We broke it to him gently.

Leeches don’t hurt, in fact you usually never know they’re there until you find blood running down your leg because they’ve dropped off after drinking their fill. I took my fishing waders off in January to find my left pant leg soaked in blood. It continued to bleed for hours afterward and I looked like I’d been shot. I don’t mind being eaten, but for me, I get these blisters of exudate (clear yellow fluid) forming around the bites which take days to weeks to heal.

Malaysia has three varieties of the critters, including the Tiger Leech (the name is not inspiring me) and get this, the Kinabalu Giant Red leech. I’m fairly confident I don’t really want to get intimate with this one either.

Apparently to remove them, a Malaysian leech farmer (you can get 20 bucks a kilo for these parasites) advises “Push the anterior sucker aside using your fingernail and then do the same with the posterior sucker to remove it. Try not to let the leech reattach itself.” This breaks the suction and encourages the pest to remove it’s 300 or so teeth.

The enduring ideas of burning them off or just pulling them off aren’t great because they leave their teeth embedded in your flesh which then causes infection. I’m happy with the number of teeth in my body, and would like to keep it that way. My goal is to keep them off in the first place.

Bugger the leech socks, I reckon I’ll just get too hot in them and panty hose is gay (it’s Borneo not a Mardi Gras). So here’s some tricks I’ll try. One traveler reckons the Orang Asli use tobacco juice so that could be good, and if that fails, I could just make some rolly’s smoke it and burn the little bastards off for revenge. Elsewhere it seems insect repellent makes you less tasty (have you ever got this stuff in your mouth accidentally?), so maybe the recipe below will double against my other hated critter.

The mosquito. Or mozzie if you’re aussie. I absolutely hate em. Was out gardening on Friday night and there they are surrounding my hand and eating me. Then there’s the itch you try not to scratch, then you scratch it while you’re asleep, now you’ve got a sore, and in the jungle you’ve got infection and on it goes. We’ll be mostly using long sleeves and long pants, but I’ll be well armed because I read that they laugh at DEET (the king of repellents) as do the sandflies (which I hate even more) who smell DEET and think “Booyah! This one comes with topping!”

Apparently Uncle Tans have some homebrew stuff that really works when it comes to pesky needle nozed whiners and I wonder if it’s the same as this particular traveler recommends;

Take 70 per cent baby oil and 30 per cent Dettol, mix and smear on your body for the ultimate insect repellent. The sandflies stick to the baby oil and die, and the mozzies simply hate the smell of disinfectant. It worked a treat for me in Australia and New Zealand, and it beats paying a fortune for normal sprays. It’s more effective, too.

I reckon I might get one of those Mozzie Clicker’s too. At least if you do get bitten there’s an alternative to scratching. You can just shock yourself. Could get quite exciting and would certainly be useful for pranking gullible yanks or swedes if I happen to bump into some.

The only other critters I hope not to piss off is some kind of millipede that shoots out poison, some vipers, and maybe a croc in the Kinabatangan river where we’re staying in a jungle camp. If I don’t get mugged and dragged into the bushes by giant leeches and mosquitoes I’ll be a happy jungle trekker.

Travel Insurance and Procrastination

When Nani mentioned that I’d better buy insurance, I felt that inward groan you feel when you’re faced with something you definitely don’t want to do, but know you definitely have to. Like going to the dentist. In my mind I said “Why do I have to buy it? Why don’t you?” but then I don’t like tempting fate and having never been a victim of domestic violence, I’d like to keep that record intact for a while longer.

I know she’s right, so I can’t fight it. But I can procrastinate. A kind of of silent protest. A sit in if you like.

It’s just I hate comparing policies and wading through voluminous words put together by legal eagles paid obscene amounts to turn normal English into some kind of Englishese sub-dialect comprising words rarely used of more than four syllables and as little punctuation as possible. They probably get bonuses for constructing whole paragraphs out of one sentence through the devious use of colons, dashes, semi colons, parenthesis and commas.

So I turn to cousin Roger who’s a professional couch surfer overseas and a bit of a maven. In his spare time he works as a patent attorney (more or less to support his couch surfing habit). From his borrowed couch in Hernhut he messaged me that he is using Southern Cross which has flashing gifs on the website about some five star rating or something.

I just pumped our details in the “Get Quote” section and it came up with $188 for the family, but who knows what that covers?? Do I really want to read the fine print – aka schedule of benefits? *shudder*

On the other hand, my virtual “friends” at Indie Travel Podcast (I say that because when you listen to people podcast enough, you feel like you know them) rate World Nomads who want me to donate $212 to their cause and I have to add high value items separately (they want an extra $45 to insure my iPhone).

And on it goes… A solo female traveler I know of whose email address is recommends QBE. I insure my motorbike with QBE – maybe minxy is onto something… I wonder if they’ll give me a discount for being a good customer so far? What does minxy mean? So many questions. Too many options. Procrastination really is the best for now.

We’re booked to Borneo!

So Nani gets invited by a couple of relatives to this wedding in East Malaysia in December and my inbox announces that AirAsia has a sale. The stars align and we pull the trigger. Now the AirAsia sale is like half price and begins at 3pm. It’s one of those sales, that you know as soon as it begins, the site is going to lock up. But I’ve been doing my research.

I pre-register as a customer the day before. I quit work early and arrive home at 2.45 pm. I’ve pulled up the site and by 2.59pm I’m hitting refresh trying to find those lucky seats. I feel like Charlie and the Chocolate factory stripping wrappers off Wonka bars.

Then my worst fears become reality – the site locks up. It’s not refreshing, my wonka bars aren’t shelling.

But then, a lightbulb moment. What if I try the mobile site? I quickly download the iPhone app, and start over. Amazingly, it works. I find out later that the mobile site, is a different site. No hitches, no glitches. We’re booked to arrive in Kuching via KL on Thursday December 1st – plenty of time to settle in, dust off the jetlag and get ready for the wedding.

Nani comes home to celebratory noises, flips open her netbook and says “Oh SHIT! The wedding is ON the Thursday! And the wedding is in Sibu NOT Kuching!”

This is the part where my brain goes into overload (so many questions and comments to make, all are unhelpful) and I decide to withdraw and do some cave-time. It’s like algebra and calculus had a love child which has just done a number on me. Doesn’t compute. Oh well, it’s her problem. For me and the kids, we’re headed for Kuching!