We are walking on cloud 9 tonight. This morning we were able do a guided tour to see the Rajah Nepenthes - the largest pitcher plant.
We started our day with another hardy breakfast. Today I was able to try the homemade bacon Peter, the owner, makes. It was so good. George, Mr. Vegetarian, had to settle for a couple of fried eggs. And wonderful home made bread. (sorry no pictures).
Last night I woke up around 4am and I thought I heard it raining. I tried not to panic. I really was not looking forward to hiking in the rain. Plus I doubt if they would do a guided tour in the rain. But when we got up, it was not raining. The clouds were high up so it was not going to be too bad of a day. Not as spectacular as the day before but still a very good day to be plant hunting.
We drove 10 minutes up to the Masilau Nature Center. Today there was a large group of tourists preparing for a summit climb. They were all in the road taking pictures. We had to honk to get them to move their buses.
When we got to the nature center, the woman said that the nepenthes trail was at 11:30 not 9am. We asked if the ranger could make an exception especially since he said we could come back at 9am. She asked him and he agreed. Yeah! There were no other people around. Very few people come to this area except with guides.
The trail would take about 2hours. The ranger was extremely knowledgeable. He told us that Masilau means yellow. The soil on the hillside where the nepenthes grow is yellow and very poor in nutrients. This is why they have developed as carniverous plants to get nitrogen from the insects they capture since they can not get this from the soil. The soil is also serpentine which means it is high in nickel. We are familiar with this type of soil from Washington State.
Along the way, he pointed out many interesting plants such as ginger, rattan, palms. The trail goes down on the west slope of the river. There is a locked gate at supension bridge to keep people from accessing the plant area. Once on the other side, it was much less lush, the soil was yellow and there were fewer trees. Perfect for these plants. First we found Nepenthes burbidgeae which I think is very beautiful with red stripes on chartruse pitchers. Also along the hillside were rhododendrons and bamboo orchids.
The trail climbed steeply. There had been a washout so the stairs were quite open without railing. It was a little scary. But shortly afterwords, we found what we had come to Borneo for - the Rajah. The pitchers were 15-18 inches and held 2-3 liters of liquid. Sometimes mice will fall in and drown but mostly it was small insects such as ants. I got a chance to hold one - it was like holding a baby.
We continued climbing seeing many plants. We also saw a paphilopedium orchid (lady slipper) that we did not think we would be able to see. We felt so honored to see it.
We climbed almost to the top of the east slope - maybe 300 meters up. We had a lovely view of the dipterocarp forest along the slopes of the mountain. The clouds were opening and closing with views of the Mountain. Our guide told us that sometimes painters would come up to paint the views. It was a cloud forest as seen in films at about 6,000Ft. The weather was mild and fortunately not rainy. In fact since it was so open and exposed - it was very good that we had done it today instead of yesterday when the sun would have beated down on us. I would not have been a happy camper.
We returned and thanked our wonderful guide. We came back to the Inn and Lily made us some great Mee gorang (fried noodles) for lunch and some bananna fritters. She splits a bananna open like a hand and then puts it in the batter before frying. We also had some more fruit.
After lunch, we headed to the main Mt. Kinabalu headquarters about 20 minutes away. Much much more crowded. Tour buses and many foreign tourists. We were in time to go to the Botanical Garden where we saw many interesting plants and a few orchids in bloom. While in the garden we met an English couple and talked a bit about our travels. They had been to Poring and said that they were able to see Rafflesia - our other holy grail for this trip. We are heading there tomorrow. It is the largest flower in the world and we were not certain if one would be blooming so it looks like luck continues to be on our side.
We will head back to KK after Poring tomorrow. The following day we will head to Danum Valley so I will probably be off line for a while.
Thanks everyone for your comments and interest in our wild and crazy plant hunting.