Sunday, 6 November 2011

Day 9

Please, you must forgive my tardiness in writing. If I were one of those bloggers who made a message out of everyday life occurrences, it would read like a mish-mash of Nicholas Sparks meets Susan May Warren and they get invited to dinner by Tom Clancy. Seriously.

So moving right along...

This day seemed a good one for getting out and about, like really out and very much about, and we made the lengthy and dramatically beautiful trek by Avanza into the mountain region. Like the grocery stores of other countries, the cars are of equal interest to me. Yep, it's just one of those things I love to check out. Rather than bore you with the technical details, Toyota's Avanza is smaller than an Overlander/Kluger but bigger than a Corolla and not a van, but seated eight of us. It's a very matter-of-fact vehicle that handled the bumps pretty well.

And in this land there are serious bumps that proved to be well-known to the driver. The bumps and dips must have been intentionally created by eXtreme construction workers who had it in for cars, shock absorbers, and passengers alike, men who were living surpressed dreams of working on rides at a theme park. We'd be flying along the freeway at 100kph and the driver would brake at the sight of a bridge down to about 30, we'd go ka-whack over the bump and he'd floor it back up to 100. At first it was weird, but we quickly got used to it as part of life for getting anywhere, because especially in the instance of a bridge, there was always the downward ka-whack to consider at the other side where the road joined again.

The ride up the mountain was breathtakingly beautiful. Everything was deep green, dropping away then rising up in glorious picturesque splendour in so many different shades of lush. Every turn saw us oohing and aahing just as we had from above days earlier when we'd taken the flight in the chopper. The same teeny mishmash houses of wood, tin and/or concrete were now roadside, proving to us they were indeed very colourful and usually no bigger than a small apartment. The only BMW I saw the whole trip was outside one such house and clearly had not been driven in some time. Only the telltale grille made it recognizable amid the wad of disused goodness-knows-what stacked against it and the plants growing up and around the fenders. It was such an ironic image.

Because of the trucks and small flatbeds making the trip along the steep mountain roads, the drive up was slow at times but no one was complaining with the gorgeous jungle views outside the window. At home we grow pretty things or native plants in sandy soil where terrain is flat. These guys were growing papaya and durien and edibles they could use or sell, which seemed like such a good idea and far more practical.

Of all the things we did on this trip (we were gone the whole day) some experiences stand out more than others, and the durien tasting was one of them. The fruit is pronounced "jurian" and look like this:

  (not our photos) 

These things look like a warning on a tree. Why would you open this? Like, who tried this first and thought it might possibly be something you'd want to eat? If you see them in this state, I suggest leaving them alone and no one will get hurt. If you are an adventurous soul and do decide to open the fruit, please, please have someone else open it for you, do NOT get it on you or on your clothes (unless you are preared to run behind the car all the way home), and have handy a pack of Mentos and some scented wipes. I'd been in contact with these fruits before but the others were keen to try. We stopped at a roadside where the seller obviously propagated a tree at home. The back of his trailer was full of these spiky odd-shaped pods, and at the cost of RM10 (about $3), he put on his gloves and opened one for our group.

If it looks like a kidney or some other bodily internal organ, I assure you that the taste is everything as pungent that you could conjur. My hubby declared it to have the sweet note of a mango but the strong finish of a pile of onions, but in my opinion that is way too kind. Let these images tell the story because the faces say it all...

The caption with this woman's photo should read, "What crawled into this fruit and died??!! Don't make me put it in my mouth!!"

The smell is bad and yet one in our group decided he didn't mind it. I couldn't believe it! Even the teksi driver was telling us how they are banned in hotels and cannot be brought onsite.

Back in the car, overtaking was a real Borneo experience, because unlike home, they don't seem to police the road rules because their rules seem to be that of martial law. There are few speed limit signs and every move made seems to happen by unconscious mutual agreement with the car in front or behind or ahead. Overtaking on the way up or down a hill with a blind corner coming and no gap between cars to pull back in is dealt with by sheer courtesy, and oncoming cars will even slow down for you until you are let back in. No one curses (at least not openly) and there's completely no road rage. There are plenty of thumbs up and only very rare horn honks. In brief, you won't die and it's all good. Please, pull out in front of me so I can smile at you and wave!

On the way back down the mountain we saw a section of road that had dropped away and sunken beneath the tarmac that wove through the jungle like a ribbon, and we actually drove around this one whack-worthy bump. Not even the teksi's shocks could take the next ka-whack. During an eXtreme overtaking section, there was nowhere else for us to go and at speed at about 80kph on the way down a decent incline with a hairpin bend in sight, the kids in the backseat very much felt the next ka-whack, and ground out a "Whoa!" that made us all laugh - not to mention the passenger in the middle without a seatbelt hit his noggin and released a pretty funny, "Oww...".

Our teksi driver gave a small wry smile that grew to a more openly amused grin. "Sorry."

Yeah right. It might have been hard to swallow if we weren't laughing, too.

Decide: Is life better when you can see the bumps, or when they take you by surprise? What smells in your life that you might need to get rid of yet have been living with for some time, managing to convince yourself that odour of decomposition might not be coming from within?

“Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!” Colossians 2v21

Ne prends pas ceci, ne mange pas de cela, ne touche pas à cela!

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