Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The foothills of Nuang

Saturday, 28/2/2009, 5:00am.

Woke out from bed with a jolt, the constant repetitive drone of 'I will not be late again this time... I will not be late again this time...' echoing in my mind... But although my mind was eager, my body was not, and I remained 'paralysed' in my comfortable bed for another 15 minutes before I managed to gain enough control over my motor functions to drag myself out. :p

30 minutes later I was in the car hurtling down again to the official Trail Trackers HQ (Linus insisted that I use that term ;)) in TTDI.
The target for our next Trail Trackers conquest this time is GUNUNG NUANG! :) Well not exactly Gunung Nuang, rather the first campsite at the foothills of Gunung Nuang, Kem Lolo. If it had been Gunung Nuang, I was afraid perhaps I might end up waiting in front of the HQ alone... ;)

Rumours abound about how insanely tough the Nuang hike was, both in blogs and hearsay. I totally agree. :) Having hiked up the trails more times than I can remember and twice up to the summit, Nuang is indeed tough. To hike up the summit and back, you'll have to budget at least 8 hours, passing through a very long dirt track littered with small stones and potholes, up a slippery laterite incline before crossing over from one hill onto the slopes of Gunung Nuang. The summit is deceptively hidden, coming up suddenly as you are just about to throw your hands in the air and give up (at least that was just how I felt the first time I was there). A short, hefty, vertical climb up later and you'll find yourself on the summit with a distant view of Kuala Lumpur.

But back to the trip. :)

I arrived at the Trail Trackers HQ a few minutes before 6:30am, the agreed upon time to meet but when I arrived at the front gate, it was a minute pass 6:30am. "You're LATE!" bellowed Dennis in his 'sergeant major' mode of his... ;) But no matter, it seems almost everyone else is late too. The team only managed to coagulate at 6:50am before we all left to our regular breakfast joint, Devi's corner.
For this trip, we were expecting 14 people to come but only 12 people showed up: Dennis, Aaron, Audrey, Kim, Yee Wei, Chris, Valerie, Charlene, Terence, Kenny, their friend and myself. :) 2 went AWOL (one cheekily showing up at 6:00PM later). Most of them have already joined us on the previous two training sessions for the upcoming 'Endau Rompin' trip. There was no sign though of the 'others' and I hope they have done their own training. With a 3 hour hiking segment in the Endau Rompin trip, it's going to be tough on the participants if they don't train. Conspicuously missing this time is Linus, perhaps he was a little bit down with Footstool missing recently. :p (whom later came back a day later)

We headed out from TTDI at 7:20am, moving to rendevous with Charlene, Terence, Kenny and their friend at Batu 14 town near Pangsun, the entrance of Gunung Nuang park. However along the way, I made a wrong turn, distracted from my GPS tracking when a friend called me on the phone, in the process losing the GPS screen as I was about to make a critical turn somewhere in Cheras. It was here that I lost Dennis who went ahead with what I thought was a good sense of confidence in where he was going.
We got back onto the right track a short while later, Aaron calling Dennis to inform him that we made a wrong turn and asking him whether he knew how to go to Pangsun. Just after the toll near Phoenix Plaza, we made a left turn into a small trunk road heading into Pangsun.

The journey took about 45 more minutes, along which we found out that Dennis had almost ended up on the Karak highway and Charlene had moved on to meet us up inside the park itself. Dennis eventually found his way in (thank goodness for Garmin!) and we only all managed to get together at the park at 8:45am.

At the entrance, to my surprise, I found out that each of us had to pay a token RM1.00 entry fee. Well no harm there. I hope the money will be put to good use, sprucing up the place in Gunung Nuang, the last time I was there 2 years ago, the summit and the campsites were filthy! :(

We set off for Kem Lolo at approximately 9:00am, but not before taking a group photo beneath a newly erected arch at the start of the trail. Judging by a pivoted pole placed to stretch across the main entrance, I suppose the trail is no longer accessible to four wheel drives, which is good news to us trekkers. Those monsters churn up the dirt roads ahead, easily turning it into a moonscape of water filled potholes that makes walking extremely difficult.

The trail starts off with a rather normal looking tar road that quickly became a simple dirt track winding up and down the sides of the foothills. Some inclines were really steep, (about 50 degrees) and it took quite some effort to walk up as well as come down. It didn't take long before some of us begin to lag behind. Cries of 'Are we there yet?" echo through the jungle air which I returned with 'Not yet, just a 'little' bit more." :) Here, I admit though that I wasn't exactly sure how close we were to the final target of our trip and was still thinking we were probably 'half way' when we reached Kem Lolo two hours since we started.

We halted a few times, waiting for the slower ones in our group to catch up. During this time, I took the opportunity to take a few photos of the surroundings, admiring the occasional bamboo grove, orang asli huts and small running creeks dotting the sides of the trail.

One new addition to the trail was the finely constructed rest stops. There were not there the last time and it was good evidence that the RM1.00 was not all wasted and put to good use! Kudos to the Jabatan Perhutanan Selangor which runs the place.

There was a cold running stream at Kem LoLo. We took a few minutes to rest here and wait for the others to catch up before ascending up to the dam which was our final destination on this trip. Again, it looks like the place has been cleaned up as well. :)

Except for me, the rest of the participants has never actually been to Nuang so I was quite surprised that in their eagerness to get to the dam, a small segment went ahead without me. The trail ahead was now a jungle trek, the dirt road ending at the stream where Kem LoLo is located. As I followed behind them and crossed this conspicuous line of red tape I knew something was wrong. We were traversing through shrubs and jungle growth away from the large pipe which I knew had to be in sight should we head up the dam.

Only when the other group comprising Dennis, Aaron and Yee Wei shouted at us from the other side of the stream did I finally realize that indeed we were on the wrong track. Immediately we called out the ones ahead, and fortunately not all of them were far enough away not to hear the call to backtrack out.

We went pass over the line of red tape, crossed the stream beneath the shadow of this familiar water pipe and moved up the track which I noticed was clearly marked with red tape tied intermitently around tree branches. And herein lies a very important point to take note when travelling in Nuang: ALWAYS STICK TO THE PATH LINED WITH THESE TAPES. More than one hiker has found him/herself lost here because they had followed what they thought was what looked like a 'path'. They were many more of these so called 'path's further up pass the dam along the way up.

We reached the dam 15 minutes later. It was an abandoned old thing, the valve handle welded shut to prevent tampering by itchy fingers. ;) There was also an abandoned house nearby, supposedly for the person that operates the valves a long long time ago.

Everyone settled down to rest and enjoy the view. Most of us took a dip in the soothingly cool stream that runs through the dam.

Others remained near the dam where they thought they met someone left behind in TTDI.
After about half an hour hanging around the dam, we headed back down to civilization and lunch! :)

But we will be back, and one day (very soon) I will stand on the summit of Gunung Nuang again. :) Till then... cheers!