Thursday, 12 April 2012

Into the wild

From Kuching we went even deeper into the jungle in Gunung Mulu.

The airport is tiny, the runway is pretty much a car park but as soon as I stepped off the plane I was in love with the place; tiny brightly coloured huts in the foreground and dense green jungle with a hazy backdrop of blue mountains shrouded in low cloud.

We stayed right inside Mulu National Park in a garden bungalow with nothing but the sounds of the jungle to disturb us. Crickets, frogs, birds, geckos and other creatures, each with its own distinctive call.

When we arrived at dusk, we decided to have a little trek to Moonmilk cave. It's one that you can do without a guide and is supposed to be good for bird spotting at that time of day. It was no leisurely stroll. The humidity was unbearable, we were drenched within minutes. Although there were paths all the way, most of it was up steps - hundreds and hundreds of steps! After about an hour we reached the cave and bumped into a couple of other people staying in the park.

We all walked through the cave together and came out the other side to a beautiful sunset burning through the canopy. After taking a few photos, we presumed that the trek would carry on in a loop and take us back to the bungalow so we all continued walking. We took our time, taking photos of all kinds of giant bugs on the way. I saw my first fire flies, twinkling amongst the trees like strings of fairy lights.

After walking for over an hour, we came to yet more stairs and had the sudden feeling of deja vu... Are these not the steps we walked up to get to Moonmilk? Have we just circled back on our selves? No. Worse. In the dark, we'd walked in a straight line in the wrong direction (1.5km) and reached the next set of caves. The walk back was now 3km. The jungle was dark. And hot. We had one small bottle of water left between the four of us. And did I mention the giant bugs? We had no choice but to turn around and double back on ourselves.

When you go into the jungle, you have to let security know where you are going and what time you expect to be back. We were due back an hour ago so I was worried they'd be out looking for us! The trek back was hard, we were all exhausted and pretty hungry. We walked and walked and walked with the sounds of the jungle as our power song. We eventually made it back to camp just before 9pm. What was meant to be a 45 minute walk had turned into a four hour hike!

On the plus side, I discovered glow in the dark berries...or was I hallucinating from dehydration?

No rest for the clinically insane wicked. The next day was more trekking! 3km in the morning for the canopy walk.

At 480 metres long, it's the longest tree canopy in the world. At 30m high, if you look down, your guts will make it back down long before you do!

Walking along each section was ok until the person behind you stepped onto the planks and almost catapulted you out of the canopy! Not for the feint of heart (or weak of bowel)!

After lunch we had a 6km walk to see Deer and Langs caves. The guide was great, he was extremely knowledgable and stopped to show us every weird creepy crawly, strange climbing plant and explain the meaning of each jungle call and what animal made it. I wanted to hold his hand and skip through the jungle, excited to learn about the next bug! He was even able to explain what my glow in the dark berries were (I should see a doctor if that doesn't clear up soon) - they work the same way as fire flies - not by leaving them in direct sunlight all day as I thought, but with bioluminescence. I should have brought him an apple because I was teachers pet by the end! I found the walk more interesting than the caves themselves, although they were pretty impressive!

Langs cave is full of some really interesting rock formations, grown drip by drip over the millennia.

Deer cave is much bigger and was featured on BBC's Planet Earth for the millions of wrinkle lipped bats living inside. The sound inside was deafening and the smell... well, millions of bats produce a lot of guano. A thirty metre high pile of guano to be exact! The smell permeates your clothes and sticks to your nostrils like a pint of spilled milk in a hot car!

At dusk, all of the visitors are ushered down to the observatory to watch the bats fly out in teams like clouds of black smoke for their evening hunt.

It's a very strange thing to watch, you can't make out the shape of a single bat, they just merge into one flowing stream of squeaking silhouette.

The walk back was another dark one, we managed not to get lost. Success!

Location:Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia


  1. Kat, it is so nice to see you on another one of your adventures..I know how you enjoy this. Have a wonderful time! xo

  2. Well my day in Soho wasn't nearly so interesting....few creeping crawlies though....! So glad you are having a great time. Miss you x