After an absence of several days, I am back, and ready to give you all the news on our journey into the jungle and Mulu National Park. So strap yourselves in - get ready for a rollercoaster journey of fun and adventure - and a little bit of swearing probably!!!
So, the day was finally upon us - we were to begin our jungle exploration today. in order to do this, we had to get to our final destination - Mulu and it's National Park. Our choices were few - either got a 12 hour boat ride, subjected to the elements with danger lurking around every corner, or a 15 minute plane ride over the jungle to a local airstrip.
Being the adventrous young stallions that we are, our path was clear - and twenty minutes after we left we were in the park ready for action. we were met by our co-ordiator, Richard, and showed to our accomodation, a quaint little jungle chalet surronded by trees. This was relative luxury compared to everywhere we had stayed before - the lights worked, the windows closed, and we even had a kettle IN OUR ROOM! How lucky were we??!
Once we had dumped our stuff and quickly got acquainted with our surrondings for the night, we were to venture to our first destinations : The Lang and Deer Caves. An hours walk would take us to these natural wonders, and Larry, our guide, was to meet us to escort us to them as soon as we had finished lunch.
Except for one thing perhaps. Now, we were staying in tropical rainforest, allowed this status because it is within 21 degrees of the Equator, (who said this Blog can't be educational as well as entertaining???) so, not jungle, rainforest. And the problem with the rainforest is that it has a tendency to rain. As it is meant to be the dry season we were assured that if it did, a short shower is all that would occur before it got blissfully hot and sunny again.
Our hour walk to the caves was a relentless pounding of water droplets, ensuring we, and everything we had with us, was drenched by the time we got to the caves. Not a problem though. They were obviously undercover and so we could escape the onslaught then.
We first explored the Deer caves, so called because of the Deer used to inhabit them, before the nasty tourists came and scared them away. It is one of the biggest caves in the world, it's diameter reaching 200m at points, and it was an awe- inspiring thing to behold.
All the pictures we took could do it no justice - the scale is all of. The ceilings were so high, and it reached so far back, that you could be forgiven for thinking we were miles underground; explorers who had reached the centre of the Earth and found the base of an ancient civilisation. Were it not for the occassional holes in the ceiling showing the lush greens outside, you could lose yourself in your imagination so easily.
As you followed it to it's final point, you were met with smatterings of temporary waterfalls from the rain we had experienced before, the fine flowing water glowing in the light as if an angel might soon glide down on it to this wonderous cave. The end point showed off the 'Garden of Eden' in the distance, an area of the rainforest so rich in fauna and cut off from the world; a paradise that no man can rwch easily, and therefore given it's Biblical name.
It was an awesome place to explore and we didn't think it could get that much more exciting.
Then we were shown the Lang Cave. It was nowhere near as big, nor as long, but it did have some of the finest cave scenery - stalagmites and tites appearing at every oppurtunity, producing a bizarre alien landscape, shifting my imagination from within the Earth to a new world all together! This was the cave full of bats, and you could hear their screeches overhead the whole time we were in there, biding their time before they fed.
We strolled around with our torch, occassionally shining it's beam onto the cave floor, disturbing the hundreds of small cave dwelling insects, and they scuttled away to hide from the sharp light, as if they were fleeing from some natural disaster - causing the floor to move and the alien feeling emphasised further!
After we had seen these caves, it was time to await the bat exodus - a highlight of this part of the journey. The bats mentioned before have to feed, and being nocturnal depart their cave at dusk - in their millions. We sat out side the cave (the rain had stopped thankfully) and within half an hour 2 million bats began to wave and spiral their way out of the cave in a constant stream - not one at a time as you might expect. They flow out like pillars of smoke from a chimney, never leaving one anothers side, to keep each other safe and protected, providing truth in the adage 'there is power in numbers'. It was sight to behold, and one that I recommend anyone to see if they get the chance.
This done, we walked back alone, our guide leaving us to take our time, and soon night was upon us.
The night time in the rainforest releases a whole new monster - the noises. During they day they are there - frogs calling, and insects screeching - but at night that noise is increased, the natural symphony reaching a crescendo at times that it is hard to believe that it is 100% natural, and not a trick the park plays on tourists to keep them awake at night. Falling asleep to it is exciting - you could not feel further away from civilisation as a monkey howls, and you shut your eyes to a well deserved slumber.
We awake early to similar noises we slept to, and are soon on a longboat on our way to two more caves. They were just as beautiful as the previous examples, however had a couple of defining features. The imaginatively titled Wind Caves funnel a draft all the way through them providing an unparalleled eerieness, whilst the Clearwater Caves have a stream running through them, housing fish and all manner of creatures. One thing I have neglected to mention so far is the smell - Guamo - bat poo - is not the most pleasant of aromas, but one we soon get used to after a few minutes underground, probably because your hairs have all been burnt off by it!
After these we met another girl who was to join us to Camp 5, our main Jungle camp for the Pinnacles trek, which involved an 8km walk to reach. We arrived there late afternoon, and had the time to relax and prepare ourselves for tomorrow.
The Pinnacles Trek. The hard 2.4km slog. It sounds easy hey, but it was the hardest walk I have ever done. 2.4km in distance, but over 1km up - often walking at 45 degree inclines, reaching 70 degrees at points. With the aid of ropes and ladders we scramble and struggle to the pinnacle viewpoint, but it was hard. Dan struggled particularly with his weedy legs, and at one point was thinking of giving up. But we were a team - no-one is left behind, and after 3 and a quarter hourse we were at the top.
The pinnacles are a natural phenomena - jagged limestone formations protruding from the ground like somebody has stabbed enormous knives from the Earths crust, desperately lunging for the clouds. They were bizarre to see, and well worth the effort - although the whole time we stopped to observe them, we knew we had to descend the same way, and downhill would not be so easy. My clothes were already soaked through with sweat as if somebody had given me a salty shower, and the thought of the return journey filled Dan with dread. Slippery rocks and roots not the best thing for his quaking legs. But we did it, slowly but surely, and were back at came within 20 minutes, Dan the most worse for wear I have to say, (hands up who's surprised!!!?), and he plunged straight for a cold shower, fully clothed, in an effort to freshen up. I on the other hand chose the more natural route and dived into the river, the cool freshwater swirling around my body and vaguely cleaning my clothes. I even went so far as to wash my hair - everybody else does it, and bathing in the outdoors is a pretty incredible feeling!
Needless to say the rest of the day was spent sitting, fearing what our muscles would be like in the morning, especially as all we had to sleep on was a paper thin mattress on a wooden floor, with only a crude mosquito net for cover - good times!
The return journey - 8km walk to the longboat - longboat to the airport - plane back to Miri.
End of story.
So, you're up to date. We are in Miri for one more day, and then back to Kuching.
We have two more nights in the jungle planned - I wonder what they will bring??