Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vios Requiem

I am wishing my ‘steed’ goodbye. For almost 7 years, it had faithfully shuttled me without incident through the 4 corners of peninsular Malaysia. Together, we had ventured into the hinterlands of Kelantan, the coastal lowlands of Negeri Sembilan and Pahang, the sea sides of Penang, the jungles of Perak and northern Johor, the narrow congested streets of historical Malacca and not to forget, the daily traffic battles of metropolitan Kuala Lumpur. It had come true through rain, wind and sun in addition to an occasional flooded road or two. My Toyota Vios…
Oh what a feeling! To-yo-ta! ;)

This was truly my ‘first’ car, or least the one that I really felt was my own. I have had a 1990 Maroon Honda Accord back when I studied in the USA, but it never really felt like it’s was ever going to be a fixture since it was a forlorn conclusion that I would return to Malaysia to find my life here. :p I sold that car off to a junior when I graduated.
A Japanese American...

The car that I drove at the dawn of my life as a ‘wage earner’ was the same car that I drove while I was in college, my grandfather’s 1983 White Toyota Corolla station wagon, BBT8605. ;) It was also known as the ‘death wagon’, after I nearly slammed it into the back of a surprisingly stationery car in the middle of a highway in Klang! I could still remember how my passenger back then, a college mate named Wei Choy, looked shortly after our near death experience. ;) He was pale as a ghost! Fortunately, well maintained brakes saved our skin.

I drove the ‘white ghost’ for as long as I could hold out against a car of my own, over my grandmother’s constant pestering for me to get a newer (safer) car. I finally relented when in a downpour, the amount of water that was getting itself into the car threatened to drown me in it! :p ;) That was when I met MY Toyota Vios…
My Vios outside the Duta Hacienda apartments in Port Dickson...

It was a brand new line back in 2003 and I remembered Britney Spears was the model they hired to promote the car. She was ‘clean’ back then and not ‘messed up’ as she is today :p. At a higher range, Orlando Bloom was promoting the Altis.
Vios on the way to Kenong Rimba, outside the Shell Petrol station in Gombak...

Plonking all the money I got from the sale of my car in the US, as well as a generous contribution from my grandmother, I got my ‘companion’ for the next 7 years in November 2003. It was also about a few months into my 2nd job at Mitsui Copper Foil (MCF), Shah Alam and I have been told that the Japanese Managing Director, Kawashita san, on seeing me drive my brand new Toyota Vios to work for the first time, actually wondered whether I have been ‘overpaid’ to afford that kinda car for a junior maintenance engineer :p (I am glad to say, that in the course of my service at MCF, I showed him that I was worth MORE than the money I was paid then).

My first heartbreak came rather quickly. Some dude slammed his Wira into my rear bumper as I was queuing up behind other cars on the Summit, Subang Jaya ramp after exiting the KESAS highway. Apparently the dude thought he was driving a ‘Kancil’ perhaps and misjudged the gap between the railing and the leftmost side of my car. Miraculously, despite the hard bump I felt in the car, the bumper held with the exception of one broken clip and some paint shaved off. I extracted from that fellow an RM300 compensation, complaining that it was a brand new car and I had to replace the whole bumper for fear of it falling off!.:p The cost to replace the bumper was a lot higher I found out later, at >RM500 and after thinking a while, I took a chance to leave it alone. The bumper is still in place till now. ;)
I'm gonna miss this panel... ;)

There were a few teething problems as well, ranging from loose seatbelt panels to twice failing power windows, frankly not I would expect from a Toyota. The last was particularly annoying as the technicians at Sungai Rasah service center were less than attentive or concerned about my complaints. It was the second time the power window failed in two months and I was told that a replacement power window motor would only be arriving two months AFTER I make the warranty claim to which I exclaimed that “If I had wanted to drive a car with faulty windows, I would have bought a PROTON!” This illicted a very ‘smart alec’ky response from our ‘friendly’ service technician that “ALL cars are also like that!” A quick email to the Japanese sales director in Malaysia (in which I specifically mentioned that after this episode, my next car would be a Honda), prompted a call from the manager of the service center a few days later. Amazingly, the ‘parts’ have 'arrived' at the shop and I could bring in my car ‘anytime’ to have the power window motor replaced! (The reality is that spare parts are always available, it's just that for 'free' replacements, they try to make it a little bit more difficult for you to 'obtain').
Vios at the Gunung Nuang carpark...

Over the years, I continued sending my car to the Toyota service center even after my warranty expired, diligently emulating my grandfather’s tendency to keep the car ‘well maintained’. The prices were hefty but the there were really no major technical problems since the power windows failed.
Vios in Tanjung Malim, with one strange but familiar looking dude waving back... :p (click the picture to get a better view of that 'bugger' is)

There were a few more heartbreaks, notably the time when I brought the car to the Lubuk Kawah camping trip with Aurelius and gang. What was originally supposed to be a road to a resort with a nice clean car park, turned out to be a 4WD adventure trail! A huge ‘gronk’ echoed into the interior compartment as the undercarriage of my car rubbed against rough stone, making my heart skip a beat. :p I had to endure another near case of cardiac arrest when the left front door of my car ran against the protruding point of a thin metal wire from a fallen fence on the way out, gouging a foot long line into the paint! :’(
Vios feeling the PAIN! :p 4-Wheel Driving on the trail to Lubuk Kawah, OUCH!

Then there were the perpetual ‘meteor shower’ of stones that often strikes the users of the KESAS highway. Having driven a lot of highways in Malaysia, I can swear that stone throwing ‘toyols’ must inhabit the portion of KESAS between Kota Kemuning and the entry/exit point to my home in Bandar Puteri, Klang. More often than once, I would hear the un-welcomed thump of a stone hitting the sides of my car with the occasional heart rendering ‘crack’ of a ‘bull’s eye’ on my front windscreen! You really never see the stones before and after the strike although the results on the windscreen is glaring! I have had three of these bull’s eyes in recent years along the KESAS highway, although the first one was on the road to Gebeng, Kuantan when I had the misfortune of following behind a very large (and dirty) lorry.

Inevitably, signs of ‘old age’ has begun to creep in by the 5th year of its life. Critical injuries have become to manifest with busted up joints (all 4 wheel bearings worn out), bones (broken suspension arms) and respitory failures (air cond compressor breaking down) occurring within a span of 3 months on average. It’s ‘senses’ were also going as the rear sensors were starting to register ‘ghosts’ when there was really nothing there. It's eyes (lamps) were starting to develop cataracts (blurring due to build up of hardened dust deposits).

It's time of service is nearing an end, and I have find another steed.

Therefore today, I hand over the reins of my steed to the stable master. May the new master the stable masters finds be kind to you as I hope I was the same... Sayonara BGY9835 and Godspeed...

Hajimimashite WUB2138, watashino atarashi kuruma desu! ;)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fraser's Hill, Between Suffering and Relaxation! Part 2: Relaxation!

It's now time to earn some much needed R&R! :) Leaving Kampung Pertak at close to 4:30pm, Wei Han and myself head towards the gateway from which the single narrow road leads up to the delightfully chilly climate of the English countryside at Fraser's Hill. We were aiming to reach the gateway before 5:45pm, after which the road will be closed to uphill driving, allowing those from the resort to head downhill.
Timing is crucial when going up Fraser's Hill, you can review the times here :D

It's a system to accomodate the very narrow road to the top, which was wide enough for one way traffic only. Even before we reached the gateway however, the roads were already starting to wind as we weaved through mountain country, that was covered by virgin jungle. Incidently, for those not really in the 'know', these roads are the same ones where the 2nd High Commissioner of Malaya, Sir Henry Gurney was gunned down by communist guerillas on 6th October, 1951. :p We reached the foot of Fraser's hill at about 5:20pm, right between the time uphill traffic is allowed and headed up. The curvy road continues all the way up, requiring an additional amount of fortitude (as well as a strong stomach ;)). Although there were a few solar powered lamps on this road, it is advisable NOT to travel downhill after dark for the same reason. Coupled often times by the mist, it could be pretty dangerous negotiating pass the sharp bends in the darkness. My roti canai lunch had ascended almost up the base of my throat when thankfully we reached the top about 45 minutes later! :D Passing through the clinic, some shops and the police station, we found ourselves parked near the hill's famous fern entwined clock tower at the center of 'towne'... ;)
The towne 'center' by the clock tower

We immediately tried to make contact with Pui Voon, who is our 'host' for tonight's R&R. Apparently, working for KLK has a few unique priviledges, chief of which is the ability to rent (at a fantastically low price!) company owned fancy English countryside homes on chilly mountaintops! Our initial efforts to contact her however only managed to get us 'familiarized' with the already familiar 'Nombor yang anda dail, tidak dalam perkhidmatan'... Attempts to call our other party joining the trip, Vincent and Fei, was met with similar results. True to the spirit of a 'resort', Fraser's Hill apparently does not have FULL coverage of phone services. There was a moment of apprehension, after coming this far; "Are we to head home now?" :p
This view encompasses the entire towne center ;)

Fortunately, the phone came alive again. Although it was not Pui Voon, it was Vincent who called. Together with Fei, they had just arrived at the exit of the single lane road. They too had problems reaching Pui Voon but now with strength in numbers, we decided to hang around towne and take some photos. Located 1280m above sea level, Fraser's Hill was first developed by none other than Louis James Fraser, a solitary Scottish pioneer, who set up a tin-ore trading post in the hills during the 1890s. Finding a small deposit of tin, he opened up a mine, brought in Chinese workers and expanded the trading post to include opium and gambling dens (something of a necessity to us chinese perhaps? :p). He vanished mysteriously among the hills 25 years later, which resulted in an expedition led by J. Ferguson-Davie, Bishop of Singapore in search of him. Although Mr. Fraser was never found, Ferguson reported back to the British of the area's ideal location for the construction of a 'retreat'. By 1922, construction of the single lane road was complete and the resort opened to visitors.
History buff? Read this! :D

More development came in the 1970s to the point that it threatened the environment around the resort. In 2010, the Pahang state government announced that there will be no further development of the virgin forested area. Today, aside from the bungalows dotting the surroundings, the town center is formed by a clinic, a police station, a post office, a large foodcourt and a golf resort. Ok, well enough about history... ;)
Ho-hum... who says Fraser's Hill got nothing to do? Look at the list of things you CAN do! :)

Pui Voon finally called us about half an hour later. Coming out from her bungalow, she guided us to our home away from home a 10 minute drive away from the town center at a bungalow called 'Arundel'.
The entrance to KLK's bungalow in Fraser's Hill. ;) Thanks KLK! :)

A typical English bungalow in the countryside...

More English 'cottage's... how exciting! :D

It is joined by it's smaller sister 'Bunge', both of which are connected to a central building where the workers who take care and tend to the place now live. Around the two bungalows were gardens of beautiful flowers, coming in a variety of colors aside from a rather secluded open air badminton court a short walk away from the bungalows.
The LONELY looking badminton court a distance away from the bungalows... Eeeee :p

Entering our English abode, we were introduced to Pui Voon's colleagues (as well as spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends and daughter of her colleagues, no pickings here... ;)).
Interior of the bungalow: The hall. (Notice the bookshelf behind... ;))

"Care for some supper sir?" The bungalow's dining room... ;)

A relic from the past! A radial phone!

Wei Han and myself took a short nap thereafter, exhausted from our hike at Gunung Kutu. We awoke just in time to attend the BBQ dinner, which was served at the bungalow's main long dinner table by the attendants.
Pui Voon's colleagues chipping in to cook up the BBQ (Wei Han and myself were in dreamland then... sorry guys ;))

The meal, consisting of BBQ chicken, lamb, beef, sausages and complemented by generous servings of homemade coleslaw and fried rice was indeed food for the soul, especially after the tiring hike! Wei Han however, was noticably 'reserved' with the food, although I wolfed down a fair share despite initially trying to 'restrain' myself from over indulging (what the heck! one glass of Coca Cola down the hatch!)... :p
Enjoying the fruits (of other people's labour :p). BBQ dinner served with fried rice and egg! Yummy!

After that, we all hung around the hall, some of Pui Voon's colleagues unfolding a couple of 'Kung Ming' lanterns! We were asked to write down our 'wishes' on the lantern sides, after which we would let them off in a hot aired powered ascent to the heavens where hopefully, the Gods shall receive them and grant us our wishes! Great idea right? :D Well, believe or not believe, what's there to lose? Plus, it's fun to watch those lanterns fly in the mountain air! The night was starting to get chilly when we were ready to release the lanterns.
Releasing the Kung Ming lantern. May our wishes come true! :D

We watched as both lanterns rose into the air, until it's light was as faint as to mistake it for another star. The one with my wish written on it, flew the highest, the longest and the furthest, the latter perhaps due to it being caught up by the jet stream. Only when the faint glimmer that was our lantern faded did we retire back into the bungalow. Frankly there isn't really much to do here, but then again that's precisely the point isn't it? Wei Han, Vincent and Fei retired to bed early, while I joined Pui Voon and her colleague 'Candy' for a round of mahjong. Aside from being 'slaughtered', I was also subjected to a barrage of questions from Ms. Candy as well, one of which requiring to use my 'oil and gas' expertise to reply. ;) I retired to bed myself a little bit pass midnight, sleeping till morning with not the beacon of the World Cup 3rd/4th place fight enough to rouse me from bed. ;) At night I was assailed by mosquitoes, requiring me to change my 'feng shui' position and bring my head away from the window as I laid on the matress spread out on the wooden floor (what to do? have to accede to driver's priviledge mar :p). I was aware when Wei Han, Vincent and Fei snuck out of the bungalow to have their English RM30++ breakfast at the Old Smokehouse.
Fraser Hill's Old Smokehouse, where Wei Han, Fei and Vincent had their RM30++ English breakfast...

Is he our jockey? Nah, it's just Wei Han near the 'stables'(?)

I didn't bother waking up to join them though, sleeping in an English countryhouse till morning was too much for me to pass up! :p I rejoined the world of the living at about 830am in the morning, discovering the remaining inhabitants were mostly sleeping as well after a full night of 'Lami'. One of Pui Voon's colleagues was preparing sandwiches, to which I helped myself two pieces. ;) At length, I was joined by Pui Voon and on an invitation by her colleague Candy, tagged along for some early morning sightseeing of the area.
"Above all the rest, feeling so free and high, freer than the clouds, we touch the sky...", that's the medley for Salem's cigarette advertisment... HIGH indeed! ;)

We went pass the town center to another food court area with a large playground, trying to find breakfast at one of perhaps TWO Chinese shops, Hillview restaurant. It was closed when we came at about 830am so we had to settle at one of the nearby Malay shops instead.
Having my RM1 breakfast with the ladies...

While Candy, her husband and daughter had nasi lemak, I helped myself with 3 pieces of curry puffs for RM1 fried by a surprisingly Chinese speaking Malay lady! Pui Voon and another colleague which joined us just had drinks despite my pleas to help me finish the 2 other curry puffs (and avoid me piling up the guilt) :p. We adjourned to the playground for a while where some of us decided to 'relive' their childhood. ;)
Ah... isn't it nice to revisit our childhood once in a while? ;)

I also found out how much more work I need to do at the gym when a boy completed the monkey bars which I only managed to achieve but two with my scrawny arms. :p Wei Han and gang made an appearance at the playground moments later, seated in Vincent's MyVii. They called out to me and asked me whether I wanted to tag along with them to the Hill's only (artificial) waterfall (Jeriau waterfall). I waved back at them in a gesture I thought meant 'hi', which unexpectedly resulted in them driving off! I was to find out later that they interpreted my gesture as 'Go Ahead, I am not interested' instead. :p With my 'alternative' option literally 'driven off', I had to make the best of the situation. ;) Our group headed over to Allan's water, a small lake that what was once the hill's source of water.
Allan's water (opps, I am reading of the picture right?)

The lake was once a reservoir to store drinking water for the inhabitants of Fraser's Hill...

Today, the district office runs a recreational facility offering paddle boat rides at RM5for a 15 minute stint. Hoping to reduce the 'guilt' of ingesting 3 oily curry puffs, I invited Pui Voon to join me on a paddle boat cruise across the lake. Candy got on another boat with her daughter, and poor mummy had to do all the work for her little baby because for safety reasons, only two can board the boat no matter how small (or young) you are. ;)
... now it houses a facility for me to burn my accumulated calories! ;)

We returned back to the bungalow when one of our member needed to answer the call of nature. Once there, it was another round of lazing about. With nothing much to do, I checked out the dusty bookshelf in the hall. Remarkably, those books are the real 'McCoy' (ie real books and not just decorations). As I flipped through this very dated World Atlas by Lufthansa, I was also trying to figure out it's age, taking note of countries now vanished from the world map (Rhodesia, Czechslovakia, Yugoslavia, East Germany). I had better luck with the next book, when I happen to come across the glued on library slip on the reverse of it's front page. The earliest date chopped on the slip was 31st December 1962!!
This book is OLDER than ALL of us in the house!

The next book I pulled out from the dusty shelves was another surprise. Reading a biography of Sir Winston Churchill on wikipedia a few days before, I didn't expect to come across one of his famous books, 'Marlborough, His Life and Times', here! The book was about his most illustrious ancestor, John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough which he had written during the 'wilderness' (out of parliament) period of the 1930s, prior to World War II. Wow, another 'dash' of 'Englishness'. ;)
Interesting, and I was playing Empire Total War right around this time...

By the time Vincent, Wei Han and Fei returned, it was almost time to go home. For the entire BBQ dinner and lodging, the cost per person was a mere RM45, very cheap if I do say so myself, which we duly paid to Pui Voon. :)Wishing the now awoken denizens of the bungalow goodbye, we headed down the hill at about pass noon. Wei Han had initially aimed to have 'lunch' at Ulu Yam's famous 'loh mee' shop, but a quirk in his GPS took us close to Selayang instead. Resetting the GPS took us to 'Lan Jie's' famous patin fish shop in Rawang and upon reaching there at about 2:00pm, we ordered two of their famous fish dish. (They were out at 2:15pm and close at 3:00pm)
There is only ONE style of cooking this fish here. You get to choose the depth of spicyness though ranging from 'zero' to 'mild' and 'HOT'!

The shop isn't really hard to find, located as it was on the main road in Rawang town that led to/from Kuala Lumpur, a short distance drive from Kanching waterfalls.
If you are in Rawang, look out for this shop with THIS signboard!

Fei and Vincent enjoying the fish... Mmmmmm...

The last time I was there more than a year ago, I had the opportunity to take a photo with 'Jason' from Astro's Chinese 'makan-makan' fame.
A previous trip, caught with Ah Sien (Jason) from Astro AEC makan makan fame...

We went home from here, me to come out again at close to the wee hours of the Monday morning to watch the end of the 4 year gala at Subang's Little Balley, the WORLD CUP FINAL between Spain and Netherlands! Try as I did to defy the odds, Paul (the octopus) was right, making our Mr. Eric a very happy man (before realising that he had to 'pay' for our 'free' seafood dinner). Hahaha... until next time, Cheers! :D
The Winner(?) of our World Cup bet, Mr. Eric! :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gunung Kutu, between Suffering and Relaxation! Part 1: Suffering!

I have not really hiked since visiting Gunung Stong back in February and to tell you the truth, I am starting to get kinda lazy. :p So when Wei Han floated yet another idea to go on another 'tough' hiking trip, the 'Eddie' that once leapt up at the challenge and said 'GOOOOOO' only managed a faint whisper at the back of my mind. ;) It was also at the same time that Pui Voon suddenly had a few 'vacancies' in her 'company' trip to Fraser's hill, also on the same weekend, which placed me in a REAL dilemma: should I take up Wei Han's offer and 'suffer' a total 7 hour hike up a mountain, dirt, mud and leeches galore? Or should I accept Pui Voon's offer and have a relaxing sojourn up the cool mountain top, sitting in front of a fire place, reading Hemmingway while the scent from the English garden around soothes the tired nerves? ;) Kinda 'hard' to make a decision isn't it? I was admittedly sort of leaning towards the more 'relaxing' trip when our Mr. Wei Han kindled the slumbering hiker within by labelling me a 'retired hiker'... :p Coincidentally, in a surprise call from my long lost friend, Maxx, the day before, one of the points brought up in our conversation was also my supposed 'retirement' from my hiking escapades, with the label, 'retired hiker' being suspiciously reused(Hmm... one wonders whether the term originated from the same source)! In any case, an offer by Mr. Wei Han to drive us both to the base of Gunung Kutu and then proceeding to Fraser's Hill to link up with Pui Voon and gang sealed the deal and so, in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, I found myself travelling once more down the road through the gathering dawn, clad in my trusty grey sports shirt, blue Adidas pants and worn badminton shoes with a mission yet to conquer another mountainous feature in the Titiwangsa range. :p But before the 'conquerer's are going to conquer anything, we have to first satisfy the resistance from our hungry stomachs! And to do this, we stopped at Kuala Kubu Baru town for a much needed breakfast.
A place of a 'hundred' rendevous'es'... Perhaps the ONLY famous mamak shop in KKB...

It was also the rendevous point where we met up with the organizing group of the trip consisting of Sharon Chow, Weng Woo and Real Ho which I have met on previous outings and a series of other 'new' faces. Surprisingly, we were also joined by 3 ELDERLY men whom I found out later were on average more than 60 years of age! After introductions, eating our breakfast and packing our lunch to munch at the top, we set off for the trail start point, located just inside the orang asli village at Kampung Pertak. The entrance to the kampung, just one stop away from entry to Chilling waterfalls on the road to Fraser's Hill and over a bridge (with so many pointers, can you miss it? ;)) is graced by an elaborate wooden arch, still 'adorned' by an election banner urging the natives to vote 'Blue'... :p
The arch adorning the gateway to Kampung Pertak, with some recent by-election 'leftover'...

We followed the tar road pass the kampung into the wilderness until there is no more tar road left before we parked our cars. We started off from the parking lot at 9:00am, heading up a dirt and gravel 4 wheel drive track.
Hi-Ho! And so we set off from the car park!

The 4 wheel drive track...

We soon arrived at a metal suspension bridge spanning over a small stream. This was one of two bridges on the trail, the next one having partially collapsed at the midspan. ‘Partially’ collapsed meant that at the midspan, the angle of tilt for the metal walking plates was almost 45o, therefore a certain amount of agility is required to navigate over the other side. OR, you could just wade across the shin high waters (and get your shoes wet in the process, which you will eventually do anyway!) :p.
2nd suspension bridge, where you get to emulate Michael Jackson's inclined (45 degrees) moonwalk!

We were introduced to the three elderly gentlemen whom we found to be around their 60s and originating mostly from Klang! There was another much wider stream cuts across our path after the bridge. The water here is knee deep, enough for a cool dip in its running waters. Of course, this is really not the ‘official’ dipping spot for most people coming here. That was closer to the parking lot. Apparently, the shallow bottom boulder strewn river not far away is popular among weekend visitors and picnickers who enjoy bathing more ‘natural’ types of water.
Boulder strewn riverbed... well, the waters are still cool to dip in... ;)

As we were still rather ‘fresh’, we didn’t stop at this point to dip, although most of us wearing socks and shoes (and also those who didn’t bother to remove them, me included) got them pretty wet.
Getting my feet, socks and shoes WET!

Leaving the stream behind, we found ourselves still on the 4 wheel drive track (though thankfully no 4 wheel drives in sight), passing rubber and fruit tree groves. The sun was peeking out from behind the heavy clouds by now, casting rays of light through the overhead tree tops.
A 'magical' moment, the sun rays peeking through the leaves of rubber trees ;)

There were a few branches of road, although quick questions to the locals passing by in their motorcycles will set you on the right path to Gunung Kutu. Some of these branches are blocked off as well, whether to prevent 4 wheel drives from destroying the paths or simply stopping trespassers (like us) from going through their private property is unclear. We soon found our way to the trail start marked by the familiar red and white striped ribbons tied onto the surrounding trees. Another small stream passes through this starting point as well. This will be the last water point from here to the summit, so it’s time to get our shoes wet one last time.
On the track! Sharon and Steven strikes a pose...

The track starts rather leisurely, the red and white striped ribbons leading us over mostly flat ground. At length, we passed through this rather peculiar area of felled trees. A number of shirts and children clothing (in particular, a little girl’s dress!) were hung on makeshift hangers among the fallen branches. From the random way they were hung, it didn’t appear that someone had left them to dry to come back and collect later. Rather, it could have been some innovative method of marking the area to the locals or more disturbingly, they perhaps might have been some form of ‘offering’ to you know what (it could also have been a graveyard, you wouldn’t know)! :p
Brrr! I wouldn't want to pass this area at night! :p This place gives me the creeps!

Regardless, we left them clearly alone and proceeded onwards. Lulled by the ease of travel so far, the first steep incline came as somewhat of a surprise. It was time to ‘engage’ the 4 wheel drive. The water sodden slope made it slippery and muddy, at certain points I had to grab the roots of trees or tree trunks to pull myself up the close to 30o (or more) inclines.
4 wheel drive on! Powering up the slippery slope...

After more than an hour of slogging, we reached somewhat flat ground although not before having to get down onto my haunches to pass through the mud beneath fallen bamboo trees! If I had thought the bamboo trees had fallen low the first round, mother nature wasn’t finished with us as she provided us another chance to perform the ‘lambada’ by giving us another bamboo obstacle with a much lower clearance!
Time to do the lambada! After working your leg muscles, it's time to work your back! Oh!

I really had to get my hands dirty this time as I had to practically crawl through the mud beneath, trying my best not to get my hiking bag muddier than it already was. The glimpse of the blue sky through the overhead canopy seemed to imply that we were making good progress and we’d be reaching the summit soon. I was wrong, because there was still a few more spells of inclines and flat walks before we finally reached the ‘just-past’ mid point that was represented by this outcrop made out of one gigantic boulder with a large ‘C5’ sign painted on it’s side, indirectly ‘christening’ the place.
C5! (Guess it couldn't have been named 'C4' because it's probably named after a certain jungle spot in Selangor where... :x)

Here, we found two other groups taking a break. One group appeared to be campers heading down while another, a group of mostly Klang Valley people like us, heading up. We paused here to catch our breath and also to take a few photos.
Most of the group, minus myself who was holding the camera... ;)

It’s about 2 and half hours after we started. About 15 minutes after the group heading up left ‘C5’, we ourselves traced their footsteps. Again, I had thought we were close to the summit, the widening window of blue sky among the canopy deceiving me yet again. Turns out, the journey from here is somewhat similar to what you would expect between Puncak Pengasih and the summit of Gunung Nuang. It appears that we had to ‘cross’ over to Gunung Kutu from the hill we were at, descending slightly a moment before going up again. Inevitably, unit cohesiveness broke down and we found ourselves moving in small groups. I was moving with Wei Han, Chang Ying and Chee Ying. The path forked again with two sides showing red and white stripped tapes tied around tree branches. The difference was one path seem to head up another steep incline while the other sort of skirted around it. We chose the ‘skirting’ path after being told by Chee Ying that both leads up to the summit anyway. 3 and half hours after starting at 9am, I finally caught a glimpse of the chimney over the fireplace that formed the landmark that was the ‘summit’ of Gunung Kutu.
At the famous chimney at last! Yippee!!! :)

In actual fact, the leftover brick fireplace was not really the ‘summit’. The summit was about a hundred meters away up two huge boulders that had very robust constructed wooden ladders conveniently provided. Because the 1st group was on the summit, we rested close to the abandoned fireplace.
Sharing the fun with my fellow 'conquerer's! :D

As we did, it was no surprise that anyone would wonder how on Earth the presumably British explorers would manage to haul up the bricks and mortar to build a house up here! Careful deduction and a little bit of research would surmise that they obviously would have had some help from coolies and the reason why they would venture into the hinterlands here to build a house would be the same as they did successfully on Fraser’s Hill and a host of other ‘English’ countryside hills that dot the country; that is to initially set up a trading post to deal with tin miners of inner Pahang and later to develop it into a cooling highland getaway for the Europeans. ;) In any case, the outpost at Gunung Kutu was not very successful and all that is left today is the fireplace along with two deep wells to draw water.
The well... with two covers (before I accidentally made it one, sorry but the cover was loose!) :p

The latter giving would be campers a good reason to climb up here to weather the night. I was told there was an abandoned ‘mansion’ not far from the summit on the other side of the mountain. However, we did not visit it this time around. Swarms of sand flies infest the area around the fireplace and whoever wishes to camp with them better have something to ward them off! We took a few minutes to catch our breath before pulling out our packed lunches from our bags which ranged from apples to cup cakes and even char siew pows! I ate the roti canai I bought back in KKB while Wei Han helped himself with a healthy dose of crackers.
Having my 'roti canai' lunch at the top, with an 'extra' in the frame...

Having done with our lunch, Wei Han and I were encouraged by the other seasoned trackers to head up the summit proper, a proposal we would definitely take up after al the effort. The group ahead of us gave us enough space to maneuver up the wooden ladder to the second topmost boulder. A stainless steel sign declaring that we were at the right place was perched nearby. A second more ‘official’ looking sign set up by Perhilitan was also not far away.
The signboard proclaiming for all to see... 'Gunung Kutu'!

To reach the topmost boulder however, requires you to toughen your nerves as you had to negotiate across a small cut out 2” piece of wood that linked the two boulders. Thankfully, someone also provided a makeshift rail, although I was still worried that the piece of wood beneath me that was the only thing preventing me from plummeting over the sides to oblivion would hold my weight. :p I was reassured by the fact that Wei Han went ahead of me, so if it could support him, it could surely support me! ;) The view from the top was breathtaking, a lot better than at Gunung Stong. Completely unobstructed, we had a good view of the lake that was formed by the damming of Sungai Selangor, the surrounding mountains as well as a piece of apartment development somewhere towards Rawang.
Apartments being developed in Rawang(?)

A portion of the Titiwangsa Mountain range...

View of the lake formed by the Selangor river dam...

At the TRUE summit! :)

We hung around there for while savoring the vista. When we came down to the level the first group was at, we were offered slices of pumpkin pie to eat and share with the rest of our team below, who were at that time busy taking group photos, realizing that they have left Wei Han and myself out when we returned. :p The three elderly gentlemen had already gone down ahead of us. We participated in the next session of photos, this time taken by the famous fireplace before gathering clouds warned us that it was time to head down. The journey down seemed like a breeze compared with the climb up, mainly through the assistance of Newton’s old friend, gravity. :)
A jungle 'pine' cone...

Sharon, Shang Za and Ti Mei were flying down the hill, while Joey, Wei Han, Weng Woo and myself followed behind closely. We still had to contend with the fallen bamboo obstacle down the road but we managed to cover the track down in fewer than 2 and half hours at close to 4pm. This time, we paused at the large unbridged stream just outside the trail to freshen up and wait for the others at the rear to rejoin us.
The river! Time for a refreshing dip!

Sharon however was not at the stream. We presume (rightly) that she had gone all the way to the car park. The water was still as cool as it were in the morning and most of us took the opportunity to immerse in it. The ‘brief’ stop became and ‘full’ stop soon enough as the inviting waters convinced most of us to linger on.
Beautiful ladies by the river... ;)

We were also told that there was usually a crowd of weekend bathers downstream so apparently this was a good place as any to wash up. Wei Han and I couldn’t tarry long however, because we had to proceed on to Fraser’s Hill to meet Pui Voon, her colleagues, Vincent and Fei. There is also this unique gate system enforced which allows vehicles to move only one way up or one way down at certain preset times, with the nearest window for Wei Han and myself being between 5pm to 6pm. There was a brief spell of drama just before we left when one of the girls had one of her red slippers float downstream, until it was successfully retrieved by our gallant policeman! :)And so, with the conclusion of that drama, it was also time for Wei Han and I to bade our hiking group farewell, hiking back to the car park and setting off to our next destination, Fraser’s Hill! (but not before handing Sharon an umbrella to shelter herself from the already falling rain when we found her at the carpark). :p :)