Sorry for the delay in posting, it's been that kind of week!
So where was I? Ah; Day 2.
So where was I? Ah; Day 2.
Day 2 found us packing our bags to head back to the airport, for our flight to Mulu. The Mulu National Park is located in the southern part of Malaysian Borneo, known as Sarawak. I was slowly starting to grasp how large Malaysia really was; the ads and testimonies from friends had given me a very wrong view of the sheer size and diversity of the place.
We touched down at the Mulu airport around 2pm in the afternoon. However, I use the word 'airport' very loosely; I have never seen a smaller airport in my life! In typical Jurassic Park style, we climb down the airplane steps onto the tarmac, walk over to this small hall where we just stand around until a small jeep brings the bags from the plane to you. Yes, no conveyor belts, no nothing; straight from the cargo hold, to your hands. Turn around, walk 15 steps and you're out of the airport.
That my friend is how all airports should be! I later found out that the airport was the only way to reach Mulu; that or by road from Miri which is about 100kms away, or for the more adventurous, down the river. Anyway, as soon as we stepped out we managed to secure a ride to the park which was about five minutes away. We hadn't booked anything in advance, because we wanted to see if we could negotiate a cheaper rate at the place itself, as the internet prices seemed rather steep. Hopefully the Sri Lankan skills at negotiating would come in useful!
The first thing that struck me about the Mulu National Park - was the rope bridge we had to cross to get to it. But the second thing that struck me about the park was how incredibly helpful they were. We stood in line at the Information desk and when it was our turn we explained how we basically had just turned up here with little or no idea of exactly what to do, except that we wanted to see caves. The guy at the counter was extremely patient with us, as he explained all of the activities we could do at the park. He asked us how long we were here for, then proceeded to basically draw up our entire agenda for the next 4 days. Not only did he cover all of the activities that we wanted to go for, but he slotted it in so neatly that we didn't waste any time any day. We spoke to him about prices, and we were relieved to find that the prices on the websites had been incorrect; the whole 4 days worked out to about 15k LKR, which I found very reasonable given the number of tours we had signed up for.
As we left the park, R remarked on how much better Sinharaja would be if we had people who were this helpful over there as well. It was an interesting point.
We found a small dormitory right outside the park, since the park accommodation was full up. It was cheap, and manned by a friendly guy whose name we never got. Basically we got three beds in a hall of around 25, and a small common toilet and shower area. We were willing to forsake our privacy for the rates they were offering, and gladly took it as we went over the plan for the next few days. According to our agenda, we would cover four 'show caves', a 'canopy walk' which was a tour along the tree tops via rope bridge, and the big three day hike to the 'pinnacle summit'. The night was spent with a decent dinner and a lot of talk as we caught up on what we had been up to over the years. R and I hadn't seen S since high school, while R and I had only met 2 or 3 times over the last ten years. Our conversation went on for hours, and we decided to call it a night just after midnight. I'm sure our hosts were grateful, because what we didn't realise till that point was that we were running on generator power at that time, and the generator is only switched on between 5pm and midnight. Yes, 7 hours of electricity per day; something we would have to get used to.
Day 3 started early, as breakfast at our princely abode was available only between 7am and 8am. So after a hearty breakfast of toast, beans, egg and sausages, we headed to the camp to start the Canopy Walk. Our group consisted of about 7 people including us, and our guide took us into the forest to start off. The paths were well done, consisting of a wooden walkway, so the walk was no difficulty. Somehow, despite the man-made path, the forest around still retained its wild aura, and I wasn't in the least tempted to stray off the path for my own 'adventure'.
After 30-40 minutes, we reached the place where the rope bridges began. Now, these rope bridges may sound very fun, but I had no idea exactly how unsafe those things would feel when you were on them. The guides probably realised that too, which is why only two could walk on them at a time. At some places there was only enough room to put one foot in front of the other, and the creaking wooden planks you were stepping on did not inspire confidence. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but the view was breathtaking, as we took in just how enormous the forest cover was. We even caught a glimpse of Mt. Mulu, with it's sheer limestone cliffs in the distance. My camera did it's best to capture the vastness of it all, but you really need a wide angle lens to see it properly.
|I found this very interesting|
|My great travel friends|
If I remember correctly, the rope bridges spanned a total of about 500m, and soon we were back on the ground and heading back for lunch; in the afternoon we would be heading out for our first view of the famous Mulu caves.
We left camp around 230pm in the afternoon, again along the wooden pathways, though this time for a little over an hour into the forest. There we reached a clearing where the mountain sort of rose up right in front of us. Again, the size of it was amazing; I couldn't wait to get to the caves.
We reached Langs cave after a short half hour walk from the clearing, up the mountain. The guide gave us a short lecture on the formation of the caves, the theory behind the formations and the time that would be needed to form such complex creations. As interesting as that was, I quickly forgot about that once I went inside and saw it for myself.
After a lot of fiddling with my camera settings, I was able to get off a few shots of the interior and the formations, which were all very strategically lit up so as not to ruin the darkness of the caves (we needed to carry torches with us and they were in use a lot!) but yet enough to provide illumination for the various limestone formations there.
Langs cave was great, but what we were really looking forward to was Deer Cave, which is supposed to be the largest natural cave in the entire world, able to comfortably house nine cathedrals inside it. Famous too, for being the home of around 3 million bats that rush out of the cave every evening in a spectacular display against the fading light of dusk.
After another half hour walk from Langs cave, we finally reached Deer Cave. The entrance was ominous enough, but once I stepped inside - well, see for yourself.
If ever there were a time for the use of the term 'mind-boggling', this would be it. My eyes just could not understand how huge the interior of the cave was. I felt like a cheap digital camera, vainly attempting to auto focus on a moving object. As you enter the cave, the near wall sort of falls away, revealing the other end of the cave in a manner that makes it appear miles away. There are giant boulders strewn across the floor, and the dull evening light that snakes into the cave makes it look otherworldly. The further in we went, the more our torches came into use, but they too were woefully inadequate to pierce the blackness of the cave. There was a lot movement above us, testament to the sleeping army of bats hiding in the dark recesses of limestone. And of course, where there are bats, there is bat poop, and there was no shortage of supply here - literally, small mountains of poop on the cave floor!
We finally made it out of the cave and headed to the clearing. Just in time too, as the bats started to make their way out of the caves in droves, making zig-zag formations across the skies in an attempt to evade predatory birds that wait near the cave opening to pick them off for an early dinner.
As darkness fell we headed back to our lodging, where thankfully there was electricity. Day 4 would involve more caving, but also the first day of our perilous 3 day Pinnacles trek. Stay tuned!