Alphabet Dates: N for Nature and Niah Caves

For a while now, The Engineer and I have had a tradition of Alphabet Date “Nights”.  Every week couple of weeks month once in a while we set aside some time to get out, turn off the TV and the computer, and do something fun.  The dates follow the alphabet (first was an Afternoon at Arborio, second was Beer at the Bar etc.), and we take turns organising them (The Engineer took me for Hiking and Hotdogs, so I took him for Icecream).  We whizzed through the whole alphabet in 2010/11, and have been a bit slower getting through the second time around in 2012/13. It has been my turn to organise an N date for a ridiculously long time, so this weekend, I decided to finally do it.

I thought of a few different options.  There is a lot of New stuff around us at the moment.  Most restaurants would serve Nasi.  But when I finally got my multi-entry visa stamped in my passport (more on that another day), and we realised we could go to Malaysia for the weekend, I decided on the final date: a weekend in Nature and a visit to the Niah Caves.

So on Friday afternoon, after completing our weekly challenge, and putting our paperwork in at the Panaga Club, we packed up and headed over the border (more on all of those another day).  We arrived in Miri in the afternoon, and had a look around the Bintang Mega Mall.  Then we headed down to the waterfront for a seafood dinner.  We ordered WAY too much food, tried pako (edible fern) for the first time, and wished it was light so we could see the view.  Then we headed to our accommodation, the Treetops Lodge.

The lodge was awesome.  We stayed in the longhouse, and on the first night we had it all to ourselves.  Our room was basic, but nice, and came with a mosquito net and a fan (essentials).  The internet was free, and they even had a network with TV shows and movies available, although we didn’t have our laptop and couldn’t make use of those.  The breakfasts were well organised and cheap.  In fact, the only negative thing about the place was the fact that the first morning, when we woke up, we found that our fan had killed a bat in the middle of the night, and it was now lying on the floor beside our bed.

On Saturday, we headed out to Niah Caves.  It was pouring with rain most of the way there, so we were pretty glad when the clouds cleared just as we arrived.  The park starts with a 3 km board walk through the rainforest.  It was lovely, but I think that I have been spoiled by being a New Zealander, in that I always expect the jungle to be more impressive, more different.  In reality, apart from the heat and the creatures, it’s pretty much like the bush at home.

Walking through the boardwalk to Niah Caves.Photo by me.

Walking through the boardwalk to Niah Caves.
Photo by me.

The creatures really do set it apart though.  During our walk, we ran across butterflies, lizards, monkeys, red millipedes, bats, and birds.  Most were a bit hard to photograph, but they definitely kept the walk interesting, and were a slight distraction from the heat.

Red millipede at Niah National Park.Photo by The Engineer.

Red millipede at Niah National Park.
Photo by The Engineer.

After an hour or so of jungle wandering, we arrived at the caves, only to find out that my headlamp was not working.  We were not turning back, so we headed into the caves with arms linked, hoping like hell that our one remaining light didn’t go out halfway through.  We had hoped the caves would be a bit of respite from the heat, but the opposite was true.  It was hot, dark, and HUGE.  It’s pretty hard to take pictures in a cave, and the ones we did get don’t really do it justice, but here’s a bit of an idea:

Batu Niah

Stream of light in the Great Cave at Niah National Park.
Photo by The Engineer.

We got some funny looks when we passed people on the boardwalk, with me gripping The Engineer’s backpack so that I didn’t lose footing; I discovered once again that I’m kinda scared of caves, and that doing something for the second time is always much easier; we were surprised by the noise and smell of the bats; I found it much harder than I expected for a boardwalked tourist spot.  But overall, we loved it.  And we really loved the 100 Plus that we bought from a stall just outside the caves in the middle of the jungle. And we really really loved getting back into an air-conditioned car, and getting some lunch.

We spent another night at Treetops, and on Sunday visited the Lambir Hills National Park (again, not so different to NZ bush, but with flying lizards).  Again, the walk was a lot harder than I expected.  But since it doesn’t start with N, we won’t spend too much time on that bit…

The waterfall at Lambir Hlls National Park.Photo by The Engineer.

The waterfall at Lambir Hlls National Park.
Photo by The Engineer.

And now it’s The Engineer’s turn once again to plan a date.  Something beginning with O.  Anyone got any ideas for him?

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