I had the pleasure of spending the last 4 days deep in the heart of Borneo at the remote Mulu National Park, of Planet Earth fame. (Btw, if you have never seen the Planet Earth series, you should check it out — I’m not a documentary/educational guy, but even I loved it). To get to this park, you must either fly or take a 10-hour boat ride. I flew. There are no roads this deep in the jungle. There is a lot going on at Mulu, but the highlights are its record-setting caves: the largest cave passage (Deer Cave) and the biggest cave chamber (Sarawak).
I spent 3 days in and out of the caves, as well as an excellent canopy walk. Many of the caves are partially lit and have boardwalks going through them. These are deemed “show” caves. For example, Deer Cave is a show cave. It is home to 3 million (!) bats. Every evening they fly out of the cave to hunt for insects. One of the big attractions at Mulu is to watch this exodus. Here is a snippet. Pretty cool. But, I was hoping for “flying V” formation or something :)
The interior of Deer Cave is covered in huge mounds of bat shit. It smells. Here, some joker left his footprint in the bat shit. Yuck.
I can see the light! A river in Deer Cave. Despite flash flood warnings from my guide, wild horses could not keep a few visitors and I from going for a swim (I was trying to get the bat poo off me). I love natural swimming holes, and swimming in a cave was no exception :)
I also ventured into Racer Cave which is an “adventure” or “wild” cave. The only human aids in it are a few ropes to help you climb up/down steep sections. The air hundred of metres into these caves is humid, damp and stale. And the blackness is total. At one point we shut off our headlamps — now that is blackness! The Racer Cave is named after a poisonous snake that inhabits it. Two other crazy people and I spent 2 hours in this cave. We also saw a huge centipede (also poisonous) and a Huntsman spider (poisonous, of course). It felt the only creature in this cave that wasn’t poisonous was us humans. Hmm…
A racer snake in Racer Cave. The snake is clinging (somehow) to the wall near the roof of the cave. I noticed that the snake had position on me: it had the higher ground. It could just fall on me at any instant. I didn’t hang…
One of my caving partners, Charlie (England), descends into the abyss…
Self-portrait, trying to look like a hardcore caver :)
I feel like this post is a bit lacking, so I will throw in another “How To” video on The Unique Art of World Travel. Here, I demonstrate how to partake in a British drinking game called “Slaps”. At least, the guys who taught me this are British. I played this several times on Perhentian Island. I want to show you how this is done. Otherwise, if you are a newcomer when you play, you will end up getting wasted in no time (which is what happened to me). Basically, there is an imaginary ball that is passed around the circle of players. When it is passed to you, you need to pass back, or to the next person. You do this by clapping your hands and then, in one fluid motion, push the ball by sliding one hand over the other in the direction you want to send it. If you mess up, you drink. That simple. You can tell I’m not very good at this because I am drunk and mumbling in the video. I can’t seem to make a solid sentence :) Please excuse my intoxication. Keep your eye on the ball!
Tomorrow I go to make an attempt to summit Mount Kinabalu (4095m /13,514 feet), the highest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea. Wish me luck.
-Shawn Martelock, Traveller
PS: I feel like I’ve been encountering a lot of “ests” lately: the *oldest* jungle in the world, the “largest” water village, the “longest” cave passage. Good stuff.