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Miri and around
Miri was a lot busier place than Brunei and suddenly we had to worry about cars on the streets again; the pavements were just too full with things from the shops. We stayed only one night in Miri before continuing south to the small but comfortable Lambir Hills National Park, and the day after that to the big and spectacular Niah Caves.

81. Breakfast Street sounds of Miri
Even though we didn't stay long in Miri (2 nights in total) it became our favourite city in Borneo. There were plenty of good places to eat, and newly arrived to this part of the world we enjoyed every meal, especially the pancakes in the shop just around the corner from our hotel.

89. Lambir Hills National Park Lambir Hills jungle sounds #2
We hadn't made any plans for our stay in Miri, so we went to the tourist office. A very helpful woman gave us several good suggestions. We finally settled for a visit to the Lambir Hills National Park and the Niah Caves. Both places were easily reachable by local buses. The bus stopped just outside the camp's main entrance in Lambir Hills.
    We didn't waste any time but headed straight out into the forest after a quick meal. The temperature was lower than in the city, but the humidity much higher. Before long, we were soaked in sweat.

97. Waterfalls Streaming water
We followed a small creek passing several waterfalls. After a while, we reached a pool with a stream plunging into it on the opposite side. It was a really refreshing swim!
    On our way back, we took a different, less used track, than the one leading to the pond. The track led us to a 45 metres high tower allowing us to get a view of the tops of the trees. Unfortunately, the canopy walk was too old and had begun to fall down.
    After the tower, the track went up and down and it was difficult to follow at some places. We even missed one turn and ended up in a dead end once. We were a bit worried of not making it back to the camp before dark. However, the last part of the track was bigger and better and mostly downhill, and we still had an hour or so to spare before dark.

130. Bukit pantu Lambir Hills jungle sounds
The next morning the humidity was even higher than the day before. We had decided to climb Bukit Pantu, the second highest hill in the national park. This makes it around 400 meters above sea level. Not unexpectedly, it was mostly uphill. At some places, there were stairs and ladders to make the climb easier. This time we didn't pass any pool for a refreshing swim, but at the top of Bukit Pantu, a nice breeze was blowing. The view was nice and one could almost see the entire Lambir Hills National Park. It was also easy the spot the "line" between the forest and the surrounding oil palm plantations.

143. River taxi Boat engines
In the afternoon we continued by bus to Batu Niah; the village nearest to the Niah Caves. As soon as we got of the bus, a boat driver asked if we wanted to go to the camp. It was a short but fun ride, and we kept our eyes open for crocodiles, but that was probably only a tale to frighten tourists. The water in the river was really dirty, mostly because of the logging taking place in the inland. On our trek in the Kelabit Highlands, we passed one of the more recently logged areas and it was not a pretty sight (p. 194).

146. Sli... sli... slippery Niah song bird
After a night's sleep we set out early for the caves. They were located about 3.5 kilometres from the camp, and a plank walk covered the entire route. Since it had been raining more or less the entire night it was very slippery.
    The rainforest here was older and denser than the one at Lambir Hills, and we had lots of opportunities to get close to big trees and also a green lizard. If we had had more time, it would have been nice to take a smaller track without a plank walk and explore the forest in more detail.

162. Great Niah cave Niah cave bats
It took more than an hour to reach the cave. The entrance was very impressive, especially from the inside. However, the first thing we noticed was the foul smell from the bat's guano. Local people collect it from the floor and sell it as fertiliser.
    The other "industry" in the cave is nest collecting. The workers climb on tiny rails up to the roof to collect swiftlet nests, which are sold to exclusive restaurants for making soup. At that moment, it was off-season for this kind of activity, but it looked really unsafe to climb those rails. The cave was more than 50 metres high at some places, and occasionally a nest-collector would loose the grip and fall down.

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© 2001-2002  Photos Nicklas Nordborg and Dimitria Kallini  Texts and sounds Nicklas Nordborg