Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lubuk Kawah: A Camping Adventure!

"Eddie! Grab Linus!" came the frantic call as I looked around and spotted the flailing arms and hair of our resident dumbass being washed dwon by the swift currents towards a drop immediately after my position. "Linus! Grab my hand!" I yelled out as I reached for him. He tried, but the foamy water blinded him and couldn't quite find my outstrecthed hand. "Oh... shit..." I said, as I watched Linus go over the fall into an unknown ending below.

For some time now, we had been thinking of going to this place called Lubuk Kawah. Originally floated by Linus, he had planned for a day trip to the falls located close to Tanjung Malim. It didn't work out after I bugged out from that day-trip, causing the whole trip to be cancelled and me getting a tongue lashing from the 'long haired' one. :p This latest effort to Lubuk Kawah was an idea aimed at killing two birds with one stone. One 'bird' represents Linus's and my wish to go for a long overdue camping trip and the other 'bird' my desire to do a little more 'exercise' to slow down the steady growth of my girth. ;)

This time, we've had very good support from our Trail Tracker's admins with Audrey, Dennis, Aurelius besides Linus and myself forming the core of this expedition. Further support came from our regulars, Chris, Denis Khing, Ai Ling, Sum and Linus's love, Carol; from not so regular TTs Chin Ann, Wei Han, Eu Jin and also from newbies Thomas, Jian Wei and Andrew (the last two being Audrey's brother and cousin).

Setting up the event about one week ahead of the trip, we managed to gather all 16 people, tents, foodstuff, transport and even a guide in blitzkrieg speed. By the morning of 21st September, we were ready and pushed off from TTDI to Tanjung Malim at 8:30am.
Preparing to set off!

The trip up north was a breeze, with most of the city folks departed to their 'kampungs' for the long Hari Raya weekend. Arriving at Tanjung Malim shortly after, we chose a random stall located close to the town's morning market to have our breakfast, with me having a plate of wan tan mee and others having stuff ranging from char siew pao, roti bakar to wan tan mee and curry mee. :)
Breakfast crew at Tanjung Malim

Breakfast done with, we headed off to meet the guides at the Tanjung Malim bus station, although not before packing some light lunch for the hike in. Most of us chose to buy a couple of char siew paos as fuel. ;)
Departing Tanjung Malim with a strangely familiar looking face poking out from a car...

A short distance north from Tanjung Malim, we turned into the road leading to the Teratak forest resort, passing through a few kampung houses before arriving at a fork in the road. Here we later found out that we had diverged from the presribed route outlined in Waterfalls of Malaysia ( We instead got onto this nasty 4WD track that gave me intense heartbreak as the underside of my car scrapped against solid jagged rock and my exhaust pipe gave out a harmonic note of protest after it slammed onto another protruding stone. (Note to all those reading this and am attempting to get to Lubuk Kawah, unless you are in a hurry to replace your car, DO NOT USE the Teratak 4WD track to get into Lubuk Kawah. :p)
4WD track, except we are using 2WD instead with a lower undercarriage... Ouch!

It didn't take long before we adopted the strategy having all passengers out of the car while negotiating steep 45 degree muddy climbs and around large stones sticking out of the dirt roads. About an hour driving through hell, we finally rested our battered mounts by the side of this Chinese shrine, with Dennis finally notching the grim tally of dents and scratches to our cars by slamming his rear bumper on a high ledge as he reversed Audrey's dad car into position. ;)
The Chinese shrine in the middle of the rubber estate where we parked our (battered) cars

Setting out by foot from the Chinese shrine

Getting our bagpacks out, we moved in on foot, passing through a patch of rubber estate, over a small stream, up a small slope before pausing at a fast flowing river. Although the water was somewhat waist high, it was rather difficult to cross as the current flowing at the midstream was rather strong. With the guide stretching a wooden stick across the most strongest of flows however, we all managed to get across without dunking ourselves in the cold river water.
Crossing the fast flowing river... watch out!

After this, it was uphill trek for about 1 1/2 hours during which the sky opened up, drenching us in rain. :p Fortunately, the downpour lasted barely 10 minutes before its intensity slowed to a point the overhead jungle canopy could deflect and shelter my raincoat-less body from further drenching.
Uphill climb in the rain... I like it... ;)

The end of the 4WD trail was marked by a wide open campsite, by the side of a hill with a large waterfall tumbling not far away. A reasonable looking stream flowed not far away providing opportunities for a good bath and water for preparing food. However, our guide told us this was NOT the place to set up our tents. Instead, he took us pass the end of the 4WD trail, across that stream and into the jungle where I was sure, our good friends, the leeches lurked in waiting. :p 20 minutes of trudging through the jungle yielded a number of leech bites to the rest of my Baygon faithless buddies at the end of which we found ourselves in a leave covered opening that the guide wanted us to use as a campsite, citing that it was closer to Lubuk Kawah from here than the previous one. It was a poor choice I believe as it was infested with more leeches! :p We nevertheless laid our bags down here before heading down to Lubuk Kawah for a look.

As it's name implies, Lubuk Kawah is formed by a single tumbling fall that drains into a roughly cauldron shaped pool that empties out from a single point into a series of tumbling cascades.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you... Cauldron Creek!

The water currents were swift courtesy of the heavy rain that had fallen every afternoon for the last few days, rendering the option of actually swimming in the 'cauldron' or in the stream a dangerous proposition. Most of us chose to hang along the side of the stream instead, prefering to dip in its cool, clean waters while still having our feet firmly planted on the river bed.
The cool clean but raging waters of Lubuk Kawah

One of us however, chose to defy the norm and had actually crossed over to one of the many boulders on the opposite side of the swift moving stream.
Linus, prior to cashing out another one of his 9 lives

I was slightly downstream, standing over a protruding stone extending close to the midspan of the stream when I heard Dennis shouting my name, "Eddie! Grab Linus!" which thus, commenced the event I had narrated at the beginning of this blog. Miraculously, Linus survived the fall completely unscatched! He had fallen into deep water after tumbling over the drop and managed to swim through relatively calm waters to the side of the stream. Talk about dumbass luck! (Although Linus would say that angels came down from heaven and lifted him off the rocks ;))
The journey of Linus: From the top of the fall on the left down into the thankfully boulderless pool below. Guys do not attempt to replicate unless you really do have 9 lives!

Linus would boast later that he would do it again although the sight of him with his arms and long hair flying around in the thundering waters took the bite out of the rest of us ever trying to swim in the same raging waters. Thankfully, he didn't try to expend another of his nine lives in a repeat attempt over the drop (Perhaps he does have some sense after all). We did however managed to trek as close to Lubuk Kawah as we can and took photos from a ledge overlooking the 'cauldron'. By this time, the group had separated somewhat with Aurelius, Dennis, Audrey, Ai Ling, Chris, Denis Khing and Chris returning to grab their bags and moved up to the first campsite to set up our shelter and prepare food. Linus, Carol, Thomas, Wei Han, Chin Ann, Sum, Eu Jin and myself chose to linger at the falls a while longer since it was many hours before sunset and there was really nothing else to do.
Wei Han and Chin Ann offering to form a 'human dam'... with another potential candidate

We eventually left the falls to grab our bags from the leech infested campsite, returning to join Aurelius and gang who had already started preparing dinner.
Even the preparation of dinner itself looks mouth watering... Mmmm...

I managed to help set up a small canvas canopy with the help of some bamboo poles, conveniently left by previous campers after hoisting up my tent with the help of Eu Jin, Wei Han and Thomas.
Setting up the communal canopy. It didn't rain though but it was fun anyway...

Trail Trackers Base Camp: Lubuk Kawah 2009

Wei Han chose to grab one of the spare tents we brought for his own private shelter while Eu Jin, Thomas and myself moved into my tent. As the last rays of the evening sun dissappeared over the horizon, the crackling sound of our campfire echoed into the night as we all gather for our dinner, which was a luxurious serving of spaghetti carbonara and BBQ chicken slices tipped with capsicum, masterly prepared by the girls that were led by Chef Audrey. ;)
BBQ chicken topped with a slice of capsicum... Mmmm

Nothing like a warm campfire to set the mood... ;)

Dinner dispensed with, we all hovered around the campfire as the darkness of the jungle crept in. A casual shine of my torchlight inspired a little bit of camwhoring as some of us reenacted a little bit of 'space opera' in a galaxy far far away. ;)
Behold! For I am Darth Eddie and I am NOT your father!

Of course, Aurelius has to be 'Luke Skywalker' la... Jedi Master of Camwhoring ;)

I was at this point personally exhausted and retired to my tent a little early for some 'light' sleep. Thomas and Eu Jin followed suit, leaving the rest of our happy campers to play 'Mafia', an uncommon game for us trail trackers which couldn't really replace our obsession for 'Werewolves'. I woke up an hour and a half later, finding Thomas and most of the campers gone. Howls of laughter broke the silence of the night as I approached one of the tents finding everyone awake playing 'werewolves' instead. ;) "Sorry Eddie, this is our last game," said Aurelius as I took my seat among the playing crowd. :) Hmmph! Linus and Carol had also slept shortly after dinner and emerged right after the group finished the 'werewolves' session. Linus implored Chris to join him for a session of what he term as 'herpeology' which has something to do with checking out insects and amphibians in the darkness. :p I chose to abstain from exposing myself to the waiting leeches in the dark and retired back to my tent with Eu Jin, Carol and Wei Han for a round of 'chor tai tee' (poor compensation to 'werewolves', of course). ;)
Playing Chor Tai Tee under a torchlight, in a tent... FUN!

Thomas and Linus returned barely 15 minutes later though, surprising all of us in the tent. They did bring back a few good pictures.
A large spider?

Yellow UFOs floating in the darkness

From here we stayed up till about 1:30am, Thomas taking over Wei Han's position as the latter returned to his tent to sleep solo while Linus turned 'Freud' and attempted to physcobabbled Thomas (to death) while laying his head comfortably on Carol's lap. :p Eu Jin and I eventually chased Linus away by 2:00am, thinking only of getting enough rest for our early morning rise and subsequent hike back to our cars. Sleep came a little later for me, as I entertained a series of queries from Thomas, simultaneously texting some lonely soul in Subang before the sandman came for me, fertilizing my dreams with visions of our morning breakfast consisting of bacon and sausages and also of nightmares driving my poor battered car over that hellish 4WD track again. ;)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Hike to Broga Hill: Of Lament and Congratulations

The hills of Broga truly are made for the romantic at heart. As the morning sun's rays peek through the gathering clouds set against the white mist shrouded valley, one couldn't simply help but imagine romantic couples sitting atop it's wind swept stones, cuddling against each other, the fires in their hearts warming their chilled bodies and looking into the distance, imagining wonderful possibilities and future adventures together in that great journey called, LIFE ;). If sitting here in front of the computer is enough for me to dream about this, think again as you stand among the tall stones high atop the hills, something which I did exactly this fine morning. It is my 3rd outing to Broga, having been there twice in the last year. In the 1st trip, I was primarily motivated by the simple innocent sense of adventure, exploring this nice new place some that I may add into my growing repetoire of hills, mountains and waterfalls I am have visit in this fair country of ours. The 2nd round, I was encouraged by the prospect of making new friends and strengthening the bonds of comradeship among the team of people whom I am beginning to count and consider as dear and close friends. This 3rd round however, I came with a somewhat heavy heart... loyalty and duty to a good friend the drive that powered my organizing this trip while lament and a little tinge of sadness the baggage that threatened to discourage me from actually coming in the first place. :) Successfully gathering a posse of 13 Trail Trackers (Aurelius, Linus, Carol, Dennis, Audrey, Chris, Henry, Annette, Nicole, Swee Min, Evian, Sum and myself), we set off from TTDI at close to 5:00am, a special 4 legged friend in tow (Footstool) courtesy of Linus Chung. We stopped by at our now regular mamak stall in Cheras for a quick breakfast before heading off to Semenyih at 6:00am in the morning.
Having breakfast at our friendly neighbourhood mamak stall...

Along the way, storm clouds seemed to threaten the event, forcing us to equip ourselves with rain coats and drawing cries of worry from first timers. However, the bulk of us were not perturbed. A little rain would hardly pose an obstacle to us 'veteran' Trail Trackers and the fact that the magic of Broga Hills can actually be enhanced by the 'after-rain' mist inspired us even more to take up the challenge. Not to mention of course the possibility that the now very popular hills will be less crowded by people with less of a stomach to drench themselves in rain ;).
The team gathers up for the trek ahead... Notice the newly minted couple at the back? ;) (So tight!) ;)

Arriving at the trail head near the rabbit farm, we find once more that there are still more of those with sturdier stomachs already gathered for the climb, cars dotting the surrounding oil palm estate. A little bit into the trail there is even now a makeshift stall, offering coconuts, soft drinks, mineral water and fruits catering to the growing number of weekend hikers coming to the hills!
Fruit and drinks stalls now have made their appearance at the starting trail... a sign of Malaysian entrepeneurship!

Strapping on my backpack, I powered up the hills, following Linus, Chris and Aurelius to the top. The trails were now very clearly defined with the added consolation of many people leading the way forward, therefore there is now little worry of people actually getting lost amongst the palm oil plantation and thus the need for close 'unit cohesion'. (I was pretty surprised though of being told that a group of would-be adventurers actually got themselves lost going up to Broga Hills a week before; perhaps they took the alternative, longer trek which required navigating to jungle, perhaps it could just be the 'Ghost' month? ;)) The couples, well... they took their time, obviously having other motivations beyond us singletons. Not that there is anything to rush either as dawn was already upon us as we set out.
Tracking about during the night in Broga is alot easier now than then... ;)

I was the first to reach the summit of the first hill among our group, newly 'carved' steps along the slippery slopes aiding my ascent greatly. The surrounding sights were still no less impressive, despite the noticable decrease in the density of the familiar long grasses that grew around the hills. Cool air was blowing up the hill although the much expected and hoped for mist didn't materialize. Still it was sufficient to draw down the temperature of my panting body. Linus came along with Footstool, Chris and Sum shortly after and together, we started memorializing the event by doing our fair share of camwhoring. ;) The sight of peeping rays of a rising sun through the gray clouds of a recent rainfall did not dissappoint and even I, a close to hopeless 'singleton' was drawn by the magic of the moment, my thoughts admitedly flying away into the wind to a land beyond the horizon. ;) Some dreams and visions were shared in that brief instant, technology now no longer a barrier to communication, although my rational mind urged time, consideration and understanding, reigning in for a briefest period, the flutter of my lonely heart. :) We visited the other hills after that, myself setting foot on the 3rd and 4th hills for the first time.
Arriving on the last hill of the Broga chain...

On the further most hill, we made a fool of ourselves, Linus as usual being himself as he mounted a naturally made stage comprising of boulders forming an outcrop overlooking all 3 lower hills, while Sum and I being the followers adding in a little bit of spice to his madness. ;) Dennis spent his time flying Audrey's kite while Aurelius, Nicole, Evian, Swee Min, Chris and Audrey sat atop the flat opening on the 4th hill, chatting, joking, exchanging recorded mp3 through handphones, occasionally joining Linus in his madness, playing with Footstool as well as reassuring the other alarmed looking visitors of it's non-violent nature.
The man and man's best friend :D (Sorry Lily)

Conspicuously missing were Henry and Annette, who we knew were down below having their share of 'quality' time together. ;)
Linus on the 'podium' doing what he does best, in this case, trying to shatter the quiet tranquility of Broga Hills...

Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? - The look of an axe murderer...

Our members frolick while some are conspicuously missing... :)

Thunderclouds started to gather as the ninth hour of the first half of this fine Sunday approached, threatening to drench us in rain and accompanying lightning potentially turning Dennis's curly locks into a permanent Afro, as he seemed to be attempting to replicate old Ben Franklin's experiment! :) We headed down, stopping by the lowest hill to collect Henry and Annette who were huddled together among the stones, still enjoying the view. ;) Nearby, another couple in the throes of love sat, occasionally exchanging a passionate kiss.
A perfect place for couples

Ahh.... soooo romantic... ;) And thus, as we move down the hill, myself leading the way, and finding myself looking up the windswept hills... my mind allowed itself once more a brief moment of escape, to remember a time passed no so long ago... a time when I sat among the stones overlooking the valley below, wondering into the yonder of... "When oh when will the fates grant me the opportunity for me to share that magical moment of sitting with the someone I love among the green hills of Broga Valley, looking up into the sky, watching as the sun rise through the clouds and dreaming of what castles to build..."(Yeah I know it's kinda long but hey, it's a LAMENT... and laments can go on and on ya know... :p)
The lament of an eternal 'singleton'... who shall be my fair maiden? ;)

Congratulations Annette and Henry... You truly are a match made in heaven. Cheers and Godspeed! :D