14th day - Mulu National Park
We arrived at Mulu airport and walked for 30mins to the National Park HQ to find out where we could pitch our tent. The Lonely Planet guide says you can camp inside the National Park but when we asked, the park warden said different. Luckily we'd previously noticed a bodge-job homestay and camp site set up by a local family on the road to the NP. It was probably a much better place to be than inside the NP, we kind of felt like we were living with the locals in a way, well we weren't eating with them etc but just living on the grounds of a typical malay longhouse felt really traditional. Thier large house was on stilts and had planks of wood leading to the steps to help evaid the swampy areas of grass. Needless to say if we'd have stayed within the park it would have been boring and expensive. It cost us the equivalent of a pound to camp there which was a bargain! The family had a cat which would desperately try to get into our tent at any opportunity and pounce on the crumpled up floor
We met a couple from Kuala Lumpur camping next to us who were really nice, the guy was a Kiwi and his partner was Malaysian but her English was so perfect that I had no idea she was Malay.
After talking for a while we agreed to plan a trip up river to the famous pinnacles, (huge shards of limestone rock poking out of the forest canopy) a truely amazing spectacle. We were told it was possible to travel to and back in a day but after a closer look at the trip it turned out to be a 3 day trip, so that was out of the question, as we were only goin to be here 2 days.
Mulu National Park has numerous caves to visit and is really quite a popular place with toursists. The problem is that you can't arrange anything before hand, it all has to be organised within the NP itself once you get there. So, for people who go out of thier way to make a trip there i.e. stay at Miri for a night and get the early flight in the morning (you wouldn't go to Miri otherwise, because there isn't much
to see) and turn up to find that all guided treks etc are full up, it would be really annoying. We were lucky however and got the last 3 places booked on a cave trek (the only one I was really interested in seeing) and a canopy walk . The cave in question was "Deer Cave" and everyday just before sunset 3 million or so bats would fly out to spend the night eating insects in the rainforest. It apparently takes a full hour for all of the bats to come out of the cave and they create a long swirling trail in the sky that can be seen from miles away, it was really quite something! I admit I was probably a bit niave before when I heard about "The bat exodus", I imagined I'd be right next to the cave entrance when they exited and would be able to film them all come out right past me. The cave entrance we saw was the 2nd biggest in the world next to the one in vietnam maybe? Anyway, this wasn't the cave entrance that the bats fly out of, they come out of a much smaller one just above
it which is probably a good hundred metres or so up. Even though we weren't close to it, it was still amazing to see. The canopy walk we did earlier was a bit of let down though. I wasn't aware that we'd be walking with another large group of tourists, this annoyed me, but it annoyed B & F more - they like thier independance and to get lost etc which I completely understand. Because there were so many of us on this walk we probably scared all the wildlife away, the only things we saw were a few weird catapillars and a few millipedes (they were obviously too slow to run away from us in time). They were good to see and were authentic rainforest insects but still, i wanted to see monkeys and other jungle-like animals. The whole park is kitted out for tourists which is really annoying because they've built proper walkways with hand rails etc which defeats the object of jungle trekking. The amount of tourist traffic along the same routes everyday has driven it all away, thats what I think anyway!
After exiting the park in the evening we stopped at a cheap restaurant
next to our campsite and we met a swedish girl who had been travelling by herself for 8 months. She was really nice and we probably spoke for a good 4hrs, I think B & F were quite bored because they didn't understand much of what we were saying. Whilst in the restaurant it absolutely hammered it down...we weren't very optimistic about our tent still being dry.
Our tent was in fact quite wet...a reservoir had formed around the inside perimeter of the tent. Because of the rain it was hot and humid in there, especially as there were 3 of us in a "4-man" tent! I say "4 man" because I don't know how they measure the capacity for a tent, seems their idea of a "man" is an African pigmy because it's always the case - a 4 man tent will only ever properly hold 3 people.
There was only one dry patch in the centre of the tent, so I used my big backpack as my pillow, slept on my rain coat and towel for a makeshift matress and put my feet into my disposable poncho. I was stupid to think I'd get any sleep, even B
& F didn't sleep which was a first! I got up to walk about the campsite a few times (when the rain eventually stopped) to kill time and drain my pathetic bladder. I spotted lots of fireflies around the trees, never seen a firefly before. All in all I probably got an hour or so of sleep. After my short sleep I decided I couldn't hack another night in a wet tent so I paid for a night in a dorm which was in the family's home just next to the tent.
15th day - Mulu National Park
Due to our rough night we wanted to take it easy that day so we decided to do the one thing that we could do without a guide, visit and swim at the waterfall. We always wanted to do things without a guide but most of the time it wasn't possible, except when we went to Bromo in Java. On the way to the waterfall (guideless) we saw more wildlife than our guided trek the day before, including skinks, huge butterflies, massive snails and a discusting looking centapede-like creature that crawled into a ball when threatened.
We bumped into
our camping neighbours at the waterfall and all braved the cold river together. I was obviously not as prepared as the others - didn't bring swimming trunks so I swam in my boxers. Me, Marcie and Paul were sitting on a log halfway across the river when a snake dropped from the trees above, a tiny one at that, but my first wild snake at last! The waterfall was coming out of the side of a huge limestone mountain which was part of the bat cave we'd seen the day before, it was really nice and peaceful without guides and other tourists etc. When we got back to the riverbank we spotted the same snake that dropped onto us and I got a few twigs to pick it up for a closer look. I'm not sure if it was poisoness or not, it did have strange markings that resembled that of a tree viper but it probably wasn't, I have photos so I'll google it when I get back home. After photos with the snake we headed back to the restaurant for some food but while walking back from the waterfall the forest seemed to go really quite all of
a sudden and the wind really picked up. As we thought it would, it started to rain. A few minutes later we heard a cracking noise in the distance and then a really loud thump, I reckon it was a tree falling over in the wind, the trees here are absolutely massive!
When we came out of the park B & F got a few hrs more sleep and I sat on the porch of my new dry comfortable lodging and caught up with my blog.
The original plan for the rest of the trip was to spend 3 days on an island off the coast of Kota Kinabalu in the Sabah region of Borneo. It seemed like a nice way to end my travels but the more I thought about it, it seemed like a waste of time. I was in Borneo for god's sake, so why not see as much wildlife as possible instead of going to the Island where I could do a bit of snorkling (which I've already discovered isn't for me). So I broke the news that I wouldn't be coming with them to the Island but they felt the same, so we then created
a new plan.
It's cutting it really close but I was hoping to go to an Orangutan sanctuary in Sandekan, about 6hrs from where we fly in to, and then do a boat cruise down the Kinabatangan river. I hope to do a day or maybe 2 on the river if I can get a late flight in the evening back to Kota Kinabalu to then start my 4-flight journey back home on the 10th. I'll see how it goes.
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