The highlight of my stay at Mulu National Park in Borneo was a three day trek and climb to the pinnacles, an interesting limestone rock formation at an altitude of 1200m, embedded in the dense rainforest that covers the plains and mountains at Mulu National Park. A trekking adventure that involved boat transfers on longboats on beautiful jungle rivers, walks through the flat part of the rainforest, and moderate climbs over roots, leaves, and at times slippery limestone, supported by fixed ladders and ropes.
Meeting my companions
This trekking adventure was only available as part of an organized tour and a minimum number of three participants. Unfortunately I could not convince my wife Ilinca to join me, so I subscribed alone for the tour. As the groups will be up to ten people per guide, I was hoping that at least two more people subscribe to the tour, but not too many because the larger the group, the higher the chances to get people on the group I would rather not travel with.
I only met my companions on the morning the trek started: Three girls. I was a bit surprised because I assumed this kind of activity is more of a guy’s thing, but probably I am just too old-fashioned. But of course the surprise was clearly on the positive side. All fun people with their own interesting past. Claire from the UK, and Evelyne and Lucil from the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
Moving to Camp 5
On day one of the trek, we went upriver on a longboat. As the water in rivers through the jungle can be very shallow, longboats are the perfect means of transport as they don’t go deep into the water. But even then sometimes it is necessary for everybody to get out of the boat and push it over the rocks. Luckily for us, there was heavy rain last night and the water levels were high enough to pass without getting wet feet.
After around one hour upriver, we were dropped off in the middle of the rainforest. From there, it was an unguided 10 km walk through the rainforest. Thanks to the heavy rain last night, it was not very hot that day, but still hot enough to arrive soaking wet from sweating at Camp 5.
On the way to Camp 5 we did not see any interesting wildlife, which might also have been due to the talking along the way. The only animals that we noticed were leeches as they were suddenly attached to my socks and trying to make their way through them to suck my blood. Two of them I could stop before they reached their goal, a third one was more successful and at least made me bleed for a while. But I should not complain, because I was carrying special leech socks in my backpack but I was too lazy to put them on.
After 2.5 hours we finally arrived at Camp 5, a forest camp with a surprisingly nice infrastructure such as showers, toilets incl. toilet paper, a kitchen, and dining tables. The only problem: the place was infested with hundreds if not thousands of huge bees which were going after everything sweaty. So the first thing to do was to jump inside the river nearby and was the clothes. Afterwards the situation was slightly better and during the night, the bees also got their well-deserved sleep. We were told afterwards that the main reason the bees are here is not our sweaty trekking gear but the fact that the durian trees nearby were in blossom.
After a simple self-cooked dinner, we met our guide Imran for the climb to the pinnacles the next day. Somehow he felt the need to scare everybody a bit by exaggerating how tough the climb would be and many people already got insured. The next day would show that it was just a normal hike as we have tons of them in the Swiss Alps.
Climbing to the pinnacles
Camp 5 is only located at 150 m above sea level, the pinnacles are at around 1200 m. So we had a 1000 m climb ahead of us. And in contrast to the walk the day before, it only went in one direction: upwards! First we were climbing through dense rainforest on a small path, but the closer we got to the top, we had to climb over rocks and roots. The slippery and risky passages were all secured either by ropes or metal ladders. The most challenging part of the climb however was the heat and humidity, and I was really happy that at least we were walking in the shadows of the trees and not in the sun.
After nearly four hours incl. all breaks, we finally reached the pinnacles. A beautiful view on limestone rocks that have been transformed into sharp needles by the rain, however my expectations were a bit higher. Only for the rocks I would not do that hike again, but the path up through the jungle was really awesome.
On the way down, which took at least as long as the climb, we met a few animals. A snake decided to cross my path about 1m in front of me, and lots of big butterflies, caterpillars, and worms were sitting on trees right next to the path.
Back at Camp 5, the same story as the day before: tons of bees. And the same solution: A quick bath in the river and washing out our clothes.
Returning to Mulu
On day three, we walked back the same 10 km path to the river where we went downstream in a longboat to Mulu National Park’s headquarter. As it had not rained the last two days, the water levels were lower today and at one point everybody had to go out of the boat and push it for about 10m.
At noon, we reached our goal. It was an awesome adventure and we were a great group of companions. And even though the pinnacles alone would not be worth such a trip, it is the whole adventure with sleeping in a jungle camp and the climb up in the rainforest which made this trip an unforgettable adventure.