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Friday, February 25, 2011

Sarawak Bako National Park - Not a Walk in the Park

Continuing on from where I last left off, we finally reach the highlight of our trip, the trip to Bako National Park where we hoped to see the Proboscis Monkey, stick insects, snakes and whatever creatures that lurked in the park.

For once, it was a fine day as our trusty taxi driver and unofficial tour guide took us to Kampong Bako to begin our ‘adventure’. From there, it was a 20 minutes boat ride on a little boat to the Bako National Park. The ride was quite exciting, what with a big sign at the Jetty warning against crocodiles. What if like the movie a big croc came and overturn our puny little boat? But of course no such luck. We didn’t even spot one of them.

Once at the park, we had to sign in at the office and were given a trail map and we had to indicate to the staff which trail we were going on. The map listed all the various trails and the approximate walking time along each trail. We, of course being typical kiasu Singapore, had to get our money worth and so we picked one of the longer trail, the Tajor trail that would take us 5 hours to complete, just in time for us to take our 2.30pm boat ride back to civilization.

 The walk up was great. Everybody was in high spirit and we were stopping frequently to stare at the plant and look for insects and whatever that was available. There were plenty of razor sharp Nipah palm, bamboo and pitcher plants but sadly no animals or even birds. Along the way, we walked through various type of terrains from lush green forest vegetation to bare open shrub land, climbing higher and higher. It was a relatively easy walk at this juncture with patches of wet clay ground here and then. We passed several small streams with fast flowing waters gushing down but in most places there were footbridge and wooden boardwalk to walk through. Some part, on the upward ascent, we seem to be walking on a river bed. Up on the top of the hill, it was hot hot hot but we comforted ourselves that soon we will reach the highlight of this trail – the waterfall!
Pitcher Plant

And finally we reached our destination – the Tajor waterfall.
Tajor Waterfall. Not very big though

Can cross using these logs
Time checked – 12 noon. We had started at 9 am and it took us 3 hours to reach about half an hour behind schedule. No big deal. We had stopped often to take pictures so the delay was acceptable. We decided to cross over to the other side of the waterfall. There was some logs laid across the water but an angmoh, the 3rd set of people we seen so far, told us there was some rocks higher up and so we clambered over the edge and walked across the rocks to the other side where we had our lunch of bread.

But we choose to walk over these rocks instead
After lunch, we decided to press on. The trail sign pointed to the way we came ‘This Way Back’. But we were not keen to repeat the same route especially as we remembered we had to climb down the hill and we wasn’t too keen to slide down some of the slopes that we had to climb to reach where we were. So after studying the map, we decided to go forward via the Bukit Kruing trail. And that proved to be a big big mistake.

The map indicated the distance at 2.25km so it didn’t sound that bad. But we had forgotten that Bukit means hill in Malay and it was literally a climb up all the way. There were many steep slopes to negotiate and no nice wooden steps. We had to cling on to tree roots and whatever available to pull ourselves up bit by bit. And then the Bukit Kruing trail ended at another trail – Paya Jelutong which was supposed to be only 200 metres long but it was no less challenging. I knew we were in trouble when we took 10 minutes to walk 100 metres. There were now many numerous ‘small’ fast flowing streams about 2 metres wide that we had to cross. And there were no bridge! We had to walk across tree trunks, scamper over wet rocks, all the time hoping that nobody slips and fall into the water!

Going uphill

What type of path is this?

River crossing!
This time no choice got to cross this ravine using the termites infested logs

We had to walk through this stretch of swamp land
And then we started going downhill which bought new nightmare. We had to walk through a swamp! Images of crocodiles flashed through my mind but luckily we were too far inland. We tried to look for drier ground to walk on but it was almost impossible with the thick vegetation and soon we gave up and just waded through the muck!

By then it was already 3 o’clock. We were making too slow progress and the boat and taxi driver were waiting! And like a horror movie, things continue to go wrong. Phone signal were intermittent but even then, there was no phone number for the Park Ranger or any emergency number to call. In desperation and after many attempts to get a signal, we managed to call the taxi driver. He managed to get somebody to talk to us and the guy said we just need to walk another 2½ hours to get to the end! We requested that he send someone to assist us with the shortest route out. At the rate we were walking and with the type of trail we were experiencing, I was worried that we would take another 4 maybe even 5 hours to finish and it would be dark by then and the boat gone off and we will miss our flight home.

And to make matter worse, my phone started emitting funny sound – wtf, the battery was dying. I had somehow forgotten to turn off the Wifi and it was still searching for signal and it had drained my battery. M’s couldn’t even get a reception on her phone! And of course, to add to our woes, the sky started turning dark and droplets of rain fell.

Descending a rocky path
Fortunately, the phone lasted long enough for us to get an incoming call from the Park Office who told us to wait at the junction of the Ulu Serait trail and Lintang Trail. And the weather held. And after almost another 1½ hour of walking through swamp, peats, and wild vegetation, we reached the innocent looking junction and nobody was there! After waiting another 10 minutes, we decided we couldn’t wait and risk missing the boat so after looking at the site map, we decided to walk the balance 2.7m (or so we hope). We managed to get another phone call in and the girl assured us another 2 hours or so we should reach the end and that it was downhill all the way. Sighed! She didn’t mentioned that the downhill involved climbing down the side of some hills and grabbing only on to trees roots and some ropes for support. And then M fell – ironically on a flat ground! Fortunately, it was more her ego that was hurt then her body! Another phone call and this time round we were told from where we were, it would take us another 1 hour. But we make it in 30 minutes!

And what a relief when we saw the planks and row of nice boardwalk. Civilization at last! It was 5.30 pm; 8½ hours after we started. In the process, instead of covering 5km as originally we thought we would, we had walked closed to 11km. Thank God, all well that ended well. The boat man was still patiently waiting for us as was the taxi driver. 

And for all our trouble, we didn't even see 1 stupid monkey be it Long tailed macaquae or Proboscis or the Silver Leaf monkey. There were no hornbill, no pig, no mousedeer and no stick insects. We did saw a tinny weeny snake, some frogs or toads, lots of ants and mushroom and that was it! And the best part of it, the Proboscis monkey were all hanging around the park entrance and we could have just hang around there to gawk at them instead of walking so far.

M and the Kid swear they couldn’t do this again. Me? The Princess and I, we already thinking of going to Miri to the Gunung Mulu National Park, a far bigger place than this.

Pictures taken mainly by the Princess here

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