If you have ever seen the best documentaries series ever made (BBC’s Planet Earth, which we super highly recomend) you will feel confortable with this and the next posts since we are starting the main course of our trip. Niah Caves and the Gunung Mulu national park.
But first things first, today we took a small van to the UNESCO world heritage site of the Niah Caves. As the name says the main attraction here are the limestone caves, what the name does not say its the grandeur of theese…
After walking for about an hour from the park entrance we arrived to the Traders Cave (which is actually a cavern – meening that it is very wide open on one side. A bit like the difference between a tunnel and a bus shelter), where we coud see the rests of an early bird’s nest and guano collectors settlement used as a trading post with the costal traders, hence the name.
Few minutes further we got to west mouth of the great cave. 60m high and 250m wide, it definetly deserves the name!!! And it is only the entrance… Moving into the cave we got the feeling of being in a huge place, althoug dark, you could feel how big these chambers where, foremost when the powerfull torch would’t make it to the opposite wall or ceiling. Even more spectacular are the bamboo and ironwood (belian) poles used by the local birds’ nest collectors. I have no idea how they hang them on the ceilings to later climb on them to collect the saliva-made swiftlets’ nests highly regarded in Chinese cuisine (birds’ nest soup is a very exxclusive plate as caviar is in Europe). Fortunately, the park constantly monitors the harvesting to keep the swiftlets population healty and avoid yet another ecological catastrophy caused by Chinese beliefs (see turtle eggs poaching and most remarkably shark finning).
After walking for about an hour in the dark we emerged on the other side of the cave where we walked through the forest to the Painted cave, a very quiet and relaxing place where old cave paintings and death-ships (boat shaped coffins) illustrate the burial beliefs of early Niah settlers.
On the way back after going through the great cave we decided to have a look at the longhouse nearby and of course to take the other branch of the plankwalk… Well lets say it would have been easier to listen to the kiosk ladies saying “tida bagus, tida bagus (not good, not good)” but then what explorers would we be ;) ? So we took it and had to crawl under, jump over, climb around fallen trees that where blocking the way… Well it was hot but fun!