Borneo cave exploration and leech strewn forest
Cancelled flight, missing luggage, exhausted naps and before you know it I’m in the depths of the Borneo jungle.
Mulu National Park
4:30am trip to the airport for 3 flights and eventually we land in Mulu National Park. I’m on a dreaded tour that turns out to be two 1-week tours with a less-than-ideal itinerary. There’s 10 people of the first tour and I find myself making friends with the young Brits. I miss my UK friends a lot, so it was nice to have a couple of new ones for a few weeks.
Mulu National Park is where we do our first hike and cave exploration. It is in the rain, but nothing compared to what was to come… sadly though due to the rain we don’t get to see all the bats fly out of the caves at dusk. Round 1 of wildlife spotting fail.
Here’s a few thoughts about the cave we visited:
Lang’s Cave – lots of stalactites and stalagmites.
Deer Cave – largest cave passage in the world and home to 2-3 million bats… which we didn’t see (but we did smell their poo in the cave).
Wind and Clearwater Caves
The next day prior to our 9km hike, the activities included more hiking through more caves, Wind Cave and Clearwater Cave, which had 200 steps up to it and then probably a few more kilometres of steps in it. Made me feel like I was in the Harry Potter Hogwarts staircases for a bit!
The caves are huge and the walkways are incredible when you think of how the people who built them must have struggled to get there and create these mazes! However, I was a bit over caves (kinda like you get over churches in Europe) by the end of the Clearwater Cave.
Hike to Camp 5 in the rainforest
Soon after all the caves and lunch we were off on our 9km hike to Camp 5 in the jungle. Sadly I didn’t bring my DSLR camera because we had to hike with our bag for a few nights, so there was no space for my big camera, only my phone (excuse the poor quality photos, I need a new phone obviously). However, that didn’t really matter because there wasn’t really anything scenic or any wildlife to take photographs of… only bush and rivers.
On the first leg of the hike an older couple in our group trailed behind a bit and a few people found leeches on them, but all in all it was manageable.
Muddy and wet we arrived at Camp 5 and found a new found love of disgusting banana biscuits (because when you’re hungry you’ll eat anything).
The Camp was pretty basic with cold (but lovely showers). We hung mosquito nets up over our slab camping mattresses and proceeded to freeze all night as people like me didn’t expect it to get that cold when during the day its 30-40 degrees Celsius.
Torture Headhunters hike with leeches, rain and zero wildlife/scenery
Yer… the 13km hike the next day wasn’t fun. It was meant to be 11km but with all the fallen trees our local guide said it was more like 13km.
The Headhunters were a tribe that used to cut of the heads of their enemies in war. The trail we were hiking on was the one that they used to fight on and sleep nearby.
6:15am a quick breakfast and we were off. Today the forest was noticeably full of leeches because of the wet weather. Every 10-15mins we seemed to need to stop to pull the pesky things off before they drew too much blood. Some people weren’t as lucky as me and had even woke up during the night with a belly button of leech strewn blood! I came away with only one blood spot on my hip and many wriggling through my socks and shoes.
We crossed several bridges and they got more and more interesting as we crossed a few rivers, one was literally just rope no wood!
Halfway… at which point I wished I’d pocketed some of those banana biscuits we stopped amongst the bees to wait for the older couple to catch up.
Then we were off, hoping lunch wouldn’t be too far away…
It was a long long way away….
Torrential rain began and we just powered through the hours that followed, dodging the mud lakes that were across much of the path when possible. Until we came to a point where the water was almost knee deep… there was going to be no way to keep our hiking boots dry now…
Adding what felt like a kilo of water to our boots we trudged on. I really just wanted it to be over. There was no scenery just trees and giant leaves (that was the one unique part I can describe). We did narrowly miss a porcupine at one point as its footprints were on the trail ahead of us… that’s as close as we got to wildlife.
Eventually we reached the end and were again surrounded with bees. We were starving.
And we were worried. The older couple took 2-2.5hr to reach the end after us, we were concerned that they’d injured themselves and we were fed up and just wanted to eat (well that was me at least). After only eating at 6:15am, walking for most of the day, we eventually got to eat lunch around 3:30pm before travelling on boat and a 4WD to our next location: Limbang.
The longboat trips on the river were probably my favourite part of the first few days. It was relaxing and quite pretty going along watching the trees.
I tried to capture a short video to give you a bit more of a feel for a boat trip in Borneo.
The Borneo rainforest was reasonably pretty until you saw the rubbish, which thankfully wasn’t until you saw houses in this instance. This is the sad thing about Malaysia as much as they want tourists, they need to find ways to cure their rubbish, it made me feel sick at times thinking of the wildlife and what the rubbish in the rivers and oceans are doing to their environment.
Stay tuned. Next up is Survivor Island!