On the Road Again 7 Monday 20th to sunday 26th March

Monday 20th March

The longhouse facilities are somewhat limited, hot water being one of them. Our room has the luxury of a bathroom but it is a bit cramped and we only have cold water; fine in the sink but for a shower - not very inviting in the cooler climate! Doug discovered the ONE shower in the entire place which is heated! It's not very salubrious but it will do.

The inner veranda with our rooms to the left
The outer veranda
..... with views across the paddy fields
Johnson - our guide for the day

Johnson, our guide is going to take us to see how the famous Bario salt is produced. Then we will go to the pineapple farm and finally to the sheep farm.

We (Jo, Jong, Tanu and her in-laws and 5 year old Ishan) all pile into the pick-up truck. Jo, Jong and myself travel in the back. (My choice) The journey isn't long, so standing up in the back isn't an issue, in fact it's fun.

We walk to a cluster of makeshift wooden shacks where a family group are producing the prized and expensive salt which comes from one of a few natural salt springs in this area. The salty, spring water is boiled in vats slowly at first until the liquid is greatly reduced which could take a few days.

Stainless steel vats of boiling salt water
It's a family affair
Bamboo tubes

Then the wet salt is packed into the hollow bamboo tubes which are placed upright in a stand so that any remaining water drips out. The bamboo sticks are then placed in the fire to dry the salt completely. After that it is cooled and split and the mineral-rich, hardened salt is then wrapped in palm leaves ready to sell. It is expensive compared to ordinary salt but highly prized as it's so pure & rich in minerals.

Living quarters

We walked over to the pineapple farm but unfortunately, the gate was locked so we continued on to the sheep farm. We weren't too interested in the sheep - not exactly a novelty for us Northern Europeans!

Lambs are always cute!
Logging roads were a bit muddy in places
But not all the way

The jeep was waiting for us further up the track and we set off.

Watched a truck being pulled out of the mud

Stopped for Malaysian 'ice-cream' on the way back.

It's called 'ABC'k

ABC is colourful, shaved ice with sugar, sweet corn and fruit. Then it was back to the longhouse in time for lunch.

In the afternoon Doug and I decided to walk into the village - a twenty minute walk.

The clouds are gathering- again!

Close to the Cultural l Rainforest Museum is where you can pick up Wifi apparently and we need to book a flight to Mulu.

Mission accomplished after some frustration with the on - off connections. Then on the way home Doug stops off for a haircut.

'No. 2' seems to be a universal language

Home in time to catch the sunset.

Tuesday 21st March

Jo and Jong are leaving today. We'll be sorry to see them go; they have been perfect companions. Now, everyone is waiting to see if Tanu's husband, Hans will be able to get a seat on the incoming flight and get here in time for his father's birthday tomorrow.

After breakfast we have a downpour and it seems like the rain is set in for the day. Looks like the washing I did yesterday is just not going to be dry by tomorrow when we have to leave.

By midday, the rain eases off & we decide to walk into the village to the internet area. We meet Scott returning from the airport in his muddy, orange pick-up truck with Hans who has made it to Bario!

The internet area & centre of town!

Internetting, successful. Hotel booked. We celebrate with a cup of coffee at one of the basket weaver's 'shops' and meet Leong. I met him yesterday & he'd told me where to get my campon adidas shoes. These are copies of the classic adidas shoes made and molded in plastic that all the locals wear. They are quite comfortable and more importantly, they're waterproof! Leong speaks excellent English & tells us that he used to work for Shell and is now back in Bario running its first Air BnB. Full range of subjects are covered & the Dutch family arrive but we leave them to catch up with Hans.

Basket weaving done in between serving coffee
Rattan baskets of all shapes & sizes
.... and the colourful plastic variety

We call in at the Y2K (the mini market shop) and buy 6 beers to share with the Dutch later. Bario is a mainly Evangelical town and this is the only place to get beer and there is no choice - only Skol.

Scenes on our walk home :

A Patient Mother
Looks like rain again
Just liked the blue
Walking through the school area
Notice board tells us 'Wednesday is English Day'
Back to our Homestay

Sit on the veranda with the Dutch and share the beer and the last of our whiskey with Drees (don't know if that's the correct spelling- the father who will be 75 tomorrow.)

Wednesday 22nd March

Up early this morning. Our plane is at 10.20. Buy some salt and pack up, but our washing is still very wet! Makes our bags heavier and weight is a premium! Say our 'goodbyes' to the Dutch and the Longhouse family and set off with Scott and little Ishan who is just coming along for the ride.

Bario Airport's 'duty free' shop!

Announcement board

Weighing in again!
Watching ou plane arrive
Sitting further back this time. And we're off......

A smooth flight - I'm beginning to enjoy this sort of flying! I never thought I would, but it feels like 'real flying'. Then again, we've been lucky with the weather.

Back in Miri to wait for our connecting flight to Mulu in a slightly bigger plane.

Whereas, the Twin Otter had two seats on the right and one on the left, this one has two seats either side of the aisle and seats about 40.

On arrival, we pick up a taxi. Even though we are only about 1.5 km from the airport, travelling can be tiring.

Our plane from Miri to Mulu
Mulu Airport
Arriving at Gunung Mulu National Heritage Park

This is going to be a very different adventure! The reception centre is modern, clean and very efficient. We have to book our guided trips immediately; they have limited places & they fill up very quickly. That done, we follow the well signposted, wooden walkways to our lodge. It is large and well-equipped, the bathroom is tiled and clean and the beds are fairly soft. Hang our wet washing out to dry and take the unguided 'botanical' jungle walk which is 1.5 km. It is getting dark and starting to rain as we reach the restaurant. The insects and frogs are coming alive and the jungle music takes over for the night .....

Thursday 23rd March

This morning is bright and very hot and the clothes that were rained on last night are already almost dry. Leisurely breakfast followed by some internetting and a catch up with the news. We don't have a trip booked until 2.30 this afternoon so take a few pictures of our immediate surroundings.

Ours is right at the end

The walkways are very necessary because when it rains here, it rains and the grass is under water.!

However, now it is hot and sunny so a bit more washing is done before lunch.

At 2ish we start assembling for our trek to the caves. Our guide is quietly spoken and doesn't give much away along the 3 -4 km walk.

We head for Deer Cave first, so named because it was discovered by hunters following deer. It is supposed to be the largest cave in the world. Our route inside the cave is about 2km long but strictly keeping to the designated path. - no graffiti here! There is a certain amount of stepping on bat guano and it is very slippery in places. It is the immensity of the place that is astonishing (and we have visited quite a few large caves since we've been in Malaysia)

The next cave, The Lang Cave is smaller but the rock formations, even to a cave- weary tourist such as I, shake the senses and awaken the imagination. Let the jaw dropping begin.....

The photographs do not do the caves justice.

The final stop is just outside the cave. There is a sort of 'viewing' platform opposite the cave entrance to watch the daily bat exodus. Millions of them spiralling out in clouds between 4 and 6pm is an awesome sight. It doesn't happen if it rains because raindrops interrupts the bats radar.

It's raining ....... in fact, it's a downpour and no self respecting bat would be seen out in this. It is obvious that the rain is not going to stop so we set off to walk the 4 to 5 km back to the centre and by the time we reach our destination we are completely soaked - and I mean 'wringing out the underwear soaked!'. Just hope the sun shines tomorrow.

Friday 24th March

Up bright and early this morning. More caves but with a difference. This time we are going by longboat through the jungle river and very exhilarating it is too.

We zip along at a good speed

The Wind cave was named because a certain section, a narrow passageway has a cool breeze blowing through it.

There are many more examples of columns and stalagmites here than stalactites and awesome really is the word.

There is a 200 step climb up to Clearwater Cave and again it is vast. It has a sizeable subterranean river running through it which as the name suggests is crystal clear.

Return journey was by long tail boat again and most pleasant.

Morning wash

It is a hot day but the clothes and shoes we put out to dry on our veranda this morning are still not dry which is a bit worrying. We are committed to the Night Trek this evening starting at 7pm and it's clouding over ......

There are about eight of us on the Night Walk and we have come prepared with torches, and rain wear. The guides will cancel if it rains but are very reluctant to do so because then they don't get paid!

About five minutes into the tail the rain starts. At first it isn't too bad but very soon it is torrential. The path is very slippery and dangerous so our guide uses an alternative route, mainly on the boardwalks. We all plough on manfully and our guide points out some amazing creatures. Photography is almost impossible unless you are using underwater cameras! With water pouring down my iPhone and with slippery wet fingers, I managed to get a few shots....

A beautiful flying lizard
A large female stick insect
More stick insects
A little tree frog
Had to include this tarantula even though it is such a bad photo!
A viper high above our heads

Our guide did ask us if we wanted to continue at one point in the walk but we all reasoned that as we couldn't get any wetter we might as well continue.

We saw a surprising number of creatures despite the awful weather but it has been a tiring day and we have one more trekking activity tomorrow before we fly to Miri.

Saturday 25th March

Early start again this morning and we're praying for good weather because we're running out of dry clothes!

It's the Canopy Skywalk this morning. Mulu has a 480m long skywalk which is reputably one of the best in SE Asia. We were lucky to get one it as it often gets booked out.

Only two people are allowed on a section at one time

The views are worth braving the swaying, creaking bridges.

Back at 'base camp' our clothes, draped over every available space, were drying nicely but the shoes/hiking boots were still soaking.

After a while there was nothing for it but to wrap them in plastic bags and pack them.

Taxi to Mulu Airport. Flight from Mulu to Miri and after a two hour wait another flight from Miri to Kota Kinabalu, Saba.

Our hotel, is the Kalgan; a bit upmarket for us but it's good to have a bit more comfort now and again. KK itself is more built up than I'd anticipated and I don't take to it immediately but it is late when we get in so we eat in the voluminous dining hall, with one other couple in the far corner, Skype Sam and then have an early night.

Sunday 26th March

After breakfast and another Skype session, with Hannah this time, we go off for a bit of sightseeing around KK. The fruit and veg market is in full swing but after noticing a row of sewing machines, I rushed back to the hotel to get my burnt skirt. The machinists were all men. I approached one with the damaged article. He said he would be about ten minutes so we wandered about the market taking a few pictures:

Don't know what these wee girls were carrying

The streets of KK didn't have the same charm as some of the other towns we had visited.

Glancing down, I discovered someone's wallet lying on the ground complete with identity card and credit cards, so leaving Doug sitting on a bench doing some research, I set off to find the Police Station. It was a bit further than I thought but handed it in and continued our meandering. Found a nicer part of town where most of the backpacker hostels were located. It was brighter and lined with arty type shops and trendy coffee and cake cafes. Resisted those and opted for a Mexican meal instead.

Feeling much more positive, we wandered over to the seafront where groups of people were sitting or milling around waiting for the sunset. And what a sunset it turned out to be!!

Just the beginning

Couldn't stop taking pictures!

Then, we wandered into the fish/restaurant area and were completely astounded at the colours there as well.

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