I was slightly reluctant to be joining in the garden of Eden valley walk at Mulu national park, after hearing so many stories about how hard it was and the amount of climbing involved; as well as the fact you get your shoes wet.
However, that didn't deter me and after walking through the Lang's cave and enjoying the rather artistic stalactites and stalagmites there, we headed to the Deer cave, next door.
|Lang's cave artistic rocks|
The Deer cave
|Abraham Lincoln view from Deer cave|
The Deer cave is apparently the second largest cave passage in the world (the largest open to visitors). The opening sits on the side of a limestone mountain facing the lush rainforest. Inside, small waterfalls shower from the roof, and as you enter you can hear the squeaking of the 3 million bats as they almost drown out your thoughts.
|Deer cave - 2nd largest cave passage in the World|
I looked up to see a quivering shadow on the ceiling above, and below heaps of guano (bat poo). This stuff is literally piled up like pyramids, and cascading down and onto the board walk in places.
I stopped to take a closer look at the fine powdery particles of brown ... faeces. Close up it looks almost alive, as small cockroaches and earwigs fester amongst the loose top layer.
The smell is bad. It was evident from the entrance, but as you reach the boardwalk that crosses to the other side of the cave, the wave of ammonia hits you, almost burning the inside of your nostrils.
The air is full of floating particles and with a head torch, the bugs are attracted to the light. I was reluctant to breath, fearing I would inhale something unpleasant, or worse, swallow a nasty buzzing creature or two.
The immense size of the cave is impressive. The mountains of guano infested with cockroaches, earwigs and other bugs is ... scary!
The entire cave is accessible along the manmade boardwalk. So unless you are heading out to the garden of Eden valley, you can avoid walking directly on the guano, and will keep your shoes reasonably clean. I read somewhere about putting plastic bags on your feet to be sure.
The garden of Eden
For the garden of Eden valley, we have to head off the 'safe' path, through the guano.
Then comes the stream. I managed to step across on the stones, keeping my feet dry.
Then another stream, unfortunately much deeper. Of course I was gloating from having kept my shoes dry, wondering what all the fuss was about.
Further on we have to scramble over guano covered rocks as bat waste rains down from above. My hands are grubby with the excrement and I'm reluctant to brush away the sweat that is dripping down my forehead from fear of literally getting - shit on my face.
Next, there's a difficult climb up and over a slippery wall of limestone, just before the exit into the valley. My knee gives way and I am almost unable to pull myself up with the wet rope that dangles above me. The guide suggests I turn back, and scares me with promises of it getting harder as we venture on. I continue despite this.
Round the corner is another hard ascent over rock, but I instead head for the pool below, and wade in. I'm already wet, so I don't care. I swim the few metres to the other side, carefully trying to avoid the floaters on the surface of the water.
|There are floaters in the water :(|
I wait for the rest of the group at the mouth of the cave, as they struggle with their bags to clamber across more rocks. I am dripping wet, with water spilling from my shoes.
The valley before us is beautiful, making the hike totally worthwhile. The green, lush jungle climbs upwards from the river and appears almost untouched compared to other areas of the national park, as there are no boardwalks here.
We still had a reasonable hike to the waterfall. With the threat of leeches we waded on through the stream, shoes sodden.
The route to the waterfall is along a jungle lined trail, intertwined with tree roots and numerous plants which are home to the leeches. I avoided brushing my ankles against them as best I could, making it up, over and down to the waterfall without any attaching themselves to me.
A cool clear waterfall greeted us, so the others in the group headed across the slippery rocks to enjoy a swim in the deeper pool. I just paddled around in the shallow area. It was a lovely little spot.
Whilst enjoying the rest, I found a leech on my hand, immediately questioning whether these creatures went in the water, as I had been informed they didn't. The sticky end of its body sucked hard, as I extracted it from one hand, it moved like a slinky fixing itself to the other. These things are not easy to remove. So, I eventually resorted to a leaf to assist as a barrier.
Then as I got out of the water, another, much larger leech was hanging from my left leg. Seriously... Do they live in the water? Our guide was adamant they didn't.
After lunch, we headed back down. I only picked up another two leeches along the way, slowing me down at the back of the group, where I was already lagging.
The climb seemed some what harder going back, as I clambered over the guano covered rocks again, avoiding spiders and other scurrying creatures. I pulled myself round the edge of a large rock, pressing my hand against the wall of rock ahead to steady myself from falling. As I turned to look up, my headlight lit the rock before me, shining onto the thousands of tiny cockroaches that are looking back at me. I gave a little yelp, and slowly, as carefully as I could, I extracted my hand, avoiding another stumble. This was no place to panic.
By the time we reached the other side of the deer cave, I was splattered with guano, and smelling absolutely foul. It didn't matter, it was a fun and gruelling adventure, and definitely the highlight of Mulu for me.