A mum, dad and their three kids from Tasmania, go on an epic adventure in Borneo for 3 weeks in December
This morning at Green View Lodge on the Kinabatangan River, we are told vaguely that we’ll be taken to “the junction” where we can catch a bus to Mt Kinabalu. There is a junction at Sukau about a half hour away and then there’s another near Sepilok I think about 2 hours away but we can’t seem to nail down which one it will be. After the short drive, we pass the Sukau junction and the driver keeps going which pleases me. The further we can go in the car before getting on the bus the better I reckon.
We end up getting out where the roads from KK split to go to Sandakan and Tawau and he gestures where we should stand. We are to watch for a big white bus he says coming from “that way” gesturing again and then we are to wave it down (apparently you don’t bother booking). Most times when we get directions the person doing the pointing is really vague. I assume it’s rude to point with the index finger here ‘cos everyone points with their thumbs and being a pretty short object it’s pretty hard for me to get a line on that sucker.
The junction itself is pretty wild. A couple of rough unpainted wooden buildings on either side look like pit stops for the weary travelers. People selling all kinds of really fresh fruit and veggies under lean-to’s joined side by side stretch some 60m or so brighten an otherwise grubby roadside. Cars up and down the road are perched on the shoulder nosing in and out of the traffic to buy their wares.
A tout rushes over to us. He’s a fairly small guy who looks a bit like a rapper. He moves and talks fast and basically bluffs us into following his directions. He says “you wait over there, the bus will come from here (gesturing vaguely toward Tawau) and I will flag it down and you can get on. Don’t worry I will sort everything”. I don’t quite get why he wants us to wait on the wrong side of the road and figure maybe he’s drumming up business for the opposite pit stop. I must look bewildered because he repeats the instructions. We haul our packs on, clipping our daypacks to the front and do as he says because he seems to be in charge – even if self appointed.
The roadside drain has a few boards semi joined together but looking a little weary with big gaps (think ladder). Nani wants me to help her across but I’m pretty certain it won’t take our combined weight. The kids cross confidently and she hesitates before picking her way across. Oscar almost gets run over by looking one way and ignoring the speeding white car coming the other.
Dumping our gear on the wrong (east bound) side of the road Nani goes back across to get some supplies for the long trip. I have a look around and Lachie spots a baby green bird in a tiny carry cage. I photograph it and it looks at me nervously. I wander over to the tout who is a busy lad talking to lots of people and looking generally in charge. I ask how much to Mt Kinabalu. He says “40”. I say “And children?” holding my hand halfway up my body hoping that children are half price. He says “20”. I’m not sure if this is right or not. It pays to find out these things earlier.
The bus finally arrives after waiting maybe half hour and sort of tries to pull over but can’t beacuse of all the cars on the shoulder but it’s the thought that counts so no-one toots at it. We cross back over and Nani hands 150 to the tout who asks if he can keep the change. She says no. He finds the bus driver who has dismounted the bus and we stuff our packs underneath and get on board. There are single seats mostly up the back. The boys are together. Abbey and Nani end up next to Muslim women and there’s only one seat for me – next to a Muslim woman who doesn’t want to slide over. She twists sideways and I climb over her a bit wondering why anyone wouldn’t want the window seat. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m an unclean heathen western male or whether I stink or what but she’s looking over at Nani a few rows back and they do some female telepathy and end up swapping. Now Oscar wants to be with mummy (he’s a mummy’s boy) so I swap with him ending up between Lachie and the dunny. He says he got a whiff of it. I’m really tired and nod off quickly as the bus sways from side to side on what must be tired suspension. Our quick dash south meant we had crammed three river cruises and spent just 18 hours at Sukau.
Deep in sleep I awake suddenly with a jolt, slammed hard in the side of the head. As I come to my senses, it seems I have rolled my head one way while the bus has lurched the other and my head has collided with the wooden panel of the toilet.
Lachie wants to know why we are taking a bus instead of flying. I explain that it gives a sense distance from one place to another. We get to experience the route and the sights. It gives us down time – time to think – about where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing. I’m conscious that our time in Borneo is drawing to an end and slowing things down makes it last longer. He says he and I are alike because he likes thinking time too.
I dislike air travel a little in that at times it seems a bit clinical. We disconnect from one place and appear in another. There’s lots of lining up and showing of documents, re-lining up and shuffling in queues. It seems a bit disjointed and frenetic. Plus on this bus I get to see a little topless Chinese girl with tiny ponytails sticking horizontally out from her head drinking juice from a baby bottle and dropping her bottom lip when her father puts it away. She hangs her head and screws up her face and the bottle reappears.
A long haired rock star hipster in jeans, pilot glasses and long fingernails on his left hand nods off. A chubby little baby Malay boy with huge brown eyes grins a gummy smile at me from the seat in front no more than 5 or 6 months old and I feel the urge to squeeze his cheeks really hard. I screw up my face and make him smile more. Later he has a bottle (I don’t see anyone breast feed in Malaysia possibly because Muslims wear gowns so it would be impossible to do so even if culture allowed it) and he has just enough time to curdle the milk before the rocking bus mugs him as well and he heaves yoghurt all over the place. Off with the T Shirt and Nani offers a baby wipe (we’re loaded with these) which is gratefully accepted.
I see random roadside durian stalls with the green prickly fruit mounded up on wooden tables and hung from beams under rough roofed huts. Crowds of people gather around and I get excited – durian season is in full swing. Outside St Bruno’s Catholic Church great bunkers of empty husks are piling up after days and possibly weeks of this feeding frenzy. I need to get me some.
Pirates of the Caribbean starts up on the bus screen at some stage – maybe the driver has timed the ending to coincide with arrival in KK. It is in English with English subtitles so I’m fairly sure no-one apart from us is getting the dialogue.
Finally after 6 hours on the road and climbing high into the hills we reach Mt Kinabalu shrouded in mist and Bayu Homestay with Rumia where the climate is now cool and moist. The kids all have runny noses and coughs I think from the freezing air con and from being a bit run down so it will be nice not to be alternately hot by day then frozen by night and be able to have a R&R day tomorrow.
I walk to the front door of Bayu reception and slam my head into the low balcony. Looking up I see a cardboard sign that says ‘AWAS! 5’10″‘. All 6ft 2 inches of me now knows what “Awas” means.
he 5am start today made it the equivalent of 8am AEST so going back to sleep wasn’t going to happen. I had walked Nani to her taxi and she asked me to photograph the drivers I.D in case she went missing. She either has a vivid imagination or an over active sense of caution.
It’s pouring rain which makes the shower drain in our lunch box sized room gurgle. Somehow the storm water downpipe and our shower drain are intimate in ways I’m sure are not healthy (something like brothers and sisters marrying). I pretend I like the gurgling like its a water feature as I lie on the hard mattress and wait for dawn.
The kids are awake around 6 so by 6.30 we can’t hold out any longer. We head down to the common room for the second B of the B&B. When we enter we rouse someone sleeping on the floor. It’s Chris the manager – now that’s commitment to the cause! He gets up and starts pulling out fruit, fresh bread, spreads, cups and plates. He laughs with the kids and teaches them to juggle while I toast their bread. After brekky he plays guitar while the kids play Jenga and scrabble on the floor. 16 Brisbane Grammar year 12 girls on an end of school trip with their minders appear. Time to clear out.
Chris makes Nomad B&B what it is. He’ll probably blow dart my aussie ass for saying this but oddly he reminds me of Rob Schneider and who doesn’t consider Rob a close friend? You can do eeet!
It’s not the most modern nor the cleanest of hostels but judging by former guests texta scrawls on the wall it’s one of the most popular. An Iban by birth Chris sports traditional tattoos by world famous Ernesto the Borneo Headhunter and his hand tapping method. He tees up an appointment for me to get a consultation for some inkwork on my shoulder.
A pet giant snakehead lurks in a fish tank in the common room. Ernesto had tried for 2 years to catch one before landing this one in a lake “somewhere” and repatriating it to become Nomad’s mascot. I ask if I can photograph it by inserting my waterproof camera. Chris says it bit the last person who tried. Snakehead have been described as the mafia of the waterways because they literally mug their prey without warning so I take a happy snap through the glass. The snakehead drifts towards me nonchalantly, eyeball swiveling as he sizes me up. He’s thinking he could take me.
A smaller fish swims around with him. This confuses me as snakehead are renowned for being aggressive and territorial. Chris explains it was put in there as food but it had refused to eat it. Normally it just inhales live fish so fast you can’t even see it happen, but it seems it’s taken this little guy under his wing and decided to befriend him. Chris said he did this with another fish once before. I ask what happened to it and he says the snakehead ate it after 2 months. Must have been a fishy falling out I guess.
I get to Celcom to buy a SIM card and am directed to a reseller because they didn’t have stock. The sun was merciless on our walk to the reseller. I break out the umbrella. After hacking a normal SIM down to a micro with some expert surgery involving a cutter and blade it’s slid into my iPhone. This is where things go pear shaped. We learn the phone is locked. This is after me calling Telstra last week to discuss using an overseas SIM. I jump on the resellers laptop and find a number for Telstra that can be dialed from overseas (not easy). I call and am on hold freaking out because I’m global roaming and I’ve heard the horror stories of the charges people have been extorted. Telstra ask for my IMEI and process the unlock (something they used to charge for) and tell me I will need to sync with iTunes after waiting anywhere from 5-72 hrs. Umm hello? I don’t have my Mac with me?!? Thank god I’ve sent the kids off to look around because this was starting to really stress me out. My head is starting to hurt. I pay for the celcom SIM wondering how the hell I’m going to sync to iTunes and take the kids to buy some sandals because when we arrived Oscar ripped his sandals apart.
We catch a taxi back to Nomad after lunch and on arriving Abbey says she’s lost her shoulder bag – I mean the shoulder bag Nani’s friend had lent her for the trip. You have to be kidding me! I round on her and say “so we have to spend another 24rm to go there and back to retrieve a bag with 10rm and a 6rm pair of socks in it? Huh?!” Then I read her the riot act. All I want is for you just to look after your own stuff!” I’m ticked. My head hurts. The taxi driver takes us back. We go upstairs to the hawker store and I make her ask the staff. No bag. I find the waitress who cleared our table. Nope. Now we’ve spent 24rm retrieving nothing. Hang on. Maybe she left it in the toilet.
We had been to the toilet earlier. A strange experience as there was a bloke sitting in front selling tickets. The boys walked straight past him. I stood and looked at what was going on. Half of the patrons paid, half just walked through. I decided to pay 20sen for Abbey. He gave me a blue ticket. Was there a ticket collector in there like at the movies? I ask for toilet paper when I see the little rolls in front of him. 10sen. I gave Abbey the TP and in she went. I then went in myself. Nobody collected my ticket. The urinal was an amazing baked on yellow color from decades of abuse and the smell might have been similar to the smelling salts they must give boxers who are partially KO’d because it really jolted me and cleared the sinuses. The boys reckoned the toilets were long drops and the floor was all wet in there and there were hoses lying in there for two purposes (use imagination). They thought it was amazing in an amusing “check this out!” kind of way. Fortunately my kids are used to gross stuff and have an appreciation for levels of grossness that deserves an award. What was amazing was that it was the only toilet we had been charged for and it was the worst! No wonder half the people didn’t pay – silent protest?
So we rush back to the box office of the toilet from hell and our ticket seller notices us and hands over the red shoulder bag. I make Abbey use all her money to pay the taxi driver. He must have pitied Abbey and gives me a 3rm discount.
I send the kids to the room to rest instructing them not to open the door for anyone. We decide on a line from their favorite movie Benchwarmers as my password for them to let me in. I wander over the road keen for some man-time to chill out and restore my zen. I knock on the door of the Borneo Head Hunter Tattoo Studio and Robinson lets me in.
I head upstairs to Ernesto’s dimly lit and smoky studio decorated with antique malay artifacts, statues and art. Neither Robinson nor Ernesto wear tops – just shorts. They have long hair and traditional Iban tattoos on their backs, chest and arms. Ernesto is playing a guitar. I meet another Aussie there who is psyching himself up to have a tattoo banged in with a stick the ancient tap tap method for which Ernesto is world famous for. He gets flown around the world by conventions who bring him out to demonstrate his craft. The Aussie from Melbourne teaches English in South Korea.
I start to chill out and we start to discuss what I want. I tell them my life changed after a difficult experience and that I had to fight to get to where I am today after experiencing severe depression. They discuss how Iban would symbolize this. Warriors used markings to commemorate significant events on their journeys. They say that the dragon represents my story of victory but I don’t want a dragon. Then they say the serpent has new life because it sheds its skin. I don’t want a serpent. I have second thoughts. We talk a bit more and they speak in Malay and Robinson starts drawing. I’m not sure what they’ve decided but I’m chilling so let it all happen. I flip through their albums and learn the significance of various patterns. I learn how the dragon is embedded in the pattern (unrecognizable if you don’t know what to look for). I ask if they can omit this element and they’re cool. I eventually find the style I’m looking for and Ernesto said that’s exactly the style they were working up for me. Bingo. It’s based loosely on a stylized crab prized because of its tough armor. The first draft is readied and held to my shoulder. But it’s not yet what I had imagined I wanted. I suggested some modifications and Ernesto and Robinson made some changes. It looks great. The consult has gone an hour and another Aussie arrives. he’s from Healesville but works in Singapore. I ask if his tap tap tats hurt much. He reckons its much better than machine and you bleed less so it heals faster.
It’s time to wrap up. The ESL teacher has waited an hour so i ask for a quote and we make a tentative date. they spread out a bamboo mat. I ask to watch a bit and he asks me to take a few happy snaps. Ernesto dips a long stick with a needle attached into the ink. Robinson seated on the other side stretches the Aussies skin and Ernesto starts tapping. I click a few off and it’s time to go.
After a good one hour man time my zen is restored and I cross the road to make sure the children haven’t become the contraband of a well oiled people trafficking operation and aren’t already en route to Thailand – one of Nani’s concerns about them being out of eyesight. They’re are still there and much password asking and giggling takes place. I doubt much rest took place.
With the kids still bouncy (remember that neither pooh, rabbit, or eeyore appreciated tigger’s bouncing) I had to take them out again despite needing zzz’s myself. I’m looking for shoes for Lachie that he can bash around jungle trails tomorrow. As we ready to head out the heavens open with a downpour and a few flashes of lightning. Everyone outside takes cover. We do too but ours is umbrella and waterproof jackets. We walk in the pelting rain that is so hard it penetrates my umbrella. We slosh through roads now running with water. The air is cooler now and much more pleasant. The kids are loving it. Isn’t it fun walking in the rain? Sometimes it’s good to be reminded to see things as a child.
After trying three or four shopping centers we find shoes. Our pants are soaked from the runoff but i didn’t buy quick dry for nothing. The kids don’t mind. Time to eat.
We ask shop staff and they point “down there” for some good makan. We eat chicken and mushroom handmade noodles and drink iced teh tarik. We finish this off with fried bananas. There were other fried things. We asked about them but language failed. A boy came over and tried to help but he couldn’t remember the English words for them either. I figured one was sweet potato and bought a few of the other small fried mysteries that were about chicken nugget size. The food comes with a plate of red sauce. The bananas were yummy but the sauce turned out to be sweet chilli so it was strange but we kept dipping. I bit into one of the nuggets and there was a nut inside it. A chewy fairly flavorless nut a bit like a chestnut but firmer. It wasn’t til I got to the end of it I detected a faint taste like durian then realized it was something like jack fruit and the seed wasn’t meant to be eaten. Duh. I informed the rest.
We decided to walk along the beautiful paved waterfront along the swollen Kuching river as the light faded. Small hawker stores dotted the banks selling drinks, ice creams, souvenirs and popcorn. Abbey says hi to a group of soldiers. Some say hi, others ignore her. She keeps going and I’m thinking “maybe not a good idea honey”. Then she starts marching alongside them (they weren’t marching).
We wend our way through the old part of town with its rustic old buildings, narrow streets and open drains buying pink and white sticky, soft chewy kway? Queh? The pink turtles steamed on a square of pandan leaf had yellow bean inside and the white golf ball looking ones had sweet shredded coconut.
I have succeeded in wearing out the kids. It was their best day of the trip so far they said. I’m wondering where on earth can I hook up to iTunes.
Luckily we have some great friends in KL called Mark and Deb (that’s their English names – they are in fact real Kuala Lumpians) who have invited us to stay for the layover through to Kuching in Borneo tomorrow.
We breeze through immigration/customs/stamping documents and strangely the blokes in uniform don’t seem to have had their humor surgically removed like those in most countries. Mark had messaged his address and to take a taxi which should cost around 100 ringgit which I think is steep. I hoped to find an alternative. As we exited baggage claim there was a counter with shouting people. It was a bus ticket bazaar. I approached slowly wondering how to pick so I randomly went for the yelling Airbus counter and showed her the address. Bus to KL Sentral then taxi from there came the answer. Nani handed over 28 rm and the lady handed me the change. Patriarchal maybe or perhaps i look poor. We headed for platform 2 (in truth we just followed Nani who was walking flat out). We rushed out onto the street and I looked around but there were no signs to any platforms just huge car parks. Nani headed left – fast. I’m fully 2ft taller than her so my recon is pretty good and she’s never been to the bus station at LCCT airport in her life. She leads us directly to it. Possibly this ability is related to the one where she can always find a bargain in a shopping centre.
We loved the bus trip. Primarily because it had psychedelic carpet – on the ceiling – and golden tassly curtains.
50km later as we neared KL Sentral the thought struck me “what if it still costs 100rm for a taxi from here?” after all the shouting people at the ticket bazaar were there to sell bus tickets not dole out public transport information.
We descend the bus and are set upon by people asking where we want to go. Taxi touts. No taxis in sight. This is a bus depot not a taxi depot I realise. I explain we are going to Petaling Jaya and there are 5 of us thinking we need a mini bus. Tout 1 goes and gets Tout 2 who says he can take us. I say there are 5 of us. He looks concerned. T1 says not to worry some of us are really small. I figure they will cram us into a sedan. I ask T2 how much and he says 34 rm. “34rm?” i confirm. He replies “35rm”. Either I’m a really bad negotiator or my hearing is going. He takes off to get his car. Eventually we find our destination. He really didn’t know where we were going but drove round for long enough to find it. He didn’t seem to have a map but I had already agreed on the price so it didn’t matter. We put it down to the scenic route and he was a friendly guy despite being told by Abbey that her dad was bigger than he.
Mark wasn’t home when we arrived but his parents were (they live at their parents house) and Deb was too and a lot of other people. They have four children and Marks sister was over with her boy then there were two maids and a boy that might have been one of the maids sons maybe.
The hospitality was fantastic. We were told to rest prior to tea – who gets to have a lie down while dinner is prepared?!
As we lay under the fans a small boy with a #1 clipper job sneaked in. Being the uber parent I strike up a conversation leading with the trusty “what’s your name?” with my play school presenter voice. “Ong Chai Chen” he announced loudly. It sounded oddly like the mandarin for “thank you”. It was a mouthful so I persevered. “yeah but what do people call you?” “Ong Chai Chen!” He reiterated. Probably thinks I’m so old I’m hard of hearing. Nani chimed in “what does your teacher call you?” same answer. I ask if I can just call him Chai or Chen. Charlie maybe? He says he can do the work of a five year old at school. Nani asks how old is he. He says “five”.
His grandma knocked and offered us a pile of towels. The small one dived behind the door. I recall Mark telling me on a recent trip down under that she was the no nonsense one. Apparently she sleeps at 16deg so it seems she is to the kids what the ice queen was to Narnia. He emerges when it’s safe and shows us some karate moves. Either he’s really fast because he’s small or he’s really fast because he’s really fast. I decide the latter. He reminds me of Dash from The Incredibles. He says he’s got a machine gun. When I enquire further he says he also has a bazooka. Ahhh a kindred spirit. I like talking munitions. Then he discloses that he has not one but two bombs. I caution him that bombs can tend to explode and to let me know before he sets them off so I can get out onto the street because I don’t want to be trapped in the rubble of his grandparents former house.
The dinner is amazing. It’s a spread of roast duck, bak kut teh which is pork bones in a garlic star anise broth, fried chicken, chicken feet soup with mushroom and fish maw (I think that’s something in fish guts), tofu, barbecued pork (char skew) and on it went. We were besides ourselves.
Eventually whilst peeling and stuffing our faces with tiny thumb sized Goreng Susu bananas and Rambutan, mark called to say he was on the way home from his part in the closing ceremony of the inaugural Asian Shotgun Championship where a new Asian record and equal world record in skeet shooting had been set.
There’s talk at the table of dogs being locked up before he arrives and a reminder a few minutes later. My interest is piqued. I wonder if they don’t like mark maybe? Then I figure maybe they’re a bit feral and could take off when the automatic gate opens. It’s the latter. Then deb adds that she’s worried they could take off down the street and attack and kill someone so they lock them up when someone arrives home and let them back out when the gate closes. Presumably a game of fetch is out question then. I stayed at the home of a magistrate in Singapore once that had three dobermans, one of which bailed me up on a foray to the dunny one night so I ask what kind of dogs are Debs? The dad replies “just normal ones”. He represented Malaya in shotgun shooting at the ’54 Rome Olympics so I don’t press him about the dogs.
As I squat in the plugless bath pouring a little bucket of hot water over myself and wondering what the ceramic thing with the hole and tap next to the toilet is, I feel that I really like KL. First impressions count for something and I decided that while it wasn’t slick like say Singapore or as developed as Melbourne I felt at home here. It’s a work in progress with the odd abandoned apartment block being reclaimed by moss and ferns amidst the sprawling brand new cookie cutter identical terraces overshadowed by the sparkling twin towers in the distance.
T2 had said the traffic was jammed due to UMNO (the ruling political party) holding their annual convention but having just plowed through Melbourne peak hour in drizzle this morning theirs was a breeze.
Malaysians strike me as being really laid back. In the toilets at the airport a couple of the cleaners were having a bit of a kip possibly figuring the boss couldn’t see them back there. It strikes a chord in my laid back Aussie heart. Combine that with talk of deer shooting and the Cameron Highland Rusa stag head hanging in the foyer its no wonder I’m feeling at home.
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!
I love the website JM Cremps Adventures for Boys. Even though I haven’t yet purchased anything there, I love their idea “If you want a life filled with adventure, you better start when you’re young.” And they have very cool stuff, that I would have loved when I was a boy – hunting, fishing, military, science, camping and treasure hunting stuff – who wouldn’t love it?
Hence our philosophy with kids and travel. We regularly take the kids hiking, climbing, swimming, geocaching, fishing and camping. They absolutely love the outdoors and the way we look at it, everything is an adventure.
We reckon it stimulates them, promotes learning and is great for their health and it sets them up for a curious and active lifestyle as adults.
The trick is though, to avoid turning kids off (I’ve heard the stories of kids who hate fishing, because their dad took them fishing for hours and hours on end and bored them silly with it), their experiences have to be positive. That doesn’t mean they can’t have hardship – we definitely don’t cotton wool them, but the hardship can’t outweigh the positives. So what we do is make sure they have the right gear.
Yeah, I was taken to the snow in gumboots and jeans with no gloves as a kid, and if you’ve ever done that you know exactly what I mean – scarred for life. We try and equip our kids with the right gear to have a great experience. That means they have to be warm (if it’s cold) and cool when it’s warm. They need decent rainwear and footwear. Sleeping bags have to warm enough. When fishing, I don’t take them for hours and hours without a bite, in fact I do a fair bit of homework to make sure we’ll get fish. In fact, on one particular day Lachie and I caught so many trout an article I wrote about it was published in Freshwater Fishing Magazine.
The difficulty with all this is that it can get fairly expensive, especially when they keep growing out of stuff. Fortunately with boots and jackets, they can pass it down the food chain to the small one, so we can buy quality stuff so it lasts. Labeling is a big deal since they tend to leave stuff behind at various places (there’s a bike helmet looking for its owner in Low Head). Other stuff is going to be a compromise between decent quality and price if they’re going to grow out of it quickly.
We’ve found eBay pretty useful. Lachie’s first hiking boots are HiTec from UK. I think I paid about £4 for them and asked for the slowest (cheapest) sea freight they could find. Abbey is now wearing them. Other stuff we get online from the US. The sting with them is international shipping. I’m experimenting now with a freight forwarder who repack and ship with cheaper shipping options.
The other issue to keep in mind when it comes to gear is not to buy the best whenever getting into something. Some people decided to take their kids on a hike and end up spending hundreds of bucks on the best gear, never to be used again because the kid hated it, or it just didn’t press their buttons. You never know with kids. Not only that, they trash stuff. Get the good gear after using make-do stuff for a couple of years, to make sure it’s not just a fad.
Lastly, I think it’s best to consider moving slowly with kids. Everything takes about twice as long. They just take ages to do everything. They have to poo, wee and drink often. They like investigating stuff. They stand about talking to each other instead of walking. They don’t keep up. It can really frustrate if you’re running tight on time. So we plan to do half as much and have loads of time up our sleeve. In fact, moving at kids pace is an awesome way to go on holidays. The experience is so much richer and recharging.