2007 South East Asia – Mulu National Park

We checked in at Bali airport without any problems this time and only a couple of hours later we landed in Kuala Lumpur. We left one bag of luggage at the airport and continued to the Concorde Inn, a nice hotel on the airport ground. Already missing Bali we had a quiet evening over there and went early to bed.

Monday morning, 5.00 a.m. wakeup call…. A taxi to the low budget terminal and checking in with Air Asia, all went smooth and we had some time left for breakfast. The only problem was where… Nothing but the infamous ‘Golden Arch’ restaurant, well they could not screw up a Mac Breakfast we thought. Wrong thinking. The hashbrown was ok, coffee more or less acceptable, but the mac egg or whatever they call it was absolutely grouse! Yak. Just a confirmation on why we hate this ‘food’ chain so much, absolutely disgusting!!! Much better was the Air Asia flight, new planes, leather chairs and surprisingly much legroom. When we arrived 2 1/2 hour later timely in Miri we even were able to reschedule our flight to Mulu to an earlier one. Perfect, that saved us 4 hours of waiting! Once landed in Mulu we were brought to the Royal Mulu resort, which was in one word fabulous. A Great environment, a large room and an inviting pool. We swam a bit and then changed for the exploration of the first two caves.

The first one to visit was the Lang cave, named after the first explorer of it. It was huge and had some interesting rock formations.

The most spectacular though was the Deer cave, this has one of the largest rooms in the world; you can park 5 Boeing 747’s in there. It was impressive beyond words, you can be glad we can’s send smell via the internet as that was impressive to say as well, mountains of bat shit were piled up next to the pathway and thousands and thousands of cockroaches crawled in it feeing them selves on the bat dumping. At some places it looked like everything was moving. Being very careful not to touch anything at all, not even the railing, we continued into this massive cave. The scenery is indescribable beautiful. The best was yet to come though….

At the entrance of the caves we waited for about 20 minutes before a spectacular event started taking place. About 3 million bats leave daily before sunset for a feeding night tour… Before leaving the caves they gather in big donutshape formations before. Absolutely spectacular. After witnessing this we walked about 100 meters further in order to witness the bats leaving from a different perspective. They came in waves. It was like giant snakes were flying through the air and the sound of the wings flapping was enormous. What an experience! It left us both speechless. Back in the resort we enjoyed another quick swim and changed for dinner when a cultural performance was planned. We sat outside and just as the first dance started heaven broke and water poured down from the skies. We felt sad for the dancers as they were working so hard.

The next morning we were greeted by Silvia, our guide for the next three days and headed of to do the pinnacle tour. After a short boat ride on the river we visited two more caves, the wind cave and the clear water cave. The first one had spectacular formations and narrow passages. It was absolutely beautiful to walk 500 meters into the cave before we had to return, there was a passage to the Clearwater cave but this was only accessible for advanced caving. So we walked outside to the entrance of the Clearwater cave, which was much more easily accessible. As you might have guessed a large river was flowing through the cave, luckily the water level was low so we could enter it, in the rainy season the water fills the most part of the cave.

Back in the boat we continued to the next destination, a small settlement at the riverbank. It was nice to see but we did not spent too much time as there was still a lot to be done. We moved further upstream and at some places the water was so low we had to get out and push the boat. Welcome to the jungle! About an hour later we stopped as we arrived at the start point of our hike. It was only an 8-kilometer walk through the jungle but it was very easy going. However we sometimes felt the kilometers were miles… 2 1/2 hours later we arrived at camp 5! Here we found basic but nice accommodation for two nights. 4 dormitories, a thin mattress, sheet and mosquito net, that was all we had to sleep, well, we have done worse and this was quite an experience to. Silvia cooked a lovely meal and briefed us on the walk next day.  It was a very short walk, only 2.4 kilometer so where’s the problem, well, what about a 1100 meter climb to be done in 2.4 km… Aaarrgghh. We went to bed very early (7.30 pm) but it was not easy to fall asleep with all the snoring around. But finally it succeeded and we got the rest that we so hardly needed the next day!

Another early rise, breakfast and off we went. The first 200 meters were easy going, nice and flat but then we encountered that large wall… We got up using the ropes and passed the first hurdle successfully. From there on we had to climb a steady and steep hill for about 1900 meter. Up we went, resting every 100 meter or so, asking ourselves why we were doing this. Silvia was very reassuring and said we were doing well but we were sweating like hell and with every step we got more tired and tired. I was really happy I worked on my condition before going on this trip that really paid of now. The bad thing however was that the day before the soles of both my hiking boots came lose so they were slippery as hell, no way to go up so I used Paul’s sneakers.

The grip was great but with the thin soles I felt every stone and root I stepped on. The stones were razor-sharp and there were some pretty dangerous situations. But believe it or not, we managed to reach the 2100 meter point before 11:00; otherwise we were not allowed to go further up the last 300 meters since it was impossible then to return before dark. 300 meters only, 16 Ladders, lots of ropes and some serious rock-climbing later we arrived at the top of Gunung Api (well, the lowest of the three peaks that was), exhausted, sweating like pigs but o so proud and happy the both of us achieved it without any damage. The reward, the pinnacles, were worth all the effort though! A forest of razor sharp cliffs rose high out of the surrounding trees, a spectacular phenomenon, absolutely stunning! We had our packed lunch over there and relaxed a bit.

30 minutes later (only!!!) we started the descend, this was even worse and more difficult, It was not so difficult for the heart but for the feet and knees, by now every step downwards hurt and I wished I could chop of my feet. Paul put on his mp3 player to get distracted and motivated by the music.  That worked well for him. The ladders were tricky to go down on but we managed, now there was only 2100 meters to go down on a steep step and slippery hill. I miss stepped twice but fortunately did nut hurt or break anything besides my own pride. A couple of hours later we finally arrived at camp 5 again. All in one piece!!! It took us about 8 hours for the 4.8 km walk, and what a walk it had been. Once again you’re lucky we cannot send smell over the internet as this time we were the source of some very strong odors… Fortunately we could wash in the river and that helped a lot. Not everybody was as lucky as us as there were some people heavily bruised and cut on their return; one almost collapsed on arrival and had to be carried in. All after all we had not done to bad!

Silvia cooked another lovely dinner and hungry as we were we ate all! Not surprisingly it did not become a late night and soon we joined the other snorers. We could not hear them this time though as it had started raining before dinner and water was coming out of the air by cubic meter. The noise on the tin roof was deafening, as we already noticed during dinner where we almost had to shout to each other. Earplugs did miracles though, as two empty water bottles under the mattress to function as a cushion. Sweet dreams….        

The next morning we had a bit of a sleep in. well sort of as the rest was extremely noisy and woke us up so we relaxed at the river, had a nice breakfast and started our 8 km walk back to the starting point. That walk was so incredibly easy compared to the day before that we did it without a single complaint 😉 A couple of minutes after we arrived at the start point of our hike the boat arrived and we headed back downstream towards the royal Mulu resort. We had found out it was Silvia’s birthday that day so we invited her for a drink at the resort. As it had rained so much there was no need to push the boat and about an hour later (we were going with the flow this time) we arrived. A quick check in later a hot shower was waiting for us. PURE LUXURY!!!!! We felt clean for the first time since a couple of days. Refreshed we went to the pool for some swimming, some absolutely nothing and some very well deserved beer.

Silvia joined a couple of hours later and we treated her (and ourselves) with some lovely cocktails. We met a great couple from Amsterdam and with the five of us we moved on to the lobby. We had such a great time we missed dinner.     

People who have been in Asia know the favorite time spending over there. It is called Karaoke… Well, it was fabulous as ever, especially with some extremely talented singers from Europe in the area. Yes we went onstage and sung beautifully from the bottom of our hearts for the birthday girl. We were so fantastic everybody clapped for us. Motivated by a couple of drinks later we even went onstage two more times… Paul did a solo but had trouble reading the words not wearing his glasses. It was hilarious. As it started off raining again we requested rain from Madonna to finish off the evening. Greg, Gerdie, Paul and I went on stage as “the bungle jungle singers” and did a perfect choir improvisation. I guess the only word in tune was ‘Rain’, the rest of the words we managed to sing totally out of sync and tune with the melody line. Everybody clapped again (guess they were glad we finally left the stage). It was a hilarious evening and we had so much fun, this is a one off though so don’t expect us to continue our career in this field, I do not think that would be a wise move.

Anyway, the day after was another day, all our muscles (including throat muscles) were aching so we decided to do nothing at all and enjoy the pool. Instead of continuing the party of the day before we went to bed early. The next morning we left for the airport and flew via Miri to Kuching, Our last destination on Borneo.   

Continue the journey to Kuching