Wednesday, 8 April 2015

To Mulu

A relatively late start this morning for Mulu. Mas picks us up and takes us to the airport where all our bags – suitcases included – are x-rayed but nobody cares about our liquids. It’s a small turbo-prop plane and only around a quarter of the seats are occupied. Descending quickly over lush jungle we land and skid to a halt outside a tiny terminal. The baggage conveyor is around 2 metres long and we watch our bags emerge from the belly of the plane. Our guide, Jerry, meets us outside the terminal and we take a 5 minute minibus ride to the Mulu Marriot. We’re greeted with fresh lime juice and a wonderfully camp receptionist and we recline on a day bed while we complete the formalities. Marriot only took this hotel over recently and the refurb was only finished last week.

We’re shown to our rooms, which are a fairly long walk from the public areas along raised walkways. The rooms are luxuriously furnished, each with a private balcony overlooking the river. We don’t have long to enjoy them, though, as Jerry wants us at reception in 40 minutes for our afternoon visit to Deer Cave. We change into jungle clothes, grab a few essentials and dash to reception, arriving only 5 minutes late. We’re shown to a minibus where we join a couple of suited and booted businessmen who turn out to be the local GM of Marriot and his colleague who have been to check the place out. The minibus drops us off at Gunum Mulu National Park and the businessmen continue to the airport.
We have to sign in before we enter the park and then Jerry leads us along the boardwalks towards Deer Cave, stopping occasionally to point things out. We have two others in our group, two guys from Singapore. We see a number of bugs and a pygmy squirrel, and Jerry shows us the tree the native people use to poison their darts. At various times we are surrounded by clouds of pale yellow butterflies as we walk. The cicadas and other jungle creatures make a noise that’s ridiculously loud.

Arriving at Deer Cave after a walk of around 3km, we go in to visit the largest cave chamber in the World. Its size is impressive but then so is the ammonia stench of the guano of millions of bats who call the cave home. Jerry points out the tiny cockroaches that feed on the guano and a cave millipede; we find a creature that looks like an albino earwig. Water that once fell as rain and has been working its way through the rock falls again like rain into the cavern below. At the back of the cave a rockfall has created an opening through which the jungle can be seen; it’s known as the Garden of Eden. Emerging from Deer Cave we go to the cave that was part of the same system before the rock fall, Laxxx Cave is smaller but has magnificent stalactites and stalagmites.
We leave the cave system and go to the visitor centre where seating is provided to watch the bats emerge at dusk, the largest movement of its kind as far as anybody knows. Unfortunately it begins to rain, which means the bats won’t come out. We don’t bother to go for cover as the rain is refreshing, After a while it stops and a rainbow appears, but still no bats. Eventually Jerry says he doesn’t think we’ll see them tonight and we set off back to the visitor centre. It begins to rain again and as it gets properly dark we see loads of fireflies.

We arrive back before Jerry and while we’re waiting we see a pale green snake coiled on a branch. We take the bus back to the Marriot and get ready for dinner which is included in our package. Having been impressed so far with the facilities, dinner is something of a disappointment. It’s a barbeque buffet and although the staff are willing and friendly they don’t seem to be familiar with the food being served. The two guys running the barbeque seem pretty clueless and for some unfathomable reason our waitress takes our plates as we finish each course but leaves our cutlery behind. Alex and I sample most of the desserts trying to find the one identified as Tiramisu, but fail. It’s a pity - they have clearly spent a fortune renovating and the result is seriously stylish, but they have failed to train the staff. I wonder, too, whether there is really a demand for this kind of luxury in a location that attracts mainly outdoor types in walking boots and kagouls.

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