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The adventures of the Mel

Gomatong Caves

MALAYSIA | Wednesday, 10 January 2007 | Views [1394]

Hello all.

We're back in KK, earlier than expected, but we found the Sukau Rainforest Lodge a little too isolated. I will post our past few experiences separately, because I have a lot to tell and it will just be annoying in a single post. So.....

After conquering Mt. Kinabalu we were rudely awoken by my alarm to get us up at 5am to catch a 7:30am flight to Sandakan. We quickly packed and shuffled along to the airport, where we were hoping to catch some breakfast, but unless we wanted hot noodles and meal-y stuff, we were left hungry.

The first thing we noticed as we stepped off the plane at Sandakan was that it was a LOT cooler. The second thing we noticed is that it rains a LOT more. But more on this later. We boarded a bus to take us first to the Gomatong Caves on the way to Sukau. It was a very slow drive, the road very muddy, it felt like only cattle should have been able to cross this road, but our driver did spectacularly. All the men on the bus got up and shook his hand. Well, one guy did. It was amazing that we were able to sleep through being thrown side to side for two hours, although one particularly nasty throw made me bite my tongue, and that certainly woke me.

Two hours later we arrived at the Gomatong Caves, which is the largest birds' nest caves in Malaysia, I think. Something like that. It holds particular importance for the villagers as they harvest the nests a few times a year and it brings in the majority of their income. Apparently people pay a lot to eat the saliva of the birds that make these nests. I was devastated that we missed the harvest and couldn't try some. Pout.

We went for a short walk along a boardwalk cutting through some rainforest, which was quite nice, though the heavy rain did make it a little slippery. The boardwalk brought us out to the entrance of the caves, which was more like a huge cavern. It was overhung with vines and topped with more rainforest, quite an awe-inspiring sight.

As we walked up into the mouth of the cave, we could hear what sounded like mid-frequency echolocation. This was the birds going nuts, despite all auditory cues pointing to bats. We entered the cavern slowly, letting our eyes adjust to the low level of light. Beneath the boardwalk there were masses of small freshwater crabs just lounging around in the water. We continued walking through the caves, and discovered, to Chelsea's horror, that the boardwalk and the ground were infested with cockroaches. And I mean infested. It was hard to avoid stepping on them. Chelsea did very well, but was quite tense for a while after we left the caves. A large ugh factor there.

Forgetting the cockroaches, the cave had an inherent, forgotten beauty to it. Apart from the huge entrance stretching roughly 50m, the cave was spattered with openings in the roof and the walls. The sunlight streamed in through these openings and highlighted the glistening cave walls. Much of the cave was shrouded in mist, and I felt much like Lara Croft searching for an ancient relic rather than a clumsy tourist winding her way around cockroaches. That is, apart from the whole being sexually edible part.

The strong burning scent of ammonia wafting through my nostrils rudely awoke me from my pleasant fantasy, and brought me back to reality where I was squelching through thick, slippery guano, still trying to avoid the cockies. I found out later that apparently if you spit on the ground, all the bugs and yuck gather on it and feed on your saliva. Yummy. Yes, I was disappointed my guide didn't tell me.

We left the caves, walked back through the pouring rain and onto the bus toward Sukau. There wasn't many photos from this experience, unfortunately, as the lighting just wasn't conducive to photography. Buggere.

And on to our adventures at Sukau....

Tags: The Great Outdoors

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