Probably one of the most adventurous trips we have ever made was the one in Borneo. There we lost our clothes in the darkness of the jungle, frequently greeted a poisonous green snake on our way to the toilet, got our clothes flooded in sweat on a daily basis and slept next to a swarm of wasps, thoroughly surrounding ourselves with mosquito nets.
We landed in Kuching coming from the continent. After eating jellyfish and other local delicacies in a restaurant situated in a giant parking lot, we head towards Semenggoh Nature Reserve, which is the largest Orangutan Rehabilitation center from the region of Sarawak. Our encounter with the Orangutans is truly endearing, their gestures and expressions are so human like, that it’s truly fascinating. It’s not surprising, since they share 97% of the DNA with us humans. Sadly, our relatives are an endangered species, due to the lost of habitat caused by deforestation. This is in big part because of the voracious consumption of palm oil in our society. Knowingly or unknowingly, we may all be contributing to it, since palm oil is in many of the processed foods we eat. The WWF publishes a yearly scoring of the all the big brands. You can check here https://palmoilscorecard.panda.org if your favourite ones are in the green or in the red.
Our next stop is at Bako National Park. We arrive by boat and the place soon reveals itself as some sort of little paradise, where we happily discover several species on monkeys hoping through the branches or simply laying in the sun at sunset. Also you can hike through several trails to suddenly find yourself in lonely paradisiac beaches, where you can pleasantly take a cooling swim or lay in the yellow sand, before continuing your hike.
Wildlife presents itself in all shape and form here. Be it giant insects, slippery amphibians, colourful snakes or carnivore plants, they are all here.
It was also precious to see how the locals live their everyday lives in some remote corners of the jungle. How the children get their bath at the end of their school day, how the generations live together on their long houses. We spend some time with them in one of these long houses, they explain to us that they are built on top of wooden poles to avoid flooding in the rainy season. It’s a nice stay, eating local food, playing with the children and listening to their stories and learning about their traditions, when the night comes.
One morning we jump into some sort of canoe headed towards Mulu National park. Early enough we realise that the river does not have as much water as expected and many times we have to jump out the canoes and push till we find deeper water. The journey is quite arduos and what should have been a 3 hour boat ride ends up taking more than 7. As a result we arrive to the begin of our hike shortly before sunset. There’re 11 Km of jungle between us and our overnight camp. The prospect of having to cross the thicket in the dark, gives renewed energy to our legs and we start to hike vigorously through the wild terrain, while the vegetation starts to cover itself with scary shadows and animal noises. Inevitably it gets dark before we reach the camp. So we adjust our flash lights around our foreheads and continue walking through the darkness like there’s no tomorrow. Indescribable feeling of relieve when we finally reach the camp and are greeted by the park rangers. Who doesn’t really make it that night are the porters that we had hired to carry our big backpacks, so we have nothing with us except our sweaty clothes and our day bags. No sleeping bags, no soap, no towels. The rangers lend us some dusty blankets and advise to go to sleep and not to worry about the porters. They reckon they had probably stop walking with the fall of the darkness and that they will probably show up the morning after. Spot on.
The day after is marked till today in the books of our personal histories, like the one we embark in the toughest hike ever. The trail is 4 Km long. We think, how hard can it be? Very. We learn the hard way that over the 4,8 Km it ascends more than 1 Km, Making some parts strictly vertical. Going up is not so much of a problem, but going down in the rain, trying not to loose grip through the slippery rocks, dead leaves and branches, is a calvary. The reward are some amazing views from the top of some amazing pinnacles, just before the fog makes them invisible.
The rest of our time in Mulu is spent exploring impressive caves. Some of them inhabited by millions of bats that make their way out every sunset, selling the sky with never-ending dark highways of flying rats.
Our last stop in Borneo is in Kota Kinabalu, the town at the feet of Mount Kinabalu, that with 4095 m of altitude, it’s the highest of the island. We have all best intentions to climb it, and we start with energy in the morning. By the time we make it to the refugee at 3300 m, it’s pouring down and we are soaking wet. It’s really hard to get our body heat back, so we just eat something, remove our clothes, wrap ourselves into a couple of sleeping bags and try to get some rest, since we want to attack the summit before sunrise the morning after. But this unfortunately doesn’t happen. The rain continues and the rangers strongly advise us against venturing uphill, so we take it easy during breakfast and head down when the weather clears up a bit.
Our adventure concludes with the most soothing foot massage, once we are back in Kota Kinabalu, and a delicious restoring dinner at the local market, where you can just pick a fresh fish from the fish monger and have it grilled for you in one of the grill stands. Quite delicious.