Batu Lawi -
All pictures of the trip
I had to go back to Batu Lawi and Gunung Murud. After all, I didn't see
the nepenthes veitchii last time, and I still wanted
to find more n. reinwardtiana on Murud. So my eldest son and I set of
Bareo - Pa'Ukat - first camp.
An uneventful flight from Miri via Marudi, getting to know the guide
and the porters (and we had Tony again who was with us on Murud last
year) and walking away from Pa'Ukat, a small village just beyond Bareo.
We pass the ricefields, enter the forest and the first leeches
first camp - second camp
After a bad night with rain we leave and the guide is gone by himself.
After one hour we hear a shot and our guide sits
with a bucking deer. The meat is cut and packed and we
have extra proviand. Soon we hit he cliff and look for the pilosa.
The seed pods are old and empty. We also find a couple of tentaculata
and don't find back last year's lowii. We continue and at 14.00 hrs we
pass last year's camp, which apparently isn't good enough this time. We
continue past pilosa and steno,the path is blocked by a fallen tree
and we (or better our guide and porters) hack a new path, and see,
there is an exploratory logging road....
One or two river crossings (with barely water) and we find the first
n. veitchii. This is where we set camp. At 16.25 hrs it doesn't rain,
pours, and we do get seriously wet. Half an hour and we can set up the
tents, light a fire and get something warm to drink.
Looking for n. veitchii.
The sun shines, and my son decides to take a lazy day and try to get
our stuff dry. I leave with the guide and a porter and we start along
the logging road. Pretty quick there are n. veitchii, but no
We find large clumps in the trees, but none show the
clasping behaviour that I found years ago. I see a couple of n. pilosa,
two n. stenophyla (or n. fallax) and then, after a couple of hours we
hit the Lembang River and a 12 meter wide logging road. It seems the
road runs from Lawas to Bareo, but is not actively logged yet. In any
case, a depressing view.
back with side entries in the forest (which by the way is
National Park, nice to see a National Park Logging Road.......) and
almost at the end we look at a fallen tree. There is a nepenthes with a
single pitcher at the top, and maybe a young plant next to it. From the
looks of it this could be n. fusca, altough it doesn't resemble the
plants I saw in Sabah. It does resemble the picture of the upper
pitchers in Clarke, and the young plant could well present the lower
Now I start thinking about the "n. spec B' from Gunung Murud, and could
it be that this is a n. veitchii x n. fusca cross?
In any case: one large plant, one small, one tree; in a circle of 100
meter: everything flattened, and no more trace of this elusive n. fusca
"Batu Lawi". I search around but without results. We track back to the
camp and it pours again
We wake at 06.30 and prepare for the trek back to Pa'Ukat. After
another night of rain everything is wet, either by rain or by
condensation. We leave the campsite and the logging road is OK to walk
on. The rivers are swollen, and where days ago we had 30 cm water now
we see more than 1.3 meter. There are two ways to cross a stream: if
you are lucky you find a tree and you stay dry, otherways you just
cross..... we cross many times. The large boulders close to the cliff
are wet and covered with moss, thus very slippery. Soaking wet and
assaulted by leeches we continure. Hornbills pass by, and
normally a lucky sign. Down from the cliff is more sliding than
walking, and at moment we have decided: we will bypass Gunung Murud.
no end at the descend, but suddenly, as if walking through a
wall we leave the forest and are in the mids of the rice-fields of
Pa'Ukat. Now we know it is only one more hour and we are at the
longhouse. At 16.45 we are finally down, time to unpack everything and
sleeping bags, tents and clothes in the sun. Of course after 15 minutes
Having decided to give Murud a miss (feeling sorry nevertheless, but
safety goes first) we re-schedule over Pa'Lungan, Long Repong,
Kalimantan and Ba'Kelalan.
Guess what, in the morning it pours.... We wait till 10.00 hrs and
final;y leave. The road is uneventful, going up and down and up and
down. The buffalo highway is wet and slippery, the forest is hot and
humid. We arrive at he krangas forest with n. stenophylla and n.
reinwardtiana. There are two forms of n. reinwardtiana: red and green,
and they intermingle. Despite differences of only 300 meter
elevation the walk is not that easy. A buffalo with full sledge passes
us on his way to Bareo.
The story of the Batu Ritung lodge owner of Pa'Lungan.
He is from Chinese descent, and his great-great grandfather immigrated
from Indonesia (which didn't exist then, it was just Netherlands
Indies). He keeps his family treasures, large bronze vessels and gongs
from a gamelan on the first floor of the lodge, together with small
items that document a family life. Pa'Lungan has less than 100
inhabitants, and is ageing fast. The young go to school in Bareo, which
is a 3 hour walk one way, so they come home one weekend in two. Then
they go further away, get an education and don't come back. The girls
marry in the cities and also stay away. The farmers who don't find a
wife marry across the border in Kalimantan. To work the rice-fields the
village has to rely on contract labour from Kalimantan. There are 40
acres of fields, and the surplus of the village is 5 ton/year. (at a
sales price of 2 ringit per kilo, bring us at 10000 ringit for the
whole village, just the cost price of one marriage, or the price of one
feast for a name change which has to happen after a male successor
followed by a male grand-child). His father is in his 80ies, alone and
walks the fiels wondering what will happen with the ancestral lands. So
much for the charms of natural living.
Pa'Lungan - Long Repong.
For once it doesn't rain in the morning. Sunny with large clouds, and
we are happy to take the road to Long Repong. Surprise: the rivers
which were difficult to scale last year have been equipped with
tree-trunks, and we cross in a breeze. The first part or the trip is
flat, and we make good speed. We sight a couple of eagles and a black
gibbon. Then all of the sudden the path goes up, a climb I
totally forgot. It is a long steady climb, and at 12.15 we are at the
top, close to the location of a helipad from the 1962 war with
Indonesia. The war caused people to leave Long Repung, then a village
(even the father from our guide left for Pa'Lungan), and what remains
is a shelter for hunters both sides of teh border. From the top it goes
down, crossing a couple of streams. A small patch of krangas has the
usual steno and reinwardtiana (sorry nepenthes lovers, this
it, no more new species here). Then we get at the last real
river, swollen and two meter above last year's level. A very large
tree, which was two meter above level last year is now partly
submerged, but we cross this one on our socks (gives better grip...).
Of course, once we are in the shelter it rains....
The road to Kalimantan.
We take the same path as last year, direction Murud. We see the summit
covered in clouds, and I feel sorry that we will not go up. As
yesterday we take our shares of streams, either over trees or just
across through the water. A groupt of monkeys passes obverhead. Then we
slowly go up from 1000 meter to 1270 meter and there we are: a small
stone 10 meter from the path, the only sign of the border with
Kalimantan. What we think is a large butterfly becomes a bat in plain
daylight.... And then the most incredible buffalo highway: all the way
down over slippery clay for more than one hour, hard on the knees and
steep, gouged by the sleds. People cut trees for houses (we are now
close to the village, only one more hour...original commantary from our
guide, talk about distances) and the couple of houses from Pa'Rupai
appear. Friendly hallo's and it is appaent that no many strangers take
this hike. Twenty minutes later we are in Long Medan, and what I
expected to be the size of Pa'Ukat is large.
Long Medan is large. Three churches one or two schools, many shops,
small motor bikes and busy. There is continuous traffic to Ba'Kelalan,
that is much closer than the next city in Kalimantan. People go and
sell rice, buy petrol, import stuff by car via Lawas, the walk, drive
bikes and buffalo's over the border and are busy. The lodge we are
staying has choosen this time for reconstruction. So we wait till the
stairs are ready, then till the linoleum is put on the floor and then
the room is ready. These are relatives of relatives of our porters, and
we geteven hot water to wash, luxus pure.
In the evening, we get hit by civilisation: the lodge sports a karaoke
installation and our guide and porters sing at full voice the latest
Last walk. This is easy. A wide road (not surfaced) meanders up and
to Sarawak. We pass a police post, say hallo, get checked and are back
in Sarawak. There are many people on the road, having gone to
Ba'Kelalan to sell their rice. One spot of n. reinwardtiana and this
will be it I think. Uneventful walk, relaxing to the village. We see
that the airport runway is ruined (last year is was nice and new, now
it is undulating).
Next day: waiting to take a 4x4 to Lawas. Our driver doesn't want to
ride alone, having gotten stuck 7 times last night and taking 10 hours
for the 150 kilometer. So we wait. A buffalo bull escapes in the
village, and for half an hour Ba'Kelalan is Pamplona. Bull charges from
buffalo's are very very impressive. Twelve and we leave alone. Twelve
fifteen and we are stuck. This will happen at least six more times in
the next 10 kilometers. We pull the truck, we get pulled by another one
and we struggle. Once the car sits, chassis on the mud and wheels free.
Three hours and 30 kilometer. It rains and the road becomes liquid mud,
slippery to the point where we are all over the road, almost but just
not plunging in the abyss or hitting the trees on the other side.
Surprise: a lonely patch of n. pilosa hangs on the
the road. It rains so hard and he driver is working with all his skill
to hold the car on the road that I do not ask for a stop. After hours
we hit the main logging road (the one that I crossed on Batu Lawi...)
and we can drive a bit faster. Just before LAwas we get into a
thunderstorm and nobody knows how the driver sees the road in pitch
darkness. Then we are there: Lawas, seven and a half hour for the 150
kilometer. The tour is over.
"Please write in Malay to the head of the village well in advance if
you need guides and porters. He might be able to organise this,
depending on the season and if people are not working in the rice
(free after Briggs, Mountains of Malaysia)
"Jean, do you have an email address so I can contact you and stay in
touch? There is an internet caffee in Bareo and my friend has an
account there." (original comment from our guide)
Lots of thanks here: to my son for coming along and keeping me company
(yes I might go back, see epilogue), to our guide Katuwan and the
porters Tony and Sylvester, to our driver Anthony without who we would
still be in Ba'Kelalan. Borneo Advanture in Kuching organised for us
with assistance from Thomas of the Miri Office.
Looking back I think this was my last nepenthes trip. Why? Difficult to
say. I lost the whow-feeling when seeing another plant, and oh no I
will not take another picture. What else bothered me? The ongoing
islamisation and the youth gangs on the Kuching Waterfront? The
leeches? The strain of walking up and down the mountains? The horror of
the logging roads and the disappearance of the forest? Maybe all of it
together. This is it, it has grown over the distance of the tour, and
if I can't get enthusiastic then there is no more point in going. Real
men don't walk through the forest, they drive their Harley to the next
party and have a good time.
On the other hand I was happy to be friendly received in the longhouses
and the villages, talking and living with the people. I felt welcome.
And also there are some limestone cliffs there with paphiopedilums. I
think I will have to go back and check them out :-)