Tag Archives: mulu

Of Canopies and Caves

9 Aug

Green leaves explode from the lower canopy, above clusters of tree tops. Mulu National Park, Sarawak, Borneo.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]This is the view down over the lower storey of the rainforest canopy, in Mulu National Park, Sarawak, from the longest canopy skywalk in the world. Nigh-on 500m of suspension bridge rattles and sways above the tops of the lowest trees, pinned to the sleek trunks of emergent giants.

It’s a place where I discovered that the nine year old’s theory of repeated exposure curing vertigo holds some force. And the nine year old, in turn, discovered a fear of heights.

Well, not so much heights, exactly. His objection, to be precise, was to the skywalk, and in particular the plastic packing tape which held the creaking boards together. Continue reading

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From Hunter-Gatherers to Human Zoo

8 Aug View from a low-flying prop plane over Mulu National Park and the Mulu River. Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Leaving Mulu National Park on a little propeller plane, with rivers unspieling below us, a scattered handful of logging tracks carving their way across the hilltops, and merciful expanses of untouched forest before the gridded tracts of oil palms, it’s easy to see how remote the interior of Borneo once was.

In the days when the Brooke dynasty ruled Sarawak — even during the heady couple of years when Sarawak had an airforce (two seaplanes, one of which broke soon after arrival) — the trip would have taken weeks, if not months.

And nomadic tribes like the Penan could live their life untouched, as they had for untold centuries. Continue reading

Three Million Bats

6 Aug

Stream of bats swirl across the twilit sky. Deer Cave, Mulu National Park, Sarawak, Borneo.[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Deer Cave, at Mulu National Park, is one of the largest cave chambers in the world, and home to as many as three million bats. Towards twilight, on evenings when it’s not raining, they swarm out to hunt in the forest around, consuming as many as fifteen tonnes of insects every evening.

They follow a crazy, spiralling, swirling route, fizzing up in a stream of smoke, more like hornets, locusts or bees than mammals. The aim? To frustrate the hawks, which hover above the limestone crags which mark the cave entrance, diving into the morass in search of prey. For video, Continue reading

So Long and Thanks to (All) the Fish

5 Aug Z in orange lifejacket in longboat en route to Mulu National Park with his grandparents.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Yesterday was a rite of passage for the nine year old. And one that I can, with hand on heart, say that I am glad to have missed.

He caught… Drum roll… His first fish!

And who was there to share the precious moment? The triumph of the successful bite? The joy as the catch is, finally, reeled in? The squirm-inducing process of torture by which one rips the hook from the soft palate of a living, suffocating, flopping creature, exterminates the last vestiges of consciousness and transfers it to a receptacle to await its ultimate fate?

Granny and Grandpa! Continue reading

Fighting Cocks and Jungle Ferns

4 Aug Fiddlehead ferns and shoots of jungle plants laid out on a blue tarpaulin. Kapit, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]We took three boats to Gunung Mulu, the serene and beautiful national park deep in the forests of Sarawak, with ancient caves carved deep into Borneo limestone and jagged karst pinnacles towering over the whole.

One of the best things about travelling upriver in Sarawak is watching what folk buy and sell in the trading towns en route.

In Kapit, on the Batang Rejang, you can buy pretty much anything you’d care to think of. From badminton rackets to sofas, from hunting rifles to rubber rings. And sell, too. Upriver folk come down to Kapit in narrow longboats, almost daily, with goodies they have foraged from the forest and the rivers. Continue reading