May 18th, 2015
The trip from Miri to Lambir Hills National Park is uneventful enough, the distance a paltry 30 km to the entrance, although the park boundary itself lies quite close to the city. The scenery is as uneventful as it was the other day, although my enthusiasm rises as I bound off the bus towards the entrance of the park located immediately by the highway.
Following a few terse pleasantries with the park staff, it turns out that they charge 20 RM for every visit from an external visitor. If I was to stay on site, the ticket would be valid for the entire length of my stay here, but the moment I leave the park, I would have to pay the full fee on re-entry.
I can appreciate their policy in theory, but am incensed by their refusal to accommodate me and adhere rigidly to their policies, even though I just came here an hour before closing with the intention of coming back tomorrow.
I argue with one warden after the other, finally being passed on to the park manager, to whom I explain that this was not the policy of the other national park I went to, Gunung Mulu, and no, it’s not my problem as to whether they are privately run or not and hence have subtle differences in admission policy.
What’s more, I came here late in the day with the intention of coming back again, 20 RM is not a trivial amount in Malaysia, and having trolled their web site, I am not clear I saw any information to this extent on their site. He remains stern, but relents in the face of my argumentation, although at this point there is really nothing much I can do in the park, since they close in an hour’s time, and I just have enough time to walk to a series of waterfalls.
He admonishes me as to the potential safety issues that may arise on the alternate treks, which are considerably longer – if I don’t come to the park first thing in the morning and expect to trek all day, there is very little I can expect to do here. So perhaps it’s all just as well, although I question my ability to get here first thing in the morning tomorrow – or on any other day, for that matter!
There is not much to say about the hike to the set of waterfalls, other than the trail is really very short, hardly anything that could be called a hike, but it is one of the attractions of the park. The park features numerous attractions, all reached by means of apparently reasonably well-defined trails, but with enough obstacles, including potentially felled trees and rivers that require wading through, if not altogether impossible to safely ford with heavy rain.
Unlike the other parks in the region, the attraction of Lambir Hills is not caves but waterfalls as well as a mountain of some sort. A series of wooden slat walkways cut through the jungle and progress to open dirt trails, clear except for photogenic leaf litter scattered across the labyrinthine root systems weaving above the surface.
Through the screen of palm varietals a muddy creek wends lazily to the waterfalls that are ostensible destinations of this hike. Small steps are built into the rising trail with weathered planks alongside some of the characteristic trees of this type of rainforest.
The waterfalls are so small you could almost miss them, the trail ending at the largest one, the water dropping dramatically into a somewhat turgid pool. The entire environment is inviting simply due to the absence of people, but the crashing in the bushes signals the presence of monitor lizards, fierce in appearance but ostensibly harmless.
Despite the shortness of the walk, I promised the park manager to be back immediately, not that there is anything remarkable about the forest around me, certainly not compared to what I have seen elsewhere.
The wardens are nowhere to be found on the way out. The gatekeeper points me to the carapaces of the dead rhinoceros beetles that have died from continually bashing themselves against the building, drawn in by the electric light at night time. He invites me to take one along, but I think I have enough things to carry already.
The trip back to town is easy enough, a bus en route to Miri stopping soon enough after I return, the return trip to town quick and uneventful.