On the Malaysian portion of the island of Borneo, a few hours drive west from Kota Kinabalu, lies Poring Springs. Located at the end of the road, Poring Springs is a source of steaming underground water which is gathered here in numerous pools that draws locals and tourists alike to bathe in its goodness.
Erin and I arrived in Poring Springs not looking to bathe but to continue past the end of the road walking into into the jungle. Our intention? To locate the Lupa Mesa Jungle Camp. We had arranged to meet a Lupa Mesa representative at the Poring Springs laundromat of all places. Having only been in Borneo a day this already seemed the norm. Locating the laundromat was easy, as there was only 2 or 3 other stores in Poring Springs, however we find it is closed. Only a number left to dial for laundry needs. Just as we were deciding on whether to ring, a perky Asian girl appears behind us introducing herself as Phoebe.
Phoebe was a volunteer at Lupa Mesa and has arrived here to walk us to the camp. Phoebe is quite friendly and is quite talkative, which was helpful when there are so many questions to answer as we venture into the unknown jungle! We first summon the laundromat for the hire of some blankets and leech socks. These two items required, respectively, because it gets a little cool overnight given we are at 900m above sea level and the 30 minute walk to camp is littered with blood sucking leeches!
It has been raining pretty steady for the past hour and the trail we set out on is boggy and full of puddles. Aiming to keep our boots dry as we are climbing Kinabalu in a few days. We shortly however encounter a raging river. Apparently, according to Phoebe, this was a gentle stream only half an hour earlier. Curious as what to do, I set out into the white water using a stick to prod for any major potholes or rocks. The current strong enough to whisk us off our feet if we’re were not careful. Even Phoebe who was showing off in her gumboots up to this point was forced to strip to bare feet for the crossing.
With soaking shoes we press on with little to no incident. 30 minutes later we arrive into camp. Lupa Mesa is pretty basic with a few bamboo huts scattered about with makeshift tarps for shelter. The various ‘rooms’ offered are similar huts with no walls and containing just gym mats on the floor covered in mosquito nets. Perfect!
It is soon to be dark which occurs quickly in the tropics and even more so under the thick jungle canopy. So we get settled, shower and head down for dinner and a beer with the other guests. Or more correctly, ‘guest’ an Irish woman named Brona. Apart from Brona there is Phoebe (a volunteer) Mike, the Scottish manager and his wife Salina.
Food was basic but tasty and we chatted for a while as the subsequent chatter in the jungle came to life. All manner of insects, frogs, and god knows what else all were alive with mating calls, hunting calls or likely asking each other whether these new entrants to the jungle would taste any good.
Apart from a waking to a falling tree in the night it was quite a restful sleep.
The next morning, breakfast served with self serve tea and coffee. Practically civilised! Today being a rest day before the Kinabalu climb it was definitely an opportunity to string up a hammock. The jungle camp was situated high on the steep bank of a small stream. A basic sun deck had only recently been built level with the river but not sturdy enough to hold a hammock without risk of collapse.
Along the stream most gaps between the trees had think undergrowth preventing the hanging of the hammocks. Eventually some trees were positioned a reasonable distance apart. After some gentle ‘clearing’ with the recently acquired parang (machete) it made the way for a relatively clean swing. So after avoiding the odd leech and other residents of the lower branches, one hammock was strung up OK.
Next up number two. This required a bit more engineering. Attempting an ‘over water’ hammock hang we wrapped one hammock sling around the tree used for hammock #1. The other end being secured to a river boulder. Using its immense weight pressing on another rock it seemed to hold the rope firm. Still it was precarious hanging high above the water. Some menacing rocks down below would not do the back any good if I were to fall on them from 3m up!
Easing my weight into the hammock my confidence eventually built to a point that I was able to swing freely and somewhat confidently. All the time thinking what action should I take if I felt the rope gave way. But it held firm and simply swung in the slight breeze, the sound of water rushing underneath with a view up into the jungle canopy was quite the way to spend the best part of a day. Shoes and clothes from yesterdays river crossing were drying in the hot sun, surely dry in time for the Kinabalu climb tomorrow. Life was good.
It was awesome to road test the hammocks in this way as it was a new purchase and a trial of a newish but exciting concept of hammock camping. While we were not sleeping in these hammocks overnight in Lupa Mesa, they proved comfortable enough that this could be considered in the next weeks travels through Borneo!