Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Paragliding Headhunters and relaxation via Hotspring

Let's start with the hotsprings, since that happened a few days earlier than the paragliding. A big group of us researchers from the expedition went for one night to the Merrarap hotsprings resort. This not-so-tiny resort is built in an ideal scenic space, surrounded on all sides by mountainous rainforest (some of it virgin), partially blanketed by cloud cover, and a rapid flowing river right beside the hot spring tubs. The Hotspring source is quite close to the actual tubs, and the resort mixes in some cool water to make the temperature bearable (40-50 degree C). As is the case with most hot springs, the stank of dissolved hydrogen sulfide (main smelly component in farts) is rife. But if you can overcome the stench and can take the heat, the rewards are big. The tubs are built out of real rock from the surrounding area, and really give an authentic feel to the place. Once you get into the water, there is little reason to want to exit- great company and soothing hot water glued me to the tub for over an hour. In the background, the sound of rapids crashing against rocks gives an added excitement and natural feel to the experience. Later that night, we unwound on some comfy couches, and had some great chats about different adventures the researchers had been part of. Before heading to bed, we all heard a crashing sound nearby, and found that some massive black colored insect had caused all the ruckus when it hit into the light. This thing was the Rhinoceros Beetle, about the size of a large egg, with an exoskeleton as hard as human bone. This beetle boasts some of the most incredible strength to be seen in the animal kingdom- some male Rhino beetles are able to produce force 850x their own body mass, making them the second strongest animals in the world, in terms of force produced/body mass. BUT I NEVER KNEW THEY COULD ALSO FLY. If these buggers latch on you, pulling them off might take your skin off as well, so best let them get off on their own terms.
The next morning, we woke up for more hot spring action, while taking in the beauty of various hornbills (the iconic bird of Sarawak) so easily maneuvering the densely packed trees across the river.
Some new friends I made on the expedition to Paya Maga
Beautiful virgin rainforest protected by mountain ranges and the precarious river rapids
Rhinoceros beetles can exert a force 850x their own weight, making them the second strongest organism in the world in terms of force/body mass. This beetle recently got surpassed by the Horned Dung Beetle, which is capable of lifting 1,140x it's mass. According to Extremescience (http://www.extremescience.com/zoom/index.php/creepy-crawlies/117-strongest-animal), this would be same as a human lifting six double decker buses. No big deal.

On our flight back to Kuching, we had a layover in the city of Miri. My friend Simon, the Iban paraglider (of headhunting ancestry), has a paragliding club here, and invited me to check him out in the act. It was really cool, but definitely requires some serious training and focus. I would absolutely love to learn, if time allows. The feel of flying through the air must be so invigorating, but probably also terrifying at moments. Photos below show him or his friends in various points of paragliding.

Simon is so worry-free when it comes to paragliding, it's a wonder he ever was terrified of heights.

I'm sure if he reached out his hand, he could grab some clouds.

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