Barbee Travels travel blog

Pshew! We arrived alive in the jungle. Mulu Airport. A drop of...

Plankwalk to Deer Cave.

At the mouth of Lang's cave.

Looking out from inside Deer cave the 2nd largest passage in the...

Heading upriver to the trail head for Camp 5.

A large cavern in Cave of the Winds.

Almost to the Pinnacles! What a view!

The Pinnacles. Some are up to 45m in height rising out of...

Soooo glad I made it. Hot and tiring but worth it.

Look mom know hands. Enjoying post hike festivities.

Traveling to Mulu NP was more of a challenge than any other place during our travels because basically the only two ways to get to Mulu is to either take an 8+ hour boat ride or a 30 minute plane ride to a small air strip cut out of the dense jungle. Due to time constraints and actually a cheaper price we opted for the 30min plane ride. We arrived in Mulu to mixed weather at 1030 on the 19th. It was a five minute ride to our accommodations at the Mulu River Trails. We experienced some difficulty booking lodging because we were traveling during the high season and Mulu is a very popular destination. After getting squared away, we walked to the park about 2 minutes from our hostel and began to check on the availability of touring four show caves, and adventure cave, a canopy walk and hiking to the pinnacles. As luck would have it we were able to make arrangements to do everything we intended abet some schedule juggling and a bit of luck. We jumped right into things that afternoon with a visit to Deer and Lang’s Cave. Both these caves were down a 3km trail of concrete and planks. I was surprised to find such a well built and maintained trail of that distance. We toured Lang’s cave first which contained an amazing display of stalactites and stalagmites. Our second cave was Deer cave which came as an amazing surprised. Deer Cave contains the second longest passage in the world at over 2km in length and 174 meters in height. It was massive to say the least. As we walked back into Deer Cave we were rewarded with an amazing site called the Garden of Eden. Tens of thousands of years ago part of the ceiling collapsed in deer cave creating a green pocked deep in the cave. Trees began to grow and before long part of the jungle rose up inside the cave, able to survive because of the natural sun roof that was created. We wanted to hike back but it was not currently being guided. It would have been an amazing site to visit up close so we had to settle for photos. The cave also is home to some 2 million plus bats and at dusk they usually leave in a mass exodus. However, this would not be the night because as we exited the cave it was raining which meant the bats would not be out feeding this evening so we hiked back to our place and ate dinner before turning in relatively early. In the morning, we planned to do a three day two night trek to view the pinnacles. That night we had one of the hardest and longest rains I have experienced. I thought the clouds tore open and a sea of water dumped out of the sky for hours. I thought we would need life jackets by the morning, but other than a swollen river from the massive runoff it was business as usual for park operations. Our adventure first started with a boat ride up the Sungai Melinau River. Before reaching the trailhead we stopped off at a local village for a brief tour. The Penang are indigenous to this region and out of the 10,000 members some 300 or more still survive as hunter-gathers in the jungle forest surviving as did their ancestors. A portion of the villagers make a living serving as employees of the park and guides for both trekking and caving trips. For our trek to the pinnacles two of the Penan villagers served as our guides while three others our boatmen for transport to and from the trailhead for Camp 5. The Penan language contains no word for individual ownership or “mine”, a completely foreign concept to them. All members of the tribe are taught to share everything from a very early age, an idea lacking in western mentality. They also practice taking from the land just what is needed to live ensuring they leave plenty of resources for their future generations. After about 30 minutes in the village, we loaded back on our 8 person flat bottom wooden boats and proceeded up river to visit the other large show caves of Cave of the Winds and Clearwater Cave. Clearwater Cave was impressive because there was a large running river right down the middle. After visiting both caves, it was time for lunch then another 30-45 minutes up river to the starting point for our 8.8km walk through the jungle floor to Camp 5 our home for the next two nights. As we prepared to leave it began to sprinkle so we donned our rain gear. I was dreading a muddy slog up to our camp for the night. The shower did not last long and the sun poked its head out for most of our hike, at first a relief, but then the realization that it could also become even hotter as the sun headed things up along with the already abundant moisture of the jungle. I was roasting in my rain gear so I quickly packed it away thinking I would really rather have the cool rain because either way I was soaked between the sweat and humidity of the day. The trail was better than I had expected but still very wet and muddy. Several of the girls ended up with leaches on the feet and legs. At one point during the hike, I felt a burning sensation on my wrist and looked down with dismay at a leach that was trying to take a donation. I showed our guide and he quickly removed it before it took a firm hold. We rolled in to Camp 5 around 4 thirty in the afternoon. Tired, wet, and ready to have dinner and relax before our real physical challenge came early the next day. Camp 5 was built in the late70s by a British expedition from the Royal Geographic Society. It was much nicer than I had expected, and very picturesque. The camp was located next to the Sungai Melineu River in a deep valley with shear limestone cliff and dense green vegetation. The river was the perfect place to cool down at the end of our long, hot hikes. The alarm woke me from a light slumber at 0530. We ate a quick meal of crackers with peanut butter and coffee before starting on the trail at 0630. From camp to the summit the distance was only 2.4km or two miles one way like climbing Mt. Garfield but we gained 3,500ft instead of 2,000 feet in the dame distance. Additionally, the humidity was between 80-100 percent and the trail was covered with wet slick limestone and tree roots. We stair climbed through the jungle for several hours. The last 400m of climbing was up ropes, fixed ladders and fixed steel pins in the limestone. We reached the Pinnacles viewpoint 3.5 hours after starting and it was a relief. The weather was good and we had mostly sun with a few clouds. We spent an hour taking lunch, relaxing and talking with some of the other travelers we met along the way. The return trip was just as slow because it was very slick and a fall could mean serious injury on the sharp rocks. I arrived back in camp in roughly the time it took to ascend the mountain tired but unhurt except for a couple of scratches. Immediately, I went to the river, dropped my pack and jumped in. I hung out in the river and drank several beers to help with rehydration. The cool water also helped with my joint inflammation and dropping my core temperature back to a reasonable level. Later we walked up river to find an even better swimming hole with a rope swing to do some great diving in the river. Towards dusk we went back to camp and ate dinner. I fell asleep under my mosquito net around 2100 even though it was quite warm and dozed off and on all night. I was up at 7 and on the trail by 8, back at the main river for our return boat ride to the park entrance. The plan for the afternoon was to do the Mulu Canopy Skywalk one of the best in SE Asia. The skywalk was a series of laddered rope bridges connecting 16 large trees about 60 feet above the ground. It was 480m in length. It provided a different perspective of the park and it was a great way to get a different view of the jungle world. Since the weather was good that evening and the skywalk was close to Deer Cave we walked back up at dusk to watch some 2million bats leave the cave. It was an impressive site. I watched group after group leave for over 30 minutes and when I left to begin the 3km walk back to our lodge they were still leaving in groups of thousands. Our final day was a rest day so I just made a few short hikes then hung out to do some reading and napping. On the morning of the 24 we flew back to Miri then caught a connecting flight back to Kota Kinabalu. We had another layover/rest day in KK before catching another couple of connecting flights back to Denpasar, Bali for the conclusion of our trip. I have 5 more days on the island of Bali before concluding my travels and returning to the states.

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