Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mulu Caves, Borneo

Deer Cave

Deer cave, located in Mulu, Malaysia on the island of Borneo, has the largest cave passage in the world.  You can fit a Boeing 747 in there (no lie).  We first learned about it on the Planet Earth series when Jake was little more than 3 years old.  Back then, even with the plans of cruising so clearly laid out in our heads, Borneo seemed so far away and so exotic.  It wasn’t even on our radar.  We’ve seen that documentary more times than I can count, but over the past few years, Borneo didn’t seem so far away.  In fact, it was only a few hundred miles.

Once we arrived in Malaysia, it was a no brainer making a decision on what land travel to do here.  We headed to Mulu Caves.  The first bit of excitement was Jake’s first ride on a “propeller plane.”  The only way to get to Mulu is by plane, so we took the short hop from Kuching to Mulu Saturday morning.  We were immediately wisked away to our hotel for a quick check in.  We were pleasantly surprised as the hotel is in the process of being upgraded to a Marriott, so all of the rooms and facilities have been recently renovated, to include air conditioning, satellite TV, marble tile in the bathroom and down comforters on the king size bed!!!  Woo hoo!





Our greeter person (no idea what her official title was but her job was to get us from one place to another), caught us a ride to the National Park for a VERY quick tour of the headquarters and some lunch.  From there, we met our guide Lucas (and were fortunate enough to have him all to ourselves, not mixed in with hoards of other people) and our adventure began.  We figured out we walked about 4 miles that first afternoon.  It included a long jungle walk and touring of two caves, Lang Cave and Deer Cave.  Both were spectacular.  I thought Lang Cave had better formations, but the massive size of Deer Cave impressed everyone.  Jake’s favorite part was the huge amounts of roaches eating the guana mountains (aka bat poop) that covered the cave floors.  He insisted we take pictures so he could send them back to Gigi (his grandmother) to freak her out.  The downside to the day was the long bout of rain we had in the afternoon.  Apparently, bats don’t like to go out and eat in the rain, so we weren’t able to see the mass exodus of bats at sunset like we had hoped.   And we had to walk the mile and a half back to the main headquarters soaking wet.

View from the trail we took back to Deer Cave

There was a nice walk way the whole way through the park.

Critters...

more critters.....


Jake says they called these "smelly worms" but I'm not too sure
about that.  The strings you see hanging are long strands of mucus
used to catch flying insects for the worms to eat.



Inside one of the caves.



The second day started early with a half hour long boat ride to the Wind Cave and Clearwater cave.  The Wind cave was by far my favorite as it had the intricate formations and just looked more like the images I had in my head (only better).  Clearwater cave was cool in as much as it had a river flowing through it.  Not so cool was the 900-1000 steps we had to climb – I’m not exaggerating AT ALL.
We were done with our tours by noon and headed back to the hotel.  All of our legs were shaking from all the walking and stair climbing we did so we just vegged out the rest of the afternoon.  We booked an extra day at the hotel just to relax, so Monday was spent by the pool and in the room soaking up the air conditioning and catching up on the news.

It was a cozy ride up the river.



The underground river in Clearwater Cave.



Note the satellite dish on the left side of the porch...


We arrived back to Savannah yesterday all relaxed.  Now we have to restock our fridge and get some of this stinky laundry taken care of.  It’s nice to be home, but oh was that a great vacation.  Borneo still seems exotic and I know it really is far away, but now we’re lucky enough to have checked that box.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Crocs and Orangutans…more fun in Kuching

One of the biggest questions I get here at home is “So, do you guys just hang out in the water all day and drink beer?” (or some version of that).  The answer this year is “No, we’re up a muddy river with crocodiles and when we’re in blue water there are box jellies….but yes, we do drink beer.”  For all those people who don’t believe me (the non swimming part, no the beer part), I thought it would be fun to post this for you…
Remember when I came back to the states last year and Jake and Andy came across this little fellow in Palau?



This year I come back to the states and they come across this little fellow swimming in the marina…



That's about 10 feet long if you were wondering.  Not even Andy will go swimming with that thing.

Since I’ve been home, Jake and Andy have been holding down the Savannah fort doing school, fixing things and trying not to melt away from all the heat.  They did manage to fit some fun in there, though.  They’ve bought some remote control helicopters and have spent hours and hours flying those things around.  They spent a day going to the cat museum (Kuching means cat so the city is full of everything cats), although I don’t think Jake was too impressed.  And just the other day, they went to see the orangutans at the nearby rehabilitation center.  According to Ranger Rick (yes, Ranger Rick is a legitimate source, especially when I have one in my hand right now.), most of these little guys were taken from their moms when they were babies and sold as pets and now people don’t want them anymore.  Others were displaced as the rainforest gets cut down all over Borneo.  Many have been released back out into the wild and this time of year is apparently fruiting season.  This means those animals don’t need to come back to the center for feeding.  So when Andy and Jake went, they mostly saw babies that were still in captivity.  They also saw sun bears and porcupines.  Guess what impressed Jake the most?  Porcupines.  Yep, porcupines.








Me, my adorable niece (see a resemblance?), brother, dad,
sister-in-law, and growing way to fast nephew.  Oh,
and dog, Wrigley.
Here in the states, my dad has been getting better and my trip is winding down.  We celebrated dad’s 71 birthday, I’ve gotten to visit a few college friends and I’ve loaded up my suitcase with all those things we thought we weren’t going to get this year (new clothes, videos, cups, cool birthday gifts for Jake, etc.).

I’m glad to be heading home next week, although sorry to leave my family here.  Andy saved the cave trip for me so a week after I get back we’ll be heading to the Mulu caves for a little R&R (don’t roll your eyes at me…I’ll have you know we work hard and are all in need of a vacation – I’m pretty sure I’m typing this with a straight face.).


Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes for dad…keep ‘em up, he has a long row to hoe.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We're in the jungle, baby!


We haven’t seen any crocodiles, no monkeys and we only passed longhouses (no invites yet), but we've seen lots of jungle and finally found the grubs!  As we made our way up the Rajang River, we stopped at a town called Sarakei.  It’s known for it’s succulent, sweet pineapples (and we confirm, they are the best we’ve ever eaten) and their black pepper production.  We anchored for the night and as we were waiting on the tide the next day, we went into the Saturday market.  For the size of the town, it was a bustling market with extremely friendly people…they don’t get many tourists here.  It had everything you could possibly want and some of what you don’t want.  That’s what we bought….sago grubs. 

Now, if you’ve followed along for the past year or so, you’ll know that Jake is into eating gross things (but don’t ask him to eat potato salad…that’s disgusting you know).  He’s tried grasshoppers, termites, chicken parts (all of them), and even rat.  All he could talk about was grubs (thanks again, “Man vs. Wild”).  So when we finally saw them wiggling around in their little bowls in the market, Jake had to have them.  Funny enough, so did Chris, the father of Jake’s new friend.  They had come up the river with us on they’re sailboat.  Chris has lived in Thailand for quite some time so he’s no stranger to bugs.  I think this added a little encouragement to Jake as well. 


After Jake decided he just couldn’t stomach a live one (his original plan), Andy pan fried a few in some bacon fat and garlic salt.  The first attempt was quick…it went in his mouth and right back out.  After watching Andy eat one and then a reluctant mom try one, he took another shot at it.  He chewed for a bit but when the insides spewed out he, had to as well.  Finally, after promising him and extra hour on the iPad if he could swallow one and keep it down, he gobbled up the deep friend grub and decided he wasn’t going to die (but he did not care for the taste any more than the first time).

Surprisingly, Andy and I were not deterred.  Andy deep fried the rest of them (of course he deep fried them),  Chris sauted his in some oil and a soy sauce mixture, and I cooked the local midin (a fern type veggie) we had bought.  We had Rajang River appetizer night.  I have to say, Chris’ version was my favorite. 

With the grub challenge past us, we spent the next day motoring further up the river to the town of Sibu.  I have to say, this little town 60 miles from the mouth of the river is MUCH bigger and busier than I had imagined.  There are dredgers, tugs, barges with logs, container ships and lots and lots of fast moving ferries.  They look like airplanes without wings speeding down the river.  They’re fascinated by us, so they come really, really, really close to get a picture of us on their iPhones.  Makes for large wakes and a need for ear plugs.



The town itself is ok.  Not quite as friendly as Sarakei was, but still a fair bit to see and do.  We visited the night market as well as the morning market, which was the largest we’ve seen since KK.  We walked to the top of a Chinese Pagoda for a nice view of the river and we visited all the shops in town, including the air conditioned mall (we skipped McDonald’s this time and opted for Pizza Hut). 




The guy made me pick up this black chicken and have my picture
taken...


They don't come any fresher than that!

Jake wanted to set the chickens free.

No shortage of pork in this city!

The bell at the top of the  pagoda. 





Unfortunately, it was a bit too busy for our friends and they were meeting up with some other people further north, so they headed back fairly quickly.  I thought Jake was going to shed some tears but he held it together.  The two boys really hit it off and we enjoyed Chris’ company as well.
Now we’re sitting here waiting.  I have some sick family at home and am flying out tomorrow to Atlanta.  Andy and Jake will go back down the river and back to Kuching without me.  Hang in there with us for the next month or so as the updates to the blog may be sporadic.  Jake and Andy plan on seeing the Mulu caves here in Borneo so at the very least, I’ll post those pictures.  They should be fantastic.

My son is reading for fun!!!  I had to take a picture.

Exploring the jungle!




In honor of the delicious pineapples at Sarakei.

The fruits of our labor at the Sarakei market.

A new project we're working on...I have some fabric of a map and Jake is sewing our route.  Not sure what we're going to do with it yet.