Monday June 20

6km run passing many fancy homes along the waterfront marina estate. Very large and modern designs probably Chinese with lanterns, dogs or red decorations in the trees.

Moque had hired a car and still being short of content they wired us up and filmed us clearing in at Harbourmaster then into town for Customs and Immigration. Riveting stuff!

Saw a big supermarket so grabbed a few frozen things including some icecream.

Back at the boat we pulled down the Genoa and glued a leather patch over some leech chafe. Ugly repair but seemed to hold ok with the glue so I didnt have to stitch it as well thank goodness.

Seperate formal interviews stressed Lea out and gave her a headache. She spent the afternoon cooking for a Potluck dinner with the whole fleet.

The shore activites started at 1730. Sazli was there but still not looking well. Allan from Brunei was also present, taking bookings and money for tours in Brunei. A lot of us were surprised at the cost and many decided not to go because of it. We have decided to go but its going to cost us abour $750.00AUD for the 5 days. I think we are used to being treated as Ambassadors for Tourism in Malaysia, whereas in Brunei we are just Tourists to be milked. The itinerary is very tight but should be fun.

The potluck dinner was great and then the guitars came out and a singalong followed. We were beaten back to the boat by the sandflies. Rod and Heather off Psycho Puss joined us and we chatted late into the night.

 

Tuesday June 21

We had been looking foreward to the excursion to the Niah Caves to see a bit of inland Borneo and see where 40,000 year old human remains were uncovered in the 1950's which caused great excitement in the archeological and anthroplogical worlds. Lea was also pleased that it was our last committment with the film crew. After this trip they would take their camera's and questions. elsewhere.

Our 90 minute coach ride led us through a lot of land cleared for palm oil plantations. A palm oil refinery was central to this massive area. It was sad to see the aftermath of clearing the jungle. A brief stop for breakfast and we fueled up with chicken and rice, knowing from past experience that lunch would probably be very late.

Niah Caves are located in Sarawak's smallest National Park. We accessed the park from the carpark by boat, crossing the swollen discoloured river. Apparently all the rivers in Borneo used to be clear black water rivers but now due to clearing, logging and mining all the rivers are full of sediments.

Lea had a very uncomfortable time with some large black butterflies. First stop was the museum where they had a skull, presumably the pieced together skull fragments of the earliest homo sapians. I noticed the mandible didn't match the skull and showed evidence of well healed extraction sites and no wisdom teeth.

Next was a 4-5 km walk on a full broadwalk through the thick jungle. We were warned not to use the moss covered handrails due to poisoness millipedes.

We walked past limestone formations that resembled dry stone walls. Hidden between the foliage, it looked like an ancient city was once here. Heavily butressed trees grew out of the rocks and huge dry leaves covered the broadwalk.

We came first to the “Tading Cave” where families lived during the bird nest collecting season. Poles and structures hung from the cave roof to afacilitate harvesting of the bird nests. The guano from the thousands of bats is also scaped up and bagged for sale as fertiliser. In this cave middle man buyers would come to negotiate their purchases from the collectors.

 

Onward to the “Great Cave”. This is where archeologists found “Niah Man” together with the burial site of 6 persons dated to 3000 years old. The cave has a massive open entrance that tapers into the cave proper. 5 species of bat live in the cave but numbers of bats have been dwindling for some unknown reason.

 

For 9 months of the year the swallows nests can be harvested and traditional methods are still used. Long bamboo or straight grain timbers are somehow attached to the cave roof and the harvester climbs these poles without a safety harness to reach bamboo structures buit in the roof and from here uses a long bamboo pole to dislodge the nests. The much prized nests, made of swallow spit, are supposedly high in Calcium as well as having special properties that make women more beautiful and men much stronger.

It was out of season but poachers were still at work high up in the cave. Surprisingly our guide was neither angry nor motivated to do anything about the poachers, he just accepted it as to be expected. The 3 months of no collection is supposedly to allow the birds to raise a new generation of chicks to keep the species going. Untill the laws are enforced the bird numbers will continue to decline.

The last cave was the “Painting Cave”. The rock art here was very similar to that which we saw in the Kimberley last year. The more you look at the wall the more images you find. Stick figures with square bodies, double eneded canoes, paddles and swirls.

Our last interview completed we strode out on the return and had some time without the hovering presence of the film crew.
The size of the “Great Cave” was hard to capture but it was very awesome.
The Restaurant was closed.

We finally got everyone back on the bus got to lunch by 1600.

Back at the Marina we launched the dinghy and did a quick survey of the shallow Marina entrance to work out our earliest departure time. Still in work mode I scrubbed the decks while Leas cleaned inside now that the film crew had departed for another boat. Washing machine died again. Suspect same problem of a fused relay. Have 2 relays in stock but we really need a bigger machine as live aboards. More research needed.

 

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