Mulu Pinnacles, The Ultimate Challenge
Mulu National Park in Sarawak is one of the world heritage listed place by UNESCO. It’s well known for being home to the largest Cave system in the world. My group of 8 was decided to take the Mulu Magic Cave & Pinnacles tour a try after we get know it’s all about hiking trip. We were all excited about hiking anyways.
Magic Mulu Caves & Mulu Pinnacles
1 – 4 July 2010
The Ultimate Challenge
To be part of this great challenge, we were advised to book the flight and accommodation for over a month earlier to prevent disappointment. We got our FREE SEAT promotion from AirAsia more than 6 months before the departure date.
We choose to stay at long house style accommodation instead of 4-star resort to cope with our budget. We took 4D3N tour package with Blessed Holidays for only RM839 (MATTA Fair price) per pax to explore Magic Mulu Caves & Pinnacles. Included MAS Wings flight (The Malaysian Airlines regional carrier) to National Park HQ where used to connect with other travelers from all over the places included famous Mulu Mountain trail (24km).
If you’ve been following my adventure of Mount KK last year, you might have remembered how tough I struggled to complete the Climbing Mount Kinabalu 2009. This was rather more extreme, instead of cold and long trekking up to blue sky, it’s pitch black darkness.
The Mulu Magic Caves & Pinnacles adventure 4 days 3 night was all about the following:-
- Lang Cave – Got rocks shaped like jellyfishes
- Deer Cave – View of Abraham Lincoln face and huge ancient riverbed. Can house few huge airplanes inside
- Wind Cave – This one is known for the King’s Chamber where one of the rock’s formations resembles a King
- Clear Water Cave – This is the one that we got a chance to jump into the icy water outside of the Cave’s entrance
- The Pinnacles – A terrible tough hike limestone mountains of Mulu are bedecked with sharp needles along the way and terrifying sharp.
A day before, I run into packing my stuffs last minutes into 3 bags with load of stuffs. I don’t know why, but all items were necessary to bring. Well, I did bring some extra clothes, the light cotton one. My check-in bag was 7kg after get weighted.
Day 1 – KL to Miri/Mulu (Deer & Lang Cave)
We made our way to Miri Airport via AirAsia. Flight in the early morning and reached before noon. Had our lunch there opposite the airport, Shun Fong café offered us the local delicacies. Yummy!
Then traveled again via MAS Wings in the afternoon and reached Mulu Airport in late afternoon. On the flight it was amazing to see the vast tracts of untouched rain forest sweeping as far as the eye can see. We landed at Mulu Airport, a town airport accessible to National Mulu Park HQ and surrounding forestry area after 30 minutes. The weather was good and windy. Enjoy the feeling and environment even though it’s my first time step into Sarawak. Kind of excited.
We were greeted by our guide. The guide fetched all of us to National Park HQ for registration and we took a plank walk to visit the Deer Cave and Lang Cave. I felt everyone of us was quite rush due to the park will close at 5pm. I’m wondering if the flight is expected to land at 3pm, that’s mean all the time, this flight visitors will always rush for it? That’s a bad arrangement.
Immediately after that, we start walking to the caves totaling 3km. First of all, it’s Lang Cave, a small but beautifully decorated. Along the boardwalk, we were able to access the lush rainforest with buzzing of life.
Small and intimate, with walls beautifully decorated with long shawls, layers of rim stone pools on the floor, and throughout the cave, spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. In this smaller cave the bats are easier to see, small white cave prawns hide in pools of water and shimmering near the roof are strands of web spun by the thread worm larvae waiting for a passing meal.
After visiting the caves, you can wait at the Bat Observatory to view the evening exodus of bats from the Deer Cave.
After that, follow by Deer Cave at opposite direction, around 100 meters away. As it was known as biggest cave passages in the world, it has yet been overtake by any new found cave larger than this. However, what we experienced in the cave was priceless. See pictures for self-explanatory.
Pause in Deer Cave’s ancient riverbed and wonder at the force of the water that once roared through, tumbling huge boulders around and carving the scalloped walls. Listen, that squeaking noise is the 3 million strong colonies of Wrinkle Lipped bats stirring themselves.
They sense that dusk is not far away and begin to prepare to leave the cave to feed on insects. The path continues to wind deeper into the blackness of the cave and suddenly the Garden of Eden appears in the distance, a green oasis shining in the sunlight.
During our visit in this cave, it was a heavy rain which we didn’t manage to see bat exodus as we expected.
Supposedly we will wait at the entrance to Deer Cave, where thousands of bats emerge most evenings to hunt for insects over the forest but it was nothing due to heavy rain. It has been 6.00pm and this was a rare occasions bat would come out.
We were returning late and walk in the dark to Park HQ. The return trip to Park HQ is a wonderful time to move through the forest, listening to the calls of the frogs and insects. Got few occasions where I saw fireflies around. We were so lucky and to have spotted a Moon Rat (not a rat but a beautiful white insectivore).
We transferred back to Benarat Inn by van for dinner and overnight. Our guide, Nang Kai will be our guide cum porter for the whole 2 days challenge.
Day 2 – Benerat Inn to Camp 5 (Wind & Clearwater Cave)
As early as 7.30am, we had our light breakfast. Our meal was satisfying and all finished up in short time. Our departure/check-out was at 8.30am. The day light has already come out as early as 6.00am but we were less aware due to excessive tiredness.
We were advised to drop our extra/unused luggage/item at store room in Benarat Inn and only bring along things for 2 days used in Camp 5. We shall claim it back at Day 4. Our next 2 days activities will be spent in the Camp 5, a jungle far away in Mulu Forest were much awaited and yet mysterious.
Essential things to bring to Camp 5 are:
- Hiking shoes
- Insect repellent
- Personal first aid kit/medication
- Torch light
- Sleeping bag/light blanket
- Inflatable pillow
- Gloves (the rocks are sharp)
Climbing Pinnacles requires:
- Small back pack
- Energy snack pack lunch
- 2 water bottles (3L in total, 1 bottle will be left at halfway point for you to use when return)
Longboat brought us along the way to Kuala Litut. Our first stop after 30 minutes was at Batu Bungan Penan Settlement where we can purchase some hand-made souvenirs by locals such as baskets, bangles and mats by Penan tribe. They welcome visitors to the handicraft market and their displays of medicinal plants.
Our second stop was at the small jetty leading to Wind Cave. No doubt, as the name mentioned, we felt the wind along the way. In addition, the sculptures of the cave were amazingly created by nature. These unusual calcite formations, including the tall, slender stalagmites is located in King’s room. See photo for self-explanatory.
Just a few hundred meters upriver, there was Clearwater Cave. The route to the cave, however, was blocked by fallen tree caused by heavy rain, hence we took our boat to the pavilion nearby for tea break. The place was kept clean and not what I saw in my recent trip to waterfall. It’s more than expected and satisfactory.
At one corner, visitors can take a swim in crystal clear water. You can even feed the fishes when you swim.
From here, the Clearwater Cave is accessible in just a matter of 200 steps only. Our guide doesn’t mind to brief us about the caves history and specialty to look around. Most of the caves here were formed by the action of water dissolving the limestone and by the action of powerful rivers flowing through them, each has their own particular attraction. Very informative and worth my pennies to spend in this tour.
In Clearwater cave, the river is called water stream. It was the main element that shape the cave into what it is today in million years time. To know how it was formed, you may refer to the information board placed along the way. It took about an hour to complete this plank walk.
Then, we headed back to pavilion for lunch break and rest. Optionally, we can choose to dip and swim in the clear water river. Ang mo was spotted swim around with bikini. Local school girl’s tour also joined in as well. Of course I did. How can I miss out? LOL.
After our lunch, we transferred to Kuala Litut by long boat. It’s where our starting point of 8.8km trail trekking begins. This route will lead us to Camp 5, where our overnight accommodation a day before and after our Pinnacles hikes. We took almost 3 hours to walk through the virgin forest of 8.8km trail with much effort. Even worst, our effort was quad-triple by a heavy rain in our last 3km. It was terrible but as soon we reached Camp 5 in total wet, it was totally fun and enjoyable.
When it rains … it pours!
We cleaned up and get to our open area bed. No bed sheet and wall in between. Sleeping in a dormitory and on mats on a wooden floor was a new experience for me. Due to this concept, we were actually exposed to various insect and mosquito intermittent came from nature. We were advised to rent a mosquito net for RM10 per day each. All of us did. Toilet and shower facilities are provided and well-maintained.
Camp 5 long-house is nestled beside the beautiful Melinau River and facing the Benarat cliff. The meal provided was quite good, nearly no complaint at all. It’s suited our taste and all meals served to us were finished up, frankly says. It was guide that help to prepare our food.
At 9.00pm, we prepared our good sleep for next day Pinnacles challenge. I was a bit hesitant to sleep early but it was nothing to do in Camp 5 other than chatting. Just enjoy the restless night at restless dormitory. Good night.
Day 3 – Camp 5 to Mulu Pinnacles
My alarm buzzed at 4.40am, waking up everyone. But all started to wake up at 5.00am to catch up with 5.30am breakfast. We get ourselves prepared and ready for Pinnacles hiking in the morning. These limestone mountains of Mulu are bedecked with sharp needles along the way. The biggest and best example, The Pinnacles, is on the north end of Gunung Api Mountain.
We started our journey at 6.15am with much awaited feeling. The first 1000m steep path to the viewpoint will able to overlook the Mini Pinnacles. If the path is too rough for you, you can descend back without go further road, if not you have to complete it no matter how. A total of 3 guides with 14 hikers getting up to the Pinnacles. When the climb begins there is no turn back unless you’re in between 0-900m checkpoint distance of out 2400m. If guide decides that you cannot continue due to your fitness levels, you must comply.
This steep climb needs us to be fit. The climb will depend on weather conditions at the Pinnacles. We’re not allowed to climb if the condition is unsafe and must follow out guide’s instructions to turn back if necessary. However, it’s rarely happened that a climb is cancelled due to weather.
My climb from 500m to 900m onwards was kind of slow. I felt tired but I believe if I go slowly, I’m sure can overcome the tiredness feeling. Hundred by hundred meters passed by, we finally reached at Mini Pinnacles in one hour. That’s mean our check-point of decision making. One word, exhausted and sweats a lot. Never had we all felt such sweating pattern but we did. We form our mindset tougher to overcome the fearsome and continue with the hike.
From 900m to 1500m was another rugged ground. We finally placed our drinking bottle for later come back consume to ease our bag weight. After 3 hours hike, we reached 2000m check-point. The last 400m, the vertical cliffs and incredibly steep slopes reach summit ridges before dropping abruptly down to deep gorges and hidden valleys. Another hour spent to reach top at 2400m mark, The Pinnacles view. Yeah!
The Pinnacles view of Gunung Mulu. This sharp limestone pinnacles is beautiful and unique but don’t place a mindset of rock climbing. This rock is terrifying sharp.
Merely 40 minutes spent at peak of Gunung Api to view The Pinnacles, we were asked to start climb down. If you thought of getting down is much easier than hike up, you’re wrong. It’s required double effort and time to descend down and much painful and endure. Every step was a deep consideration or any misstep will cause injuries. Terrible feel right?
I took my step carefully without injured myself, but my feet already in pain due to sharp rock keep poking my feet when I landed my step. The pain was very much to endure and causing some wound around my feet. Each 100m is like forever to complete, from 1200m downwards … arggghhh, until 600m meters. Nearly give up on descending, but have to make it no matter what before dark.
At 5.45pm, we finally touch the ground and walk with full gratification. Yo! We made it even the last batch. I straight headed to river side to cool down my precious feet and leg. Such a good feel. Hey the day light is still there. I know I need some clean up but I was too hesitant and proceed to walk around in wet attire and snap some scenery. I must do it before its getting dark.
Cleaned up finally and had my delicious simple dinner. Our legs all like nobody, all mumbling about how they completing the descending with very much pain and endurance. From each of our eyes, I know it was a great accomplishment even though it’s tough like hell, *there’s a will, but there’s no WAY*. Our leg is not our leg. End up crawling with help of our hand. LOL.
Everyone want to have a good sleep after packing all stuffs needed for check-out tomorrow early morning. Good night everyone.
Day 4 – Camp 5 to Mulu/Miri back to KL
Early in the morning, we all picked up our bag pack and return back to Kuala Litut by foot at same distance of 8.8km where we came earlier. Terrible huh? We have to follow the schedule very tight in order to be able to catch our flight at 1.25pm.
After the 3 nights of stay (one day in Benarat Inn and two nights in Camp 5), the 8 cavemen and women flew back to reality.
We have yet to explore Lambir Hill, Niah Caves and much more forest activities listed under Mulu National Park HQ. We are definitely not giving a waste to explore these new places if opportunity arises.