Lake Baikal in Russia
Lake Baikal in Russia

Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah, which is one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo.  Amy and I have both been to peninsular Malaysia on prior trips and we were eager to dive back in to some of the local cuisine.  The food in Malaysia in an interesting mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay creations.  KK has a lively night market along the waterfront where a few dozen vendors setup restaurants under tents.  Most of these are serving up freshly caught seafood.  We indulged in the night market at least three times during our stay.

The waterfront at Kota Kinabalu
The waterfront at Kota Kinabalu

One of the oddities of Malaysian cuisine is the ABC or Ais Kacang that you can get from just about any drink vendor.  It’s somewhere between a drink and snack and consists of shaved ice, corn kernels, sweet beans and grass jelly all dowsed with a sugary pink syrup and condensed milk.  It sounds strange and they certainly look weird but they make for a refreshing snack in the hot weather.  Amy discovered a local variant that includes avocado that she quickly took a liking to.

Avocado Ais Kachang (more popularly known as Avacado ABC)
Avocado Ais Kachang (more popularly known as Avacado ABC)

Just off the coast from KK is Tunku Abdul Rahman park which is comprised of a handful of jungle-covered islands.  The regular ferry service to these islands makes them a popular day-trip for locals and tourists alike.  We went to Pulau Sapi (Pulau means “island” in Malay and many of the other languages in this area) for an afternoon of snorkeling.

The island’s popularity was evident when we arrived.  In contrast to the Cooks where we commonly had a couple hundred yards of beach to ourselves, here on Sapi we had about a hundred yards of beach to share with maybe 500 other people!  As afternoon wore on it quieted down as people returned to town.

Amy went snorkeling and was reminded of how warm water is in this part of the world – “like bath water” as she puts it.  There was a nice variety of fish but seeing them was hard because of the poor visibility.  I entertained myself with some reading and a short hike across the island.  I was hoping to see some birds but in the end all I spotted was a monitor lizard looking for food scraps behind the island restaurants.

Monitor lizards roam Sapi Island...I promise better photos in a future post!
Monitor lizards roam Sapi Island…I promise better photos in a future post!
Kota Kinabalu
The waterfront at Kota Kinabalu
The waterfront at Kota Kinabalu
The main drag in KK
The main drag in KK
In Sabah they like to fill their traffic circles with animal statues.
In Sabah they like to fill their traffic circles with animal statues.
Monitor lizards roam Sapi Island...I promise better photos in a future post!
Monitor lizards roam Sapi Island…I promise better photos in a future post!
Blended dragon-fruit
Blended dragon-fruit
Avocado Ais Kachang (more popularly known as Avacado ABC)
Avocado Ais Kachang (more popularly known as Avacado ABC)
Lunch at an Indian place served on a banana leaf.
Lunch at an Indian place served on a banana leaf.
Picking out some meat-on-a-stick at the night market
Picking out some meat-on-a-stick at the night market
Vegetarian soto mee hoon soup (noodles, fake chicken, cucumber and various spices)
Vegetarian soto mee hoon soup (noodles, fake chicken, cucumber and various spices)

After a brief one-night stay in Bariloche to get our bearings we rented a newish base-model Chevy Corsa.  When I say base-model, I mean it.  No aire acondicionado, no power locks, no power windows and, best of all, no power steering.  Good times!  On the plus side, it did have a Sony radio that could receive AM, FM and shortwave.  Renting cars in Argentina is pretty easy with a US drivers license though you do have to be cautious of the prices.  They may be higher  than advertised (~10%) if you aren’t paying cash.

Setting out from Bariloche we followed the famous Siete Lagos drive to San Martín de los Andes.  The drive is less than 200km but it took us a good six hours.  Part of this was due to the fact that you have to stop every 5-10 minutes to enjoy the views.  Another reason was the condition of the dirt road which comprises about one third of the route.  We had to be cautious with our vehicle’s generous 8 inches of ground clearance through areas where there was construction.  The great thing is that there were very few other cars out that day.  Based on the number of companies hocking tours of the route, I gather that the road is packed with tour buses in high-season.

Along the way we quickly lost track of the number of lakes we had seen or their names so I’m not even going to try to reconstruct that for you.  I think the photos below will give you the general idea though.

In the next few days I will be posting more about our time in San Martín de los Andes including my special birthday dinner. We are back in Bariloche now but will be saying goodbye to Argentina tomorrow as we plan to take a morning bus across the Andes to Puerto Montt in Chile.  After a hopefully brief connection we will be off to the town of Ancud on Isla Chiloé.

Siete Lagos Drive
Ruta 231 heading north out of Bariloche
Ruta 231 heading north out of Bariloche
Our base model Chevy.  Stick shift with no power steering.
Our base model Chevy. Stick shift with no power steering.
A lizard!
A lizard!

 

Our second excursion at Bahía Bustamante was a trip to the nearby petrified forest.  We drove about an hour across a landscape that looked much like eastern Montana or Wyoming except for the dozens of ñandú and guanacos we spotted along the way.  Our destination was the base a cliff where fossilized pieces of wood were slowly being revealed by the dry and windy climate.  We were told that most of it comes from trees that were alive about 65 million years ago.

As a kid I remember finding small pieces of fossilized wood and plants during my summers in Montana but this place was different.  There were dozens of intact tree trunks laying all over the ground.  Many of them had a bark-textured surface that was remarkably similar to a real tree.  I kept picking up pieces out of disbelief that they were actually rock and not real wood.  Of course, the weight of each piece was a bit of a giveaway!  While most of the pieces were an reddish color there were a few there and there that were blue, green and yellow.  Apparently this is caused by different trace elements mixing with the quartz in the fossil.

Bahía Bustamante – Day 2 (Petrified Forest)

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