Friday, 13 April 2012

Even the most intrepid explorer deserves a break!

After a week of long and exhausting treks and losing half our body weight in sweat, we have taken a few days to relax.

On the last morning in Gunung Mulu, we took a pleasant boat ride up the river to see the Wind Cave (not where you go for a cure for flatulence, the echoes would be frightening - there is just a wind passage between this and Clear Water) and Ladies Cave (there is a shadow created by a stalagmite which supposedly looks like a lady. I thought it looked like one of the wise men) followed by Clear Water Cave.

On the way we stopped in a Penan village for a handicraft market. The Penan people are a nomadic tribe (or at least 200 of them out of the 10,000 living in Sarawak still are, most are now settled in one place). They are a gentle, softly spoken people with little gender divide. Although there is a headman there is no real hierarchy, just a strong belief in sharing with one another and never taking more than necessary.

The Penan use a complex system of sign language in the jungle; complicated arrangements of twigs and leaves give messages to fellow Penan as to the state of the local hunting and the mood of the person leaving the message.

After visiting the Penan people, we continued along the river to the caves. The inside of the caves was nothing special, especially in comparison to the rock formations in Lang's cave and the millions of bats in Deer cave, the main attraction was a refreshing swim in the ice cold, crystal clear water which flows from an underwater entrance to Clear Water cave.

The water was so cold that even getting up to my hips in it took my breath away! Needless to say, I did not go any further!

In the afternoon we caught a flight to Sandakkan in Sabah. The flight was turbulent and my stomach nearly hit the ceiling on a number of occasions but the bad weather outside resulted in some lovely cloud formations and light shows.

Sandakan is a scruffy and extremely busy little town on the waterfront, there is not a lot to do here other than laze around the pool, which is fine by me for a couple of days - it will give my feet a rest!

Today we visited Agnes Keith's house. Her husband was a government official here for over 20 years and set up the forestry commission. As the only Canadian woman in a British colony and feeling left out of the British ladies community, Agnes began to write articles for US papers about her time here in Borneo. One of the papers collected all her articles and put them together as a book (Land Below the Wind). When she and her family were taken as prisoners of war during the second world war, she wrote notes on anything she could find and then sewed them into her son's toys, hid them in her shoes and buried them in tins in the ground. When they were finally released, years later, they dug up all of those notes to make the book "Three Came Home".

It was really interesting to read all about her life, to stand in her office and look at the type writer on which she wrote some of her best works.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing by the pool. A very well earned break!

Location:Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

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