Borneo Part Two
18.11.2013 - 21.11.2013
After a 20 minute flight we made it to Gunung Mulu National Park, named for the imposing mountain at its centre. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site near to the Sarawak/Brunei border and is most famous for its enormous caves. We were staying in a traditional longhouse and were warned about geckos the size of your arm being not infrequent visitors. Josh maintains there was one living in the bathroom, but I'm not convinced... We had a free afternoon so went on a walk to the river, spotting lizards, butterflies and various brightly coloured bugs. On the way back the heavens opened and we learnt just why they call it rainforest.
The next morning we embarked on an all-day guided trek. Thankfully some other guests had warned us that it may involve wading in waist-high water and so on the advice of a guide I invested in a pair of fetching rubber shoes, thus invalidating the title of this blog. Sorry. They turned out to be a wise choice as we scrambled over boulders, climbed through caves and navigated a section of river that was too deep for me to stand in, meaning I swam whilst the others held our bags over their heads. All this proved worthwhile when we got to our lunch spot; picturesque waterfalls with crystal clear water.
On the way back we came under attack by leaches; I avoided the worst of it but the poor Aussie med student (they're everywhere) found one in her pants. Truly the stuff of nightmares. Our return route was timed to ensure we got a good view of the daily spectacle provided by 3 000 000 bats streaming out of Deer Cave in seemingly choreographed ribbons.
Walking back to our longhouse in the dark allowed us to immerse ourselves in the truly extraordinary noises emanating from the forest- cicadas impersonating a wide range of power tools, frogs that sound like dogs and geckos saying 'gecko'. The morning of our second full day we walked along the longest (and possibly creakiest) tree-canopy walkway in the world, giving incredible views of the tree tops and the plants growing up the vertical limestone cliffs.
In the afternoon we had a guided tour of the Langang caves and spotted a giant spider that didn't cause me to hyperventilate/run/vomit, thus proving the effects of the London Zoo Friendly Spider Programme are still going strong 5 years on (no photos, I haven't completely lost my mind. Here's a photo of the river instead).
The day of our departure we visited the Clearwater Cave system where a river roars underground in passages hundreds of kilometres long. We spotted a racer snake shedding its skin along one of the rope handrails and were subsequently very careful about where we held on... (Mum, don't look at the second photo. You have been warned)
Then it was time to take three flights, each plane getting progressively larger, as we made our way to Singapore.