Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Pinnacles- "Don't Die, Don't Die"

We're back from a literally whirlwind tour of Malaysia, and I had no idea how much this country has to offer!! But before, I began my sweat filled adventure about the Pinnacles, I wanted to address the requests from our loyal blog commenting buddies, Patrick and Vinney, for a map of Malaysia. If you go to this website, it will blow up and show how Malaysia is made up of Pennisular Malaysia and East Malaysia on the island of Borneo.

Take a good look at these rocks...I sure did when I finally got to the top. The Pinnacles, as they are called, are a forest of razor-sharp limestone peaks towering 45m above the rainforest...and in order to even catch a glimpse of this beauty, we had pretty extensive journey.
We left the northern part of Borneo, from Kota Kinabalu and flew to Miri. From here in order to get to Gunung Mulu National Park we took a little "otter" plane that seated only 10 people to Mulu. Once we arrived in this massive park, we visited the Deer Caves, where tons of bats exit daily at dusk and prepared ourselves for our upcoming 3 day adventure. The first morning we took a small boat ride for about an hour that took us to the jungle entry site, after which we trekked a grueling 9 km in the HOT, HUMID jungle infested with leeches, mosquitoes and other equally unfriendly creatures with ALL of our gear (which I should clarify that Tarak carried oh about 92% of the gear, and I whined about how heavy the 8% I was carrying) to finally reach Camp 5. Here we dipped in the refreshing cool waters of the river, enjoyed the serene beauty and had our first "noodle party". Our Pinnacles group consisted of 5 people, well 6, if we count our absolutely USELESS guide. It was us, a Dutch couple, and this hilarious Japanese guy, Kenta, who was fresh out of university and had enough energy for an entire tourist bus of Asian people. Anyway, we cooked our own food and basically ate Maggi/Raman noodles every after our treks, we always were ready for "noodle party" as Kenta would say. Well, as we were attempting to "carb load" for the next day, I started looking through the comments book (since there wasn't much else to do, except a sketchy deck of cards with like 10 missing)....and I was a little surprised to see so many people talking about how hard it was and how some groups didn't make it up. (foreshadowing, hint hint). In fact, some hilarious person wrote about how if you wanted inspiration for the climb up, sing the song from Sienfeld “don’t die, don’t die”…I laughed at the time….but, little did I know….
After sleeping on basically a row of mats in the open air, and serving as mosquito bait, we all awoke and were ready to go by 630am. Of course, our guide has told us idea what to long it will take..what we should bring, etc. Off we go..our guide leaping ahead and literally within the FIRST 200 meters, I trip over some SHARP rock and cut my hand. Only after I let out a piercingly loud scream does the guide stop and come back...I of course, am bleeding nicely and have noticed the cut is deep enough so that some of the fatty tissue is oozing out (sorry)...of course, in the states, this would require an ER visit, some good irrigating, cleaning, stitches and a lovely co-pay. What do we do?? My doctor, Tarak pours 2L of water (that we had boiled from the river-our drinking water for the trip), pulled out the pieces of rocks embedded in my hand and then dumped a bunch of iodine over it. He then busts out some steri-strips and our guide goes and gets this lovely first aid kit. We basically just wrapped it in gauze and I put on this gardening glove (definitely UNsterile) which we luckily bought in Melaka..and then did I turn around head back to the camp??? No, of course not...I asked the guide what he thought and he just shrugged his shoulders. So, I continued 1-handed to do this crazy 2.5km steep upward hike in the hot humid jungle. 3 hours later, and after much cursing (mostly at Tarak for getting me into this) we arrived at "the first ladder"...I, of course, thought we were basically at the top...WRONG!! Now the next hour was pure hell...we were already exhausted, dehydrated, hungry and myself, quite cranky..and then I became terrified. Not only was it tiring, but was FLIPPIN' dangerous..there were these super STEEP ladders and rocks that if you fell, you would land into an abyss of razor sharp rocks and basically die. If that wasn't bad enough, everything was wet and covered in slippery soppy tree roots....I somehow managed with 1 hand to pull myself up to the top, where we scarfed down our PB&Js and a bunch of chocolate, and then admired (and cursed) the Pinnacles. I will admit that the view and the Pinnacles themselves are quite an incredible natural wonder that is unlike anything we have ever seen..Tarak at this point, loves to interject that “well, and I’ve seen a lot and this is pretty unique/awesome”..thanks Mr. 2nd around the world, been to so many countries I can’t keep track of….
But, regardless, I couldn't quite fully enjoy the view, because all I kept thinking was..oh my God..I know I somehow climbed up by the grace of God, but how the HELL am I going to get down these slippery passages with 1 hand? Anyway, the first part down, I literally alternated between praying and cursing. My favorite part (laced heavily with sarcasm) was at this point where I had to climb down the wobbly ladder and place my hand and foot on 2 sharp rocks quite far apart for balance to get down..and Tarak who had gone first, stopped to comment.."Woah! Man, if your foot slips here or you lose your grip, you would fall all the way into those jagged rocks and probably DIE"....thanks, honey...always has my back that husband of least he could have waited until AFTER I passed that point...But honestly, doesn't this sound like advanced rock climbing?? I mean to me, it was nothing short of freakin' Tom Cruise in the opening credits of Mission Impossible...but even so, in the states, dude, we would have signed 10 forms, waived all liability, taken 3 questionnaires to assess our level of rock climbing expertise and gotten at least a freakin' no...ask your guide after you CUT your hand open if you could do this 1-handed and he SHRUGS!!! Needless to say, poor Tarak had to endure me for the entire 5 1/2 hours it took me get down...along the way were of course frequent bursts of crying, anger and cursing everything in my way...from mosquitoes to tree roots and of course, our damn guide. But all in all..we did it...when I got down, my poor group (the Dutch couple and Kenta who were all quite worried about me) actually started clapping...I literally felt like I had finished something massive!! And then the next morning we trekked back the 9km through the jungle, to our boats and hung out at the National Park itself.
After Miri, we took off eastward for the city of Kuching, which means "cat" in Malay and it is Sarawak's capital. It definitely was a charming city, with a great waterfront, an amazing museum and great handicrafts.

We spent a couple of days walking around immersing ourselves in
the city, along with doing some shopping. We then headed out to Bako National Park where we spent the night. Here we did this incredible hike which culminated along the beach where we saw at least 50 proboscis moneys (the very distinctive noses) searching for food and taking care of their young. It was so incredible to be standing on these planks watching, being completely mesmerized by these rare creatures.

On our way back to the park headquarters, Tarak stopped (or should I say parked himself) to take pictures of the macaque monkeys…at first they didn’t mind..but he (Tarak) was all up in their faces with his camera, and the next thing we knew, we got growled at and they started running for us…of course, Tarak gets away and I got cornered and attacked (well more like slightly scratched) by a monkey. Tarak ran over and had to rescue me…man, first my poor hand and then being attacked by a monkey.

After we left Bako, we left Kuching for Peninsular Malaysia and landed in the capital of Kuala Lumpur.


anita said...

Sharvari I think you need to come home...hope you are doing ok now. Can't wait to see you guys. BE CAREFUL!!!

Patrick said...

Oh man, I was hoping to see a picture of the hand! How's it doing now? The most exciting thing that's happened to me lately is cutting my thumb with a knife while I was making a salad. Jeez. Thanks for the map though! I'll tell my dad where you are. He's pretty familiar with that area of the world. At least he was when he was in Army.