The World’s Largest Cavern
Mulu, Borneo – The 40-seat plane had about eight of us aboard as it banked toward the runway in the middle of the jungle. We slowly taxied to the terminal which was as large as my home in Middletown. The men unloaded the few bags from the craft onto a gurney and pulled it to the open luggage receiving counter.
Our objective was Deer Cave, the largest cavern in the world. The claim has been challenged by Vietnam and the issue has been submitted for adjudication at The Hague. We are all cheering, much like a football match, for Mulu to win. I mean, with a name like Mulu, how could they lose? Still, those Dutch are a funny bunch, fair and all that.
We stayed at the Royal Mulu Resort about $161 per night plus breakfast and dinner, but $100 cheaper if you are from Malaysia. We used my wife’s name to make our two-day reservation. The extras were all very expensive by Malaysian standards. A Coke cost $3.33 and lunch about $10 for three of us. Very exorbitant, we all agreed.
The rooms were constructed of wood from the forest as it would have been prohibitively expensive to fly building materials in from the closest port, Miri. Wooden walkways and bridges spanned a stream to the room section and also connected the restaurant, lounge, office and pool. Satellite television in the rooms brought programming from China, Japan, England Australia and sitcoms from the United States, America’s contribution to culture.
Deer Cave, we were told, was named after the animal a group of people were chasing for their evening meal. The entrance was hidden by a huge tree and they stumbled into this hidden treasure. Alternatively, according to Wikipedia (which is probably the most unreliable source of information on the net), claims it was named after the salt in the mountain the deer came to lick. I like the first version better.
We took a souped-up golf cart to the Mulu National Park Headquarters and were grouped with a two 20-something blonde, darkly tanned with bleached white teeth ladies who were probably volleyball players and complained about getting leaches. There was also a young scholarly photographer from the Netherlands dressed in a jungle colonial kit, and honeymooners from Wisconsin who were at odds with each other, the glow from the wedding long expired. Our party consisted of my wife, our four-month-old son Dzul, my daughter Christine from the States, and me.
The 3.2 km walk to the cave was along a well-kept boardwalk with just a few gentle slopes, a far cry from the slashing and climbing my wife and I were used to. The major attraction, where everyone stopped and took pictures, were of a pair of millipedes or centipedes, I forget which, mating.
The path took us to a park station where we could rest for the onward journey to the caves. There were toilet facilities, other rangers and a guy selling soft drinks at the reasonable price of $1.50, further evidence the resort was a massive rip off.
To be continued…next week
Other articles about Borneo can be found on Tom’s blog at www.borneotom.com