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Kuching - Kota Kinabalu 20 December

Little did we know the day before that there would be no sunset cruise on our last evening.  We had planned on spending half of the last day in Kuching preparing for the next flights over Borneo and updating the web site.  The other half of the day was for sightseeing at Fort Margarita and an interesting museum housed in what used to be the British governor's residence.  But there was to be none of that.  It all started when Flemming phoned the airport in Brunei where we had intended refueling on our way to Kota Kinabalu. According to both his Flightstar data base and his Jeppesen airport directory, Avgas 100 was generally available at Brunei, but he decided to call ahead to check just in case. Just as well he did because they told him they had no fuel.  We thought it strange as wealthy Brunei was bound to have some weekend pilots with little Cessnas. Also Sandakan and Tawau in Sabah have Avgas according to the Jeppesen airport directory, but phone calls quickly revealed that they had not had Avgas for several years. It looks like the last piston aircraft had left East Malaysia several years ago!! We were in deep s...!!

I decided to call the British High Commissioner in Brunei whose wife is a friend of my mother's and ask if there was an aeroclub there.  Captain Haydn-Jones was most helpful.  He told me there was no aeroclub and that Avgas would only be used by the military.  He suggested I call Shell as they supplied all the fuel in Brunei and gave me the number.  The man I spoke to at Shell said that the shipment they had been expecting had got delayed due to the Moslem new year celebrations.   It was due to arrive at the docks the following day and should be available at the airport the day after that.

We were considering leaving the plane in Brunei and hiring a car to take us to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia (north-west Borneo), then refueling on our return to Brunei.  But suddenly help came from Harvey JANA, the operations officer of Hornbill Skyways in Kuching. He phoned us to say he'd located a barrel of 200 litres of Avgas and could deliver it to the airport the following morning. It wasn't going to be cheap: US$ 350 for the fuel plus $100 for his assistance, but this was the best solution. Thus we could fly directly to Kota Kinabalu and wouldn't have to pass through customs and immigration since we wouldn't be leaving Malaysia.

He also told us that he could arrange for another barrel of Avgas in Kota Kinabalu.  But since our tanks would still be quite full, we could only use about 100 litres out of the 200 and would still have to pay a total of US$ 400 for the whole barrel, plus an extra charge for "assistance", so the price would in effect be an astronomical US$ 5 per litre!  We therefore decided to inquire about the availability of fuel in Indonesia, en route to Bali.  Balikpapan in Kalimantan (SE Borneo) confirmed they had Avgas, so Flemming sent our revised routing to our agents in Germany for them to obtain the flight permission from the Indonesian civil aviation authorities.

At last we were all set to leave for Kota Kinabalu the next day.   We celebrated with one of the best dinners of our trip so far at an excellent seafood restaurant near our hotel called See Good Food Center.  The restaurant looked a little scruffy and one ate off plastic plates, but the clams and tiger prawns were cooked to perfection, all washed down with a respectable Australian  Sauvignon Blanc.   We've learnt to choose white wines from 2001.  The older wines are generally madeirised as the Malaysians don't know how to stock it.  They leave it on shelves in the sunshine!

All went according to plan the next morning.  Landing and parking fees were a reasonable US$ 20.  The precious fuel was pumped into the plane and we took off in fine weather for Kota Kinabalu.  There was a bit of a headwind and we landed after just under 3 and a half hours.  In spite of the fact that we hadn't left Malaysia, there were still delays getting out of the airport.  We still had to pass Immigration to enter Sabah from Sarawak and Flemming waited an age while they tried to figure out how much to charge for the landing fees.  In the end they gave up trying not to keep Ray and me waiting any longer in the taxi.  When we finally drove away, I was relieved to know that we wouldn't be going near an airport for the next 10 days.  We intended travelling by bus to Mt. Kinabalu and east from there.

We booked into a hotel in the centre, near the docks, and next morning we jumped on a boat to one of the nearby islands called Pulau Sapi.  There was great snorkelling there: lots of colourful corals and there were so many small fish that I felt as if I were swimming in an aquarium.  They weren't in the least scared of us.  One little fish, rust-coloured with a couple of white stripes, actually made straight for us as if to attack!  I had to splash around with my hand to get it to back off.

I went for a stroll along the beach and came across long-tailed macaques by a kind of palm tree with orange fruit.  The eldest and most experienced of them was in the tree removing the fruit and dropping it on the ground for the younger ones to devour.  Later I saw a Malaysian family actually feeding the monkeys.  Not a good idea, I thought, but it was amusing nevertheless to see them swinging from  branches and holding out their hands for the nuts.  I counted at least 20 of them of all ages and size.

That evening we dined at another super seafood restaurant in KK called Portview.  All the fish (including a huge merou!), lobsters, tiger prawns, etc. were kept alive in tanks and you could choose the ones you fancied.

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Sundowner by the Sarawak River in Kuching

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Expensive refuelling from Avgas barrel in Kuching

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On final for Kota Kinabalu

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On arrival in Kota Kinabalu

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Beach on Sapi Island, near
Kota Kinabalu

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Long-tailed macaque on Sapi island

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