07 November 2007

11 Hours To Malalin of Jambongan Island

I went on a very long boat-journey today. It was a trip to a remote island called Jambongan, partly bordering Kudat on the North and Sandakan on the South. IT was, without doubt, the longest boat trip I’ve ever been onto so far. It was a torturing return-trip of 11-hrs! Though I enjoyed going out to the open-sea, I couldn’t help but dozing off several times, even fell asleep a few times.
Since the sea is said to be not so friendly at this time of the year, we started off as early as 6.30 am in the morning (taking off at Sandakan’s fish mongering market) to prevent getting caught out in one of the November storms later in the evening.
It’s always been cool to be on board when the dawn is just about to break. Cool to see the sun making its way up over the horizon. The was such a freedom feeling looking at the Sandakan town looming away while we sped off towards the open sea. I passed by a series of islands which I couldn’t identify most of them. I had come to realize that we were not alone on the sea because I could see so many boats, probably owned by the local fishermen (if not tourist agents – some of the islands are said to be under the Sabah Parks where the main attraction is the rare Salingan Island, famously known as the Turtle Island), looking as if they were lining up along the edgeless horizon.
The Sulu Sea to the east of Sabah is said to house some underwater rocks (they were real granite ‘rocks’, as the boatman described) jotting barely out of sight from the water surface, there was a possibility of the boat crushing into one of them. And it could pose a real danger to the boat and us, the passengers. As part of precautionary action, we stopped to pick up a local guide at an island called Puru Puru who was more familiar with the routes to the intended destination– A village called Malalin – than the boatman himself. Thanks God, the weather had been perfectly fine and just nice for a boat riding. It was an amazing sight-seeing and nothing was more exhilarating than cutting freely through the blue ocean on a very fine day.
We arrived at the village of about 300 residents at 11.30am. It was a village nestled on a hill  and overlooking the Sulu Sea with a beautiful beach bedding jotting some kilometers out into the sea. What a beautiful view.
The people had seemed to be expecting us and we were welcome by a few gentlemen at the jetty. It was one of the longest village jetties I’d ever seen in my entire life. And believe me, it is beautiful.
We made our ‘round’ at a school of less than 40 pupils (or 36 to be specific), with a teaching staff of 4. Being at the school myself, I would say they were teachers of greatest willingness and courage. At a place where every penny might count, I wasn’t even surprised to see none of the pupils wore a uniform. We were there for less than an hour before saying good bye to the headmaster. On the Ketua Kampung (head of village)’s request, we made our time to pay him a quick visit before returning to the waiting boat.
The returning trip to Sandakan had gone pretty smoothly and I was glad to hit back onto the ground without much problem.

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