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Mulu HQ to Camp 5

sunny

Today required a very early start before stocking up on inflated price grub and an unflattering rain poncho in anticipation of a 2 day wilderness sojourn. Though there were a few trekking alternatives on offer from within Gunung Mulu National Park, it had really been the draw of the world's largest cave chamber at what is after all one of Malaysia's 2 UNESCO sites which had prompted my resolve to visit. The trekking here was overpriced and problematic to reserve and yet I found myself signed up for the Pinnacles Trail, a ........ which did not even particularly appeal to me, yet given the money and effort involved in getting so close it seemed perverse to come here to visit the caves and no more. Part of the expense was perpetrated by the necessity of taking a longboat from the Camp HQ for a 30 minute river jaunt, quite clearly a local scam in securing employment and a quick buck where a forest trail could quite clearly have been created. First stop was an unexpected brow slapping layover at a telltale modern longhouse community clearly recently established for forcibly resettled Penan people, the last nomads of the forest, where stalls layered with tourist tack did not exude a good first impression. After sweeping round shady bends and negotiating at length a shallow rocky section which had necessitated other boatloads to get out and walk the boat over it, we put in at a boardwalk leading up to the second major brace of "Show Caves". First was the Wind Cave which though on a smaller scale than the previous giants made up for it in character, a golden underground chasm of sugar icing and many unlikely stalagmites. Clearwater cave had to be my overall favourite however, another fantasticly proportioned void which most remarkably as the name suggests, has a major and very clean looking river flowing through it. For the daring you could don a wetsuit and go caving from this point onwards, the initial phase being a swim down the quickly darkening gulf. Not for the faint hearted but what an adventure. It was here that I learned of the principle of "Keyhole" erosion, whereby the effects of alternating soft and hard layers of rock had over the millennia created a cleft of that very shape, as the river variously carved the rock side or river bed more than the other.

The boat from there took us up another excellent jungle clad highway until we were dropped at a shingle banking for our eventual egress into the forest. This was the start point of the real stuff now, an easy if somewhat boggy flat 8.5K trek punctuated by 2 bouncy wire suspension bridges. At the end of it materialised a haven christened only as Camp 5, a basic forest shelter which though mustering a busy kitchen for the all inclusive big spenders had only rubber mats and not much else under an open air roof to offer.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Malaysia

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