Day 234: Is This Fun?

Thurs. 4th April 2013

Jungle explorersWe are soaking wet, Dave has been stung twice by bees and is now removing a leech from my derriere, all before 8am. To start at the beginning, we are heading back to civilisation from our trip to Camp 5 in Mulu National Park and the only options are to walk back the 8km we came on Tuesday (and fly somewhere) or walk on 11.3km to catch a boat and then a minibus. The overgrown grassy helipad is for emergencies only. It was still dark when we woke and finished packing and our lights attracted the resident bees. For some reason this morning they took a fancy to Dave and he got stung twice within a matter of minutes, once on each hand. Fortunately, Stacey and Norsiah were quick to remove the stings and he dosed up with anti-histamine and cortisone creams.

Massive tree rootsTo get to our hotel at a reasonable hour we are all packed, nourished on fried noodles and ready to head off at 7am. The trail out is similar to the one in and is fairly flat but covered in tree roots and rocks with occasional boardwalks over the roughest and wettest parts. Within an hour of starting our walk Ayeh said “oh no, the rain is coming” and you could hear it coming through the trees. Within a minute it started pouring down which brought the leeches out in great numbers and one by one we stopped to flick them off. I was feeling smug as I has not had any, until I felt an odd movement under my hiking skirt right at the top of my leg. I quickly confirmed it was a leech and set Dave the task of removing it as I could not see when it arched its back, a sign it has loosened its grip so can be flicked off.

Crossing rope bridgeWearing glasses, it was difficult to see our way ahead as they were wet with rain and steamed up with the humidity! The walk itself was not difficult but the conditions made it quite a slog as it was so wet and the rain just kept on and on as we trudged through the trees stepping over the roots. After a seemingly very long while the rain stopped and it was humid but not too hot. At about the halfway point there is a rope bridge across the river and one of the handrails was broken which made it a challenge, but crossing was rewarded with a sit down in a shelter and snack time. The noise of the wildlife was almost deafening but the creatures were elusive.

Our transport for four hoursWe were all glad when we reached the little jetty at the end of the walk and our five-man boats were waiting. The drivers were anxious to get going as we were late and the rains were on their way again. We were loaded into the boats sitting one behind another on cut off plastic chairs, which were surprisingly comfortable. It was a quick lunch stop before heading on as we had been told we have four hours on these boats. It was slow going at first as the river levels are low and going over mini rapids the boats kept grounding so the driver had to lift the engine out of the water and use a punting pole to move us forward.

Our turn to cross the rapidsWe had the easy job of sitting back and enjoying the view with the sun beating down on us. Some of us even began to nod off but had to refrain as we could fall out of the boat! This was short lived as the predicted rain came and it was ponchos on. By this time we were over the rapids and the river opened out and became deeper. The driver could then open up the throttle and full speed ahead, we left the other two boats in our wake and they could not keep up. We peered out from under our poncho hoods but the rain was stinging our faces and our glasses were covered in rain. I tried to hide behind Dave like one of the crew on a bobsleigh to keep out of the rain but it did not help much. Jackie at the front got the worst of it with nothing to shield her from the lashing rain.

Soaked but happyThe upside was we were going so fast that we got to the end quicker than expected, and just as the rain was stopping. We still had an hour in a minibus to get to Limbang over mainly gravel roads. It was good to get to the hotel at about 5:15 and I am not sure what the locals thought of the bedraggled Westerners, damp and smelly as we waited in reception for Stacey to check us in. Luckily Stacey knows a good laundrette here who is willing to do our laundry overnight so we were soon rid of our wet and very smelly sweaty clothes. That hot shower was sooooo good and we were glad to be in clean dry clothes. The walking boots will take a while to dry but the air conditioning unit was in a small alcove outside our room window so we balanced them on there overnight, which helped.

Living by the riverNext stop was food and we went to a local Chinese and ordered a selection of dishes and we are convinced we were given small potions and not the medium ones we ordered. We also had sea cucumber soup which was tasty, if a bit strange. The pieces of sea cucumber were slimy in texture but quite flavoursome. As sea cucumbers are an endangered species there was some debate whether we should be eating it and so encouraging its place on the menu.

Our crazy coloured hotelThree of our group who arrived later were on the next table and ordered small but got medium so there was a mass exodus to their table to help them clear their plates. Dave and I headed off for a short walk about town as we had not had time earlier and found ice creams for dessert.

Another early start tomorrow as we move to Sabah and Kota Kinabalu ending our time in Sarawak. Did we enjoy Sarawak? Yes. Was it hard going?Yes. Would we do it again? Probably not. Would we recommend it to others? Borneo yes there are so many great and/or unique things to see and do; Pinnacles maybe for the adrenalin rush and sense of achievement, but hard work for a mediocre view. Did we have fun? Overall, a resounding yes.

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