20 March 2010

Maliau Basin: My Journey to The Lost World

SABAH is probably the country’s best destination for all adventure seekers to Malaysia. While there are quite a number of places worth spending some money on here in this part of the world, I would personally recommend these places to take up the top 3 places in the list.

1. Mount Kinabalu – Have conquered it 3 times, paid RM 70 on my first climb back in 1992, never mind having to bring our own Maggie and all, and the tour fee had apparently soared up to RM 300 when I did my latest climb (so far) 2 years ago. I am so glad I did all the climbs since the current rate is said to be ranging from RM650 upwards. Jeez, how can Sabahan people be proud of Mount Kinabalu when most of them can’t even afford to climb it now?

2. Sipadan Island – Had booked a 2D1N tour about 2 years ago but had to cancel it just because some stupid VVIP came down to visit my now ex-jabatan on a very short notice. But then, it is more like a place for divers and marine life enthusiasts. I’m thinking of getting myself a diving license before starting to plan a trip to Sipadan again. Errrr, if you happen to know of a license provider that offers a very gooooooood price around Sabah, please email me at gbeejipp@hotmail.com, will ya? Thanks. Ohh, and let’s begin with anything lower than RM800. :-)

3. Maliau Basin

Yupppp, Maliau Basin is probably the latest, not to mention the hottest one in the bunch now. Say boooooo to me but while I grew up knowing that Mount Kinabalu is located right here in Sabah, I actually grew up NOT knowing that Maliau Basin was located in this very home state of mine as well.
Or worse, I had never known of its existence AT ALL until a documentary of a visit by a group of reporters from TV3 was featured in one of the 8pm Prime Time News. I had since been eyeing to get a tour to Maliau Basin but most of the tour packages that I had come upon in the internet were ridiculously priced.
You see, how could I ever afford to get one when a simple google search would lead me to a number of tour agents offering at least RM3600 for a single tour to Maliau Falls??
Thanks the the existence of somebody in the form of Dom in our local tourism industry, a tour to Maliau Basin had finally materialized. Yayyyyyy!
Being so busy running things around in and out of my office for the past few weeks, my trip to Maliau Basin was probably my worst-planned trip so far to date. I mean, starting the trip from Kota Kinabalu, I totally forgot to bring even single piece of jungle-trekking outfit from Sandakan, not to mention NOT A SINGLE PIECE OF UNDERWEAR! Ok, I did have the one that I had on though. :-P Being so stuck to outstation trips, I had to do a stop-over at a supermarket in Kota Marudu the very night before I was set to go on the trip on the next day and bought some clothes that looked ‘environmental enough’ to suit my ‘getting closer to nature’ concept in what would be my very first trip to Maliau Basin.
My idea of a tour package had always been that - it is tightly scheduled and everything is strictly timed to the extent that I might have to pee-walk if I have to. Instead, we stopped at least 2 hours in Keningau and that was supposedly more than enough for me to pick the best jungle trekking outfits off the store.
Oh well, I didn’t buy any cloth in Keningau but I did buy a raincoat and a packet of wiping tissue. The idea of wiping my ass with leaves after doing my business in the middle of nowhere didn’t seem to appeal any good to me. Errrr, I actually bought a PARTY tissue. I mean, if it can effectively wipe smudges of cake off my mouth, it sure can do as effectively with THAT thing off my @ss right?
Pulling out of Keningau at almost 2pm, we were set to drive over to Maliau Basin via one of the latest inter-district roads in Sabah – the Keningau-Kalabakan road. It runs across what I’d like to call the Golden Stretch of Sabah with, sadly said, lots of logging activities are going on.
Even more saddening was the fact that signs of upcoming oil plantations were obviously seen.
You see, Mr. GOV has never been sincere in bringing in the development projects to the people without aiming to get at least something back. And it’s not just something that we are talking about here. Thousands acres of super-precious rainforests are being put at stake. Sooner or later, they’ll start clearing up the forest along the stretch from which they’ll get millions if not billions of ringgit out of logging activities and later they’ll bring in some estate companies from the West to rake in more money into the pockets of some people. You see, the way they toss Sabah around is just so pathetic.

You know you’re ALMOST there when you see this.
And you gotta stop to register your name at this gate here.
Forget about registering for somebody else, every visitor is required to register and signing in with their own fingers. It’s almost mandatory to have this entry permit tucked somewhere inside your bag in any of your visit to Maliau Basin.
You’d have to drive on for at least another 16 km via some bumpy road before you reach the Agathis Camp for an overnight stay there.
As to why it was kept so badly maintained and rough, I had no idea. I LIKED to think of it as something that was intentionally done in order to keep up an adventurous ride. But part of me was adamantly saying that Yayasan Sabah hadn’t yet recovered from its financial difficulties after carelessly spraying their money off during its heydays. *Maliau Basin Conservation Area is under Yayasan Sabah (Sabah Foundation). 
Finally reaching the Agathis Camp, I couldn’t content my excitement.
You'd have to walk down a walkway and later a walk board to reach the camp itself.
And sure enough, just further down the walk board is a 5-star hotel. Guys, may I welcome you to….. the Shangrila Hotel of MB!
This is the Shangrila conference room.
And this is the Shangrila kitchen, looking every bit 5 star in its own right. LOL!
OK. Don't be a fool. People don't come to MB to get luxurious. If you expect to get a 5-star accommodation, go somewhere else. MB is not the right place for you. Coming to MB means getting out of the comfort of your city life at home and backing down to basics.
Never mind how basic things are in Agathis Camp, everything is basically there, literally. These are the shower rooms.
These are the toilets.
You see, even each of the toilet rooms is provided with a roll of toilet paper just in case you feel so English you can’t even rinse your ass off with water (Ewwww!).
Ohhh, and they’ve got their own way of putting up some great embellishment to bring about the nature and wildlife ambience to the camp.
And I was told that this door to the store room was ransacked by a BEAR. How cool is that? A bear, OK? Not A BEER!
As the evening began to turn into night, a symphony of noises of all kind began to take rhythm. Some of them were just so weird and strange and even scary I actually found myself having a wave of goose bumps. I mean, how come I heard the sound of a car being repeatedly honked when I was in the middle of a nowhere? And what kind of creature would make a noise as if somebody was trying to fine tune a saxophone?
One moment they were distant, and the next moment they whizzed past inches away from the back of my ears as if whatever creatures that were making them were moving right at the back of my head. Jeez. I love being in a thick forest but the noises were just so damn scary.
By then, it was beginning to get quite cold I suddenly felt like having some coffee. I felt so stupid to had not brought with me even a single fucking packet of coffee mix. I felt even more stupid I didn’t bring a single can of beer. It was one of those times when I wanted to drink very badly, not because I was an alcoholic (I am NOT okeyyyyyy!) but the atmosphere and the surrounding and the ambiance at Agathis Camp was just so…. beer-inducing. LOL!
Then Dom and his held-back ‘hostages’ came to my rescue. Before I knew, I already had this on the table.
Believe me, coffee couldn’t get any tastier.
And almost in a fraction of a moment, we already had these on the table. Jeez, some people are just so blessed with magic hands.
Having done with dinner, we had at least half an hour to get prepared before it was time for…. Night Safari!
I'd say it was a stupid idea actually. Not only we had to ride on a very rough road across sloppy and hilly areas, it really was so bumpy I actually found myself focusing more on staying balanced and making sure I had a good grip to avoid being thrown off the jipp. Jipp off the jeep? That doesn’t sound good to me my friends.... No No... 
Taking photos was not easy either. All I could see were beams of light illuminating erratically all over across the darkness.
And how could I ever stay focused if I had this row of big arses right down my nose?
Hehe. OK. Before I proceed further, let me be fair to all the night safari enthusiasts out there. It was a very dry season in Sabah and we were going through one of the longest drought-spells in many many years. If fact it was beginning to get too long that most of the water ponds have entirely dried out and all the animals had to stay close enough to the river to survive. You see, we even missed the supposedly scenic beauty of water cascading down these rocks here.. :-(
I was forced to believe that we had sighted a bunch of payau though. Errr, that’s how we call deer in Sabah.
Returning to the camp later, I joined a conversation with some of the rangers before retreating to my bed. My first day in MB was over; the real adventure would begin the next day…
It would be my second day in MB. Waking up to the sound of some shrill vampire laughters from a distance, I rushed out to the river to where they were coming from. I was half-expecting to find a bunch of langsuyar. How disappointed I was. They were not langsuyar but …lang-sayur. Still, these lang-sayurs could always make good actors in a TV ad for Cuti Cuti Malaysia for sure..
We were having a beautiful morning at Agathis Camp. Not to mention.... GREEN...
And a wonderful breakfast to start the day with.
OH well, my double thumbs up to those who had helped to prepare them. I still feel hungry whenever I look at this picture now.
After sieving off some of the less necessary stuff to be left at the store at Agathis Camp, we were ready to embark on what would be my personal Journey of the Century. Errr, sort of.
It’d be 9 km up and down a series of hills across the jungle. Believe me, with such a distance to cover within a matter of a few hours, you'd want to consider plucking even the slightest bits off your sack. EVERY GRAM does matter. You can't be wrong about it.
And the management KNEW it which was why they provided you with a weight scale. After rounds and rounds of weight scanning and consideration, this was the lightest I could go. Unless I wanted to consider trekking in nude all the way to the falls and back, it couldn't get any lighter than this. But NO. :-P
If you think that was back-breaking enough, think again. This bag carried by Dom here had weighed at least three times heavier. Fuhhh. I had nothing for him but respect.. respect... and respect..
Just to get a little bit of a picture on how the journey was gonna be like, we were briefly briefed by one of the escorting rangers.
I was actually too excited I wasn’t getting A THING he was saying. LOL! But what he was trying to tell was actually simple: Agathis Camp-Ginseng Camp-Maliau Falls-Ginseng Camp-Agathis Camp. That was how our trekking would be.
Our journey to Ginseng Camp began at about 9.30am. I wished myself an unflattering Good Luck by taking my first cam-whored picture of the day. Ahaks!
Being a virgin forest, MB is probably one of the only few places on the planet where trees don’t get raped against their will. Here, they actually die virgin.
And how many times do you get to play around with a virgin?
With such a BIG hole like that, I knew I could only match it if I had something like this for a size.
And this for a ball.
OK, don’t blame me. I was actually trying to play with as much imagination as possible so that I wouldn’t think too much of the exhaustion that was beginning to grip tightly over me after a few kilometers. Errrrrr, A FEW KILOMETERS?
Holy shit! I was on the verge of passing out and all I had covered was 1.5 kilometers?! I wasn’t even sure if I could do another mile!
But then, I knew I HAD to keep going.
Accompanying me was some of the strongest women in the whole state who had never failed to participate in any of the major marathons in KK if not Sabah as a whole. I wouldn’t want to elaborate more on how well they do in most of them. Last time I asked them to join the 4KM KK City Run, they laughed so hard I felt so sorry for ever bringing up the subject AT ALL. I should have known that 4KM was more like the distance that they cover in their after-work runs. :-P
Seriously, they are just so bionicly strong I was so humbled by their presence alone.I mean, even as they descended down this knee-rupturing steep trek, they were actually discussing who should and shouldn't have been voted off in last week's American Idol’s elimination round! Whoaaaa! Struggling with my breath, I couldn't even recall how Simon Cowell had looked like! Or even whether it was him or Randy Jackson that was black.
Being a major conservation area that has led to a lot of tropical forest-related new findings and discoveries, scientists and rainforest and wildlife enthusiasts do actually come to MB to do a lot researches and studies. This was one of the first non-nature things that I came upon.
I was told it was a movement detector for some research purposes. Of course I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of contributing at least something for whatever research it was. I gave ‘em….a good look of my nostrils. Ehhh, my nose got movement also mahh, horr?
There was one stretch of the trek that requires you to continuously walk up a hill for about 800m. It really was dizzyingly exhausting that it was on this stretch when I began to question why I had joined the trip in the first place.
You see, I didn’t bring my sunglasses for nothing. By the end of the stretch, I was so exhausted I actually found myself in tears. I put those glasses on PLUS a wide (forced) smile and I was spared of sarcasm at least for now here in Maliau Basin.
Mind to tell you that the journey from Agathis Camp to Ginseng Camp would take you past the lunch time. For that you'll each be given with a lunch pack and believe me, anything you eat in the middle of a jungle would blow you away with its deliciousness.
While there were a number of disappointments resulting from the drought and dry weather, I found myself especially disappointed by the inexistence of one thing - leeches. As an afterthought, I actually put these things aside so that all the leeches would have an easy access to my fore skin.
Instead, I put these on. At least, those leeches wouldn’t have to struggle too hard to get in contact with me.
You see, I really wanted to touch and feel the smoothness of its skin on the tip of my finger and feel it suckling gently on mine. Arghh! Damn dry season, I DID NOT CATCH A SINGLE LEECH. Disappointement, disappointment, disappointment. I was deprived of my chance to have a skin-to-skin contact with this sweetie cutie thing. :-P
But then, never mind the leeches, there were just so many other interesting things to see.
The sight of an 'anaconda' came quite too soon.
I'd come to find out that they are everywhere in Maliau Basin. It was amazing to see how they got into those shapes just for the sake of getting enough sunlight to survive.  
And this tiny winy little thing is one of main players in the rainforest’s symphonic orchestra here in Maliau Basin.
And I wondered if these mushrooms were edible or not. They really look like they are.
Or this fruit here. It looked like one of those fruits that I saw being sold at one of the open markets that I went to while I was in England.
While I need to be reborn at least 20 times for a tree to get to this big, it is quite saddening to know that it takes less than 20 minutes to chop it off to the ground.
MB really is a pristine nature wonder. Most of the big trees here have aged hundreds of years.
You know you’re reaching the Ginseng Camp when you descended upon a boardwalk bridge with no hand-rails. Apparently, safety doesn’t seem to be a priority in this trekking tour partly because they probably think whoever made it up to this bridge could take a good care of themselves.
And finally...
We actually reached the Ginseng Camp quite too early than expected.
Mind to tell you that nobody stays at the camp on a full time basis. The rangers would only come here when they escort visitors. Having said it, you would have make good for your bed and fluff the dust off to make your bed sleep-able enough. LOL! You have the option of taking the hammocks..
Or the beds..
Oh well, the IKEA sponsored beds didn’t seem quite adventurous enough for me. I went for the hammocks. :-P
Since we would only go down to Maliau Falls the next day, there was nothing much to do but eating… eating… and eating..
The ladies really knew how to turn the trip into a picnic. I was so sure they had brought more KGs in their bags for the foods than anything else. LOL!
Located down an alley, night comes quite too early at Ginseng Camp. You have at least 2 reasons to take your shower early.
Firstly, it can get quite too cold that a splash of water would send your blood freezing.
Secondly, there is no electricity at Ginseng Camp. Apparently, the genset had not been working for quite a while you’d have to depend entirely on a candle and torch light when night comes.
Just bear in mind that you are in the middle of nowhere and the idea of taking a shower in the dark could send some chills up your spine. At a place like Ginseng Camp, a candle or even a torch light wouldn’t make it less spooky. Hohoho.
If you really think Agathis Camp is Shang-rila Hotel, Ginseng Camp is probably a Hilton. They used this stove to cook.
And it needs a little bit of a blow job to keep the fire burning. LOL!
What I like about Dom, apart from his ability to bring in the hilarity with his jokes, is food.
He really knows how to prepare them to suit well with all the ladies’ CITY stomachs and fussy pick for food. Oh well, of course with the help of some impromptu cooks.
And some dedicated kitchen team members.
I actually found all the dishes were ridiculously delicious for such an all-basic trip. You see, whoever gets this lady here for a wife would be a damn lucky guy. (the lady lahh!)
Whoever gets this for a husband would be a damn sorry woman. Not because he is NOT good, in fact he’s just SO GOOD at the kitchen a wifey might tend to overeat and get fat, errrrr, eventually. :-D
Having done with dinner, we spent the night playing some camp-fire games. This picture here was taken while these ladies were performing their own rendition of Beyonce’s Single Ladies. Somebody must have been watching the Glee quite too much. LOL! It was actually part of the punishment for the lady in the blue T-shirt when she had carelessly put the candle out while it was being passed around (passing parcel cum passing candle?)
It really was a night to remember. Everybody was having fun. With the volume of laughers that they we made that night, I was not surprised if they we had drawn the curiosity of all the MB’s inhabitants, be it the seen or even the unseen ones. And sure enough, just when I was trying to think of an animal or a fruit that started with G, a loud thud that came from the kitchen shushed us down to a complete silence. Apparently, we had a visitor. One of the eggs had made its way down to the floor somehow and it had to be instantly swept off so that whoever whatever did it wouldn't come back for more.
I was later made to believe that SOMETHING had dashed its way across the floor under the table that we were sitting at and before I knew, the ladies had already jumped their way up to the table. Wohooooooo!
Taking it as a sign that something wanted us to put the volume down, we retreated to the bed dormitory. I didn’t get it when one of the ladies tip-toeing her way up to me in the dark and gave me a packet of, errrr, condom! With all the exhaustion and tiredness that were gripping all over me, I wasn’t really in the mood for, errrrrrr, that.
Gotcha! Did you really think it was that protection rubber? Crazy la you.. :-P
It wasn’t long before I joined the snorecestra of the night. The adventure had long begun but the real journey would only begin the next day. It’d be the journey to what the whole trip is all about – Maliau Falls!


kenwooi said...

you are really one hell of an adventurer! haha.. i'd love to explore and go on an adventure as well, but when it comes to jungles and stuff.. i dont fancy it..

one reason why i dont wanna climb KK mountain is because of the "stories" i heard from my friends.. just gives me the creeps.. =P

Anonymous said...

one of the places that are on my must-visit Sabah list as well. Good work!

JIPP said...

KW: Yeah, places like M.Kinabalu n MB can be spooky and there are always stories to cook things up. Hehe. But then, it's part of the adventure.
Lost Traveller: Thank U. Yeah, should go there. U won't regret it. :-)

June Yong said...

Hi Jipp!
Can I know how did you manage to find a tour package with reasonable price at last? Any recommendation for me please. I'm so dying to go to this place!


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