Blog for 2010-07-5

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Today was the third day of hiking along the Maliau Basin trail. We left the Ginseng Camp around 9 a.m. and backtracked along the trail about 700 m, all of which happened to be straight uphill. Ahh there is nothing like a brisk walk up the side of a cliff to wake you up in the morning!

It was a lovely day for hiking, and I thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the sunshine and the smells of the surrounding forest while hiking with Thasun and Sarah. We could hear the calls of the Great Argus Pheasant somewhere in the distance, and numerous beautiful orchids lined the path. In fact, it was so peaceful that I felt my mind wandering to the scenes of Avatar. My daydreams of being one of the Na’vi people silently lurking through the jungle seemed seriously plausible, and at one point I felt a grave disappointment when I realized that no, I did not have a tail.

We met up with our fellow trekkers at a helipad perilously situated on 4 m of dirt nestled between two rather steep cliffs. I sincerely hope that they do not use that helipad any more, especially since Cam continually reminded us that the dirt near the edges has this nasty tendency to fall away … But alas, there were no casualties and we soon continued on with our hike down the insanely steep slopes that we had previously climbed on our way to Maliau Falls. Although I did feel like I was going to fall of a cliff a disconcerting amount on our way to the falls, the sound of the rain on the leaves above me made me return to my Pocahontas/Avatar fantasies.

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When we arrived at Maliau Falls, I was greeted by the sight of Frank running to and fro, with his binos glued to his face. Here we had the amazing pleasure of sighting the Waterfall Swift, a rare bird that is only found living behind waterfalls in primary lower and upper montane forests. We took a break for lunch and took in the wonderful surroundings. When we resumed our trekking, it soon came apparent that the trail was becoming ever more sketchy. We were basically rock climbing; it was awesome. There was only one more thing that could make our day better: the smell of garbage and sewage drifting over the trail bend … it could only be RAFFLESIA! Although this species of rafflesia was small, it was still a classic Borneo experience.

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Finally, after listening to Cam tell us that we were “near” and “almost there” for 4 km (he gave us cookies so we forgave him for this!), we arrived at the third camp. We immediately went to the river to swim and bathe. It was freezing, but that is the cleanest I have felt in quite some time, which is a testament to the clarity and freshness of the river … or an indication of my lackluster hygiene habits. We then had a delicious dinner, and before heading to bed, a couple of us hung out with our guides around the fire talking about life and learning some Malay. I will leave you with some words of wisdom I learned: kamu anak kuching goreng!