Swimming in Mud. Kota Kinabulu to Brunei May 13-30 (2012).

Royal Brunei Yacht Club.

At the Royal Brunei Yacht Club at Muara in Brunei (about 20 miles from town), they don’t sell beer. In fact like the rest of Brunei they don’t sell any alcohol at all. Instead intrepid yachties need to bring their own grog with them or put up with an extremely dry argument. You see they are quite Moslem here and the Sultan is none too keen on alcohol so the place is dry (well if you look really hard you might find it somewhere!!).  However, only 20 miles away across the water is Labuan, a duty free port that sells the cheapest alcohol in Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand; we will leave the Philippines out here given the Aus$1.50 bottles of Rhum and Gin available there! The arrangement here is that those boaty types who hang around for a while, every now and again do a mercy dash across the water and bring back enough grog to possibly float their boat. Fortunately for all concerned at the RBYC the locals have an arrangement where those heathen enough to drink and those lacking adequate religious substance (or both) can bring their own beer ashore (best in your own bucket also) and the bar will provide you, free of charge, ice to chill your beer; perfect. It doesn’t really help the Philippinos who are working here (and having to quite unwillingly ‘go on the wagon’) go about getting a drink, but knowing the drinking proclivities of most yachtie types these guys have dramatically improved their English skills with phrases like “got any rum”, “what about gin”, yes “brandy will do”! It was either that, buy a boat or swim.

We are in Brunei chasing the cheap diesel after hanging around in Labuan getting the cheap beer. We slipped away from KK on the fifteenth with Welsh Jeff and Hilary on semi retirement from the UK, Swedish Lasse backpacking as far as he can and Trevor of course trying to keep on top of boat maintenance. First port of call was the old haunt of Police Bay and the obligatory BBQ on the beach. The big item here though was testing out the new ‘Hookah’, or for those non-diving types, the new ‘low-pressure surface supply compressor’. Trevor had been building this for the past week in KK with help from ‘Charlie’, the aluminium welder from Inanam (KK industrial area) who usually specialises in fabricating aluminium bits aimed at making small cars go as fast as possible. Building this had been quite a saga that fortuitously coincided with Gini coming out from Australia and carrying around 20 kilograms of compressor parts; no surprises really that Simon was more than happy for Amanda to go back to Aus for a couple of weeks and do the same! Anyway the new gear is running swimmingly heralding a whole new phase in diving capabilities. Whilst at Police Bay (Pulau Gaya) we were also reacquainted with that brilliant aspect of Sabah tourism, “no you can’t possibly go for a walk in the forest on your own”, “it is far to unsafe” and “for your own safety, we will give you a guide for 200 Ringgit”, (Aus$70). Unfortunately this seems to be becoming the norm here where travellers and tourists are charged large sums for even the mundane and up to six times what the locals are for anything more than mundane. We just might have to sneak past their resort when we go back that way!

Panel 5

From Gaya to Pulua Tiga is about 35 miles with the opportunity at the end of the day to jump in mud. Tiga is a national park with a small resort of sorts, the obligatory diving operation and a ‘mud volcanoe’. You simply walk up the track behind the resort, go about 1.5 km, jump in the mud, float around for a while then walk down the beach to wash it off. Of course there is a sign advising all yachtie types to register at an office somewhere but you then probably run the risk of having to pay to take a guide with you, for your own safety of course, before you jump in the mud. The locals here trumpet the mud as good for your skin, health, complexion and as a remedy for most skin afflictions. It must be a bit of a girl thing these mud baths though as Hilary was more than happy to embrace the concept, porpoising around in the outdoor health spa. For your trusted blogger however the concepts of ear infection, conjunctivitis and parasites come to mind as possibilities; god knows what the locals might do with their mud to take the piss out of the punters. Washing the stuff off took more than a while as well and we all probably still have mud in our ears; we are sure Jeff has gone a bit deafer since.

Amphibious again it would seem!

The next forty miles took as back to Labuan and with the new crew another day of running around checking out the same locations as July last year; they haven’t changed but we did get to marvel once again at the plastic fish in the Marine Museum. It meant also that we could locate the plaque with Jenny’s (the librarian) uncle Jack’s name on it; ‘John Kenneth Cameron’. Jack died on the Sandakan death march and is remembered in the Labuan war cemetery on Panel 5, soldiers with unknown graves. His grave might be unknown but with the number of unidentified soldiers in the Labuan cemetery he is probably there. Adjacent to Labuan over on the mainland and just 10 miles away is the entrance to the Klias River. This is a navigable river with water deep enough to take a keel boat 26km up until a set of power lines blocks any further moves north. There are several rivers like this in Borneo where boats are actually a normal form of transport especially the Rajang back in Sarawak and the Kinabatangan over near Sandakan. When one says transport on the longer rivers though, what you are really doing is considering moving yet more logs downstream from the rapidly disappearing rain-forest! We spent three days up the Klias checking out some of the smaller tributaries, yet more proboscis monkeys and the bird life. Interesting concept it is, trundling along a river with banks at times no more than twenty metres apart and cars passing on a highway half a kilometre away. A lot of fun but as for the Kinabatangan, just past the forest on the banks when there are hills, you can see the palm oil marching off into the distance. After the Klias we also went to the bird sanctuary at the top of Labuan and then went out to try and dive on the war wrecks out the other side of Pulau Kumaran; but without a marker on the wrecks we probably need some better tools to locate them.

Thyme headed north.

Brunei itself is probably one of the more affluent parts of SE Asia (excluding Singapore). Here the locals have the highest pay rates for this part of SE Asia, there is no real poverty, nobody starves, they pay no income tax and most infrastructure is provided by the Government, i.e. the Sultan who would appear to have a very definitive interest in keeping his subjects happy. It is also a bit dull, no bars of course, no theatre, not much of anything really and unbelievably for Asia there is it seems only one Karaoke place (can’t say bar) apparently fully equipped with signs prohibiting touching; wonder if the men sing love songs to each other here? The affluence of Brunei has come from oil of course but with no more oil to export and gas being the big financial provider one does wonder what will happen when the money starts to run out; one doubts that it will worry the Sultan’s family too much.

We are due to get away from here the day after tomorrow after a visit to town and a look at the water village housing around 30,000 people, wonder what they do with their sewage, nasty thought that one. From here it will be some food shopping in Labuan, diving on Tiga, diving and BBQ on Gaya then back to KK for some more boaty work. After that north for Kudat, back to Sandakan then east headed for Indo and the Philippines.

To drown in mud you would have to be held under or wear a very heavy weight belt!

Mud Volcanoes

A mud volcano may be the result of a piercement structure created by a pressurized mud diapir which breaches the Earth’s surface or ocean bottom. Their temperatures may be as low as the freezing point of the ejected materials, particularly when venting is associated with the creation of hydrocarbon, clathrate-hydrate deposits. Mud volcanoes are often associated with petroleum deposits and tectonic subduction zones and orogenic belts; hydrocarbon gases are often erupted. They are also often associated with lava volcanoes; in the case of such close proximity, mud volcanoes emit incombustible gases including helium, whereas lone mud volcanoes are more likely to emit methane.

Approximately 1,100 mud volcanoes have been identified on land and in shallow water. It has been estimated that well over 10,000 may exist on continental slopes and abyssal plains.


In the Turtle Islands, in the province of Tawi-Tawi, the southwestern edge of the Philippines bordering Malaysia, presence of mud volcanoes are evident on three of the islands – Lihiman, Great Bakkungan and Boan Islands. The northeastern part of Lihiman Island is distinguished for having more violent kind of mud extrusions mixed with large pieces of rocks, creating a 20-m (66-ft) wide crater on that hilly part of the island.  Such extrusions are reported to be accompanied by mild earthquakes and evidence of extruded materials can be found high up the surrounding trees. Submarine mud extrusions off the island, have also been observed by local residents.

Other Asian locations

China has a number of mud volcanoes in Xinjiang province.

There are also mud volcanoes at the Arakan Coast in Myanmar (Burma).

There are two active mud volcanoes in South Taiwan, and several inactive ones. The Wushan Mud Volcanoes are located in the Yanchao District of Kaohsiung City.

There are mud volcanoes on the island of Pulau Tiga, off the western coast of the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo.

A drilling accident offshore of Brunei on Borneo in 1979 caused a mud volcano which took 20 relief wells and nearly 30 years to halt the eruption.

Lusi (Indonesia)

Drillingor an earthquakemay have resulted in the Sidoarjo mud flow on May 29, 2006, in the Porong subdistrict of East Java province, Indonesia. The mud covered about 440 hectares, 1,087 acres (4.40 km2) and inundated four villages, homes, roads, rice fields, and factories, displacing about 24,000 people and killing 14. The gas exploration company involved was operated by PT Lapindo Brantas and the earthquake that may have triggered the Mud Volcano was the Yogyakarta earthquake of May 27, 2006. In 2008, it was termed the world’s largest mud volcano and is beginning to show signs of catastrophic collapse, according to geologists who have been monitoring it and the surrounding area. A catastrophic collapse could sag the vent and surrounding area by up to 150 metres (490 ft) in the next decade. In March 2008, the scientists observed drops of up to 3 metres  in one night. Most of the subsidence in the area around the volcano is more gradual, at around 0.1 centimetres (0.039 in) per day. A study by a group of Indonesian geo-scientists led by Bambang Istadi predicted the area affected by the mudflow over a ten year period.More recent studies carried out in 2011 predict that the mud will flow for another 20 years, or even longer. Now named Lusi – a contraction of Lumpur Sidoarjo, where lumpur is the Indonesian word for “mud” – the mud volcano appears to be a hydrocarbon/hydrothermal hybrid.


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3 Responses to “Swimming in Mud. Kota Kinabulu to Brunei May 13-30 (2012).”

  1. Gavin Cartwright Says:

    great work trev,and the rest,
    gavin cartwright

  2. Trevor Says:

    Hi Gav, how’s it all going in St Kilda? Cheers, Trevor.

  3. travelling librarian Says:

    Thanks for the memorial pics Trevor. Sorry it took me a while to get around to reading the blog… but it’s winter and a girls got to go skiing when there is snow on the ground! Cheers, Jenny

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