Tuesday, 29 July 2014


Tuesday 29/07 - Saturday 02/08


Day 1:

Still feeling the pain from our momentous climb up the mountain, we boarded our MASwings flight [this is a subsidiary airline to Malaysian Airlines and given its recent reputation to not disclose this fact to our loved ones until we were safely back on solid ground].
Happy to have survived the risky but cheap flight!

They even gifted us with free peanuts and juice as reward for our bravery.

This area is really off the beaten track and the only way to get into Mulu is via air. The airport however is really tiny and can only house a maximum of two small propeller powered planes at once.

On arriving in Mulu we quickly secured accommodation at a very basic and rustic homestay (which we later discovered didn't have any hot water or water pressure - thus we had to wash with a bucket).

We then rushed to get to Gunung Mulu National Park headquarters where we purchased our colour coded park pass which gave us free access in and out the park for the next five days.

We immediately made use of the pass and headed to the famous Deer Cave to watch the twilight exodus of 3.5 million bats from the cave's entrance.

Deer Cave entrance

We waited eagerly in the tourist viewing area to watch the astonishing sight. We were not sure it the bats would exit as it had been raining and they are said to be reluctant to venture outside in such weather conditions.

But they did...in organised batches of 1000s at a time

We managed to capture the amazing snake-like movements of the bat formations as they flew out in search of food.

As we had only had the peanuts on the plane for lunch, Joy was feeling a little peckish...a few thousand bats should hit the spot!

Day 2:

As our homestay did not offer breakfast, we decided to take a wee hour stroll to the only shop in this remote area to get a few supplies and rations for the next few days.

The shop didn't have much to offer, but the beautiful sea of blue mountains in the distance made the trip worthwhile!

Paku Waterfall Hike:
Our first hike for the day was to explore the waterfall of which we had seen beautiful pictures in the pamphlets and were told that we could plunge into its cooling waters and enjoy a refreshing swim.

Artistic, glass info boards

Along the walkway we spotted a Pygmy squirrel 

We branched off the main boardwalk to follow a natural path to our destination (although we were going in the same direction, we were not planning on summiting any more mountains in the near future)

Interesting fungi

A dragonfly

The "natural" path

The "Waterfall" - yes, that little trickle of water down the rocks is apparently classified as a waterfall (everything in smaller in Asia)

And this is meant to be the vast expanse of water that we could apparently 'swim' in

But we had walked all this way and faced many pesky insects so come hell or NOT so high water, we were going to swim and make the most of it!

As we were in the middle of the forest, we decided to banish our worldly constraints and become one with the nature!


Waterfall selfie
Deer and Lang Caves Tour:

After a quick power walk back to the park headquarters, we joined up with a tour group to explore the Deer and Lang caves situated in the park. Our guide, Heidi, was extremely passionate about the caves and had strict "no touchy" rules. She was pretty intimidating so we had to practice some major restraint to stay on the path and stick with the group.

Joy and Graeme (a Scottish lad) standing at one of the side entrances to the Deer Cave

Roxy was prepared, torch in hand, to enter our first cave of the day, Lang Cave. Graeme on the other hand was completely unprepared. He had no torch, was wearing inappropriate footwear and his camera battery died. He was just super excited to have found such awesomely organised friends!

Although Lang Cave was did not have the biggest cavern, the formations were absolutely stunning.

                     Some strange spider-web type threads hanging from the cave ceiling


An enormous stalagmite 
This was an example of a stalagmite that had come into contact with human hands and all the chemicals thereon and was now dead as a result...
Graeme grimacing at the black, dead stalagmite.

Limestone dissolved in water droplets that fall to form these incredible formations


Lights pouring in at the entrance of the Lang Cave.

Our second cave of the tour was the world famous Deer Cave. The Deer Cave has the largest cave passage in the world which was formed by a river that flowed through the area which dissolved and eroded the limestone to create this incredible space. This cave is was named Deer Cave because a herd of deer used to inhabit the cave. When people discovered the cave, the deer were frightened off and fled for safer pastures.

Joy soaking in the splendour of this natural wonder

Entering the Deer Cave which feels like we are walking into a big hole in the mountain with millions of bats to greet us as the door.

Intriguing stalactites - We could spend hours debating what they resemble. Some say angel wings, others say hedgehog noses...you decide!

Graeme pretending to be interested in the rock formations where as we all know that the only natural wonder that was really catching his eye was our guide, Heidi ;)

One of the millions of bats inhabiting the cave

Picture displaying the magnitude of the cavern - Note, the waist high pedestrian bridge will give you an idea of scale

The cave houses many unique formations. Two of which are known as Adam and Eve's shower heads. These formations are so called as they look onto the back entrance of the cave which is so magnificent that it has been dubbed The Garden of Eden
Adam's Shower Head


Eve's Shower Head


Roxy looking onto the Garden of Eden

Light shining through into the huge Deer Cave cavern

Where there are millions of bats, there is going to be many piles of guano (bat droppings). Rox trying to block her nose from the stench.

Day 3:

We had booked Adventure caving for the afternoon so to fill the morning slot we went for a little walk around the park. We chose the Botany Loop as it had been recommended to us by our guide, Heidi.

Off we go...

Dead giant of the forest

Along the trail we stopped at a few of the view points to absorb the amazing fauna and flora.

Joy absorbing the beauty of the forest from this little bridge 

Loop in the botany loop walk-way 

We veered off the path to appease our curiosity and find out what the Wildlife Observation Shelter was all about... However, we weren't able to 'observe' any fantastic nature.

A fig vine entwining itself around a huge old tree

A rather large stick insect 

We were the only two signed up for the Stonehorse Cave Adventure Caving that day however international safety standards require that caving groups have a minimum of 4 persons (the guide being the forth). We thus had to employ some sales skills in order to recruit at least one more adventure caver. Graeme would have been the perfect person, but unfortunately he was too lame and preoccupied discovering the 'Lady Cave' that day. So while at lunch and with only an hour before we were to set off, we targeted random people at the restaurant...and that's how we convinced Matt to join the group.  He is a Masters student from USA who was doing a bird study in the surrounding area.  While we were waiting for Matt to finish his lunch and join us at the Park headquarters to sign up, Roxy convinced another innocent passer-by to change his plans and to his prepaid adventure caving course with us today... and that's how we met Kevin from Brazil.  The last member of our crew was a guy who arrived at the park 5 minutes before we were due to leave and decided to join.,, and that's how we met Gwen the Frenchman.

And so... where at first there were only two of us lonely souls...

Now we had an adventure caving team of 6 people, including our guide, Ashmal (aka 'Smiley') 

From left to right: Gwen, Roxy/Joy, Matt, Smiley and Kevin 

And so we got all geared up ready for the adventure to begin..

Harnesses, hard-hats and head torches - CHECK!

And so after a safety briefing we were ready to conquer the Stone-horse Cave, so called as there is a massive stone formation that resembles a horse in the entrance to the cave  

Adventure caving involves many physical activities, which includes...

...walking on cliff edges with the aid of harnesses... 

...jumping across cave crevices...

...rocking climbing up rock faces,,,

...and abseiling back down again... 

Even though we were miles away from light, we still found an amazing array of wildlife inside the depth of the caves.

We came across many swifts and even their nests 

And even a few creepy-crawlies which we had no idea what they were 

And of course there were all types of bats

We were even lucky enough to find a few mother bats that were teaching their babies the art of hanging upside-down 

After about 2 hours of intense physical exertion, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel - we had made it!! Our guide was particularly impressed with our performance, especially being the only ladies in the group.  He even went as far as to say that we were much better than the one of the more athletic looking guys on the team, who despite his appearance was really uncoordinated and took double the time to complete the course.  He also said that if we had been staying longer in Mulu, he would have signed off on us doing the advanced adventure caving course, the Clearwater Connection   Nonetheless, we received our certificates for completing this intermediate adventure caving course. 

We were really muddy, hot and sweaty after our adventure caving course, so we headed back to the homestay for a swim in the river (which was a step up from the bucket).  We then headed back to the park to climb up the Tree-Top Tower for some bird-watching and to watch the sunset.  We took Matt with us, because we clearly were terrible at bird-watching by ourselves and we thought who better to get some tips from than an expert birdbrain like Matt.  

The Tree Top Tower 

The Tree Top Tower was surrounded by a green mesh, which we assumed was for camouflage purposes, however, it proved really difficult to spot birds through  

It was also really not conducive to watching the sunset through.  This is the closest we could get to appreciating the view.

Matt sharing his wealth of birdy knowledge on twittering :)

Look its a black-breasted something or other...
At least on the walk back home we got to see the splendour of the moon through the forest canopy

We also got to spot a pit viper, which has apparently been in the same position for the last 2 months.  The fact that is hadn't moved for so long gave us a certain measure of comfort, but definitely not complete peace of mind!

That night we had planned to do our own nightwalk, to see the nocturnal animals of the forest, with a bunch of people we had met over the course of the past few days. We had planned to do it a few hours after the official nightwalk organised  by the park, so as to avoid a large crowd of noisy tourists who would chase all the animals away.  Joy was particularly keen to spot a slow loris.  This plan did not come to fruition though, as we got distracted playing Kings and singing Karaoke until the early hours of the morning.  We blamed Matt's fancy bottle of whiskey for giving us all the Dutch courage we needed to take over the Karaoke machine, much to the 'delight' of the rest of the patrons at the bar.  The night wasn't a total waste as Joy and Rox wing-womened Graeme and by the end of the evening he had gotten his love, Heidi's, contact details...    

Rox and Andrew were the first foreign act to take the stage, having lost at drinking games and had to sing a song from the past - "Boom Boom Boom" by the Vengaboys (there may or may not have been actions included...)
Karaoke selfie

Day 4 

After miraculously surviving the walk home last night- with no torch, no street lights or electricity in the homestay (the generator is only turned on for two hours a day - from 8 - 10pm) - and avoiding many sharp objects and with clumsiness in the genes.  We awoke in the morning to eat the last of our rations and set off on our final adventure in Mulu - the Clearwater and Wind Caves. 

We set off on wooden boats and had to stop every once and a while to push the boast as it hadn't rained in a while and the water level was very low. Luckily Andrew was a perfect gentleman and did the honours so us ladies didn't have to get our feet wet.  

Before we reached the caves, we stopped off at one of the local villages in the area.  We were escorted around the village and landed up a local market with hand crafted items.  It reminded us of the villages in the Transkei with all the chickens and dogs running around, being chased by snotty-nosed children.

One of the ladies at the market demonstrated how to use her hand crafted instrument, by blowing it through her nose.  Also, she displays how the women in this village extend the holes in their earlobes, we presume as a mark of beauty.    

Storm clouds looming...

Joy posing with our guide for the day - Esther, who we were already well acquainted with from singing karaoke with her the night before.  She also happened to be our other guide Heidi's cousin.   

We then proceed to first enter the Wind Cave...

...And were immediately blown away by the nature gusts that flow through the cave

Iguana Head formation 

King's Chamber in the Wind Cave 

Columns where stalactites and stalagmites had joined together, which points towards how ancient this cavern was

Rox enjoying the cool breeze from the Wind Cave - so glad that a natural air conditioner cold offer some relief from the heat of the day

And onto the boats again toward the Clearwater Cave 

The Clearwater Cave had these amazing rock formations handing from the entrance's roof - some thought they resembled spear-heads, other crocodile heads.  They were also said to support a type of fern called the one-leaf plant (monophilia pendula) that was endemic to this specific cave entrance (only place it's found in the world) 

In the 'Lady Cave' part of the Clearwater Cave, there is a stalagmite whose shadow paints a picture of the Virgin Mary against the cave wall

The shadows around this part of the cave cast a picture of the Disney character "Goofy"

At the bridge overlooking the river that ran through the Clearwater Cave 


Pictures of the clear stream that cuts through the darkness of the cave floor 


Rox testing the cool, clear waters of the river 


Light peeping through a gap in the rock wall 

Photosensitive algae growing towards the light 

Definitely don't want to slip and fall on these tiny needles of rock  

The end is in sight...

But first... have a complimentary and refreshing splash in the natural bird pool 

Once we had exited the Cave we had the opportunity to swim in the clear water that flowed out of the darkness.  However, the storm that been brewing the whole day broke and the heavens opened up. We were stressing as we had to hurry back and make it to the airport on time for our afternoon flight.  Luckily the storm only lasted 15 minutes and manged to ride the boat back with hardly any stops, grabbed our backpacks and paced down the only road to the one and only departure lounge in the airport.

After a short connecting flight through Miri we finally arrived back at our Malaysian base KK.  We spent the next morning sending postcards, doing washing and exchanging our Ringgit for US dollars, after which we were ready to leave Malaysia and embark upon our next adventure...Indonesia!