Sunday, May 24, 2009

The God Must Be Crazy

The earliest stone bra in the world is on display in the Wind Cave of Gunung Mulu National Park.

What would you say about the creation? Long long ago, perhaps many million years ago god had already created this pxxxy. But for what purpose? Was he also teaching biology beside the bible?

And as if he was not satisfied with the first 2 creations, he then created this master piece. Isn't god very fair?
Jokes aside, below are some facts about Mulu, according to the scientists and geologists.
* The mountains of Mulu were created some 5 millions years ago when the movement of Asian and Australian landmasses caused the earth surface to buckle and fold,lifting and pushing up layers of limestone and sandstone from the ocean floor to form the new mountains.
* Through millions of years of rentless process of weathering by elements of rain, wind and time, the present magnificent landscapes of Mulu , both on the surface and underground are formed.
* Past and on-going researches and surveys in Mulu have listed more than 3,500 types of plants, 1,500 flowering plants and 8,000 fungi are also identified.
*An astonishing 20,000 animal species are discovered, the majority of which are invertebrates. These include 80 mammalian species, 270 species of birds, 55 reptile species, 48 species of fish and 76 amphibians.
*The smallest mammal in the world, the Savi's Pigmy Shrew which weighs only 2 grams is also found in Mulu.
New species of flora and fauna are continued to be discovered.Mulu is certainly a biodiversity hotspot, a true Garden of Eden created by god.
This will be my last post for May. Wishing all Iban readers and friends Selamat Hari Gawai and for those who are not celebrating this festival but having a long holiday... enjoy your days off and do take special care when travelling.

Visit To Mulu National Park--Day 3 & 4 (Final)

Last night it rained heavily and nonstop, until probably 4 am. We woke up at 5.30 am to prepare for the canopy skywalk which our guide told us would commence at 7.00 am. We would not have time for breakfast so we brought along drinking water,some biscuits and energy bars. At the park hq area we met these two lovely girls who would also be joining us for the canopy skywalk.

After some friendly conversations and introduction, I was quite surprised when Miss Linda (wearing red sleeves) said she was familiar with my name. It turned out that Linda was an ex SEGi student and I took her graduation photos last November at Hotel Nikko, KL.What a small world! The park guide (above right) gave us a briefing before we started trekking to the world's longest tree-based canopy skywalk.

45 minutes later we had arrived at the destination. From the ground below, the skywalk was just like a rope. I told myself it must be a very interesting and exciting experience walking so high up between the trees.

Our guide said since we were the first group we did not have to rush. The rule is 2 persons at one time walking on the same section of the skywalk, although it is built to support 3-4 people our size. I chose to be alone, and the last person in the group so that I could take more photos uninterrupted.

This canopy skywalk is 480 m long, with 15 sections suspended 20 m high on the trees. Opened to public in 2005, it was constructed by the local communities with advices from experts on designs and structure.

There is a platform at each of the 15 trees it passes through, allowing visitors to stop and admire the tranquility of the lush tropical rainforests, the soaring heights of the nearby limestone cliffs and the clear river below.

One would be disappointed if you were hoping to meet birds and wild animals among the trees.May be our group was unlucky.We did not see any of these animals during our entire canopy walk. But it was breathtaking already being able to watch different species of trees and plants at close range on the tree top.The skywalk follows a circular route and it must have taken us an hour to complete the walk.

On the ground again, we saw this giant tree, towering 100 feet towards the sky. It has several huge buttresses, some of which must be 5-6 feet wide.
As it was still early, we decided to do jungle trekking again. Our guide advised us to take the Mulu Summit Trail which could be explored without a guide until a small waterfall.

The trail was clearly marked with stones, but some sections were muddy and flooded due to the heavy rain the previous night.

The trek to the two small waterfalls took us more than an hour. A big sign on a tree warned visitors not to proceed further without a guide.Our purpose was not to see the waterfall. We were all the way searching for different species of flora and fauna and to take their photographs. I would say it was a very fruitful trip as we managed to take many interesting photos. Below are some to share with you.

I saw this wild fruit 21 years ago during my first trip to Mulu. We affectionately called it Mulu Apple and now people are still calling it the same name.

Many trees here have large buttresses. These two are side by side but they do not collide.

Looks like someone has tied a rope around this tree until the top. But can you do it as perfectly as nature?
There were lots of different sizes,shapes and colours of mushrooms and lingzhi every where. This one (above) is almost twice the size of an ordinary human face.

I looked in amazement a few different types of lingzhi growing the length of this rotten log. I have no idea if they are edible.

Then on another dead tree trunk...I saw this "smoking" mushroom. Water vapour was evaporating from the top and bottom of this wet mushroom as it was being exposed to the mid morning heat.

The one and a half hour trek back to the hostel was completed casually as we did not expect anything interesting to photograph on the same route.Upon arrival, we immediately reported to the park hq to inform them that we had returned safe and sound. Our guide then told us we had been upgraded from the hostel with ceiling fan to a chalet with airconditioning. That was a very welcoming gesture since we had completed our tour and needed a good rest.

Our chalet is called Garden Of Eden. It is located 100 m beside the cafeteria, with the forests infront and behind. After a short nap, I headed to the park hq where the guide had prearranged for me an interview with some senior officers. My initial target was the park's Australian Manager, but unfortunately he had earlier in the morning gone down to Miri. All the staff there were very polite and helpful and I managed to obtain all the information I wanted.

We had early dinner at the cafeteria, it was a good one. After dinner it was a final tour of the Mulu Discovery Centre and hunting for a few more souvenirs at the gift shop. The night was still young as we retired to the comfortable bed. We shared our experiences of the last few days until suddenly it went so quiet and then hearing my companions snoring like express boat engines in full throttle! Amidst all these non-stop madness in the room, I was still wondering how god created this amazing and wonderful place called Mulu.

The above 4 pictures were taken on the morning of Day 4 while we were waiting for our return flight to Miri at Mulu Airport. I am determined to come back again and the next trip I will spend longer time to explore more of Mulu.

Visit To Mulu National Park--Day 2 (Part 2)

The water of this stream is flowing out from the Clearwater Cave, very tempting to jump in for a swim.But not now, first we need to climb up 300 concrete steps to visit Clearwater Cave.

If you can't finish 300 steps at one go, there are places specially made for you to sit down and rest. Here you can look downwards to admire the scenery of the forests and river.

Above the entrannce to Clearwater Cave you see some very unique plants growing on the stalactites and the cliff. These are the one-leaf plants which are endemic to Mulu.

Some of the fern-like plants growing on the ground among the rocks are also very interesting. The entrance is quite huge, but not as interesting as the other show caves.

This is the end of the passage for ordinary visitors. But the entire underground cave pasage which has been explored is more than 177 km, currently the longest in Asia and 10th longest in the world.

After we returned from the cave, we had picnic style lunch on the decking in a tranquil forest setting and fronting the stream.

While you were filling up your stomach, you could also enjoy watching and taking photos of tourists swimming and playing in the crystal clear stream.It is said the water here contains "supernatural power"to keep you young and beautiful!

None of us wanted to swim in the river because we knew the magical water there could not do wonders on old people like us! So we headed back to the hostel for a much needed nap instead. At about 3.30 pm, we took a ride in a private 4-wheel drive to the Royal Mulu Resort. The above photo of the limestone peaks was taken on the bridge leading to the 4-star resort.

The 188-room resort is like a palace nested amidst the tropical rainforests. All the buildings are built on stilts, more than 3 meters above the ground. It is an internationally acclaimed award winning resort fully equipped with modern amenities, including a swimming pool which is also built on stilts.

For Day 3, we woke up early again to begin trekking to the world's longest tree-based canopy skywalk.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Visit To Mulu National Park--Day 2 (Part 1)

This is part of Mulu's limestone complex at dawn. If I could take the photo at a much higher altitute, it would be spectacular.

Before I took a walk in the nearby forests, I came to the riverside first to take this photo of longboats in Melinau River.One of these boats would later take us to the Batu Bungan Penan Settlement and more caves.

The scenes of the misty forests were so mysterious and yet enthralling .It was so exciting to walk there all alone, amongst the towering trees and the morning calls of countless insects and birds.

As the day began to break and the sun getting higher, I retreated to the cafeteria for breakfast. On the way I met this lady (below) from Czech Republic. She travelled solo and was amazed by the beauty of the tropical rainforests.

After breakfast, we assembled in front of the park hq and our guide took us by longboat up the Melinau River for the day's tour.

The river is very clean and clear. Some parts are very shallow, however since we were laden with expensive camera equipment, we were spared to alight from the boat to push it through.

We let a boat full of park guides to overtake us before we arrived at the Batu Bungan Penan Settlement. This Penan settlement has about 200 people who live in a 20-door longhouse and some simple huts like this. (below)

Sarawak has some 10,000 Penans, about 300 of them still lead a completely nomadic life in the jungles of upper Baram and Belaga. They are some of the last true nomads in the world.

Many of the settled Penans here make handicrafts for sale to the tourists. Almost all these items are made from the natural resources collected from the forests and rivers. They include necklaces and bracelets made from beads, baskets of various sizes and designs made from rattan, traditional bamboo musical instruments, miniature blowpipes and many other small souvenir items.

This is a Penan nose flautist who played a melodious tune with a bamboo flute.

Below are some photos of the Penan ladies. The older ones like their Kayan and Kenyah sisters, are having long ears. They however,do not have tattoos on their arms and legs.

After a brief stop here, we proceeded with our journey to the Wind Cave. But first we had to pass by the legendary Batu Bungan, which is a steep limestone hill.Legend has it that long ago a beautiful Penan princess died in hunger and exasperation among the craggy cliff of Batu Bungan while waiting for her lover to return.

Shortly after passing Batu Bungan,we tied the longboat here and this wooden walkway brought us to Wind Cave.

When you enter Wind Cave you could feel a mild, cool wind gushing at you, that's how the name is derived. You will also experience the same effect at several spots inside the cave.

It is a big cave with many wonderful stalacties and stalagmites. Some of the formations on the ceiling look like curtains.

There is a passage inside Wind Cave going to the adjacent Clearwater Cave.Called Clearwater Connection, this route of 4.8 km is only for the most fit adventure caver. It takes 6-8 hours to reach while a boat ride needs only a few minutes.

Only on our short longboat journey to Clearwater Cave did we realize we had missed walking on this walkway built outside Wind Cave. Surely we had also missed the opportunity to take some breathtaking photos of the cliff and the river below.

Next entry I will bring you to Clearwater Cave and the Royal Mulu Resort. Stay tuned!