Day 17 – Friday 13 Jan 2012 – Miri – Mulu.
I have been away from the internet for a few days so am having to play catch-up on what was a very regular posting regime.
My last night in Miri was marred by a total lack of sleep. It was a noisy night outside, lots of street noise and a prolonged thunder storm which featured the heaviest rain I have heard. Thankfully the downpour was only short lived, but the mosque was its reliable self and kicked off its morning call to prayer at 4.50 AM.
After breakfast I shared a taxi to Miri airport at 7.00 AM with the Swiss guys from the other night, which got me there far too early, but at least it was cheaper and I was only going to hang about the hostel anyway. The plane was virtually empty and the flight only lasts thirty minutes and was pretty smooth. There was a lot of high cloud but we stayed below it so there was a good view of a devastated landscape most of the way. There is a lot of palm oil plantations in Borneo, though fortunately as we approached the park the natural forest seemed to be prevailing. There were a few very cool windy rivers on the way, I cannot believe how some of them snake around so much, especially compared to rivers like the Waikato that run quite straight in comparison. (photos from plane not worth posting !)
I got to the park later morning, checked in and staked my bed in the dorm room. I am in a space with five beds, three of which were subsequently taken by some young Canadians who were on the flight and the final one by Skylar (you will meet her tomorrow).
I was considering doing the Pinnacles walk, but have decided against it, I am not enjoying the heat and I have not allowed myself the required amount of time in the park to do the walk, everything I read suggested it is a two day activity, but the park stipulate two nights and three days. It is also quite expensive, so I will save the bucks and aim to do Mt Kinabalu in a week or so. I will do some of the smaller walks here instead.
In the afternoon I took the first of the guided cave walks, for the four big caves you have to go with a guide, which you naturally have to pay for! The four caves are split into two walks, one done in the morning and the other the afternoon. Our group had about fifteen members which was larger than I would have liked but we had a fairly leisurely time so it kinda worked out OK. The walk to the caves took about 45 minutes, we saw very little wildlife and I assuming that is due to the number of people in the group.
A stick insect, about the only thing I saw, but very cool.
Langs cave is the smallest of the four caves in park but had fantastic stalagmites and stalactites, as the group was so big it was nice and slow so I lingered at the back and used the tiny tripod I had brought with me (no tripods allowed !) . The guide was OK, but I missed a lot of the commentary as i was at the back of the group the whole day.
Deer cave is the biggest cave passage by volume in the world, and I am going to say it is huge !!! the cave houses around three million bats and the smell is pretty overpowering. The walk through the other cave was quite impressive, different again to the caves i have seen so far.
After the cave we all went along to the bat viewing area to await the bat exodus which occurs almost every night between 4.30 and 6.00. After a boring almost hour and a half the guide came running down to the area calling “the bats are coming, the bats are coming”. We asked how they knew this was about to happen, I was thinking they could tell by the action of the birds or a strange sound or some other method passed down through the generations, but no, they have a camera in the cave !
Over an hour long period the bats (all 3 or so million) fly out of the cave in waves of a few thousand at a time, they swirl in long spirals into the forest to look for food, between each wave there is a gap of a few minutes. Circling above and diving and hunting the bats on the edges are a few bat hawks looking for their nightly feed. It was I am going to say an awesomely awesome site !
After the bats it was a quick walk along the path in the ever increasing gloom back to the lodge. I had dinner with an English guy I got talking to late in the wait for the bats and then an early night and a great (though medicated) sleep.
This is my first night in a dorm !!