It happened in a split second, this deep sense of terror, like a heavy shroud of evil falling over me, enveloping my whole body, its icy touch reaching for my very soul. My senses peaked, and I experience this intense feeling that ‘someone’… ‘something’… was following us on this dark lonely path deep in the jungle. I spun around, sweeping the beam of Henry’s flashlight on the path behind us, catching a glimpse of something... something white directly at the center of the track. I bumped into Henry and the words just tumbled from my mouth, "I think there is 'something' following us,” I heard myself say… “I am scared, Henry!” I don’t know what was Henry thinking when he heard me say those words (I myself am surprised I even said it) but his seemingly calm reassurance that there was nothing to worry about sort of soothed my frayed nerves a little as we gathered pace to catch up with Timmy who was calling out at us a short distance ahead. It was somewhere between 8:30pm to 9:30pm at night and we were still trying to pick our way out of the jungle… The morning of day 2 in Kenong Rimba started off slow, a number of us taking their time to awake from their slumber. Breakfast was lightly toasted bread over a small fire mixed with a spread of butter.
Rise and Shine! Another day of adventure awaits!
Toasted bread ala 'carbon'
By 9:30am, I was standing before a signboard showing the various paths within the park, paying particularly close attention to the distance shown for Lata Tujuh, today's destination.
It is 9.4km from the park to Lata Tujuh
"9.4km???" I asked myself in my mind, the length of walk looked daunting to say the least, and that is only ONE WAY! Fortunately, we had decided the night before not to bring our tents with us for this second day to Lata Tujuh, already wisely taking into account the suicidal trek we would have to make on the last day to get back all the way to the jetty with our complete gear. Still, even covering the 9.4km with our packs was enough to make my knees shake (and this is coming from a veteran of the Teluk Limau trek in Bako National Park: 11km in 10 hours, full load!). With everyone set to go, we moved in, myself bringing my tired warhorse of a company annual dinner sling bag containing one full 1.5 liter bottle of 7Up Revive, a pack of sweets and my trusty sidearm: a small can of Baygon! ;) I also brought a medium sized bottle of Dettol for good measure to supplement the diminishing supply of insecticide.
Setting off into the jungle
About half an hour into the trek we encountered our first obstacle, a small stream between two high points with what looked like a rotted piece of log spanning across. It looked flimsy though most of the team managed to do the tight rope walk without any incident. Henry, Timmy and myself, well, we are not so agile, so we chose the safer but dirtier option, wading down to the bottom and scrambling up the muddy banks to the other side. Timmy, who was first to attempt this option had some problems though, almost losing his shoes to the sucking mud he plodded on.
Stuck in mud. Time to engage the 4WD?
Fortunately the guide, Kamal, came to the rescue and extracted the shoes for him before it got permanently absorbed by the gooey substance.
Kamal tossing muddied shoes to Timmy
We continued on, meeting a similar obstacle next, except that this time the log was way, way higher than the last. Again, Henry and I clambered down to the stream bed and up the muddy slopes to the other side while the rest including Timmy chose to follow ala 'Robin Hood'.
Patrick should have joined the circus!
Yet another high crossing greeted us a short distance later but this time two sturdy planks gave Henry and I confidence to follow the rest across. We paused after this third crossing to take a break and remove those pesky leeches which had emerged by the hordes to impart their bloody kisses. The next part of the trek was mostly flat without much hills to walk over. There were a few fallen trees and muddy patches we had to negotiate but overall it was nothing like what we had to endure in Endau Rompin (slippery rock crossings, hills) and Bukit Chenuang (many many fallen bamboo trees to climb over). However, there are still some among the group that had difficulties keeping up with the others. I for one, found myself carrying Henry's backpack 1/2 way down the journey as his pace begin to falter. Timmy, who had blisters on his foot from the previous day also slowed down. Before long, the group was split in two, with most the group (led by K, the other guide) moving forward to rendevous with us at the first river crossing while Kamal, Timmy, Henry, Yee Wei and myself bringing the back. Two groups of orang asli came down in the opposite direction from a settlement upriver, apparently looking for fish. Our smaller group stopped to take a picture with some of them and asked of our friends who had pushed on ahead of us.
An encounter with Orang Asli from upriver
When we did manage to meet up with the rest at the first river crossing, the sun was already high overhead. It was 2:00pm. We were not making good time.
Pristine waters. Unfortunately no time for a swim...
Nevertheless, we stopped here to open up our packed lunch which consisted of stir fried instant noodles prepared by Encik Azam and gang early in the morning.
Having our lunch break
Taking a breather by the river
I pulled out my isotonic drink and instantly became the most popular guy in the group after which I was left with only 1/4 bottle to finish my trip.
I have 'hat hair'
Not waiting too long, we made our way, getting our shoes wet a couple more times before we finally reached Lata Tujuh. In this last part of the trek, we had to forge across two small hills, taking a further toll on Timmy and especially Henry, who was moaning and groaning as he picked his way up and down the leaf covered slope. I tried my best to keep morale up, giving encouragement and motivation to the point of sounding crappy at the same time offering sweets and gulps of 7Up Revive to my tired companions to keep them moving. :p Still, being on the hill was better that shuffling down on the forest floor where those pesky leeches lurked in ambush.
One VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY large leech we found on the trek
At last, echoes of gushing water heralded our arrival at Lata Tujuh. It was close to 3:30pm when Kamal and I arrived with Henry, having had to guide him over the sharp rocks that made up the final steps to the falls proper.
Negotiating slippery rocks
The rest were already taking off their gear and dipping themselves into the cooling cascade. Once I have deposited Henry securely on one of the rocks, it was my turn to set down my gear, choosing a rock surrounded on all sides by rushing water clear away from the other laid out stuff to avoid any 'cross' leech contamination! :p Only then did I take my turn to plunge into the waters.
Having fun in the water
To tell you the truth, Lata Tujuh itself wasn't really remarkable. If I had envisioned a tumbling seven step waterfall meters high in the air, I was definately dissappointed. Instead, Lata Tujuh was more like a series of small cascades shaped by small boulders and rocks.
Not spectacular but the waters do give a good massage!
Two pools lie at the start and end of the cascade, the one at the top waist deep while the one at the bottom almost bottomless. The one at the bottom was a joy to swim in and you could even leap from one of the boulders into the waters below provided of course you make a good survey to find hidden rocks beneath prior.
Swimming in the cooling waters
The one on top was interesting, a natural fish spa in store for those who dip their legs in its calm waters.
Bak Kut Teh in the jungle anyone?
Are you sure? ;)
We couldn't tarry long though. The sun was racing towards the horizon when we prepared ourselves to head back to camp at 4:30pm.
Leaving for base camp
A conscious decision was made to split the team in two, one consisting of the more nimble moving members while the other of the more 'ponderous' moving ones. ;) There was no doubt that I had to remain behind with the slower group (Timmy, Henry, Kamal), responsibility, loyality, integrity plus Henry's bag pack (and not to mention the sheen of Dennis's blade should he finds out I abandoned Timmy and Henry) bearing down on me as I made my decision. ;) Yee Wei this time joined the faster group, the prospect of tracking through the jungle in complete darkness not at all appealing to anyone. Luckily we had anticipated this and had brought our flashlights. It didn't take long before darkness fell, rumbling thunder punctuated the stillness of the night as we pressed onward, the four of us adventurers probably the only humans within a 2km circle of jungle.
Darkness has fallen...
Thankfully it did not rain. At this point I was already trying to conserve water, taking only sips of isotonic water to wet my throat. Henry and Timmy had gathered some river water shortly before we set off from the last river but as the hours flew by, even this supply had dwindled to almost nothing. And then weird things start to happen...
Henry, Timmy and myself in the dark, wonder what are those spots?
It begins with our guide first straying off the path, bringing us pass thorny vines which I did not remember passing. When we unexpectedly end up at another river, we knew we were on the wrong track.
Someone having period?
We told our guide and he backtracked to the most familiar point he remembered on the path. Strangely, he was initially trying to bring us back to Lata Tujuh, but Timmy's insistence that we are heading in the wrong direction made him think twice. Still, a sceptical "if you say so" remark from Kamal made me kinda uneasy. It is alarming that the guide himself was not exactly sure where to bring us but then again, the jungle isn't exactly the same in the daytime as in the night. It was completely dark by 7:30pm and we pulled out our flashlights.
Kamal our guide... a good and steady fellow!
Kamal and myself had two dim yellow flashlights (mine later failed), Timmy, a headmounted illuminator while Henry had the ultra bright white flurorescent torch. Henry's light was a lifesaver and a morale booster. You couldn't imagine how reassuring it was to a have a swath of dark jungle illuminated by the cleansing fire of white light unless you have truly been in a similar situation. :) Leech attacks abated as night fell though some of them took a liking to attacking Henry in his more 'private' regions. ;) Other denizens of the jungle start to make an appearance: a tree frog, sand flies and what we believe were a pair of mousedeers (or so what the guide told us from the reflection of their eyes). :p
One of the more innocent denizens of the jungle
And then there were the 'other-worldly' ones. We had just finished our last break (including all our water and what little remained of any food) and plodding away in the jungle towards the 3rd log crossing from the camp when I felt this intense sensation that I was being followed! Almost at the same period, Henry and Timmy would later tell me (AFTER we had got out of Kenong) that they smelt lemongrass, a key ingrediant for some Malay cooking but more frightening, a component for spells and charms of 'bomoh's as well as a 'prefered' perfume that accompanies spirits and ghosts! I myself did not smell a whiff of it, though my initial thought of that 'something' following us was more 'animal' than 'spirit'. Our moods were also kinda rock bottom with even my usual sense of humor and determination sapped as much as the fluids leaking through the pores of my skin.
I'm just so tired!
Kamal was anxiously keeping himself in front, though I wasn't sure it was out of desperation to get to the camp before its gets even late or from desperation to just GET OUT! In any case, Timmy's call for Henry and myself to catch up snapped us out of it and we quickly joined up with him and Kamal. From here, it was a steady shamble forward to the camp, in hindsight not surprising to note that Timmy and Henry no longer called for a stop to take a break. We made it out at close to 10:30pm, the rest of our group cheering up in.
They had come out at close to 8:00pm. Overall, aside from the unexpected encounter, the trek to Lata Tujuh and back was a great achievement, I can safely say that never have any of us trekked a combined distance of 18.8km in a single day, nor anytime soon! To everyone who came, it was an achievement worthy to be told among tales bandied about over a camp fire (or over a rocking chair) ;).
Putting our gear down at last!
The rest of the night was spent cleaning up ourselves, my exhausted body eschewing an invitation to have dinner and going straight to sleep. No werewolves for tonight as I plunged into the comforting depths of slumber.