Friday, February 22, 2008

Pulua Kapas

After 7 days on Pulua Besar, we bussed south about 75 miles and ferried out to Pulua Kapas. Much smaller than the Perhentian Islands, with no local population, except the resort workers in season, P. Kapas is different and still so very beautiful. With jungle growing right down to the sea and clear clear water, the smooth sand beach walks deep into the sea and the reef breaks far out, if at all. The rocks along the western shore, outcrops between beaches - traversed by elaborate concrete stairs and walkways - are multicolored, pressed layer upon layer, composites of bands and clumps of many types of rock, reminding me of the Grand Canyon. The eastern cliffs are high, jagged, black, and lava-like, with waves from the open sea pounding hard and turbulent. We hiked a rugged jungle trak from west to east, over the top of the island pulling up on vines and saplings and climbing steps formed by huge tree roots, then steeply down again, along a muddy stream bed leading out to the sea, between high cliffs. Climbing the cliff rocks (Joe climbed the highest) we watched, mesmerized, waves pounding, splashing, crashing, pounding again.

Our 2 huts at Kapas Beach Chalets (KBC) were primitive but all we needed, with very welcoming hosts, and right on the beach. Each place we've been, even the bigger towns, create such a sense of welcome, never pushiness or hard-sell. The chalet and guesthouse owners share their customers, showing us rooms and facilities, knowing we'll look at several, and maybe come back or not. In the markets too, the stall owners and shopkeepers are unhurried, confident that customers are plentiful for all.

Everyone smiles! P. Kapas is very laid back: beach volleyball each afternoon, helping ourselves to the KBC kitchen - jam and peanut butter, making our own big salads, tuna spread, coffee, Nescafe (Joe's favorite). The scheduled American in me (Marla) was initially unsettled by a "lack of service" feeling. But after just a few hours, the welcome overtook me again. The business and home lines are blurred; it's a country of small home-run businesses and if the shop's not busy then volleyball games, or heading down the beach to help unload a boat, fills in the time.

Our typical formation, whether tramping through towns and bus stations or through the jungle is Joe in the lead, then Mia, and I follow. Joe's height gives him visual advantage when looking for land marks or bus stops. On a jungle trak he drags the path ahead, turning leaves and under brush, checking for snakes with a big stick. The elaborate and numerous jungle spiders spin their webs across the trail hitting Joe at chest or neck, so Mia and I can easily duck under. I tend to keep my eyes on my feet, watching for big roots, or my hands, pulling upon on vines or saplings - being certain to miss termite nests, bugs, snakes, lizards, or anything gooey. Curiously, in the cities, Joe gets us to the general area of the market, guesthouse, or festival, then Mia's keen eye for detail finds the particular street name or fountain or food stall. They are an amazing team and each day I'm blessed to be following along, their wide-eyed duckling.

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