Rainforest is one of the worst places to get lost and there was one recent case in Sandakan. To learn the skills of a jungle man would make a difference. If you know how to use the resources of the jungle, the forest will be a buffet place, which offers plenty of food. That’s why I joined the Miki Survival Camp, a 2 day 1 night programme in Kiau last week. In Kiau, we still needed to walk to the forest in Mohan Tuhan, at the foothill of Mt. Kinabalu. The low mountain forest looks like the photo below, cool huh?
Kiau Village (Kampung Kiau) is 29KM away from Ranau town. If you drive to Kinabalu Park, you will see a junction at your left, somewhere between Nabalu and Kundasang towns. There is a brown sign of Miki Camp. Kiau Village is under Kota Belud district. I waited at the junction, and Mr. Sadib Miki, the owner of the camp, picked up me and drove another 30 minutes of bumpy road to the starting point (Kiau Nuluh Village). Most people in Kiau are Kadazandusun work as farmers and civil servants. Every house seems to have a farm there.
However, the weather started to turn bad, and the rain was kind of putting off my passion on photography. Below is a photo of the Miki team. From left, Jimmy, Sadib Miki (owner), Maik (his brother) and Danson. The rain didn’t seem to stop, so I had no choice but to proceed at 10:20am. Jimmy, Maik and Danson were our guides. They were so nice and helped to carry my heavy tripod. Thank you!
Walking from Kiau Village to Miki Survival Camp (in Mohan Tuhan, foothill of Mount Kinabalu) takes about 2 hours. We would stay in the forest for a night and came back in next morning. At first I was disappointed with the poor weather and hang my camera under the raincoat. Suddenly I saw a 5-inch earthworm crawling near the trail. Grew up as half a village boy, I noticed this earthworm crawled in an unusual way. After a closer look, I almost screamed, “that’s a giant Kinabalu Leech!!!” Giant Kinabalu Leech can grow up to 30cm long and we saw the baby leech. As sighting of this leech is very rare, I was as happy as a lottery winner. Giant leech only comes out after heavy rain, to chase for its prey – earthworm. Once it finds the earthworm, it will swallow the earthworm like a snake. Surprisingly, it doesn’t suck blood. Miki says such leech can be found in Kinabalu Park and Kota Belud, but it lives in very confined area. Very little is known about this creature. I should thank the rainy day.
Beginning of the trail was to walk pass a farm land for about an hour. Due to the cooling fresh air, I didn’t feel really tired or dehydrated. Then we walked into the dark, humid and dense low mountain forest. With an altitude of 1,000 Metres, this forest is characterized by abundant amount of mosses, lichen, algae, fungus, and mushroom on the tree and forest floor. Frequented by fog and mist, some trees even have hanging long roots that can absorb moisture from the air.
During the trekking, Jimmy, the Bear Grylls of Sabah, would stop occasionally, showing us some of the edible and herbal plant in forest, more like an interpretation walk. We didn’t only see, but also touch, smell and taste the forest produces such as wild durian and salak (snake skin fruit). Whenever Jimmy talked, I would take note. Otherwise I will forget what he says. I decide to post these info in my blog here. It is only a record, do not use my info as a forest eatery guide ok! Some food still needs special handling in order to consume safely. Don’t blame me if you get ill.
According to the guide, sometimes honeymooners also had their vacation in Miki Camp. A couple once carried a 2-year baby into the jungle. The 2-hour walk made us sweat but it was not too physically demanding. A walking stick and “kampung addidas” shoes (Village Addidas, a Malaysia made rubber shoes) will be your best friends. The forest floor can be wet, muddy and slippery, and you also need to cross a river. If you wear your hundreds dollar hiking shoes such as Camel and Timberland, you will soon find your shoes soaked with water and its bottom sticks a thick layer of mud. Kampung Addidas costs only RM3 (USD $1) but it is sold for RM7 (USD$2.20) in city. It is easy to dry and have firm grip on slippery rocks, but will not stick mud. Most guides wear it to climb Mt. Kinabalu and even won climbathon race.
Friends, I have 1 good news and 1 bad news for you. Good news – even though the forest is dark and wet, there was no mosquito. Bad news is – there are plenty of blood-thirsty slimy leeches, 90% of them are tiger leech. If you stop walking, they can crawl on your shoes in seconds, moving up and sucking blood on your feet, legs, neck and armpit. I was wearing leech socks with anti-leech spray on it, so I was safe. If you are a leech-phobia like me, you can wear leech socks or come in dry season. We crossed Hoya-Hoya, Inokok and Mohan Tuhan Rivers on the way, by slippery bamboo bridge, swinging suspension bridge and on foot (3 methods!).
Finally, after nearly 3 hours, we arrived Miki Survival Camp at 12:45pm in Muhan Tuhan. Actually the trekking took 2 hours, but we stopped many times for learning thus taking longer time. Probably coz of the rich negative ions, I didn’t feel exhausted, and the chocolate bars and 100Plus that I brought were untouched.
Miki Survival Camp started in year 2000. They have about 1 thousand tourists every year, mainly from UK. Miki Camp is in the middle of a forest, which was considered a sacred forest in the past. The hunters always buried some offering near the river, wishing for a safe and fruitful hunting trip. There are about 6 or 7 scattered raised floor huts, which house 1 or 2 camping tents. The campsite can accommodate 40 people at a time. Sleeping bag and carpet are provided, but this is not quite enough to fight the cold night. Besides, they have a kitchen that uses wood and gas for cooking.
Electricity and warm water are not available in the jungle. Since the camp has no attached bathroom, you have to walk to the toilet nearby. You shall not expect a 5-star toilet in a jungle right? In my previous camping, we only dag a hole, surrounded it with canvas and called it our toilet. I posted some more photos of the campsite in photo album, in case you like to see more. The guides said primates like orangutan, slow loris and tarsier were spotted in deeper site of this jungle. Wild boar and monkey were living around but they seldom come to the campsite.
They also have bathroom, but it is “underutilized”. It is so cold that none of us took a shower, haha… The temperature can drop to 8 degree Celsius, between wet and dry season. The Mohan Tuhan River is only a stone throw from our campsite. It is so clean that you can drink it right away, and the water is also freezing cold. Jimmy said we could take shower in this river, but I’m afraid I would never see my “little brother” again if I did so. In fact, this area is an important water catchment area, with unpolluted water straight from our majestic Mount Kinabalu.
Besides the guide, our cook, Rayner and his daughter, Diana also came in earlier. Dinomysia, the little daughter of Sadib Miki, was there too. The girls were very shy, probably I am too handsome, hehe… And their dog, Kurak (means white in local language), was a friendly company too. Kurak likes to hang around with Dinomysia and Diana, following them in and out of forest.
Another heavy rain approached, making afternoon even colder. We setup a fire place and sat next to it, to keep ourselves warm and dry. Same as us, Kurak also loved to stay near the fire, so near that I worried she would become a hot dog. If she was not sleeping, she would patrol around in the campsite, keeping wild animals at bay.
Photos taken in Kiau, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo