PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - An Australian tourist who was on a journey of self-discovery has gone missing in a world famous national park in Malaysia.
Mr Andrew Gaskell, 25, went missing on Oct 20. He was hiking alone in the Mulu National Park in Sarawak, a Unesco world heritage site that has networks of vast caves, underground rivers, steep mountains as well as sharp limestone walls.
Search and rescue personnel have combed three different locations at the Mulu Summit, Bukit Susu and Racers Cave. All three are located deep inside the national park.
Mr Gasket went to Mulu with a local guide but later told the guide that he wanted to go into the national park alone for a hike. It is not known which route he took.
The Australian wrote in his blog that his main travel goals were to have "genuine cultural experiences with local people outside of the mainstream tourist attractions and to climb a lot of mountains".
He said that starting in August, he "would be embarking on a journey beginning somewhere in Asia and heading in a generally westward direction for an indefinite period of time".
"And maybe, just maybe, in the course of my travels I'll come to some sort of conclusion as to who I am and what I want to do with my life. And so begins my journey beyond the horizon," he wrote.
The last photo Mr Gaskell posted on his Facebook page was a picture of the Niah National Park, also in Sarawak, on Oct 15, in which he described it as "possibly a photographer's dream".
"If I run into a photographer one day, I will ask," he said, adding that he had spent six nights camping at the park.
Mr Gaskell's younger brother Ben and father David have travelled to Kuching to help with the search.
In Miri, Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau, who has travelled far and wide in the jungles of northern Sarawak, urged the authorities to bring Penan trackers into the search operation.
"The search and rescue personnel are trying their best, but they must get more of the Penans in Mulu to help them.
"For example, the Mulu Summit where the search will be focusing on - that area can only be reached by foot and only the Penans will know the way," he said.
Miri Fire and Rescue Department chief Law Poh Kiong said they had deployed two teams of Special Tactical Operation Rescue Mission and Malaysian Specialised Taskforce units to Mulu to help others already on the ground.