Is now about two months since we begun cycling the roads of Malaysian Borneo, it seems that the time has come for a change, time to see a new country, time to explore Indonesia.
We saw so many things here, huge-nosed proboscis monkeys and ancestral caves, beautiful folks we have known, met endangered people and sailed on rivers through the jungle. But there is still something left for us to do, see the largest flower in the world, the rafflesia.
So we leave the city of cats (Kuching) and head to the Gunung Gading National Park, located on the road that leads to one of the border with the Indonesian part of Borneo, Kalimantan.
This is where we hope to see this huge parasite flower, a flower can exceed 100cm in diameter, and weigh up to 10 kg, a flower that takes months and months to bloom and then stays alive no more than seven days. A flower on the verge of extinction, like everything here in Borneo, plants, animals, people.
getting there - the road from Kuching to Lundu (Gunung Gading National Park)
- the south route, 98km mostly on highway H150. This may be the fast route if you are by car or bus.
- the north route, 91km on quite roads, near the coast for a little stretch and with a nice scenery overall, passing beside Kubah National Park. This is definitively the road you want to do if you're by bicycle, but also if you are on your own transportation and wish to be in a quieter environment. Just beware that there are almost no shops or settlements on this road, pack food and water.
It's almost dark and we find a very cheap Chinese small hotel in Lundu, a village about 4 km from the national park. Lundu is a small, sleepy and nice (for Borneo's standards) town with a few restaurants and hotels.
Gunung Gading National Park - entry fees, accommodation prices and opening times
It's also possible to sleep in the park where there is the dormitory with kitchen but yesterday was too late and it was closed, a room inside the park costs 40 ringgit. There are 4 beds so the price of each bed is 10 ringgit (€2).
At the entrance we are told there is no Rafflesia in bloom at this time, we know, we called a few days ago and have been informed of the sad news.
To book a room and inquire about the park and the presence of the rafflesia you could call the Gunung Gading National Park (+6) 082 735144 or the National Parks Booking Office, in Kuching (+6) 082 248088.
But anyway DO NOT TRUST THEM! You'll find out why.
the trail to waterfall 7
There are also many animals in this park but they are shy and not easy to spot, we just see some insects.
Then suddenly, while we are about to reach the last waterfall I turn around and I see it, it is enormous, a few meters from the path to my left. It's a surprise, I never thought seeing a flower could be so exciting! Nearby there are also two Rafflesia puppies, still in the shape of the ball before they unfold. It does not stink, everyone says it does but it is not so, at least in this case. The petals are thick and fleshy, the colors are very vivid, at least one meter in diameter, beautiful, we remain enchanted at least half an hour.
our adventures in Borneo:
pt1: from Kota Kinabalu to Tenom, crossing the Crocker range
pt2: Jungle Train, from Tenom to Beaufort
pt3: crossing Brunei by bicycle
pt4: around Miri, Lambir Hills and Logan Bunut national parks and Tusan Beach
pt5: the caves of Niah National Park (you are here)
pt6: from Belaga to Kuching by boat
pt7: Kuching and Bako National Park
pt8: Rafflesia in Gunung Gading National Park
pt9: Overland crossing from Sarawak to Kalimantan, the secret border of Aruk
pt10: Sambas, a wooden Venice in Borneo
here are some general hints to budget travel in Borneo (by bicycle or not)
Check also our reportages:
Chap Go Mei in Singkawang
pierce your face with swords for the sake of Borneo Gods
Hydroelectric devastation in Borneo
part 1: Interview with SaveRivers
part2: a visit to Sungay Asap