Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We're in the jungle, baby!

We haven’t seen any crocodiles, no monkeys and we only passed longhouses (no invites yet), but we've seen lots of jungle and finally found the grubs!  As we made our way up the Rajang River, we stopped at a town called Sarakei.  It’s known for it’s succulent, sweet pineapples (and we confirm, they are the best we’ve ever eaten) and their black pepper production.  We anchored for the night and as we were waiting on the tide the next day, we went into the Saturday market.  For the size of the town, it was a bustling market with extremely friendly people…they don’t get many tourists here.  It had everything you could possibly want and some of what you don’t want.  That’s what we bought….sago grubs. 

Now, if you’ve followed along for the past year or so, you’ll know that Jake is into eating gross things (but don’t ask him to eat potato salad…that’s disgusting you know).  He’s tried grasshoppers, termites, chicken parts (all of them), and even rat.  All he could talk about was grubs (thanks again, “Man vs. Wild”).  So when we finally saw them wiggling around in their little bowls in the market, Jake had to have them.  Funny enough, so did Chris, the father of Jake’s new friend.  They had come up the river with us on they’re sailboat.  Chris has lived in Thailand for quite some time so he’s no stranger to bugs.  I think this added a little encouragement to Jake as well. 

After Jake decided he just couldn’t stomach a live one (his original plan), Andy pan fried a few in some bacon fat and garlic salt.  The first attempt was quick…it went in his mouth and right back out.  After watching Andy eat one and then a reluctant mom try one, he took another shot at it.  He chewed for a bit but when the insides spewed out he, had to as well.  Finally, after promising him and extra hour on the iPad if he could swallow one and keep it down, he gobbled up the deep friend grub and decided he wasn’t going to die (but he did not care for the taste any more than the first time).

Surprisingly, Andy and I were not deterred.  Andy deep fried the rest of them (of course he deep fried them),  Chris sauted his in some oil and a soy sauce mixture, and I cooked the local midin (a fern type veggie) we had bought.  We had Rajang River appetizer night.  I have to say, Chris’ version was my favorite. 

With the grub challenge past us, we spent the next day motoring further up the river to the town of Sibu.  I have to say, this little town 60 miles from the mouth of the river is MUCH bigger and busier than I had imagined.  There are dredgers, tugs, barges with logs, container ships and lots and lots of fast moving ferries.  They look like airplanes without wings speeding down the river.  They’re fascinated by us, so they come really, really, really close to get a picture of us on their iPhones.  Makes for large wakes and a need for ear plugs.

The town itself is ok.  Not quite as friendly as Sarakei was, but still a fair bit to see and do.  We visited the night market as well as the morning market, which was the largest we’ve seen since KK.  We walked to the top of a Chinese Pagoda for a nice view of the river and we visited all the shops in town, including the air conditioned mall (we skipped McDonald’s this time and opted for Pizza Hut). 

The guy made me pick up this black chicken and have my picture

They don't come any fresher than that!

Jake wanted to set the chickens free.

No shortage of pork in this city!

The bell at the top of the  pagoda. 

Unfortunately, it was a bit too busy for our friends and they were meeting up with some other people further north, so they headed back fairly quickly.  I thought Jake was going to shed some tears but he held it together.  The two boys really hit it off and we enjoyed Chris’ company as well.
Now we’re sitting here waiting.  I have some sick family at home and am flying out tomorrow to Atlanta.  Andy and Jake will go back down the river and back to Kuching without me.  Hang in there with us for the next month or so as the updates to the blog may be sporadic.  Jake and Andy plan on seeing the Mulu caves here in Borneo so at the very least, I’ll post those pictures.  They should be fantastic.

My son is reading for fun!!!  I had to take a picture.

Exploring the jungle!

In honor of the delicious pineapples at Sarakei.

The fruits of our labor at the Sarakei market.

A new project we're working on...I have some fabric of a map and Jake is sewing our route.  Not sure what we're going to do with it yet.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Kuching, Malaysia

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for us on Savannah.  After leaving Brunei, we took a quick detour back to Labuan and then headed to Miri, our first port in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia.  We stayed there a few days (long enough to see their fantastic Sunday Market) and then did a 3 day, two night passage to Kuching. 

We found some friends along the way.

The overnight passages in this part of the world can get a bit hairy.  There are plenty of ships around, but then you add to it the oil rigs and the high probability of logs floating in the water and it can make a captain’s butt pucker pretty good.  Luckily, we managed to traverse the waters with no incidents to speak of and fairly calm seas.  They got a bit rolly, but considering we were supposed to be going upwind, we felt pretty lucky with the calm state of the water.

Our voyage to Kuching was to meet up with a bunch of kid boats.  Jake hasn’t been with kids in months and for the first time in our cruising history, we felt we needed to take some drastic measures to give him some play time.  Unfortunately, the stars were only half way aligned for us…it was a good opportunity to teach my kid that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.   I say half way, because half of the boats were able to make it.  All the kids are great, but Jake has latched on to one in particular and fortunately, he has latched onto Jake as well.

As for Kuching itself, what a fabulous place.  It seems like every town we go to gets better and better.  We anchored in the Santubong River for a few days and while it was really pretty, it was very far from town and hard to catch a bus.  As a matter of fact, we never saw the elusive bus…we either caught a ride with someone or took a fairly expensive taxi.  So we decided to move to the Kuching Marina. 

Our view from the Sauntabong anchorage

Giant cotton tree in the middle of downtown Kuching.
Some new local friends told us we just missed the blooming.

I took a cooking class and learned how to cook chicken curry the "right way"
as well as how to not waste my pineapple :).

On the way, we stopped at a little island that’s part of the Bako National Forest.  We attempted a hike one morning but it was just a comedy of errors.  We didn’t check the tides so when we arrived at the beach, we had to drag our dinghy literally about 100 yards up the beach (there are really big tides here).  We were basing our starting point on a sign that said “Enter Here” and a few blurps from some other cruisers.  I guess we should have checked it out before dragging the dinghy all that way.  The trail went about another 100 yards and then disappeared.  There were signs of an old trail, but it was long grown over.  The last thing we wanted to do was get lost in a rainforest.

Can you see the dinghy?

Since it was low tide, there were tons of rocks exposed so we decided to rock hop and see what we could find.  Eventually, we thought we found another trail, but it ended at a small Chinese Shrine in a rock, much like the Catholic fisherman shrines we found all over Mexico.  It ended up being a fun walk and quite the work out (we had to drag the dinghy all the way back down to the water as the tide hadn’t come up by the time we left).

One of the bigger pitcher plants we've seen.

Our next adventure was entering the Kuching Marina.  We’ve had a gimpy starboard engine for a while.  The plan is to get her fixed in Thailand.  She chose just the moment Andy was trying to spin her around in the tight, tight space in the marina to give out on us.  Thank God for our fellow cruisers, the dock guys and our ever calm captain.  We were able to get her tied up without spending any money, but we put on one hell of a show for the crowd. 

Our most humorous adventure was when we went out to town to find a restaurant that serves sago grubs.  Jake has been dying to try them and we finally found somewhere here that is supposed to serve them up nice and tasty.  Apparently, they’re a local cuisine and a must try.  We showed up about 5:00, after watching a movie and were told that they weren’t open yet (turns out, the chef keeps his own schedule.  We tried to eat there the next night as well and not only was there not any grubs, there wasn’t a chef either).  We wandered over to another restaurant that I had read about and decided to wait out an upcoming storm there.  After partaking in Happy Hour a bit too long and deciding the storm wasn’t going to end, we called a cab.  Well, he never showed.  So we asked the bar tender to call us another cab.  After a total of probably an hour or so, a cab finally showed up.  He didn’t speak good English but assured us he knew the Kuching Marina.  I’ve rambled quite a bit so to make short of it….the only thing I can think of that he thought we said “cuchee marina.” Ha!  He took us to a row of strip clubs and parked in front of the one that said Marina Lounge.  Honest mistake.  I mean afterall, a man, his wife and their 8 year old son, where else would they want to go?  After talking to his dispatcher on the phone (who spoke much better English), we finally made it back to the KUCHING Marina.  It made a good story anyway.

The inside of a Chinese Temple in Kuching

We’re off tomorrow with our new kid friends to explore the Rajang River.  Not sure we’ll make it the 60 miles up we have planned, but we’ll see.  Looking forward to some Longhouses, monkeys, crocodiles and maybe finding those grubs.