Exploring Niah Cave Part 3
Do you know that the West Mouth of the Great Cave is one of the world’s most spectacular cave entrances leading to even a larger chamber within? (tapi sik dapat chei-len gua-gua kat Mulu lah. korang dah gi Mulu sik? ;p menyesal seumur idup mun korang belum gi gik).
Walking towards the Great Cave mouth entrance, you’ll get to see the first archeological excavations on your left. It is now being fenced from ‘itchy hands’ for perseveration purposes. This is where Tom Harrison and his team (including his wife-Barbara Harrison) found plenty of archeology artifacts back in the 50s.
Despite of living in the modern world, the locals still believe in keeping the forest spirit ‘calm’ by performing some annual ritual at the Great Cave entrance. One will get to see a small hut for offerings.
I do not know whether it is intentionally or un-intentionally that the park management does not provide basic facility to its cave visitor such as toilets. Upon reaching this point, some of us (the visitor) might want to ease ourselves but there is no decent place to do so (expect me /you to ‘shi-shi’ at where ever its convenience, is it? ada kenak sumpah penjaga gua kelak, mali ku urang, ndak piak?).
Proceeding into the cave, it is advisable to follow the signage (jimat duit sik payah bayar tour guide ;p ). You can get lost inside the cave if you decide to follow your own rule by refusing to see the signage clearly and it happened before. Here, you’ll get to hear squeaking voices of millions of bat and swiftlets. It is really dark and one must bring a small torch light to enjoy the views from inside the caves.
As you walked in further, the plankwalk will lead you to a larger chamber known as Lubang Padang. It is indeed another good spot for photo takings but in this case, I have to satisfy with the quality of a digicam. 🙁
It is un-usual for visitors to see bird nest collector in action as the bird nest harvesting is a seasonal activity. On that day, my group is lucky because we get to see one in action. It was on our way to Lubang Padang where I saw a man equipped with ropes and a similar look of a safety helmet with a ‘powerful’ spot torch light on his head. The bird nest harvester has been doing the job for the last 4 years (he’s a local) and he was more than happy to show us the process of climbing the ironwood poles that are attached to the cave ceiling (mulut kamek ternganga nanga nya nait kedak Speedy Gonzales, nasib sikda tahi burung gugok dalam mulut masa ya ;p ).
For the record, collecting the nests from the cave ceiling is damn dangerous job (they don’t wear any safety gears at all) and it is illegal to collect the bird nest or the guano as it is temporary bans by the Sarawak Forestry to protect the swiftlet populations. One must obtain special permit to do so (unless you owned a cave).
The bird nests are purely from the swiftlet’s saliva and when it is cleaned and cooked, it is highly regarded in the Chinese cuisine as caviar is in the west. Of which also explained the high price of a raw bird nest (nyaman lah makan air liur burung? yeewwww..).
After Lubang Padang, you will enter a totally dark passage known as Gan Kira (Moon Cave). You’ll get to admire and fascinated by the remarkable rock shapes and weathering effects. It is also very windy here and one gets to hear sound of water dripping from the cave ceiling. Towards the end of the plankwalk, my group rest at Gan Kira resting point before proceeding to the Painted Cave (Gua Kain Hitam).
Because it’s a resting point, I’m taking a break too and Part 3 adventures ends here. Otherwise, I have less information in Part 4. 😉