It was the day we dreaded but also the highlight of the trip. We had known beforehand about the whopping 18.5 kilometres trek through the tropical heath and lower montane forest of Maliau Basin. The first half of the trek was extremely pleasant as we feasted our eyes on various species of pitcher plants and orchids. The almost flat terrain made the whole experience enjoyable as we eased our way through the misty mossy forest.
We were at the 6 kilometres mark when we had reached the intersection between Ginseng Camp and Maliau falls. From here onward, the brutal 5 kilometres descent towards the belly of the Maliau falls is enough to deter the unfit from pursuing further. We looked at each other assertively. There was no turning back now.
Surprisingly the fatigue was drowned by the beautiful trail and wildlife around us. It was the first time I had seen a Rafflesia bud while roping my way down on the steep slopes. They usually bloom during rainy seasons.
The Red Fall Of Maliau Basin
With 2 kilometres to go, I could already hear the roaring falls. High on adrenaline, we paced our steps until we caught a glimpse of the torrential red falls.
Many have wondered what makes the Maliau falls red. The secret lies within the Heath forest that produces tannin-rich plants that washes into the river, creating Maliau’s distinctive colour. The red waters then cascade into a magnificent 7-tiered waterfall, making it the largest in Maliau Basin Conservation Area. It was also interesting to note that the low oxygen levels in the water makes it almost uninhabitable for most fishes or any fresh water creatures.
We had sat long enough by the rapid falls and soon the sky began to gloom. Certainly, it was worth the endurance test to catch such a spectacular display of waterfall but now it was time to huff and puff our way back.
After 7 hours of trekking, our final station, Ginseng camp was at sight. I would forever remember it for its swarming bees that enveloped our clothes and gears. According to the local ranger, the rainy season had disrupted their pollination, attracting them to the flower scent rubbed off coupled with the sweat on our clothes during the trek.
At dusk, I was relieved that the bees had dissipated. I sat together with the rest of the group for our final dinner together. It was in these camps that I learnt to appreciate the simple things in life that we usually take for granted. There were no barriers of any kind, just the purest of humanistic interactions. Alas, I was more at ease with strangers who eventually became a family in the middle of the Borneo jungle.
On the very last day, I paid a visit to the nearby Ginseng falls where the waters were calmer with 2 adjacent falls. I was told that we could swim in the waters but I decided to skip due to the swarming bees that returned at dawn.
The Reverie Of Maliau Basin
On the very last day of my journey, I broke away intermittently from the crowd, to complete the final 9 kilometres trail. All I could hear were the hooting sounds of the Gibbons, the high pitch songs of the Cicadas and the wistful winds weaving through the forest. Like many of my travels, I came in thinking I knew all there is about my destination but when I left, it is always with such humbling respect. And thus ended one of the most pleasantest dream in my life in a land lost in time.