Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysia, Borneo, part 2.

If you want to leave the well-paved roads of the headquarters behind, you have different options to spend some time deeper inside the park. You can spend some time at Camp 5 and either venture out to the Head Hunters’ Trail or climb up to the Pinnacles, or climb the Mulu Summit.  We didn’t feel like climbing too much, but definiately wanted to get away from the Disneyland atmosphere for a while.

First we signed up for 2 nights at Camp 5.  To get there, you need to hire a boat. It is a half an hour boatride to the trailhead and from there you have to walk almost 9 km through the forest to get to the camp.  If you are not in an organized tour, you also have to carry your own provisions – the camp’s kitchen is well-equipped with pots and pans, but you need to bring your own food. The trail is quite easy to follow, although you have to step on small stones that can be quite slippery. I managed to scare away a bearded pig that was munching on some leaves next to the trail. This was the only time that I saw a big mammal in the area. As we heard, hunting is still taking place around and inside of the park, which puts quite a pressure on wildlife.

As you arrive, the surroundings of the campsite definiately make up for the long walk. The Melinau River and the Benarat cliff offers a breathtaking view:

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 741.1

The camp itself looks like this (from the other side of the river):

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 612.1

And not far from your accomodation you can find a small pool, where the river slows down a little bit and it offers a refreshing dip (trust me, after your long walk, you will love it!) The sunset, combined with some clouds over the gorge produced some spectacular colors:

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 654.1

The night walk also proved to be quite successful: peacefully sleeping geckos, otherwordly looking, spiky insects, spiders and gracefully coiled up snakes…On our second night, after some heavy rains, the raging river even washed up a huge python on the shore.

Most people visit Camp 5 to climb up to Gunung Api to see a unique limestone formations called the Pinnacles. The hike is only 2.4 km but there is a 1200 m change in elevation. The last section is basically vertical. Climbers have to follow strict time limitation – the hike is divided into sections and there is a time limit alloted to each section and if you cannot keep it, then you have to turn back to the camp, because youwon’t be able to make it before dark and it would be too risky.

The Head Hunter’s trail also starts here at Camp 5, and you can walk as far as to Limbang. We only covered the first few miles and visited the Karangas Forest with our guide, Eugene. This is a special kind of dry forest, and its name means (in Iban) “land that cannot grow rice”.  The nutrient poor soil means that the vegetation here is different – the trees are smaller, more scarce, and there are at least three different kinds of pitcher plants.

First we came upon a salt water lake:

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 665.1

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 659.1

Then, on top of the hill, the pitcher plants:

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 704.1

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 690.1

Camp 1 is actually the first stop towards Mulu Summit, which is a 24 km hike. The summit is 2400 metres above sea level and you need at least 4 days for this climb.  Our plan was just to spend two night at Camp 1, and look around in the forest there. We started out in the morning with our guide, Lucas, and took the trail towards Paku Falls, then followed it deeper into the forest. Beautiful, huge trees all around us, although the only wildlife we saw was a colourful lizard on the ground.

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 909.1

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 916.1

To reach the camp we needed to cross over two rivers – no bridges around here.

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 903.1

By the time we reached the second one – with huge boulders and rushing water – the rain had got serious and not long after we crossed it I heard some deafening rumbling sound – a flashflood was coming, with amazing force. Not the first time of a close call – on our first day a tree fell into the river just a few meters from us, and in Brunei lightning struck a bare few seconds later that I got out of the river. Nature has countless of ways to remind us to the fragileness of our existence.

The campsite itself is a lot more basic than Camp 5 – not really a pleasant place to stay at, but I guess it serves its purpose as a stopover towards the summit. It provides shelter against the rain, but not much more. Inside it looked like this, after we prepared our “beds”:

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 963.1

Around the campsite:

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 927.1

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 956.1

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 911.1

on the way back, with Lucas:

Borneo, 2013, Brunei and Gunung Mulu 973.1

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