Malaysia Trip pt.2.

Alastair Robinson (
02 Sep 95 10:25:54 EDT

Here is the rather belated second part of the account of my trip which I was
prompted to write by a 'friend' yesterday!...

Malaysia: Part 2.

At four thirty in the morning, August 10th, I woke up and
prepared myself for our journey ( Dad and I.) to Subang airport ( KL.)
where we were to catch the early morning flight to Kota Kinabalu, the
state capital of Sabah, East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo.

The flight was great; the aeroplane almost empty, so I was able
to dash to each side looking out at the beautiful islands and coral
atolls which dotted the shallow waters off the coast of Borneo. The
most spectacular view besides the islands was when, as the plane came
level with the inland clouds in the distance during descent, I was able
to see the solitary, but gargantuan granite outcrop we know of as Gunung
Kinabalu, its many peaks sticking out above the clouds - to me, its
magnificent size seemed almost surreal.

After leaving the airport, we were met by Geoffrey, our 'sort
of' guide, and a Japanese couple who were also going to the mountain to
photograph plants and who had just been Scuba Diving at Sipidan, an
island off Sabah's east coast which is home to the most beautiful coral

The drive to the Kinabalu Park Headquarters, ordinarily 1-2
hours long, took much longer because the van which we ascended in decided to
overheat. It was still pleasant anyhow; The breakdown gave the
oppurtunity for the Japanese couple and I to look around the area while
my dad and Geoffrey worked at cooling down the engine or whatever. We
started off again and only stopped once more in order to snack at a
roadside market. There was an excellent fruit called Tarap being sold,
which looks like a Breadfruit or Jackfruit and tastes like Durian (
Sorry to all those who are lost at the descriptions!) but didn't smell (
Durians stink to high heaven!). I also bought some attractive Orang
Asli ( Native peoples.) necklaces for our Malay 'Au Pair' back in
England. Upon arrival, we had a meal at the Administaration building
and found out that we would not be able to stay at the Headquarters due
to its being full.

At three in the afternoon we went down to the ' Mountain
Garden', a fenced-off area into which many hundreds of species of the
mountain's plants had been carefully transplanted in order to
demonstrate the mountain's flora for those who could not make the climb,
easier study, and to show those species which can not be easily seen on
the trail.

The first Nepenthes which I saw there was Nepenthes fusca,
several small to large sized plants growing as shrubs or upright. The
pitchers appeared black, spotted with green, because they were so
heavily suffused and were about 15 cm high. The next species was N.
rajah - one or two large plants and several small one's. All but the
smallest were pitcherless! The large plants had leaves that were about
two to two and a half feet long, and stems with diameters of nearly an
inch. A single specimen of what looked like N.edwardsiana , but what
the guides said was N.villosa ( "Which had elongated because of the
temperature difference ." ?) grew there too, with a single 15 cm high
pitcher with a beautifully toothed peristome. There were specimens of
N. tentaculata almost everywhere, pitchers varying in size from tiny to
nearly twenty cm. Most of the plants grew as compact shrubs at the
bases of woody plants whilst others trailed up through the branches.
Three large N. stenophylla were found off the trail, all with large
lower pitchers, no uppers. These were of a fresh green and undecorated
except in the upper parts and the peristomes which had red stripes along
their margins.

Next was a large N.lowii with about ten upper pitchers, all but
one dead from the lid to the distended portion. The single healthy
pitcher was large, with the 'bowl' being about 16 cm in diameter, its
inner surface spattered in red. I then saw a large specimen of Kurata's
'Nepenthes sp.' All its pitchers were about 25 cm tall and, as luck
would have it, were facing away from me. The plant was in such a
position that I couldn't have gotten to the other side to take pictures
of the fronts of the pitchers. On the way out, I asked to leave the
path in order to photograph some aerial pitchers of N.fusca. After
doing so, and as I was glancing back as I headed back to the path, I
caught sight of a beautiful pale white, almost porcelain like, pitcher,
beautifully speckled in different shades of deep purple and dark brown.
This species, " ...which doesn't grow in the mountain garden..." so
quoted a guide, was none other than Nepenthes burbidgeae, one of the
most beautiful species in existance ( As far as I'm concerned.). "..Oh,
yes! I forgot that was there!" The pitcher was about 18 cm high, small
I suppose for the species, but still a great find for me as finding it
on the trail would be impossible.

After this, we were transferred to the ' Perkasa Hotel', seven
km from the Park Headquarters. Oh joy! The only bus to the park left
at seven in the morning! NB. If you plan to go, stay in the park! -
then you can get up whenever you like!

The Trail:
Getting up at the favoured time of four thirty in the
morning, August 11th, I got all my stuff ready in my SMALL
ruck-sack/haver-sack/whatever ( Water bottle, sandwich, shirt, flannel,
small raincoat, films.) while my dad, against my warnings, got his
ready, in a HUGE ruck-sack/haver-sack/whatever ( What DO Americans call
them?) and piled in all of the most useless items you could think of -
not that I remember what. But anyhow, we breakfasted and then waited
for the 'bus', a van, to take us back to the headquarters.

When we got there, we both decided against a guide, and set off
down the road to the Power Station where the trail started. Nepenthes
tentaculata and fusca grow on this road according to everyone I have
conversed with, as well as all the park staff, but I didn't see one! We
passed the Japanese couple who were waiting for someone, Geoffrey, I
guessed, as we walked past the 'Nepenthes Villas' accomodation, and
several minutes later, they came along with Geoffrey and gave us a lift
for the rest of the small distance to the power station.

Starting off from Timpohon Gate, the start of the trail, at
8.15am we began our 'day trip' up the mountain. Within minutes, we came
to Carson's Fall, a lovely waterfall which was cascading down a smooth
wall of rock. Continuing, we arrived at the first shelter ( Kandis
Shelter ) at the 1/2 km mark, and then the second ( Ubah shelter) at the
1 km mark. At times, it was like climbing a stairway that seemed to go
on forever up. I would also like to add that from here on, I carried my
father's ruck-sack AS WELL AS MINE up the rest of the way - what fun! -
and I was still ahead of him!

After the second shelter, the first few Nepenthes, N.
tentaculata, came into view. The plants were scattered about as is
typical of the genus ( Evidently excluding N.pervillei.). One here,
another over there, but they were not really hard to miss. The Japanese
couple taught me the name for a Nepenthes in Japanese, but I soon
forgot. Anyone out there know? The pitchers were all almost the same,
from 3 - 15 cm tall, and all pinkish purple in colour. I did notice
that lower pitchers varied on the mountain; where a lower pitcher
touched the groung, it appeared more robust than even those that were
only millimetres above the ground on the same plant. It was great to
see the plants, and even more so when they grew on moss banks at almost
eye level - very convenient!

Before the next shelter ( Lowii Shelter.), I pointed out a
pitcher plant to my dad at just the right time for a guide with two
Englishmen to hear me. To them as well as to me he asked as to whether
we wanted to see N. lowii ( The guides know them all by name.) and we
all chose to do so. The plant, several metres off the trail, grew
epiphytically on a fallen tree one or two metres above us, with several
large pitchers ( Many of which, again, were dead.), one of which was
hanging down at eye level and was easy to photograph. Several large
N.tentaculata grew about as well.

Not taking a guide proved to be just as good, because there are
always some around with other people, coming down or going up, and you
can just ask them where the next Nepenthes is.

This is what I did at the Lowii shelter , where a guide told me
how to find Nepenthes Edwardsiana "...just before the next shelter...",
which was Mempening Shelter. I reached the next shelter with no luck,
but another guide redirected me back down ( I had evidently
misunderstood the previous one.) and, turning off the path, I climbed
over some logs and onto a small slope. Looking up towards the
vegetation, I found three large Nepenthes edwardsiana with pitchers
about 25 cm high, diffused with a pale orangey-red colouration and
magnificent peristomes. I also noticed, and it would have been hard to
miss them, two gargantuan pitchers of Nepenthes * kinabaluensis, the
rajah*villosa hybrid. These were green blotched red and were about 35+
cm long and had very strong, robust, ruby-red peristomes. The plants
were enormous and grew up several feet above me, and had stems even
thicker than the N.rajah in the mounatin garden. I took lots of photos,
but I seemed to have under-used the flash; many were a little fuzzy.

After Mempening shelter, having returned from seeing the
Nepenthes edwardsiana etc., I caught up with my dad who was waiting by a
really muddy path that led down a slope in a thickly wooded area, he
suggested that I go down, as several people had seen something
interesting down there. Sliding down through the goo, I saw three
pitchers of Nepenthes villosa hanging down from a tree - this altitude
was far below the typical range, so it was quite a surprise to find it
here. The pitchers were globose and squat with the well known, toothed,
strongly defined peristome which it shares only with N.edwardsiana. The
foliage was very heavy set as in the mentioned N.*kinabaluensis, though
slightly more lithe, or refined. I took several photos which have come
out excellently.

Soon the clouds and mists came rolling in, gently soaking
everything around. This is where my dad finally gave up and took back
his back-pack, giving me a one hour curfew :-( and went to wait in the
shelter. I continued up, meeting the Japanese once again, with whom I
ascended the mountain with until we reached Layang-Layang hut. Here,
they gave up and rested for their return journey. I met the helpful
guide who had told me where the Nepenthes had grown and asked him how
long it would be till the next species, Nepenthes villosa would appear -
Forty minutes! Despair!

But anyhow, I basically jogged on up with some energy that I
didn't even know I had and got 'there' in 15 minutes! 'There' - a sign
which read "Nepenthes villosa area ... A carnivorous pitcher plant
which ...etc.etc."

On both sides of the trail ( The trees were all stunted here,
and the area quite bright.) I could make out sparsely scattered
specimens of Nepenthes villosa, growing mostly as upright shrubs here
and there. All of the flowering plants I found were male. The
inflorescences were about 50 cm long and very robust as were all the
plants. Venturing off the paths, all of which led to 'groves' of
Nepenthes, I was able to take many photos, most of which came out well,
although one of the best pitchers I photographed turned out like the
camera had been swinging from side to side at high speed. Always use
the flash. N*kinabaluensis grows in the area as well, although I was
not able to see it. Very soon, I was off down the mountain once more.
I was going so quickly that I even managed to pass the Japanese couple
again. I should have taken my time; I was gone only 45 minutes.

Well, anyhow, we were soon off the mountain and reached Timpohon
gate at about 1.30 pm having been on the mountain for 5 hours 15 mins
and 41 seconds. It was great for me and I came out none for the worse
compared to dad, but then again, being 15 as opposed to 50 does change
things a little.

Well, thats all there is really. I was able to find Kurata's
book at the Hyatt Kinabalu, thanks again to all those who gave me any

We did visit Tambunan Rafflesia centre on the way, where we saw
one Rafflesia pricei about 35 cm across having walked up a stream bed
and across a few obstacles. On the way there, I saw some cliff-growing
nepenthes with infundibulate pitchers, but we could not stop, and some
N.gracilis. We also released some cruelly caged birds from captivity at
two or three road stops with the help of a pen knife when the
proprietors weren't around. All in all it was great fun.
Bets wishes,

PS. I shall not be around from the 4th onwards and won't be back until
the 30th, but if anyone intends to write to me, don't hesitate.

34 Welford Place,
London, SW 19 5AJ,