Report by Lisa Toh
31st January 2008
The team of 11 set out for the climb to Gunung Tahan– Senior Commander Jim Guneratnam, Ms Low Mai Keok, Mr Michael Soong, Commanders Lam Kah Meng, Lam Kah Leong and Timothy Lee, Expedition Rangers Hansel Wong, Samuel Ngeow, Choy Ji Ian, Josephine Tiew and Lisa Toh, gathered at church for a short briefing and a prayer by our Chaplain, Associate Pastor Steven Kum. We left for Taman Negara, Sungai Relau at about 5.45 pm. Councilman Lim Sew Hok, Councilwoman Chin Yoke Yee and Commander Kester Low provided the transport to Sungai Relau. We had our dinner, Chinese style, at a restaurant in Bukit Tinggi. After a filling meal we continued on our journey. A few petrol station stops and lots of trailer overtaking later, we finally reached our destination around midnight. The boys piled into their dormitory while the girls settled in their chalet.
A river crossing…
1st February 2008
After a good night’s sleep we woke up to a simple breakfast of nasi lemak with sambal ikan bilis and oddly, black sauce chicken. Then, we had devotion and prayer by Councilman Lim Sew Hok. We then brought our backpacks to the Wildlife Department to be declared. This ensured that we did not litter the trails. Having done that, we loaded our backpacks onto a pick-up truck and loaded ourselves onto the back of a 4X4 for our ride to Kuala Juram. Councilwoman Chin Yoke Yee and Commander Kester Low joined us on our mini rollercoaster ride. Prior to really beginning our trek, we first had a little briefing by our 2 guides, Ridzuan and Mat, whom Ms Low nicknamed “Rambo” because of his size and built. And so Rambo he became. We took our last photos looking fresh-faced before crossing the suspension bridge to begin our trek. We crossed 4 rivers and passed Kuala Luis, where we ate the sandwiches prepared for us by Councilwomen Chin Yoke Yee that morning for lunch, and Lata Luis. Just before reaching our campsite for the day, we chanced upon a green viper. I’d say it looked pretty cute. Kem Kor, though looking a little barren, was a sight for sore eyes. The river next to it was more so. Since we had reached our campsite at about 3.30pm, we had some extra time to relax and bath in the river after pitching our tents before dinner. It drizzled slightly but we had a relatively good first night. Being the first group to climb Tahan in 2008 thus far was pleasant.
Another river crossing…
2nd February 2008
After a short prayer, we started off a little past 8 am and headed towards Bukit Botak, at 1943m. Along the way we passed Permatang, Kubang, where we stopped for lunch, Belumut and Bonsai. Somewhere along the trail it started to drizzle which morphed into a very heavy rain. Fortunately, after what seemed like a very long period the rain started to ease up by the time we were close to Bukit Botak. We were trekking up very steep inclines and through very muddy trails covered by mist. As we reached the higher elevations the trail became rocky, which was way better than sinking into deep, soft, cold mud but the mist made it difficult to see beyond a few feet. We reached Bukit Botak late and the sky was darkening as we pitched our tents. It also started getting very cold as the winds whipped around followed by rain again. We had dinner in our tents that night and then got ready to sleep. It rained on and off during the night. A few of us ventured out to have a look at the sky late at night. The sky was crystal clear and the stars were beautiful. The cold, however, drove us back into our tents. We had hiked 16 km today.
Pitcher plants were found in abundance…
3rd February 2008
It was a crisp Sunday morning. We packed our things and started for our next destination, the very peak of Gunung Tahan, 2187m. After about an hour or so, at about 10.40am, we made it to the summit. We truly thank God for helping all of us reach the very top of Peninsular Malaysia in one piece. We took our photos and then sang a few songs of worship and praise. After that, we had devotion and prayer by Senior Commander Jim Guneratnam. Then some of us went hunting all over the place for phone service. Having done what we wanted to do on the summit, we started our journey of 7 km to Gunung Gedung, at 2085m. The trail cut through bonsai plants that were so stunted they were hardly ever taller than your knee. The trek was breathtaking as we could see the mountain ranges as we made our way across them. There were pitcher plants as far as the eye could see and in a myriad of colours. The trail here wasn’t very muddy; in fact, on some parts it was dry and the whole trail was less demanding. Pretty soon we came to Padang, a place that our guide says was once used by the British army as a training ground. After a short break, we resumed the journey to our campsite, Kem Gedung. About an hour before reaching our campsite, we came to a place where the wreckage of a plane that crashed in the 60’s or 70’s were gathered. We marveled at the way the metal was crumpled like paper due to the force of the crash. Ridzuan also told us that originally, the pieces of the plane was scattered all over. People searched for the wreckage and brought them up to the trail. We resumed our journey and picked up the speed since it had started to rain again. When we reached the campsite, the tents were quickly pitched because the rain was coming down hard. We needed to get water, however, and endured the cold and rain to collect water from the water source down the side of the mountian. Again, we had dinner in our tents since it was pouring. We settled for the night.
The Team; Micheal Soong, Choy Ji Ian, Cmdr Lam Kah Meng, Josephine Tiew, Jr Cmdr Philip Lam, Samuel Ngeow, Hansel Wong, Lisa Toh, Cmdr Timothy Lee, Low Mai Keok and Sr Cmdr Jim Guneratnam (Left to Right)
4th February 2008
A very soggy morning! On the other hand, the weather here is slightly milder than Bukit Botak. We had a long trek ahead, climbing 3 mountains. The first, Gunung Reskit at 1666m was physically demanding. At one point, we had to do a little rock climbing downwards over a steep-steep cliff. Other times we had to be extremely careful not to fall. The second, Gunung Tangga 15, was about facing your fear of heights. Contrary to its name, there are only nine ladders on the mountain. The third, Gunung Pangkin, 1962m was a tiring climb with three ladders. On our way to Pondok Dua (Wray’s Camp), it started to rain again. When we passed Wray’s Camp, it was pouring. We continued on walking towards Kuala Teku, which was our next campsite. The boys started singing songs of praise and worship to lift our spirits as we went along. Thankfully the rain let up after a while. Some of the boys went ahead towards Kuala Teku to pitch the tents first as it was starting to get dark and we still had some distance to go. We met another group of trekkers from Kuala Tahan at the campsite. After washing up, we finally were able to have our dinner outside after three days, before reluctantly retreating into our tents.
Gunung Tangga 15 consists of nine ladders…
5th February 2008
Today we were to cross the Tahan river 8 times. The current was strong and treacherous but all of us made it across safely. Trekking along the river was ardous as the rocks were slippery. We stopped at Kuala Puteh for a late lunch and were glad to refill our water bottle with “puteh” clear water. En-route to our campsite, we had to climb Gunung Rajah at 576m. The summit of Gunung Rajah was hot and sunny. The view from the top of this mountain was majestic. We could see Gunung Tahan from here and we were caught off-guard just how far we had come. After a short rest we continued trekking cross many more hills. We continued to trek knowing that our long day would result in us getting out of the jungle one day earlier than planned. Three hours after Kuala Puteh we reached our final campsite, Kem Tengah. The night was a very pleasant, dry night. Everyone was feeling high spirited knowing we will be back to civilization the next day.
Gunung Rajah was where we finally got handphone coverage…
6th February 2008
We set off for the last part of our expedition. We had lunch in Kem Melantai. The river next to it was clear and soothed our very sore legs. After slogging through more than 10 km of slippery, muddy trails, we were ecstatic to have reached Kuala Tahan. While waiting to for the park rangers to issue our certificates and to check our belongings, we peeled off our leeches and had iced lemon tea, which was a welcome change to our six days of “Chinese tea” coloured water. Thereafter, we took pictures of our very ragged selves in front of the park before taking a boat across the river from Taman Negara. We had a short walk to the chalets that our guide, Ridzuan had arranged for us. After we cleaned ourselves up, we had a reunion dinner, Royal Rangers fellowship at a floating restaurant nearby since it was the day before Chinese New Year. Then we gathered round outside our chalets and shared testimonies of our mountain experience, sang praises and gave thanks to God.
Back at Taman Negara Headquarters…
7th February 2008
At 6.00am the next morning, Commanders Chin Yoke Yee, Eddy Law and David Peter arrived with “yee sang” and chicken wings for our breakfast. Then, we departed for KL with fond memories of our trip.
Disclaimer: No animals were harmed during the expedition. The same cannot be said for leeches, however…and SERVES THEM RIGHT!!!
Check out our article and more pictures in Calvary News May – June 2008 issue.