Sunday 26 October

The second leg of the journey seems interminable. I catch a series of half-hour naps. We touch down at Bandar Seri Begawan at 1.30 pm local time. The airport is not busy and I am quickly reunited with my luggage. After the customary form-filling, our Explore group gathers outside the terminal. We have two large cars – apparently they were expecting eleven in the group, but we seem to have one extra, so Helen, Graham, Mark and I squash together in the middle row. This feat is achieved only by strict rota system for who can lean back against the seat.

There is evidence of recent forest clearance either side of the road as we drive through the green countryside towards the border. We clear Brunei-Malaysia customs and after about three hours reach the “Dynasty Hotel”, Miri, where we are staying the first night. I’ve been allocated a room with Ronnie, who declares himself to be “nearly retired”, and from just south of Belfast. He confesses to being a little worried about the hot weather we will face. He was in the Loire Valley during the heat wave this summer and found it almost unbearable. But Borneo was waiting to be discovered and he couldn’t let something like that put him off.

After showering, we meet in the reception for our first briefing with our tour leader and Iban guide, Chris. Suitably briefed, we then head off to the local supermarket to buy cheap woollen gloves, which apparently will be invaluable for our forthcoming caving activities. We eat dinner around a large round table in a nearby Chinese restaurant.