“Off-Road Cave Exploration: Mountain Bike”
By Cycling Malaysia Magazine May 27, 2018
Adventure lives in Sarawak. It didn’t take us long to catch its naked truth. The moment we rolled off our beds and a close distance away from the warmth of the riverview chalet, the call of the wilderness coaxed us through the faint sound of the river and the mild hot a rice cooked in Nepenthes pitchers to get started with our wild adventure.
The way to beat the sweetly cold air of the morning was to get our blood pumping. With our two wheels as our adventure implement, we drove to Tasik Biru (Blue Lake) within the gold mining town of Bau and began cycling.
Looks can be deceiving. Say the same for the Blue Lake, a man-made lake about 300ft deep, that was said to be a gold mine a long time ago. Folks said that when the gold ran out, the excavation formed a mystic wide lake from the rainfall or underground spring. And no devil-may-care plunge for you. While it’s a thing of beauty, the lake has high arsenic content, so no swimming, fishing or bathing. The lake, however, is used for water-based sports events such as rafting, kayaking, and tug-of-war. One signature event to watch out for is the Bau Jong Regatta that made its comeback in 2014 and was organized as part of the Tasik Biru Festival.
From here, we instead plunged into the ride, bathed under the heat of the sun for around 2km down Jalan Taiton, and took a turn until we found the Wind Cave Nature Reserve. Upon entering Passage No. 1, a 320m plankwalk, we knew right then and there why the cave is called such—the wind gushing through the passage was teasing cold.
Imagine walking in pitch black along a bat-infested tunnel; all you could hear were the squeaking noises of all 14 species of bats and frequent water drippings. We found ourselves relying on our torchlights to see through the depth of the cave and its foxy and beautiful creatures, unlike the black nest swiftlets, which could navigate in total darkness through the shafts of the caves.
Not long after, we were out in the open, only to enter Passage No. 2, shorter at 120m length. Snail and other mollusk fossils, which were believe to exist 150 million years ago, were found in discreet array on rocks.
The caving experience took us to a whole new pursuit. In the dark tunnel, we felt like we’re infiltrating some secret base made mysterious by the limestone pendants hanging from the roof of the tubular passage, and we had to find some hidden treasures between d cave pinnacles. After we did, we moved on to our next target, one of the oldest gold mines in Sarawak.
This time, we had to tackle a rocky terrain of about 4km. With the sun still at its peak, the shade of the gold mine served as our refuge. We cycled through the entrance and hopped off our saddles to admire its sparkling rock formations shaped by people’s desire for gold.
If that were not enough treasure to discover, we cycled straight to the Fairy Cave to revere some supernatural beauty. After about 4km of mixed off- and on-road paths, we were treated to some refreshments to recuperate before we hiked the concrete staircase four storeys high. The cave entrance was enchanting. From the outside, all you could see was a stone staircase heading further inside, vanishing in the dark, and returning to view as we finally made our way in.
The passage was getting tighter by the step—dimmer and steeper. We had to walk up the slippery wooden steps in caution. Focusing on our every step, it came as a grand surprise when the full panorama of the cave came into view. It was nothing like we’ve ever seen before. A whole new world bestowed upon us like living a picture-perfect fairytale—only it was real. Its ecosystem looked fragile in green. The mishmash of light and earth and order was surreal it looked vulnerably delicate.
Save the best for last? We just did. While it’s the best cave among the few we’ve seen for the day, it was not yet the final leg of our trip. We added an off-road challenge to the mix on our way back to the Blue Lake.
All pumped up after immersing in the mind-blowing beauty of the Fairy Cave, we took on the challenge of the road and the rainforest trails. Let the riders’ rumpus start!
The heat was punishing, but not more than the climbs and descents of the ride, especially when we started with the rocky terrain. We had to remind ourselves to not think about the one too many obstacles on the way, but think of where we wanted to be. We relaxed our initially tensed-up arms; we let go, not fighting back the bumps. After short tough sections, a few steep drops, a snickers break and a seemingly endless winding path over stones, we were finally back on the paved road.
Over 3km off the road and about 6km on the road, we cycled back to our kick-off point and wolfed down our lunch over stories about our off-road adventure.
This 19.53km of cycling adventure allowed us to go from mild to wild. Teenagers and adults would certainly enjoy the caving experience. Consider that a certain level of fitness is required for this tour, particularly for the off-road segment of the ride. Having some off-road experience would be to your advantage.
Bau was once known as the Gold Mine of Sarawak, but all the gold under and upon the earth of this quaint town is not enough to exchange for the glory of its green nature and rich culture.
Find out more about Paradesa Borneo’s adventure cycling day tour.