| Part 3: Mulu national
bed in the Mulu park HQ for RM 40. Actually it's two rooms one with
about 13 beds and the other with 6 beds. Basic facilities, no A/C (only
fan). Breakfast included.
sunny in the morning in Miri, rain between 11am and 12pm, then a mix of
sunny and cloudy. In Mulu it's initially overcast, then it rains
heavily between 4:40 and 7pm.
wake up at 8:30am, get
ready, have breakfast and by the time I pack my stuff it's 11am and it
has started raining. Never mind, I'm prepared for this. I take out the
umbrella and start exploring Miri. Some shopping of essential stuff in
the shops, a quick lunch in a KFC restaurant.
is a typical
Malaysian province city, with shops carrying the necessary stuff for a
life in a provincial place at the border to the wilderness. I can't
manage to find leech socks for some strange reason and instead buy some
textiles to put on the legs to protect against leeches.
there is a river in
Miri, but I can't find it, or perhaps I do not walk far enough. I was
thinking that there would be a nice waterfront with shops and cafes
like in Kuching, but I can't find such thing in Miri.
I'm back in the hotel at 12:55pm the sandals I bought in Germany
Luckily they break here and not in Mulu, otherwise I would have had
problems. I rush to a shop and buy some cheap rubber slippers. Rubber
slippers/shoes are essential in this tropical country because it
rains a lot and normal leather
shoes get wet and don't dry quickly.
1pm I'm in a
taxi to the airport (15 minutes trip because there is some traffic).
After checking in I check my emails using the free Starbucks WLAN
hotspot. Then I proceed to the gate.
leaves with 20
minutes of delay and after a short 20 minutes fligfht lands in Mulu.
plane is an ATR 72, which is now bigger than the small Twin Otter
planes which were in use during my last visit in 2003.
minibus to the park HQ (RM 5), then register. Tomorrow I will do the
Pinnacles trek with five other people.
with the park
staff. They rent blankets for Camp 5 for RM 15. Water is boiled at camp
5 (they have gas bottles), so I don't have to carry the water with me
(only for the first day). Have to show up at the park HQ tomorrow at
After getting rid of my stuff, at about 4pm
walking to the Deer cave, which I reach at 5pm after a couple of stops.
In the meantime it has started raining.
I'm in the
5:45pm then start walking back. Very heavy rain. Luckily I'm wearing
the rubber slippers and not the trekking boots, because the boots would
have got soaking wet under the heavy rain and would not have been dry
back at the cafeteria around 6:40pm, then have dinner. Later I order
food for the Pinnacles trek. They sell both cooked and uncooked rice
(which you can cook yourself at the camp), meat with sauce which must
be cooked at the camp 5 (first night only because there is no fridge at
camp 5), bread and other stuff.
-> Camp 5
5, RM 30 for a dorm room with mattresses (and mosquito nets
for rent), very basic, food not included but you
can buy soft drinks for RM 5. There is a kitchen in which you can cook,
toilets with cold showers, no electricity but illuminated at night with
solar power. Friendly and helpful staff.
sunny blue sky with some clouds in the morning. Sunny until the
afternoon, then clouds buildup and briefly some rain around 5pm.
initially wake up at 6am, then sleep again and finally get up at 7am. I
get ready, have breakfast and buy food for the trip: one loaf of bread,
jam, 2x200gr of rice (two portions for two dinners), chicken with soya
sauce, canned chicken and some drinks.
At 8:30am I'm
park HQ. There I'm assigned to a group consisting of three couples, a
French, a Danish and a Norwegian one. I leave my suitcase in the
luggage storeroom at the park HQ.
9am we are in the boat, a
long thin boat capable of carrying a dozen people. We proceed along the
river, making a stop at 9:15am at the Batu Bungan Penan
settlement. Brief shopping stop, having a look at the handicrafts. Then
we continue to the Wind cave, which we visit at 10am. Our guide says
that we are not allowed to visit the caves alone. Boring presentation
of the guide who explains with many words the meaning of insignificant
At 10:45am we are at the Clearwater cave.
here, first we visit the cave, then we have lunch and swim in
the creek. Nice swim in the refreshing water. Lots of tourists, of
which many are Asian.
Around 12:20pm we leave by
boat to the start of
the trail to Camp 5. During the final boat trip we have to push the
boat a couple of times (shorts get wet due to the deep water).
arrive at 1:30pm at the landing place and tell the boatman to pick us
up on Saturday at 12pm. At 1:35pm we start walking to camp 5. It's
actually an easy walk, but I'm carrying so much stuff on my
shoulders and I'm not used to it, so it's quite tiring.
number of stops we reach Camp 5 at 4:30pm, which is not a too exciting
time, given that the distance covered is just 9km. But the terrain,
while relatively even, is far from easy and we are walking in the hot
Once there we relax, swim in the
prepare dinner. Then Joseph, our guide, briefs us about the trip. 10
times tougher than the Mt Kinabalu climb, leave at 6am, wake
5am. Trip will be cancelled if it rains. We sleep by 10pm.
Camp 5 -> Pinnacles -> Camp 5
Overnight in Camp 5
good weather in the morning, sunny blue sky with clouds and a thin
clouds layer. At 2:25pm it starts raining for five minutes, then later
at 4pm it starts raining like hell. Heavy tropical downpour lasting
until 6pm, then lighter rain until 6:15pm. Very heavy rain after 7pm
until after 8pm (feels like being under a waterfall).
get up shortly after
5 am, take a cold shower (a bit freezing since it is still dark), have
a simple breakfast and get ready.
At 6:15am we
start the trek. Initially the trail is relatively
plane, but very quickly it starts climbing steeply on the mountain.
Lots of rocks and tree roots. You have to use both legs and arms to
proceed, i.e. you have to climb. The trail is wet and slippery in large
sections. There are ropes here and there which you can use as an aid to
At the halfway point, i.e. at 1200m
distance (total trail length is 2400m), each of us
leaves a 1.5l bottle of water behind which we will pick up when we go
again. That way we avoid carrying it up and down the mountain.
9am we reach the 1800m point, where the ladders start, i.e. you
climb up using metal ladders. Every now and then there are metal steps
fixed into the rock wall. The trail is vertical in certain places.
The vegetation has changed (there are now pitcher plants) and it is
more fresh. Essentially the last 600m of the trail consist of
The rocks are sharp, very sharp in
spots. If I had not seen it with my own eyes I wouldn't have believed
it. So much erosion and other weather impact and the rocks are still
that sharp. The rocks have good grips, which you can use if you wear
gloves so that your hands
don't get hurt (I'm wearing my gym leather gloves with free finger
At 9:45am I reach the viewpoint. The French
couple is already there, the Norwegian and Danish couples follow a bit
later. The Pinnacles are quite cool. Razor sharp (almost)
tips with no vegetation on them.
We spend almost one
having some food and drinks, then at 10:45am we start the descent. What
then follows are more than four gruelling hours spent climbing down the
mountain. The trail is absolutely crazy. You essentially have to walk
over sharp rocks and tree roots, all wet in the upper part. No plain
ground. You have carefully choose where to put the feet, step by step.
is a very tiring exercise. Every now and then somebody slips, but
nobody gets hurt. I'm really glad when at 3:05pm I'm back at the Camp 5.
of the day spent not doing much. I briefly go swimming, then take a
the evening at 6:45pm Kasper, the Danish guy, says that Joseph wants to
bring us to a night time wildlife spotting safari. Duration one hour or
so. I'm way too tired for anything and decline.
chit-chatting with the others in the canteen we note that it has
started raining. In fact the rain is getting stronger all the
becomes like a heavy shower. Under the roof of the canteen it feels
like being under a waterfall. It turns out that Kasper and the French
guy went with Joseph to the night safari and now they must be somewhere
under the rain. In fact after 8pm they return soaking wet. By
the whole group is in the bed and sleeping.
5 -> Mulu
park HQ -> Miri
points hotel, Kuching. Four or five star hotel, belonging to the
Sheraton chain. RM 345 for a big, luxury room with everything. What a
difference to the mattress in Camp 5. The bed mattress is soft. The
hotel seems to be quite new, is beautifully decorated and furnished.
entrance hall. Breakfast not included in the price. WLAN in the room is
not free, but it is free in the lobby (and quite fast). The hotel is
close to the airport (less than 10 minutes by car), in a sort of
Near the hotel there is a place with a
large number of
open air Chinese restaurants, eateries and food stalls, kind of a
Chinatown. Part of this area is dedicated to seafood restaurants.
in Mulu overcast in the early morning, then sunny blue sky. Overcast in
Miri, dry in Kuching in the evening.
almost lazy sleep until 7:30am today (compared to the previous days).
After a simple breakfast we pack our stuff and at 9:10am start walking
back to Kuala Birar, where the boat will wait for us at 12pm.
about 1.5km I realise that I forgot the towel and the swimsuit
in Camp 5. I rush back to Camp 5 and pick up my stuff, thereby
extending this morning walk from 9 to 12km.
walk of yesterday the walk this morning is surprisingly smooth and by
11:40am I reach the main group right when they arrive in
Kuala Birar. The boat there is already waiting for us. The French
couple which left Camp 5 a bit later arrives at 11:50am and by 11:55am
the boat leaves for the Mulu park HQ.
This time the
boat trip is
much faster. On the one hand the river is carrying much more water
because of yesterday's heavy rainfall, on the other hand we are now
moving downstream. At 12:30pm we arrive at the park HQ jetty. We head
to the cafeteria and have some lunch, then I retrieve my luggage and go
to the dormitory where I have a shower, then repackage my stuff.
2:10pm I walk to the park entrance, take a car to the airport (RM 5)
and check in at the airport. They can't check the luggage through until
Kuching. At 3:20pm the plane leaves for Miri, arriving at 3:50pm.
Miri I retrieve my luggage and check in for the flight to Kuching. Then
I have some food in a restaurant and use the Starbucks hotspot to
connect to the Internet. I download my emails and start
processing them. Then I proceed to the gate.
flight is a bit
delayed and arrives in Kuching at 6:40pm. The plane is again an ATR-72.
In Kuching airport I start calling a number of hotels, all
midrange hotels in the Rough Guide guidebook, except the five
star and lowest end ones.
Everything is fully
booked. Only the
Continental has a suite for RM747. Apparently there is an event
connected to the Rainforest festival going on in Kuching right now. Had
I known this I would have choosen a different route to
Singapore, i.e. not one including an overnight stay in Kuching.
of desperation I go to the information counter and ask the lady if she
can find a hotel for me. Budget is RM200 or so. She makes a few calls
and also only finds fully booked hotels. Then I tell her that I don't
need to stay in Kuching, that tomorrow morning I have an early flight
and a hotel near the airport would be fine.
Four Points hotel and calls them. They have rooms for RM345 without
breakfast. So I book a room there, then take a taxi (RM 17 for the very
short distance). The hotel is high-end, what a difference to the
rainforest hut where I spent the last two nights.
checking in the hotel, I recharge the batteries of all
electronics gear I carry with me. Then I walk out of the hotel. Next to
the hotel is an area with many Chinese food stalls and restaurants. I
have a noodle soup, then explore a bit the surroundings. Lots of life
surprised because we are quite out of Kuching here.