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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Kuching to Miri

MALAYSIA | Friday, 14 November 2008 | Views [8495] | Comments [2]

Fri 7th Nov - Took the Boat to Sibu at 8:30am (Bahagia No.8). This leaves from the Kuching Express terminal, which is about 30 minutes out of the city, and needed to get there about half an hour beforehand. Had been told there was no need to reserve in advance in low season. Costed RM45 and took about 5hrs. The alternative was to take the Eva Express bus No.5 leaving at 9pm which takes 8 hours minimum. That costs RM40 also...why put myself through 8 hours of hell on a bumpy bus when I can do it for the same price on the boat, and get there quicker? The boat made a couple of stops along the way at TG Maris and Sarikei. A lucky spotting on the way of some Irrawady Dolphins shadowing the boat for a short while. Long sections of the journey are logging country and there were many vessels transporting huge stacks of logs.

The boat was a good quality double-decker and a smooth ride with English subtitled video. The choice in movies was interesting...'Mighty Joe Young' and 'Congo' followed by a third Gorilla movie. They have a fixation on Gorillas!

There were other foreign travelers on board. Four were also going on to Kapit the same day as I was, so that was good. The approach to Sibu demonstrates how much this area is a major logging industry. Mountains of logs and humongous barges being tugged along.

The next boat leaving for Kapit was at 2:30pm and cost 20 ringgits economy class, which gave us an hour to have lunch. A basic but ok café across the road was enough.

The boat was a bumpy affair...rattled the whole way as it flew along at probably 30 knots. My nose and ears started to go numb it vibrated that much! The funny thing is that they had a karaoke video system on board. I think the only reason was to provide some pretty girls to look at.

The journey to Kapit is the first section of the Batang Rejang river, and leads to the heart of Sarawak's longhouse Iban tribe group. Going upriver past Kapit used to require a special free-issue permit. This is apparently no longer enforced, and war rarely checked anyway. I would have liked to go further upstream to Belaga, but wouldn't be sure to make it to Miri in time for the flight on the 11th as transport isn't so readily available, so won't take the risk. Upstream is occupied by other groups as mentioned previously...Orang-ulu (overall name for a number of sub-groups...Kenyah, Kayan, Bukitan, Lahanan and Penan).

The boat to Kapit took a little longer than expected as there are many stops along the way to pick up and drop off people and goods at various villages and logging stations. Then had to find somewhere to stay for the night. Didn't seem to be much choice...a few really poor places above shops that charged a lot for what they were offering. Ended up in the Kapit River Inn. As there were six of us, we split two rooms between us, girls in one room ( two Italians and one Spanish) and boys (me, a German and a Spanish guy) in the other for 65 ringgits a night.

Couldn't find anywhere to eat after 8pm as everywhere was closed, apart from one rather naff place with poor food, but better than nothing. Had been given a contact about organising a longhouse stay with Mr Joshua at the 'New Rejang Inn', so went to see if he was there but he wasn't. I guess I work something else out tomorrow.

One of the guys had brought a guitar which he was delivering to someone, so I did some entertaining in the reception for an hour or so before bed time. Good job I still had my guitar music book with me.

 

Sat 8th Nov - Early rise this morning after a good night's sleep and able to have breakfast next door. No western stuff here, just noodles, rice or combination. Had Laksa, a traditional Malaysian dish of noodles, chicken, tofu and a bit of fish. Not my ideal breakfast, but tasty.

Spoke to the guy who owned the café we were at, who suggested I talked to one of the van drivers about organising an Iban Longhouse stay. We settled on a guy called Batay and 50 ringgits each way to take us there. A few to choose from about an hour's drive away. He also owned a longhouse, but a modern one. We wanted an old one. I had also been advised that it is custom to take gifts for the chief and the children, so bought some biscuits, candies and a small bottle of alcohol. If we didn't give them as gifts, then we could have it ourselves.

A reasonable journey, with most on un-made roads and a couple of alternative villages to stay in.

When we got there, the fun started. Firstly, our man Batay decided to increase the price to bring us back tomorrow to 130 ringgits total, including getting us there. Had to haggle with him, but at least we were dividing the cost by six. Not paying him until he collects us in the morning to make sure he comes back!

Then it became apparent how much these places are run as businesses. 50 ringgits each to stay the night...dearer than I had paid in any place so far in the whole of Malaysia! Next there was a 10 ringgits 'Registration' fee for the group, and then a 15 group fee to be able to take photographs of the skulls hanging inside of the house. There are many skulls, and the fee only covered the two adjacent families we were staying with. To photograph any others would cost us another 15 ringgits. No meals included, only rice and some tea. Anything else, we would have to pay for. We could buy a chicken for 30 ringgits, and vegetables 1 ringgit per bunch. Not too bad, so ok with that. Happy enough with the arrangements, Batay left us to it. Fortunately, a couple of the people spoke English.. Lucy (25) and Cameroon (about 45).

The house was about 50 years old and the skulls protecting it about 100 years or more. Many of the folk were busy either weaving on old fashioned looms, or preparing and weaving bamboo into mats, or hats, or baskets. There was a pleasant aroma in parts to fresh bamboo. They must sit for hours every day doing this. Simple little jigs to prepare the bamboo to the right thickness, or allow them to puncture it in the right place. It was a wonderful atmosphere of harmony, happiness and industry. A couple of the old folk were over 70, and were bent over to almost 90 degrees as they walk. One of the old guys was fascinated by the hair on my chest, something they don't have. What they do have though, is tattoos, lots of them, all done by themselves, both men and women. So we were fascinated in each other for different reasons.

Even though they get used to being photographed, it is obvious that many are unhappy, so have to be sensitive to this. Mothers happily carry their babies around, breast feeding as they walk or talk with you. The relaxed and friendly hospitality was lovely. Many dogs and cats were kept as pets and mingle with everyone else in the house, which housed 22 families. The occasional fight broke out and got a bit noisy when the roosters were crowing at the same time...many of them...going to be a noisy time I guess!

Arranged marriages used to be the norm, done by agreement with the parents. Nowadays it still happens, but couples do meet in other ways, on visits to the villages. Due to the limited space in the longhouses, after marriage they often live in a new longhouse, which are no longer made of Ironwood, but out of stone with metal roofs. Still on stilts though due to the rains that get really heavy, as they did last night and this morning, and most days at the moment. 

The village was located next to a river, and it was fun to see the children messing around in the water, where people wash clothes and bathe too. The whole environment was a magic one...beautiful patches of orchids, colourful flowers surround the old structure, rickety and creaking with age and buzzing with life. With everyone in such close proximity to each other, they have to live in harmony.

Lucy spent some time preparing the flour to make bread in an old wooden pestle and mortar. An old lady weaving a piece that she has been working on for over 6 months. Patiently doing the same task every day. Smoke billowing from small barely hung together huts on buckling legs, noises from every direction...noisy, but peaceful all at the same time.

Children go to school at 7 here, with a pre-school year at 6yrs old. This is provided by the government.

After a while just people watching...especially the folk weaving non-stop or returning from collecting sticks from the forest, we went for our own walk in the jungle, a bit dense, so took to the river and waded downstream for a while. Some pretty marsh plants flowing over the edge of the banks, in bloom in the shaded areas. The range of color in the stones of the riverbed was surprising. A rainbow effect when the light shone in the right way. In some patches the forest had been cleared, and this reminded me of how unselective the logging is here.  Vast areas are being wiped out and the recent guy from a logging company I spoke to didn't seem to think there was any sustainable logging policy. They cut down until they reach the boundaries of the national parks.

It was getting dark when we returned and time to get into our cabin for the night, a room attached to the main house where they were preparing dinner. Asam yowya (a tarty pickle type vegetable), crushed dried fish, rice, vegetable and sago. A superb combination.

After dinner, life is just communal. Sitting around playing card games and families engaged in social chat and relaxation. As the generator was running, they have TV in the main cabin and lighting in most of the rooms until maybe 10pm, and then it's lights out and oil lamps only.

 

Sun 9th Nov - Didn't need an alarm clock this morning as the roosters started at 5:15am. Once one starts, the others follow in a dawn chorus. No breakfast provided, only weak coffee, but that was enough. Bayat was there on time, which was surprising and we got back to town in good time to make our connections. Parted company with the others, as they are off up-stream to Belaga. As I have booked a flight from Miri on the 11th, I don't have time to join them. As usual, some things have to be booked in advance, but often when you do, it is regrettable. The guys were good to travel with and could both speak good English. The girls could speak little English and so didn't get to know them at all. Straight to the jetty to get a ticket for the 'Asian Vision' 9:30 sailing back to Sibu, and then off to have some breakfast. Same same but different is the standard phrase....noodles mixed with odd bits of stuff. The occasional bit of aorta, some liver with bits attached, all washed down with sickly sweet tea that makes my throat feel icky...not a fan of sugar but they seem to throw copious amounts of it into every drink, even if you ask them not to.

Had decided to either go straight to Miri or stop at Bintulu, dependent on the connections I manage to make. The boat was much smoother than the one I came to Kapit on, and flew along with no stops.

Arrived at Sibu at 11:40, so 2hrs and 10 min. Had read that buses might go direct from the waterfront to Miri, but this isn't the case and had to get a taxi to the large bus terminal out of town (RM13). Pulled into the bus station at 11:55 and a lady ran up to me.... where you want to go? A bus was going to Buntulu/Miri at noon. 5 minutes wasn't enough to have any lunch or even catch breath, but decided to take it. The next bus was at 1:30pm, so could have waited. Straight to the 'Rejang Transport' booking counter (RM40), on the bus and pulling out of the bus terminal within 5 minutes of arrival. The journey should take about 7 hours. The only reason to have broken the journey up at Bintulu, was to go to Niah Caves. Not too worried about that as going to visit some caves in Mulu, which are supposed to be awesome, so happy.

Fortunately, I didn't have to wait too long until the bus pulled into a restaurant for a pit-stop for 20 minutes. Speed eating has become an acquired habit. Run in, scan around to find out the arrangements, throw some food on a plate, eat as fast as you can, then back on the bus. Indigestion here we come! Bought a bunch of yellow Rambutan to eat on the bus. For 1 ringgit a bunch, a nice desert. They also had some enormous bean pods amongst the fruit, plus some black date looking things, that weren't dates. Not sure what they would like, but must try some time.

As the road progressed northwards, the sight of old and modern longhouses close to the roadside was fairly frequent. Many of the new ones are really nice design, with a nice balcony arrangement and private stairway access. All have corrugated metal roofs now, and the old ironwood has gone, replaced by modern materials and other woods. Many are also painted different colours. I do like the idea and feel of the communal living in these houses. The noises help give them their character. I guess everyone gets to know when babies are being made though (no further comment required)!

A comment I have made before...Why is it that smokers cannot wait until a bus stops to run off the bus and light up a cigarette as if their life depends on it? As a non-smoker, I have only ever had a few drags on normal cigarettes and breathed in the emissions from other's, and I really cannot understand the lure of smoking. It is unpleasant, unhealthy, expensive, contaminating to oneself and others, and ugly. So why do so many people still do it? Many packs of cigarettes now carry gruesome images of the ill-effects. Is that not enough? Obviously not. I believe everyone should have freedom to do what they want...within reason. Walking off a bus through a cloud of putrid smoke, affects my freedom to choose, and so does taking a pee when everyone around is smoking. Damned anti-social habit if you don't mind me saying.....I shall now climb off my soap box and get back to enjoying the journey!

A stop for 20 minutes at Bintulu bus Terminal and then back on the road at 4pm. No decent food to eat in the 20 minute break. The bus passed places on the way in, but too far to walk in the short time allowed.

The journey up to Miri was a bit of a bone shaker. Gave up trying to write anything. The scenery was much the same as down south, with the exception that I occasionally saw Rambutan trees buried in amongst the forest. An attractive tree, with trusses of hairy red fruit. Some trees were very heavily laden and surprised they hadn't been picked yet.

At a later pit-stop I bought a type of fruit which I can only describe as 'Snake-skin' fruit. I think it is called Sala. A medium to dark brown fruit with a thin scaly skin and three cream segments surrounding large stones. A unique flavour and pleasant. About five for 1 ringgit. Later found out they too call it ‘Snake fruit’.

As expected, the bus station we terminated at wasn't the one on the map, but one further out of town. Needed to go to the toilet in a hurry and someone followed me in, waiting for me to finish to ask if I wanted a taxi. Friendly way of doing it!

Staying at the Highlands Lodge. The only back-packer place in town and conveniently located on the 3rd floor above the Wheels pub on the waterfront. It was dark now, so had no idea where I was going, so had to trust the driver. All worked out ok. A dorm room for 25 ringgits and only one other person staying.

A quick shower and then down to the pub for a meal....this was uncanny....

Firstly, the girl I spoke to in the pub was from Highburton in Yorkshire, close to where I used to live and work. They used to have Barnsley bitter ale and Jennings bitter on draught, but that had run out. Secondly, her and her mother Kathy, who is the owner of the pub know somebody that worked (and still does I think), where I used to work. Kathy's husband, who left the UK this morning on his way back here, went to school with the guy we all know. We had a nice time swapping stories, as they both knew the area well. They don't do meals on a Sunday normally as they have no cook, but seeing as I had just arrived and was hungry, they made me a beef stew and chips, washed down with a beer. Was a bit like being at home, including that it had just started raining! Lovely girls and friendly. Kathy is Malaysian, from what is now Brunei, but then was all one country of Borneo before it got split up into Malaysian/Indonesian and Brunei.

This place has a major history in the oil industry, and still has strong oil income from the off-shore rigs. A few of the guys in the bar were rig workers. More on that another time.

 

Mon 10th Nov - Today is a bit of a milestone as I have now been travelling, with only a couple of short breaks back in the UK, for 18 months. I have covered so much ground since then, and seen many things, and met so many wonderful people, that the time has flown by. It is fitting that I should be in an amazing culture such as Borneo at this time. In many ways, it is a very long time compared to many people I meet along the way. In other ways it is a short time compared to my whole life...roll on the next 18 months!

A quiet night's sleep and woke to a bit of mechanical noise from outside. The water frontage to Miri is like a T shape. One arm of the T is being filled in, so that they can move the fish market and re-develop the whole area. The Highlands lodge overlooks a forested area separating it from the South China Sea.

Had a nice chat to Joanne the owner, who moved here two years ago from here home in Kuala Lumpur. Normally this place is full, and often with large groups doing school programmes. They come here from Australia to learn such things as jungle survival skills, and leave changed people. No surprise, as many of them also leave having forged new friendships and grown up a lot.

Only toast and tea/coffee provided for breakfast at the Highlands, but enough, then off for walkabout...

Miri has a nice feel to it...not too big and a mixture of quality and a bit of rough. The roads seem well cared for and had a few friendly greetings from people as I walked along. Made for a nice relaxed pace. Stopped into the Visitor Centre near to the Central Bus Station. Nice english speaking lady gave some good advice about my trip to Mulu tomorrow, and subsequent onward travel to Brunei in a few days time.

Decided to book my space in the Hostel at Mulu NP, so called them from a public phone. All ok as last week it was fully booked on a few days, so best not take any chances. If the rooms in the park get booked up, then the only other alternatives are expensive and outside of the park, necessitating a new park entry fee every day and transport costs!

 

Time to visit one of the more famous attractions of Miri...the 'Grand Old Lady monument'. Stop for lunch first at one of those great self service cafes that are everywhere in Malaysia. For 6 ringgits you get as much as you can cram onto a plate including noodles or rice, plus a cup of tea.

The Grand Old Lady monument, a half hour or so walk out of town on top of Canada Hill, isn't what it sounds. It was the nickname of Oilrig No.1, the first oil rig that was built in 1910 by shell. The site also has the Petroleum museum, which I would have visited had it not been closed. The tourist leaflet says that it is open every day. Not true. It was a roasting day and the walk up there was in full sun...no shade anywhere. Thought there was something odd when I got there and the car park was empty. Anyway, there is a mock rig with some stone riggers at the bottom. A major benefit of its location high above the town, is a great view out to sea. A minibus pulled up and out jumped about nine late teenage westerners, ran around the site shouting, and then complained that they didn't want to be there anyway...and can they go now. The look of exasperation on their guide's face was a picture. I felt sorry for him as he was being paid to drag these kids around. I got the nutters to do a stupid pose so they could have it on record that they were there, and then they departed to terrorize another beautiful location...

On the walk back through town I spotted the alternative place I was going to stay last night....am I glad I am at the Highlands. Yep..The Brooke Inn isn't the best looking place in town.

After bit of a break from the heat...must be low 30's again today, I headed off along the waterfront. What they say in the guidebooks about Miri is true. The detritus washed up along the water's edge is disgusting, and the Sungai Miri river smells of rotten eggs and fish. The colour of the water is like oil... Black gold...Texas tea etc. A murky soup unable to sustain any life so you would think. And yet there were anglers there, hoping to catch something. I wouldn't want to touch anything that came out of those waters!

Further along the front going north, and the old fishing shack take over from the modern office and shop buildings. Manufactured from just about anything they can salvage, they are a fascinating collection of man's determination to survive. As long as they have a roof over their heads, it doesn't matter how it's built. For most that are clad in scraps of metal, life inside during the torrential rains, must be like living inside a drum kit!

Inland they have built a place they call 'The Fan'. A large area of gardens, an outdoor amphitheatre where they hold concerts, a public outdoor swimming pool, themed gardens such as the Arabic garden, and all kept beautifully tidy by an army of gardeners and sweepers. It was very quiet today, and the outdoor pool was closed. Not having much luck. Hope it is better when I get back from Mulu.

Was getting really tired from the heat now, so escaped back to the lodge for a shower and cool down before going out to see the sun set.

As I mentioned, the front is being re-developed, and to get to the sea to watch the sun set was a bit of a tortuous route through dried river bed and shrub growth. At the head of the land is a beautiful seafood restaurant and a resort, marked by a seahorse monument/lighthouse. The building is decorated with carved panels and has a tank room attached, where you can choose your fish before you dine. The range was superb, from five choices of lobster, including the beautiful flower lobster, through to a few choices of Grouper and three varieties of Trout. Even the sea shrimp were unusual.

The sunset was a stunner, with a sky of wispy pink clouds intermingled with aquamarine, gold, orange and an inky purple sea. On the horizon, the lights from the oil rigs gave it a touch of realism.

The walk back wasn't so interesting, as without daylight I couldn't take the short-cut I had done on the way there, so had a long trawl on desolate roads to get back to town. Half hour there, an hour back.

Dinner at the wheels pub downstairs again, and another chat with the girls. The lady I was talking to has been having bad trouble with the private school her kids go to. Paying double the amount than the locals do for less education, as some subjects they cannot get involved in. As they are foreigners or 'Amoy' as they are called here...they get victimized by the school, not the fellow students, who seem to accept them ok. The government education authority in Kuching can only do so much, but leave the schools to administer in whichever way they see fit, which is a 'Take it or leave it' approach with the foreign parents. Don't challenge us or your kid gets expelled and there is nothing you can do about it, and no other school to go to. Feel sorry for them, but an alien in another country is always treated as such.

 

Tue 11th Nov - Flew to Mulu NP at 9:20am on a Fokker 50 seater (MH3630) with Check-in time 1hr. (15kg luggage limit plus 7kg hand luggage). Left most of my stuff at the Highlands, so I could travel lighter. Miri airport is about a 20 minute or so drive south out of town. A small airport, so checking in was a quick and simple process and took about 2 minutes from entering the building, baggage scanning and heading up to the departure hall.

First time when booking a flight that i have had seat 1, so guessed there weren't many people flying today. Turned out to be only ten. A nice little Fokker...the plane that is. Carton of Milo and a glass of orange juice in flight, which only took 30 minutes.

The airport to the park headquarters is only about 1km by minivan for RM5. I was the only one going there. Most of the others were going to the swanky Mulu Resort. I'm going budget and staying in the hostel (RM37 a night including breakfast and linen).

Arrival and registration was a simple affair, with everything explained well enough. Being here for two and a half days gives me time to do many walks, but not the major Pinnacles trek, but that is ok.

The area around the HQ and most of the major walks are covered by boardwalks, making it a bit too easy, and not much like trekking. Relaxed though and plenty of flora to look at buried in amongst the vegetation. A few pretty orchids growing wild, as well as some picture plants.

 

In the afternoon I went on the guided walk to the Deer & Lang caves. Many of the walks here are compulsory guided, even though they are boardwalk all the way. It was useful as Jerry the guide pointed out some bugs that I certainly wouldn't have seen otherwise. One was a perfect leaf shape and the same colour as one it was sat on. A couple of stick insects were more obvious when you know where to look. No large wildlife here at all.

The first of the caves, under an hour's walk from HQ is Lang's cave. Some very dynamic Stalagmites and Stalactites with strategically positioned lighting for effect. The main 'Show cave' though is 'Deer Cave', so called because the waters seeping from the rocks cause salt deposits to form which the Deer used to feed off. Hunters knew this and so would come to catch the deer. Sadly, the deer are no more. This cave though isn't just know for the Deer. It is the largest cave opening in the world! And it is dynamic to see. Bloomin' big! And it is also home to upto 3 million bats, from 12 species, but predominantly the 'Wrinkle-Lipped' bat.

Now bats are know for a few things. Firstly, they mess a lot...the floor of this vast edifice is knee deep in Guano. The odour of ammonia was a bit noxious in parts, but not as bad as I expected. They are also knows for taking to flight en-masse when they need to head off to feed. I went to a bat cave in Thailand that had the same species and that was an awesome sight when they took flight.

Yesterday had good conditions, but today unfortunately, was not so good. The park has built a viewing area and building, which we were waiting in. At 5pm the rains started, and as usual, were torrential. There was no way the bats would fly in these conditions and darkness was descending, so we had to decide whether to sit it out until the rains stopped, or head back. The consensus was to head back, as even if the rain stopped soon, which was unlikely, the bats wouldn't fly anyway. Turned out to be the wettest walk back I think I have ever done. An hour later and my boots were so full of water I squelched for most of the time. My face was a waterfall, and everything I had on was drenched...felt great...there is something about walking in heavy warm rain that is satisfying...you can only get so wet, after that it doesn't matter how much more rain falls.

The only problem was that I had nothing to protect my camera bag, which also contained my passport in a separate plastic bag. When I got back to the hostel, the inside of the bag was soaked. My passport was soaked as there was a small hole in the bag it was in, and the ink had started to run. Fortunately, the all important Malaysian stamp was still legible...phew! I had to dry it out as much as I could by soaking the moisture up with tissue paper and hoped it wasn't irretrievable. The old trick of boiling a kettle of water and holding it against the outside also helped. Everything else just needed drying out and was ok. No drying facilities, so a full set of clothes that were unlikely to be dry enough to use tomorrow.

Panic hopefully over so went for dinner at Café Mulu. Bought an emergency poncho to keep for another day. Should have thought about that earlier!

 

Wed 12th Nov - This morning's activity was to visit 'Clearwater cave' and the 'Cave of the winds'. Could either go by boat or walk. I chose to walk, which was a good choice, as I had the track to myself the whole way. Mostly boardwalk and a couple of sections where it has to climb over a large hill with about 420 steps. The route went through 'Moonmilk' cave on the way. So named because of the was limestone deposits have been formed into white crystalline groups.

The cave of the Winds is another vast cave system to explore. Part way along it there is a junction where a cool breeze comes up from another cave, giving the cave its name. Finally, the clearwater cave is similarly vast, and is so called because of the underground river that flows rapidly through it. Parts of the walls have eroded into pockets, caused by the water wanting to branch sideways when it couldn't erode downwards. Caves wouldn't be as interesting  if it wasn't for Carbon dioxide (CO2). A brief explanation....CO2 ia soluble in water. And depending on how much is dissolved, it either leaves Calcium Carbonate when it flows over or through limestone, or it carries it away, hence forming some of the crazy geological wonders seen in these caves. Stalagmites (down), Stalactites(up) and Helictites(horizontal), are all formed by slowly depositing or carrying away carbonates and minerals as water drops or flows from an opening. Tens or even hundreds of thousands of years are needed to provide a natural sculpture that carries a story of how the locality has developed over time.

Columns, veils, waves and all manner of shapes are formed through combination with other natural stimuli. The caves in Mulu are amongst the largest in the world and jaw-dropping in size. A few 'Skylights', where sunlight breaks the darkness, create a micro-culture of plants and bacteria that would not exist anywhere else. A few species are found nowhere else in the world but here. One such bacteria has lead to a minute stone formation that grows at an acute angle towards the light like a bunch of Spaghetti. I was taken back to when I was a kid and saw Jules Verne's 'Journey to the centre of the earth'. Imagine how cool that would be! Being in these caves is a bit like that...enormous, and passages leading off everywhere, who know how far down they go. Boyhood dream I guess....all part of the fantasy.

A few other sections of cave are interesting in their own right...Lady cave, for thr shape of the shadows a couple of Stalactites create...King's cave, for similar shadows. This one is immense though.

I had the choice to walk back or take a boat. Took the boat (RM15) as I was getting hungry. As the water flows back to HQ and very fast too, this only took about 15 minutes, whereas the walk would have been at least 1 1/2hrs. Pleasant trip with a few old villages lining the banks of the river.

A nice lunch at Café Mulu and then relax for the afternoon and catch up with my photos. I was supposed to be on a night walk, but it was cancelled due to the heavy rains again. No signs to say they cancelled it, they just don't turn up. Went off on my own for a while, and spotted a few cool bugs such as the 'Dead Leaf Moth'. It does actually look like one....how did I spot that in the dark then? Easy actually....it was sitting on a leaf by an access light. Apart from that and a few bats and other bugs, couldn't see anything else, only sounds that I couldn't trace, so gave up and went back. The rains were getting heavier anyway.

 

Thu 13th Nov - This morning's little jaunt was for a Canopy walk at 10:30am. About half an hour from HQ and an easy 480m skywalk, with not a lot to see. One interesting fact...about every ten years, the forest erupts into bloom. Millions of tiny flowers come into bloom at the same time, lat a few weeks and then die. Nobody really know what triggers it off, or why they all flower close together, but it is most likely to do with a form of protection they have. Trees talk to each other in strange ways! The king of the jungle though has to be the Liana. Trawling its way through the forest, it can grow upto a kilometre in length, and gets so big that it is indistinguishable from a tree sometimes, as it winds its way towards the light. It then throws down side shoots that grow towards the ground in search of moisture to feed the mother vine. Strangler figs are another common feature. Beginning life as a parasite, they take hold of a tree and bury their fine roots into a tree to steal food, and then grow to take over the tree and strangle it out of existence.  The walk to the canopy was interesting too, as the local Penan tribe guide, was full of useful information about the uses of the various plants along the path. They keep much of this a closely guarded secret, and don't even tell other guides, some of the more clever stuff.

After the walk I went walkabout on one of the paths that didn't need a guide. Found a couple of cool lizards with brightly marked skin, plus an enormous snail and some more colourful bugs. You have to go slow here or most of the interesting stuff would be missed.

The highlight of the day though came later. The rain had been torrential for the past two evenings, so I hadn't been able to visit the Deer cave to see the bats fly. Tonight was much better, and the conditions were perfect. Dry, clear and the bats hadn't flow for three days, the maximum they can go without food. Got to the bat observatory at about 4:15pm as they can come out at any time up to 6:30pm, and wasn't kept waiting for too long. At about 5pm they started slowly, and then over a period of maybe half an hour, millions of them emerged....snaking their way in the same direction. Quite an awesome sight. They can be heard humming along as they passed overhead. As mentioned previously, twelve species live here that come out in groups, with the predominant species being the 'Wrinkle-Lipped' Bat.

Had a nice chat to one of the Dutch girls who arrived today and then joined up with a couple of ladies from the US for dinner...and then the rains started in torrential fashion. Had been so lucky!

The Mulu café has a DVD system so guests can watch a selection of movies...chose the 'War of the Worlds' with Tom Cruise. A cool movie and good effects. Had seen the original version, which I think is slightly better, only because it was the first. Whilst watching the movie, a bat kept circling around above us...I love being in the forest!

 

Fri 14th Nov – As is typical, just when I am about to leave, a small group of people arrive who would have been nice to get to know better. It has been quiet the past few days, with mainly people doing their own thing and not communicating with anyone else. The return flight to Miri departs at 10:10am. They say that check-in time is 90 minutes in this direction. Not sure why as it is a tiny airport and so 1hr is more than enough, especially at this time of year. It is a pretty airport, with a café that has a superb view of the mountains, which looked very attractive this morning with a few clouds strategically hanging for effect.

The flight was straight forward and was busier that the outgoing flight due to a tour group from Exodus on a rapid 2 week tour of Borneo. Every day another airport!

I had been weighing up the options of where to go next after Miri. Brunei was a firm favourite, but after researching the cost, the fact that nobody has had a convincing opinion on being worthwhile, and having another currency exchange to sort out, I decided to give it a miss.

As I was at Miri airoport, I checked on the costs of flying with either Air Asia or MASWings, and decided on booking a flight for tomorrow to Kota Kinabalu. Only cost 135 Ringgits, and takes about 45 minutes.

That sorted, taxi back to the Highlands where I had been before Mulu and spent the rest of the day getting up to date and a bit of research on what to do whilst in Sabah.

 

That’s it for now folks….Until the next time…..

 

 

Comments

1

Hello Jeff, As was browing thru all website today, notin to do..saw ur website. So you travel alot. I was confuse there, did you tavel to Brunei or just the other near only. Yeah Brunei is different from this Sabah and Sarawak alot! cos no serious entertainment.. no nitelife. I live in Seria and born in Shell community all my life. Ever since i know how to enjoy life haha... i start to go border for weekend getway.. the currency is ok for Bruneian. and i still doing the same thing when i cross the border. Now i start to Drive down to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah cos i got a great sister who love to drive long distance with her sons. Well hope you drop down here for at least a day trip. You will see many British people in Kuala Belait and Seria. Maybe you have cos i have been browsing too long my mind start to sleep. Have a great journey a head whereever you are.

  Jez Jan 8, 2009 4:40 PM

2

man...i love to read ur journal...hehe...im frm kuching btw..n for sure, i really love my hometown...

  budi Nov 30, 2009 7:45 PM

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