YOUR HOLIDAY DISASTER: A cockroach chorus gave David Richards a night to remember

Click to follow
The Independent Travel
IT WAS supposed to be the best day of our trip. My girlfriend and I woke up to a beautiful dawn overlooking the South China Sea. We'd spent the night in Miri, a provincial town in Sarawak, and were about to embark on a riverboat journey to Mulu National Park, one of the world's last remaining unspoilt rainforests and wildlife reserves.

As we arrived at the quay, our enthusiasm changed to apprehension as we viewed our transportation, which appeared to be an elongated coffin with a 1960's jet engine stuck to the back.

As the boat got under way, we lurched forward, dodging semi-submerged tree trunks, at high speed. Nevertheless, three hours later, we arrived for lunch at Marudi, a jungle staging post. Our choice for lunch was rice and vegetables, while the locals got stuck into bowls of chicken feet, a delicacy that they insisted on offering to their Western guests.

Back on the river, we continued our journey. Unfortunately, the rainforest lived up to its name and over the next few hours we got steadily wetter.

Finally, at dusk, we arrived at Mulu and were warmly welcomed by our hosts. Following supper, which included fly-pasts by the local bat aerial display team, supported by a cicada ensemble and frog chorus, we retired to our "basic" accommodation. As we entered our room, we began to understand what "basic" meant. A bed, an overhead fan, plastic flooring, a cold shower. Never mind. What would you expect in the jungle? We hung up our clothes, fastened the mosquito nets and settled down. Soon we were dozing off, comforted by the cool air from the fan, except that suddenly the fan stopped as the camp generator closed down. After a few minutes, it became unbelievably hot and humid and then, I heard movement ... we were not alone.

My mind raced as I weighed up the two main options; ignore or investigate. By this time, my girlfriend had woken up and was encouraging me to "be a man". This was a signal to investigate, so I shone my torch, through my mosquito net, onto the floor. Nothing! Slowly moving the beam up the wall, I observed our guests on the wall. We had been joined, on their nightly patrol, by several battalions of giant cockroaches.

The rest of the night became a blur as I whirled round the room, chasing our unwelcome guests - who proved remarkably resilient to being drowned in insect repellent or hit with a metal drinks bottle. Daylight couldn't come quickly enough.

A couple of hours later we'd cleared our room and were ready to go trekking. Opening the door, we observed the beautiful rainforest canopy - together with a massive spider dangling from the doorway like a hairy pendulum. Had our nightmare finished, or was it only just beginning?