Edit Blog Post
Published: October 11th 2007
Gunung Mulu National Park, (52,000 Ha) in Sarawak encompasses incredible caves and karst formations in a mountainous equatorial rainforest setting.
I arrived in Mulu at a small airport in the middle of the jungle and safely made it to the park where I was informed to put my bags in my room and get ready for our first cave visit. It all felt a bit rushed but I am glad I did it on arrival at Mulu because otherwise I would have missed the seeing the Bat Exodus from the caves at dusk - subsequent days the rains meant the bats stayed cozy in there cave homes.
So after a quick change me and a Malaysian guy named Low headed for a tour of Deer and Lang caves. Both caves are really beautiful and spectacularly large and reached by a nice an easy stroll along boardwalks. The jungle surrounding the boardwalks has a real Lost World feel to it.
The swarming exodus of the bats that earlier in the day we had observed hanging from the cave roof top made a spectacular display as they gathered momentum to look like a stream of smoke.
The following morning we both enjoyed a Canopy walk, making our way along swaying walkways amongst the tree canopy. Apart from a
lizard and stick insect the wildlife remained absent but the information gleaned about the trees more than made up for it.
Afterwards Low and I headed off to find Paku Waterfall along a very muddy trail. The end result was a rather disappointing trickle of a waterfall and probably not worth the effort other than it killed a morning and was some exercise.
There is not much to do in Mulu if you are not doing one of the treks so the evening and the subsequent day was pretty chilled out apart from a shopping trip to gather food for the Pinnacles expedition - very uninspiring baked beans and noodles but as we have to carry it ourselves for the 8.5km hike to the camp then we are not going to take lots of food even if it had been available.
The next day we headed off for the Pinnacle via two further caves and a river boat ride up river. It felt like really setting off for an adventure as the small boat bounced and scrapped its way up river to finally deposit us on a gravel bank at the edge of the jungle and the
Walking in the Air
Ok not quite the air but the canopy is quite high
start of the 8.5km trail. The trail was well marked and even laided with little wooden planks over the boggy parts so not that difficult a walk. Worst part was probably the couple of rope and plank bridges across two rivers - a bit like the Indiana Jones ones but without the broken planks!
The camp was better than expected even though the sleeping arrangements were open chalets with PVC mattress we had a dining table, fully equipped kitchen and cold showers and some lovely views of the limestone cliffs all set by the river. Negotiating some dry noodles for some leftovers food cooked by a Tour that was giving it's customers a gold standard service brought smiles to our faces and with little else to do and an early start for our climb the next day we retired with pleasantly full stomachs.
Next morning we arose at 6:30am and following a quick breakfast we headed off - little aware of what was ahead of us.....
100m into the trail we passed through two rock pillars - I said 'And so we pass through the gates to Hell'. Many a true word spoken in jest! The trail
I knicknamed it Hell's gateway when we set off - many a true word spoken in jest!!!
rose steeply and the the jungle and slippery sharp rocks made the for an arduous climb to our first check point; Little Pinnacles, a mere 900m along the 2400m trail. We made it within the allotted time - have I mentioned that we had to make certain points by certain times to be allowed to carry on. We made it and after a quick catching of our breath it was time to push on to the next checkpoint.
The trail rose steeper and the limestone rocks grew larger and scrambling certain parts was the only option. Our mountain goat guide skipped ahead as if going for a stroll in the park and we huffed and puffed our way to the 2000m point, arriving at 10am and before the 11am deadline. Big exhausted smiles faded when we looked up and saw what the last 400m held in store - with vertical climbs and dangling ropes and 15 metal rung ladders when the rock face became vertical it looked a daunting prospect.
Having go so near I was not about to give you so with many nerves and my stomach well and truly lodged in my throat we started the
finally scramble which took almost as long as the rest of the trail, that was how tough it was! The climb wouldn't have been allowed in the UK but I was here now and I was determined to see those Pinnacles and the only way to do that is to make it all the way - you can't see them anytime other that at the summit!!!! No easy options here.
The jungle that makes a precarious existence hanging to the limestone rock faces grabbed and tripped us - as if the razor sharp rocks weren't enough! Finally we broke through and made it to the summit to be given a spectacular view of the limestone Mulu Pinnacles. Luckily the clouds that lingered close remained away and we sat and ate lunch admiring the awesome view. With big smiles on our faces and relief to having finally made it we had our photo shoot to prove we had made it.
All too soon we had to head off back down to be sure to make it before night fall as just like for the Mount Kinabalu going back down was worse than going up. And after a fall that
could so nearly have broken my leg I made slow progress back down - not daring to ask the guide what would have happened if I had done some real damage. A stretcher over that terrain would not have been option but as I did not see any skeletons on our climb up so I can but assume that either there has been no major accidents or that the bury the bones really well!!!
Anyway at 4pm and a exhausting 9 hours after setting off we stumbled into camp. Hot and sticky but elated. The icy cold river beckoned to cool off and to numb aches and pains. Afterwards we settled down to celebration feast of noodles and beans and then a well earned early night.
Next morning we made the 8.5km walk pack to the river with light backpacks (with no baked beans or noodles) to meet our boat for the journey back down river and back to the park headquarters.
As we sat on the bank waiting for the boat we were surrounded by dozens of butterflies. So beautiful and so apt as the symbol of transformation - it did feel like a transformation as
I had learnt so much about what I am capable of that and what I can achieve.
So after one more night in the peace and quiet of the jungle it was time to say a goodbye to the whistles and chirps and time to head to the noise of the urban jungle of the city of Kurching. Time is flying and soon it will be time depart Malaysia. Wow 3 months nearly over already.
Tot: 0.45s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 19; qc: 104; dbt: 0.0193s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb