Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Niah Caves

On Tuesday we did a long drive (109 km) even further south in Sarawak, to go and see the Niah Caves. These caves are located within a National Park, some 3 km's walk along a wooden plank walk, straight into the jungle.
The main claim to fame of these caves is their role as one of the birthplaces of civilisation in the region. The oldest modern human remains discovered in Southeast Asia were found here at Niah, making this park one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.

We took off along the plank walk into the jungle, the kids actually walked most of it themselves! We didn't spot any exciting animals, apart from a lizard or two, and some colourful caterpillars; but we could hear the monkeys in the far and we were admiring all the huge trees, and funny shaped branches:

It took us a little over an hour to reach the West Mouth of the Great Cave, where we stopped and the kids had some noodles (that we had brought in the backpack..!) for lunch.

At over 60m high and 250m wide, it's one of the world's most spectacular cave entrances, leading to an even larger chamber within. It wasn't hard to see how this cave deserve it's name.
In the cave, we could see the tall constructions used by the locals to harvest the bird nests. These are the nests used for the Chinese bird nest soup, a delicacy for which the Chinese pay a lot of money. Another thing they earn money off, is to collect the bat and swiftlet dung (guano) which is sold as fertilizer.

We decided not to go any further in than this, for two reasons; one because to go further into the cave system, you would have needed a torch each as it gets completely dark (we could have gone and seen the "Painted Cave" with intact cave paintings rendered in red hematite that date back at least 1,000 years!) and it was too far to go for the kids, two - because I fell over and rolled my ankle quite badly...

It also started to rain pretty heavily at this point, so we turned and went back instead, or in my case, limped back. We really looked like we had been on a huge trek by the time we had made our way back to the car, soaking wet and super dirty all of us...

Even though we didn't get the full experience, it was still very impressive and spectacular - and the jungle walk was really exciting too!

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