Shaken By Jungle Storm
Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
360Trip End Aug 21, 2011
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The free breakfast was a winner and we fuelled up for the big adventure with a choice of pancakes, muesli or a fry-up. Despite this we also bought copious snacks and drinks to keep us going for the long 4 hours we would spend away from civilisation. (Giles is nearly as worried as me about being stuck without food.) The 10 minute long-boat journey to the caves was fantastic. Gliding through the thick forest with towering mountains before us, I think we all felt pretty glad we'd opted to come here. A quick stop en route to visit a local handicrafts market was pretty painless. Mikey and I added to our collection of rubbish bracelets and we also managed to pick up some incredibly expensive and thoughtful gifts for our Williams Road buddies
Arriving at the caves did not disappoint either. The Cave of the Winds was full of amazingly intricate rock formations and happily nothing else – not a bat/leech/spider to be seen. Clearwater cave was equally impressive although due to heavy rainfall, our guide said it should be called Muddywater cave today. He also pointed out the aptly named 'One Leaf Plant’ which is endemic to Mulu. There’s something incredible about a plant only growing on one place in the world. Cave exploring was sweaty work and once out we decided to brave swimming in the pool at the entrance despite the less than crystal clear water. It was freezing but very refreshing and the rest of the group decided to man-up and join us.
Then it was back in the boat to head home for some well-earned lunch. First we had to check into the dorm though and all I can say is that it doesn’t look like the picture on their website! We took the last beds available and tried to make ourselves comfortable in the damp shabby surroundings. All four of us had finally run out of clothes to wear and had to do some washing which made Mikey have a massive strop. He’s got far too used to paying someone else to do our dirty work. He consented to wash 3 pair of pants incredibly slowly, whingeing throughout so that I had to do the rest
We then decided it was time to get back out there in the jungle and visit the Tree Top Tower to try and see some birds or maybe even mammals. Halfway along the 1km walkway the torrential rain began. We sheltered under a tarpaulin for a quarter of an hour before deciding that it might well continue for 4 hours and so we should make a run back for the hostel. Mikey and I had very sensibly brought the laptop with us, so he had to strip off and wrap up the non-waterproof rucksack in his clothes before we all waddled in our slippy flip-flops as fast as we could back to the dorm. Laptop stashed, we decided that as we were already soaked we might as well head back out and then possibly be in the tower when the rain stopped and the animals all came out.
Now, I’ve always thought that us Bosham folk we were pretty hard-core. We swim in the sea all year round and like to laugh at the Londoners who come down and flip out about freezing sewage filled water, mud, crabs, jellyfish and dogs who have rolled in fox poo/cuttlefish guts. Today however showed that we are in fact completely pathetic and ill-equipped for the outdoor life. An enormous clap of thunder, immediately over our heads sent us into complete panic. Charlotte and I grabbed each other, crouching down as if somehow the lightning then wouldn’t find us. Giles made a dash for the tower which had finally come into view, only stopping when it became apparent that it was entirely made of metal and therefore probably not the best place to shelter with a thunderstorm literally overhead
At this point however pandemonium broke out as Mikey found a leech on his flip-flop, screamed and kicked it off into the jungle, further terrifying the rest of us. We all began running (as fast as is possible on a slippy boardwalk in a torrential downpour). Mikey then yelled to me that I had one on my leg!!! I remained completely calm and in control as he swiped it off and we ran on. Before coming to Borneo, Giles was reliably informed by the great naturalist and adventure explorer, Steve Sumner, that leeches can only get you if you stand still. Therefore since we’ve been here he’s kept up an uncharacteristically swift pace and encouraged us to do the same. A German man who had been sheltering under a tarpaulin at the turn off to the Tree Tower must have thought we were complete lunatics as we ran screaming round the corner swatting at our legs, Charlotte and I still cringing in case we were hit by lightning as well as leeches, Giles yelling "Keep going, Keep going!!", Mikey limping with one shoe in his hand.
Back in the relative safety of the hostel we calmed down and in the harsh strip lighting of the dorm Mikey admitted that the leeches were not 100% confirmed sightings and could possibly have been very scary leaves
Action adventure would not leave us alone however and in the café we were attacked by a mouse–sized flying beetle and I had to take cover under the table. Luckily the bat video from earlier had explained that the bats flying into your hair and biting you was a complete myth so I managed to remain calm as 3 circled overhead. The praying mantis in the girl’s toilets was pretty scary though and it even tried to take Giles on when he got too close.
Back in the dorm, it was no better and a mass of small insects were happily swooping around bumping into the strip lights and then dive bombing down. We grimly got into our damp beds, Char and I opting to put up mosquito nets although as the other 13 people in the room hadn’t it seemed a bit extreme.
An hour later, Mikey had got into my bed due to mosquito attack, and we were trying to sleep in the sweaty air-con-less heat when we were once more assaulted. This time it was the scariest insect I’ve ever seen. Yet another rodent sized flying beetle, this one with enormous pincers, dive bombed us and latched on to the net, clearly intending to chop through and kill us. We tried to stay safe in the net for a while as he made repeated sorties, but then decided he wasn’t going anywhere and needed to be exterminated. Out of the net we calmed down and managed to usher him out of the window. It didn’t make for a restful night however as we lay waiting for another to appear or attack Giles who was very vulnerable without a net! I’m really not sure how everyone else in the dorm manages to remain completely oblivious to all of the insect life and general squalor, but we’re getting out of here in the morning!