Friday, February 28, 2014

Niah National Park - Niah Cave Experience, Miri Malaysia [Part 2]

This is the part 2 of my Niah Cave experience. To go to part 1, go to:
As we climbed the stairs leading to traders cave, it was already 11:26am. It's approx 4km from the start.

Traders cave
This is the first rock formation you'll see. It's actually an extended rock overhand rather than a real cave. It's called such because before, this is where the birds nest and guano traders conducted their business.

'Gua Dagang' - Traders' Cave

A few minutes later, you'll reach the West Mouth of the Great Cave. At 60 meters high and 250 meters wide, this is one of the world's biggest cave entrance. On the other side, you can still see the archaeological excavations. You can still also see bamboo poles that they use to collect birds nest. By the time we start to walk inside the cave, it was already 11:51am.

Bamboo poles from birds nest collectors

And, we go on...
This is where the walk becomes a bit more difficult as the stairs and planks are slippery. 10 minutes after we went in the cave, we saw this marvelous sight where we can see sun beams streaming from gaping holes above illuminating parts of the cave.

As we continue our journey, we walked another 10-15 minutes and we reached the moon cave. This is a series of dark passages that you need to go through to reach the painted cave and this is where you need your torchlights.

The Moon Cave
The photo right below is not posted by error. That is the actual photo I took with my torchlight switched off. You'll feel chills down your spine as you feel the cold air brushing on your skin and the eerie sounds that tingles in your ears from the creatures inside the cave makes.

This is the actual photo taken at 12:22pm
No other light source other the one from my torchlight. (With bats overhead)
You know what's even scarier? There are areas in the cave where you can see chasms that lead to nowhere. Take note that I brought my own torchlight. The usual torchlight has 15 to 30 lumens of light. The one I brought was rated to have 550 lumens and I still can't see where the end is.

Visibility even with my torchlight is very limited
After more than an hour of traversing through the darkness, we see the light at the end of the tunnel, err, cave. We then found a place with a hut and benches and rested for a bit. Time check, 1:31pm.

Our group, resting after an hour of trekking in the dark.
Wore the wrong type of shoes.
Time check, 1:43pm. Body aching. knees folding. Humid and raining.
Our goal is to at least reach the painted caves so we start moving again because the park closes at 5pm and it's not a good idea to stay overnight. I'm not that adventorous and I'm not sure if they will allow that. So we start moving again at around 1:43pm. After another 10 minutes, we reach the painted caves. Finally!

We didn't feel hungry just yet but, we sure felt tired as:
- We haven't eaten lunch and our only meal was breakfast which was around 7:30am.
- We only have 1 bottle of water each because we wanted to lighten our load for the trek. (I should've just left my tripod and brought water)
- The slippery path ways drained our energy. Rather than just walking, we need to concentrate and focus on balancing ourselves lest we slip and end up in no-one-knows-where.

The Painted Cave
This is where the famous pre-historic Niah Cave paintings are found. You can see human stick figures and boats drawn on the wall. They have fenced it off to preserve it. To date, you can still see human bones here and there as our guide showed us several pieces embedded on the cave floor.

Here's what we saw in the painted cave:

The cave drawings. Look harder. The drawings are said to depict burial rites and beliefs as documented by early dwellers as several 'boat coffins' where found nearby.
Another small excavation on the right side.

Foggy West Mouth of the Great Cave. Our last view before leaving the Great Cave.
Left the painted cave around 2:00pm and reached the river crossing around 3:45pm.
As we leave the tranquil ambiance of the painted cave back to where we started, you can't help but appreciate seeing a piece of history live. Seeing those paintings might not mean a lot but it does let you see the world from another perspective. It's like solving a puzzle and this is just but a single piece of the puzzle. Let the archaeologists do the puzzle solving and let us just enjoy what they discovered.

Celebratory meal with our group after our Niah Cave experience
If you want to know more about visiting Niah National Park, check out my other post about it.
(Operating hours, registration, what to bring, etc.)

Related articles:
8 things you need to know about Miri, Malaysia
Air Asia flies direct to Miri Malaysia from Manila

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