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August 12, 2015

Arduous Climbs To Graffiti Covered Cave Walls

Tom McLaughlin

Gua Sirah, Malaysian Borneo – "A cave? Sure, we will go to a cave!" In my mind's eye, I had visions of walking into an opening straight from the road and viewing the rock art.

I was told the art was extremely beautiful and some thought it dated from a more modern time, say about 100 years ago as opposed 20 or 30 thousand years past.

I was still hurting from the climb up the mountain, hill really, to visit the coal mines two days ago. A stroll through rice fields would be a nice diversion from the hard aching ascent.

We had a hard time finding the entrance to the cave. We walked down several blind paths that took us to an unusually pretty cave where a stream of crystal clear water flowed out of the hill/mountain. Finally, we enlisted the help of two Bidayu boys on a motorbike to show us the exact path. It was a brush covered sort of trail.

We walked to the side of a mountain and I was looking for the opening when I saw the wooden steps and then I looked up. There, was a series of steps leading straight up to an opening about 30 stories up the side of this hill/mountain. They were made of Belian wood, a very hard timber in this part of the world and had a merciful landing every 10 steps.

Dr. Jerry Drawhorn, my wife and the driver scurried up the steps while I huffed and puffed to the first landing, knees aching. My wife saw I was having a bit of a problem and came down to help. Vainly, I waved her away. My determination to reach the top was all there.

After a slow and awkward climb, I made it to the mouth of the cave and looked inside to the wonders it be held.

The stalagmites came down from the ceiling about half way. They were a light gold color, and they were coming down like a very pregnant corkscrew. The floor of the cave was divided in half with a fence with strands of barbed wire on the top. It marked an archaeological research site that had been abandoned about 15 to 20 years ago. I could understand why they would not want to dismantle the chain link and carry it back down.

It took some time for us to get used to the dark colors after the tropical sun. After a while, we could pick out the graffiti from the original rock art. A closer inspection, mainly by my wife because I couldn't see anything, allowed us to outline the ancient figures in a dark blue. Once she showed me, I was able to see for myself. The lines were there, but they made no sense to me.

We, of course, forgot our flashlights, which means another trip to the cave to see the stupendous rock art that is supposed to be in the deep recesses of the cave. This means another trip.

The way down was much easier, but I really felt my knees the day after.

...Life is good. . . . .


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