Location: Borneo Sarawak
This camp is a base camp or transit point depending on what activities are pursued. Base camp if the Pinnacles or the kerangas trail is the main agenda and transit point if hikers intend to take the Headhunters’ Trail all the way through MuluNational Park to Limbang. Camp 5 is located some 40min boat ride away from the Park Headquarters, passing Clearwater and Wind Caves. The entrance to the 9.5km level trek to Camp 5 at Kuala Litut is pretty obscure but there are many flat sampans stationed there to collect returning guests. Melinau river can be shallow during droughts and it may take a little longer to get to Camp 5.
Foreign Adult RM 30
Foreign Child RM 10 (7 – 18 years) 6 and below no charge
Malaysian Adult RM 15
Malaysian Senior RM 7 (56 years and above)
Malaysian Child RM 5 (7 – 18 years) 6 and below no charge
Camp 5 sits on a pretty flat land right beside Sungai Melinau with spectacular Benarat cliffs as backdrops.
Before going for Camp 5 and if you choose to book directly at the Park rather than go with travel operators, this piece of advice is essential: Camp 5 is basic. There are 54 bed spaces. These are in open dorms and beds are mere single, thin mattresses for guests placed on wooden platforms shared between 4 to 8 persons per platform. There are 2 toilet cubicles and 2 shower cubicles for separate his and hers sections. Water for shower is freezing and is tapped from the river. There is an eating area and a basic sundry shop sells some can food, instant noodles and soft drinks.
Camera, raincoat, slippers, trekking shoes, insect repellent, drinking water for the first day, torch, Day pack for trekking, first aid kit and personal medication. Blankets can be hired from the ranger's office before you go or bring your own sleeping bag. Mosquito netting would be a good thing to bring as well. Bring your own toiletries and towels.
Food for the entire time you will be staying at Camp 5. There is a kitchen where you can heat up or cook your food (ie. Rice, meat, instant noodles, vegetables, canned foods, snacks, coffee, milk, sugar, salt, all other condiments that you need etc.) . Blankets or sleeping bag. Mosquito netting. Drinking water for 1 day, if you’re ok with boiled water, then there are refills at the Camp. But if you feel unsafe drinking water from the river, then bring water ration for the duration.
If you forget to bring food with you, you will either go hungry or you could ask the rangers if they can spare you leftovers….But otherwise, there are snacks, drinks and sometimes, packed food for sale at camp 5.
Camp 5 fees : To be paid at the Park Headquarters before going off to Camp 5. Accommodation fee = RM40 per person per night. Longboat Park HQ to Kuala Litut and return = RM450 per boat for 1 – 4 persons. There is a minimum of 3 persons to go if you are making arrangements directly with the park HQ. The rangers will group other trekkers to the group to make up the numbers if necessary or available.
If you need to leave your heavy bags behind, there is a storage space at the rangers HQ. Do not keep any valuables there with them. However your electronics can be stored there, where they will keep them in a safe in the office.
If you want the truth about climbing The Pinnacles, have a look at the guest/comment book kept at Camp 5’s restaurant. This is where those who have braved the climb and made it back in 1 piece or less, spill their guts.
For the young or egoistic, take your pick ~ a climb up to the summit may take 2 ½ – 3 hrs for the fit and a little longer for the laggers. So, unless you’re in the Raid Gauloises Endurance team race, don’t even attempt making the trek to Camp 5 and a climb up the pinnacles on the same day.
It is a must to stay at the Camp at least a night before the climb. The climb starts after breakfast at about 6.30am – 7.00am. Try not to eat too much before the climb.
This is what you need to pack in your daypack for the climb ~ 3 litres of drinking water, packed lunch, camera and videocamera. Keep your daypack as light as possible with only the necessaries.
The climb is steep, so forget about your hiking poles or walking sticks. It’s 2.4km long and the start of the climb is some 50m from the Camp. The first 500m up this 1,200m tall Gunung Api (MountApi) will more or less give you an idea whether you can make it or not. The steep climb is unforgiving. There’s no levelling off anywhere and the higher you climb, the steeper it gets. The gradient is about 60º on the lower parts and the last 200m or so, it will reach a climatic vertical climb aided by ropes and ladders.
Gunung Api is the viewpoint, for adventurers who would like to take a closer look at the fortress of pinnacles at eye level. For the rest of us, if climbing a mountain is not something you would do because it’s there, then my advice is to forget it. The view, don’t get me wrong… is spectacular. But only if you arrive at the viewpoint before 11.00am, if it’s later, then the whole climbing thing may just be futile as the pinnacles will be shrouded by thick clouds.
The climb down will be a lot slower. Often in Mulu, the rains will descend as you descend and the trail becomes a little more treacherous and your spirits will definitely be more dampened. If you’re fit, it’ll take 3hrs or so down the mountain. If you’re not, then it could take 5hrs. For those who took a package will be very glad they did so for there will at least be someone there who have the hot drinks and biscuits ready and food cooking on the stove.
This is the alternative if it rains in the morning and you are unable to climb due to the weather conditions ~ The Kerangas Forest Walk. It is of course, very disappointing for those who have taken months to prepare for the pinnacles climb to find that due to the weather conditions, climbing Gunung Api is not allowed.
argus pheasants are found in the kerangas
area pitcher plants abound in the karangas forest
The guides will probably take guests down this 4.5km (4hr) walk through the Kerangas. The poor soil conditions around the melinau gorge area makes good growing for pitcher plants and some epiphytes such as orchids.
For guides who are familiar with Mulu (especially guides who grew up in the area), the trail becomes a story and a fantasy. Part of this trail also leads down the Headhunter’s Trail.
jungle fruit quite similar to langsat but extremely sour dark pond in the karangas forest
The local tribes hunting within the Mulu grounds some 100+ years ago used to fight over the expansion of the hunting grounds. The Berawan tribe of the Mulu area were fierce warriors and were in constant tussle for hunting and fishing space with the tribes from Brunei. Scouts from the villages would be on 24hr patrol along the edges of their boundaries and if found that the enemy had crossed over into their rivers to fish or made traps on their land, a battle would be forged. Man a times, blood had been spilt along the headhunter’s trail.
This trail is also the same route used by the Berawan tribes to launch their river attacks. The soldiers and warriors would carry their canoes or sampans through this jungle path – some 2km or so. Then, when they get to the river, they hid under the shadows of the night and stealthily approached enemy territory for the ambush. With the right guides, there are lots of nooks and crannies along the jungle path and beyond, that hold secrets of these past battles. We have seen some secrets that have made our skin crawl and some that kept us hypnotised in this realm of ancient lives. A truly amazing experience to take home. But only with the right guides…
The trail traverses some 11.5km of lowlying forest across MuluNational Park and ends up at Kuala Terikan before leaving the Park on the other side. The trek will take at least 5hours and most times, a stayover at Rumah Penghulu Sigah or Rumah Bala Lasong, an Iban Longhouse. The journey takes about 2-3 hours depending on the water level. The next day, depart from Rumah Penghulu Sigah or Rumah Bala Lasong by boat take 1 and a half hours to Nanga Medamit. Then proceed to Limbang town take 1 hour by van. Drop off in the early afternoon at Limbang airport for departure to Miri
skulls and basic cooking utensils found in a little cave along the way.
The Headhunter’s Trail requires planning and cannot be done when you are at the Park. Camp 5 and the Pinnacles Climb have become very popular in recent years, which means Camp 5 bookings can be difficult. When I first climbed the Pinnacles in 1998, there was no pre-booking of beds necessary, we could get instant confirmation everywhere. This time round, In 2008, bookings must be made way in advance ~ weeks or even months especially during the summer season.
Note: for those young and willing, it is not impossible to do the entire leg ie mulu caves visit, climbing the pinnacles and completing the headhunter’s trail. The entire trip takes about 6days 5nights.
Mulu as we know it now but what of its future?
It is so hard for us Malaysians to grasp in these times of uncertainty, how much corruption has affected everyone in every single way. Nowhere has casualty been suffered as much as in Borneo. Sabah and Sarawak has suffered immensely in the hands of corrupt officials, dictatorial ruling and government intrusion. Sarawak is ‘owned’ by one family and their friends. Most of Sabah and Sarawak’s rainforests have been cut down, leaving the many native tribes without homes. For the natives in Sarawak, Native Customary Rights were given out by the Brooke Family but has yet to be enforced by the Malaysian Government. At Mulu National Park, it would be a great help if visitors were to help the people at Mulu by interacting more with the locals, buying their products and engaging freelance guides for their trips to the park. The package tours provided by the Park and also the resort tend to exclude local participation. It is very, very sad to know that even a place as pristine as Mulu the struggle is still rife. It’s no longer taking heads as trophies. The newcomers are here to take their souls and their ancestors’ lands – their heritage. In the name of greed and power.