Monday, May 25, 2009

Battle Ground: Kuang 2009

“I ran from one cover to another, weaving through the maze of jungle undergrowth, trying to find a good firing position to storm the enemy as projectiles whizzed through the hot, tropical air. My squad mates halted as they sighted the enemy and opened fire, pinning down a number of hostiles beside a pair of water barrels who in turn returned the favor. From the side of a wall, I peered out, spying upon one member of the enemy crew sheltering behind a lone tree trunk, a portion of his back exposed. I took aim and canted, “Hasta la vista, baby,” as I discharged my ammunition on my unsuspecting foe…” ;)

Sounds like war? Well close to it! In fact it’s actually our 2nd Trail Trackers Paintball Challenge held at Mud Trekkers in the sleepy town of Kuang, Selangor. :) Gathering a total of 28 people in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, we travelled by convoy to our battle zone after having our breakfast at our regular eating joint, Devi’s Corner in TTDI. The trip there was not without hiccups though. For one, there were a few people that were unable to find their way to the meeting venue (I mean who doesn’t know Devi’s Corner???? ;)) and another, there were a number of people who couldn’t quite reach that bright window in the darkness to bring themselves back into consciousness, preferring the respite of slumber instead. That is also not to mention a series of people who had promised to come for the event and failed to show up for a host of reasons ranging from genuine sounding ones like “I have to take care of my nephew because his mom is away” to the eternally annoying “I can’t make it because I have ‘something’ to do,” (which leaves one to wonder what exactly the ‘something’ really is that can ‘do’ on a Sunday morning, hmm… :p). As a result, a few tempers were frayed this fine morning but then again I took most of it in stride. :p After all, aren’t we gonna let loose of it all at the end of the muzzle later? ;) We arrived at Mudtrekkers Paintball Range a little bit after 9:00am in the morning after a few wrong turns, our convoy of 7 cars taking a tour around the small little town of Kuang to the puzzlement of the locals.
Reporting in at Mudtrekkers, Kuang

If we’ve thought we were the only group here to blast each other to kingdom come, we’re definitely mistaken as group after group of people started showing up at the place to do the exact same thing. Apparently the ‘sport’ of paintball is really catching in with the Malaysian population. ;) After paying off our dues, suiting up and arming ourselves, we all gathered for a briefing that was conducted by one of the members of the venue.
This guy looks like he likes his job! I mean who doesn't? ;)

Although having gone through the drill for half a dozen times already, I still paid my attention (well most of it ;)) to the usual safety instructions standard to the game that is:-
a) Always keep your mask on when in the battlefield
b) Always keep your barrel sock over the muzzle of your marker whenever play is over
c) Always keep your marker’s safety plug depressed whenever not in play

Gathering for the briefing
Listening intently for some paintball 'wisdom'...

At this point, it is interesting to note that the ‘gun’ we are issued to blast each other isn’t referred to as a ‘gun’ per se, rather it is a ‘marker’ or more accurately, a ‘paint marker’. ;) All paintball enthusiasts emphasize on this piece of fact although its use can hardly be distinguished from the ‘real thing’. And some more serious people do actually bring this ‘realism’ up a few notches, purchasing ‘markers’ that look like M16s, AK-47s or heavy machine guns on top of wearing overalls that looked more military issue than the average weekend warrior garb we were all wearing.
One of the 'heavy artillery', man it'll pack a mean punch!

With the meeting dispensed with, it is time to dish out some PAIN(T) as we were marched off to our first battlefield, the jungle. Dividing into two teams, both of us positioned on opposite ends of the field. The objective is simple, blast as many of the opponent’s team before time runs out. On the mark of the marshal, our opposing teams converged, exchanging fire as the distance between us closed.
On the attack, paintballers shelter behind the 'safe zone'

Here, our very own TT commando, Dennis, attempted to win himself the Medal of Honor by infiltrating behind enemy lines to ‘take out’ some of the enemy’s leadership. He succeeded in neutralizing two before he was shot in the back! :) Questions were asked later as to who actually shot our commando as he crouched behind a bush busy firing rounds of paintball before he got clipped, but in the fog of war I guess ‘friendly fire’ cannot be discounted entirely. ;) I did managed to get two, giving George a fashion uplift by splattering him with gobs of orange paint on his otherwise drab navy blue jacket and clipping this suspicious looking guy with a bandanna on his head by the bushes. ;)
Well, it's not George but he was almost in the same position... ;)

A call to lay covering fire finally done me in, a missile striking me in the visor just as I broke cover to spray the enemy position with projectiles. My ‘life’ spent, I raised my arms and walked to the ‘safe zone’ which was literally a hut in the middle of the battlefield covered with protective netting to watch the rest of the battle unfold. A few minutes later it was all over, the marshal blowing the whistle and our warriors ordered to march into the ‘safe zone’ to rest and reload as we yielded the battlefield to another group. We watched as this group battled, the adrenaline in our blood peaked as the blare of automatic fire from a laser gun-like marker filled the air.
A short break but it doesn't mean you can't be fashionable!

In between, our members shared war stories as Wei Han decided to do some ‘minor’ redecoration with the furniture. :p
The bench decided to 'surrender' under Wei Han's weight, much to Andy's amusement

Once the other group had finished their round, it was time for ours. Returning to the same battlefield,
Preparing for the next round, Aurelius's team discuss strategy

I was made to leave a few minutes later, a round of paintball from Henry’s marker striking me between the knuckles of my right hand ending my sortie as I was firing from a trench. Henry went on to clip two more of my members before our commando, Dennis, returned to ambush them by again hitting them in the rear, taking out 3 members in a go. Their curly haired ‘general’, Aurelius, was blasted away by my Cos Playing cousin in a precision head shot, crippling them by severing their command and control! :)
Casualties of War: Hubert decides to get his hair 'chromed'
Andy looks a bit dazed after a head shot ;)

The session in the jungle over with, it was time to move to a more ‘urban’ setting. Consisting of brick walls, aluminum sheet shelters, water barrels, simple huts inclusive of a rusted car and even the hull of a tank(!), the urban setting offers a different challenge compared to war in the jungle. Here the movements of the opposing team are more obvious with no grass or bushes to mask the advance. The wide open area also offers various avenues of attack and one couldn’t be too sure if the enemy had outflanked you and strike you from the direction least expected! But first, it was time to watch the pros play. Wielding markers that range from M16 replicas and sniper rifles, the pros let loose on one another, the now familiar blare of automatic discharge ringing in our ears.
One of the 'pros' with a mean looking gun... er marker...

Those with less fancy equipment still managed to blast off rapid rounds with fancy fingerwork, as index and middle finger happily dance over the trigger. Once the big boys had their fun it was now our turn. Despite the lack of ‘heavy weaponary’ it was still no less exciting as my team took shelter behind a shack to be assaulted by Aurelius’s team. Fusillades of paintball pellets broke overhead as the ‘enemy’ shelled my position, its contents splattering over me as it ricocheted off the surface of a wooden cupboard behind me. The game abruptly ended when a member of Aurelius’s group ‘touched’ our home base, rendering it ‘conquered’.
Well, in reality no one is gonna pose for you when they get to shoot at you instead!

As the afternoon sun crested over the cloudless sky, we again marched into our final battle, this time a reenactment of our earlier battle in the jungle except in an urban setting. Pellets running low, we tried to conserve our ammunition thinking to allow Aurelius’s group to finish theirs before we moved in. To my dismay, my marker jammed! I could only watch in helpless silence as my team mates were pelted with crossfire from entrenched positions, until a member of my team graciously offered her marker to me. ;) Filling up her marker with the contents of mine, I went forward, watching as Dennis was sent out of commission by George in an apparent kamikaze strike. ;) George in turn was hit later, opening up the chance for me to outflank Aurelius’s team which by now had holed up in the same aluminum hut I had hidden in the previous game. Crouching behind one brick wall, I opened fire, peppering the hut with pellets. And then something strange happened. As I looked to the corner of the water barrel I was sheltering in, I noticed the point of a muzzle peeping out, pointing towards the opposite direction. “The enemy!” I thought, and he was hiding RIGHT BEHIND the same barrel I was! I extended out my paintball marker right over that hovering muzzle and blasted the guy to Timbuktu! :p :) Cries of “I surrender! I surrender!” heralded Vit Ping’s emergence from behind the water barrel. I struck the inhabitants of the hut next.
More 'lagak' pictures :)

Still oblivious to my presence, I rained pellets at two unsuspecting opponents aiming away at my team mates beyond, landing a couple of hits on a guy in the shoulder. Too bad, because in this last game it was no less than a ‘head shot’ before you are rendered ‘dead’. A long burst of discharged gas told me that I had run out of ammo and without anything else to do, I decided to ‘surrender’ instead. ;) The game ended soon after as other markers registered empty. Returning our masks and markers, we head back to the relative shelter of another ‘safe zone’ where we gathered about to take a few group photos.
My team!

Tummies rumbling, it was now time to participate in another TT tradition: our after event banquet! :) With Chris, who had unexpectedly showed up (but did not participate to play the game), leading the way, we went to Sungai Buloh town to have our afternoon meal which consisted of a version of asam fish, marmite pork ribs, braised tofu and some vegetables.
Lunch in Sungai Buloh
Mmmmm, yummy :)
Dennis doing the 'sailormoon'? That shot from George must have messed his marbles!

Bellies full, it was finally time to head home. As the sun sets over the sleepy town of Kuang, Monday beckons, and with that another day back in the mud filled trenches of mundane work… ;)

Aurelius couldn't bear with the adolation while I was being mugged!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Deja Vu, Impak Maxima!

It all happened as if in slow motion. From a distance, it looked as if a blossom of plastic shards suddenly burst out from the front of Dennis’s Proton Saga BLM. My first reaction was to alert Wei Han, who drove the Vios I was riding in. He immediately applied the brakes, slowing down our speed to halt on the side of the road near Dennis’s car. As we got closer, my mind begins to register what happened. Dennis had just ploughed his car into another one’s bumper. Somehow, all this felt familiar and as this deep sense of Déjà vu developed, I thought, “Not again!” :p

We had just left Kedondong Recreational Park ( when Dennis uncharacteristically started to speed away from Wei Han, Vincent and myself who were in the second car behind him. Questions were bandied about among us as to his sudden haste. Strangely, the tune of ‘Mara Bahaya’ started playing in mind. (Jauh ku meluncur jauh semakin jauh, kanan kiriku tiada di depanku…) as I saw him took a corner at high speed. I urged Wei Han to pursue, not wanting to lose sight of him. Wei Han acceded though I instantly had second thoughts when his Vios sort of started to swerve dangerously over the solid line at the road’s shoulder. I remembered the thought foremost in my mind was to be thankful that at least Wei Han’s Vios had a SRS (Secondary Restraining System) for the front seat passenger, a position which I currently occupied. :) We were on a straight road after rounding the corner when the accident happened.
Dennis's car immediately after the accident

As I got out of Wei Han’s car, I immediately went over to the guys bailing out from Dennis’s crippled vehicle, thick white smoke gushing out from within the confines of the car. The air bag had deployed on impact.
Deployed Air Bag

I asked everyone inside, Dennis, Henry, Hong Yi and Aaron whether they were all ‘Ok’ and was relieved when they all replied in the positive. Then, I took a look at Dennis’s car. Its front portion was devastated, the bumper crumpling into the engine compartment. The radiator looked totaled, as with the front headlights. The battery case was displaced and the engine cover bent. Thank goodness the windshield did not shatter as it did in Cambodia. :p (
Front section of the Saga all crumpled

Interior of the engine compartment

The guy that was sitting in the older Proton Saga which Dennis smashed into staggered out, blood flowing from a shallow cut to his forehead. His car fared slightly better though, major damage inflicted only on his rear bumper. The booth side paneling, although warped could probably be fixed with a few knocks at the repair shop.
Looks like Proton's quality declines with time? The older version doesn't look as bad!

As I looked at the man, he immediately launched a tirade, surprisingly not at Dennis, but at the two ‘ah sohs’ that had been pushing their stalled car in the middle of the road in front of him. Apparently, this guy had stopped/slowed down on seeing the two and Dennis who was at high speed, didn’t realize he did before slamming into his rear end. The Ah Sohs tried to vainly defend themselves but once they managed to get their car moving after a rolling start, immediately made themselves scarce, putting good distance from the mess they had a hand in causing.
'Ah Soh's attempting to make a quick getaway. Note: Aaron is not an 'ah soh' ;)

That leaves us and the man we now knew was a lookout for a tow truck operator. What luck! :p A tow truck came in no time, as Dennis started working the phones. Seeing this, I had not offered much of my two cents worth, thinking probably that he knew what he was doing. Instead, I helped Aaron set up some hazard triangles and directed cars to avoid the damaged cars. While we were doing that, another car came, this time bearing this hefty looking Chinese dude which I had initially thought was a busybody. Turns out he is the boss of a car repair workshop which operates the tow truck as well as the boss of the injured guy Dennis had slammed his car into. The car might probably be his as well. A short discussion later and we were off to Batang Kali police station, Dennis's car in tow.
"Tegas, Adil dan Berhemah"

Now here was where it started getting messy. We did not enter Batang Kali police station immediately. Instead, the big Chinese dude had his tow truck stop at the side. He now attempted to get Dennis to send his car to his workshop to have it repaired. Dennis refused, citing that his workshop in Batang Kali was way too far for him to have his car repaired and indicated his preference to have it done at his friend’s place instead. The guy tried convincing Dennis, offering to ‘settle’ everything (saman included) in one lump sum if he chose to have his car transferred to him. Dennis was however, adamant. The guy’s demeanor changed, converting in an instance from savior to bully. He threatened to bring Dennis to court, claiming that with his foreman now ‘injured’, he could escalate the simple car crash into something bigger by bringing his worker to the hospital. A moment of hesitation and Dennis was fiddling the phone again, this time talking to his friend who also happens to work in a car repair shop, hopefully seeking good advice! Dennis told the guy that a tow truck from his friend’s shop is on the way to get his car and his friend is coming to negotiate, to which the guy responded by ordering his tow truck driver to tow Dennis’s car to his workshop! We demanded to know what he was doing and was told that while in the guy’s car, Dennis had actually signed an agreement to have his car brought to the man’s workshop and he was merely following exactly to what was stated in the contract. Not mentioned now was that Dennis’s car was effectively held for ransom until this conundrum about which workshop is going to repair the car is settled. We waited for hours, the shade of a large tree our only shelter from the hot afternoon sun. The 15 minutes Dennis’s friend had promised to take to arrive at the police station turned out to be more than 3 hours! In between, there were further negotiations, this time by phone, as Dennis’s friend got his own boss to speak to the workshop towkay. Finally, a settlement was made. Dennis and the towkay was going to make a report at the police station while a RM1000 payment be made to return the car to Dennis’s possession. Throughout, Wei Han, Vincent, Aaron, Henry and myself stood pretty much at the sidelines, while Hong Yi and Dennis did much of the phone calling and negotiating. The ticking hours took its toll on our weary bodies and a decision was made to get ourselves some makeshift lunch. Wei Han, Aaron and myself went off to bring back a Malay chicken rice and ice lemon tea combination which everyone except Dennis and Henry wolfed down.
The day's ordeal taking its toll on Dennis

The towkay shamelessly tried to help himself with our chicken rice too and appeared displeased when Aaron calmly went over to the big dude to ask for money. :p (Yeah right! After that con job, you’d expect a freebie?!) The whole thing wasn’t really over yet though because there was another person we had to wait to get the police report settled, the traffic police sergeant! Taking his time, the sergeant only arrived 1 1/2 hours after the report was made.
Waiting for the sergeant

'Enjoying' the breezeless afternoon...

By then, Dennis’s friend had at last showed up, but at the towkay’s workshop. We all drove over there, meeting his friend who had brought his own tow truck.
THE workshop

His friend also brought 3 others, tough looking dudes you’re more likely to see wielding pipes at one another in back alleys! :p He neglected to take into account that by bringing these ‘dudes’, there was practically no allowance in his Proton Satria to bring back Dennis’s displaced passengers! :p That meant that we had to squeeze 6 people into Wei Han’s Vios on the way back to TTDI later. Hong Yi will squeeze with the ‘dudes’. :p At this point, Dennis paid the RM1000 ‘ransom’ to release his car. We went back to the police station when we got word that the traffic police sergeant had arrived. Taking a look at the car, he finalized the report that made Dennis poorer by a further RM200. ;)
Outside the police station with Dennis's friends and tow truck

Once that is done, it was time to head back. Leaving Batang Kali, we took the route to Rawang, exiting on the North South highway and reaching TTDI at about 7:00pm.
Passing Sungai Buloh Hospital... Beware! H1N1!

We were hungry and tired, our customary Trail Tracker banquet denied us so far. Therefore it was off to ‘Lanun’, located at the uptown Damansara food court where we all satiate our hunger with a good serving of sizzling steak topped with their specially made ‘Lanun’ sauce… (Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of Rum! :))
Where is Jack Sparrow?

Lastly, some lessons learnt…

a) Never speed no matter what your current state of emotion
b) Always wear seatbelts
c) Never sign anything that you are not sure off
d) Never ever distract the driver! Hahaha!

Until next time… hang in there…

Lata Kedondong: A Hidden Treasure

Lata Kedondong. Located on the road between Batang Kali and Goh Tong Jaya, this waterfall is one of those that qualifies as being 'hidden in plain sight!' ;). Starting from TTDI, we took the first exit at the Bulatan Batu Caves that leads towards Selayang town. We then made a right turn into Jalan Batu Caves before turning left onto B23, a small trunk road that leads us towards Ulu Yam Baru. The road is very scenic, passing by the Batu Dam catchment area where a large blue lake dominates.
Batu Dam Lake

Parking bays are located throughout for those romantically inclined but since our group consists of an all male cast of Dennis, Henry, Hong Yi, Aaron, Wei Han, Vincent and myself, we chose to skip this option instead. ;) However, if 'romance' isn't in the air, we did manage to pander to our other 'male interests', namely CARS! In particular, Ferraris. Yup, although the lonely widing roads to Ulu Yam seems ideal for a morning or evening cruise, don't be surprised to have your car rattled by the afterwash of speeding Ferraris or screehing Mat Rempits. It's a virtual race track and on the day we went, we were 'treated' to a parade of Ferraris and Porshes thundering down the roads at breathtaking speed. :p Upon reaching Ulu Yam Baru, we took a right turn into route B66, another seemingly lonely road that connects to Goh Tong Jaya, at the foot of Genting Highlands. Situated in between is the Kedongdong recreation area, the start of our trek to the waterfall. We arrived there very, very early in the morning at approximately 8:00am, having previously gathered at Devi's Corner at 5:30am and leaving there at about 6:15am. The parking lot where we left our cars was deserted when we arrived and after taking out our gear, we set out to Lata Kedongdong with Dennis leading the way.
Getting down for another adventure!

Initially, I had thought it was going to be an easy 1 hour trek(or at least that was what our MIA leader, Aurelius told me!) but after spending 10 minutes looking for the starting point among the various meandering paths, I realized it's going to be a little bit more challenging than that. We did find the starting point eventually, as we hopped off the concrete path into this inconspicuous point that Dennis seems to recognize.
Finding the start of the trek can be time consuming...

We moved on, mostly along the side of the rushing river up a very vague 'path' that takes us over huge boulders and some slippery climbs up dirt outcrops.
Steep climbs are in store...

Leech encounters were rare although they were of the notorious 'tiger' species that is known for their long yellow stripe along its body and even nastier bite! Only two of us were bitten, Henry along the way to the falls while Wei Han got his at the waterfall itself (while swimming!). We finally reached Lata Kedongdong about an hour later, the powerful sound of its tumbling waters echoing through the jungle as we approached.
Arriving at Lata Kedongdong

Refreshingly, there is this cool breeze that blew towards us from the cascade to bring down the temperature of the surrounding area which sadly consists of mostly boulders. For those thinking to stay here longer, this means there is virtually no space to pitch a tent. Lata Kedongdong itself is impressive to say the least. Consisting of primarily two cascades, the 2nd, lower one is where we find ourselves on arrival. A huge deep pool lies at its foot, formed by the powerful gushes of icy cold water coming from above. Watch out though, the currents are strong close to the fall so trying to swim towards it isn't recommended nor safe.
A nice pool of cool, clean, clear water to swim in

We did however, manage to scale the waterfall's side (after a swim) and reach the 1st tier.
Scaling the side of Lata Kedongdong to

Here, the waters are calmer although there isn't a pool to swim in. Still, the rushing waters are strong enough to give you a good massage! ;)
The second tier of Lata Kedongdong

Taking a dip in cool waters... ahhhh

We were there for almost 3 hours, the waterfall completely for ourselves, a testimony of how few people knew about this place. After the first hour, hands became itchy and Dennis sparked a mini cave in when he attempted to lift a piece of drift wood that was wedged between some stones. In an instant, what we thought was solid riverbed became a yawning maw, sucking sand, stone and water into its gaping jaws. Luckily Dennis didn't get sucked in as well. ;) Apparently that piece of wood had been holding up stones, sand and such over that hole and loosening it caused the 'land slide'. :p
The 'opps' moment, Dennis attempting to create a quantum singularity (a.k.a. black hole)

The yawning maw

Initially, Dennis and a few others near the hole tried unsuccessfully to cover it with stones which simply tumbled into the gap and disappeared (much like a quantum singularity! ;)) Then the engineer came. ;) Using a few pieces of floating wood to span the gap, we used it to hold up the stones and sand piled ontop of it. Soon, we had covered up the hole and the place was again as before.
Man just can't leave nature alone!

We frolicked around, Aaron trying to get a tan, Hong Yi taking a nap amid the cooling breeze, Wei Han and Vincent exploring the surrounding boulders while Dennis and Henry attempted to recreate the Bakun Dam. I was invloved in the last two activities. ;)
Hong Yi squirming in the chilly waters

Our grumbling tummies soon reminded us it was time to head back. After taking our customary group photos we moved out, initially attempting to follow the way we came.
One last group photo...

And a solo photo to boot! :)

We ended up going over a different track instead, following down a rain water created path, crossing over to another vague jungle trek when that water hewn path ended with a fallen tree.
Trekking along the rain hewn track

The jungle trek thankfully finished at the concrete steps heading to Kedondong recreational park. All the while, we were keeping the river to our right as reference to our direction. We went off to the park restrooms, using the trickle of water from the showerheads to wash ourselves before going to the surrounding shops that sells among the regular foodstuffs and drinks, football merchandise! :p
Glory, glory Man United?

The stretch of river directly next to the park is filled with people by now, weekend visitors with picnic baskets lining the sides while others wade into the rushing waters, all not knowing of that secret waterfall located inside. ;)
Crowds of people bathe downstream of Lata Kedongdong

At length, we paused to have a drink of cendol (RM1.50) and a bite of Special Burger (RM3.00) at the stalls, unfortunately leaving poor Dennis to 'jaga kereta'.
Deserted car park now filled with er... cars!

It was a chain reaction actually, one of us seeing the other having a seat while we waited the others to finish their bath, ending with almost everyone except Dennis having a cendol and a Burger!
That fateful burger and cendol combination...

A rather irritated Dennis sounded for us to go and after gathering our stuff, we piled into our cars for a round of Ulu Yam 'Loh Mee', or so we think as we left the clear, pristine waters of Lata Kedongdong... ;)