A good morning greeted by a flock of horn bills perched atop the water tank close to our dorm... :)
After having our fill, we packed up and moved out, myself stopping by at the resort office to extend our stay till 3pm so that we may freshen up prior to heading home. This, the resort management approved perhaps seeing that there was really no one else to take the dorms after us.
We drove out and met our guide at the car park outside Gua Balai in earnest.
Back to the parking lot close to Gua Balai
Unlike the previous day’s guide, this one was more professional and gave us a briefing of what to expect from the caves as well as some safety tips. For the most part, we were told that it would be a short walk through the jungle to the mouth of the first cave, Gua Penyu (Turtle Cave). Then we will proceed to Gua Ular (Snake Cave), thru Gua Kelawar (Bat Cave) before heading to Gua Hijau (Green Cave), finally exiting via Tangga 99 (99 Steps).
Our guide gave us a few moments to prepare our stuff. Once everyone is ready, we started our hike, skirting to the left around Gua Balai thru a jungle trek. After a few minutes of walking, we arrived at this narrow ledge flanked on one side by a shallow stream and another by solid rock before we reached Gua Penyu, the first cave prior to our three cave combo.
Journey begins, walking pass Gua Penyu...
Gua Penyu is named after a certain rock formation which resembles a sea turtle, whose ‘head’ has been apparently lobbed off. :p Hmmm… maybe they should renamed it Gua Penyu Dipancung (Decapitated Turtle Cave?) ;)
The rock whose name the cave earned... ;) I have to say it really looks like a turtle... minus the head of course :p
For the moment, we didn’t dally around the cave, rather we pass it on the same jungle path until we encountered our first obstacle, an almost vertical climb up a vine tangled rock face just outside Gua Ular.
Clambering up a vertical rockface is no easy task... :p Fortunately there were vines and roots of trees to assist us!
Moving up on all fours, we scaled the roughly 6m high rock face, before finding ourselves at the mouth of Gua Ular. We paused for the rest of the team to gather before proceeding into the gloom.
Arriving at the mouth of Gua Ular...
Gathering outside Gua Ular... Snakes? Nah!
If I am not mistaken, Gua Ular resembles a small ‘ante-chamber’ prior to reaching the ‘Bat Cave’ which is adorned with a few stalagmites crowned with crystal deposits. Fortunately, or perhaps UNfortunately for some of us, there were no snakes in sight.
Crystal deposits, for the benefit of future explorers, please do not touch! :)
The smell of bat guano ushers us through a small portal where we found ourselves in this very large chamber filled with bats.
The high interior of Gua Kelawar. Bats flying everywhere!
It really isn’t as bad as I had expected. I was previously told to expect knee deep guano and a cave floor alive with cockroaches crawling all over. Instead, the guano was barely inches thick while the cockroaches and insects that feed on it were tiny and not as numerous as you would expect in a swarm. :p Hmmm… perhaps it’s not the season?
It's very dark and only the illumination of the flash from the DSLR camera managed to reveal the group in all it's startled glory ;)
It is still pretty dark and scans of our flash lights revealed an abandoned industry of harvesting guano for fertilizer, evidence of which can be seen littered around the chamber in the form of rotting wooden trolleys and other structures.
We took a few photos, the more insect loving members of our group squatting to observe the creepy crawlies scurrying around our feet.
Bug Lovers... Hmmm what do you call them in a more 'academic' kind of way? Ah yes! Entomologists! :p
Fortunately, the expected ‘aerial bombardment’ wasn’t as heavy either, in fact it was more of a ‘powdery sprinkle’ than a torrent. Something like ‘fairey dust’? ;)
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust... the remains of a bat 'returned' to the ground...
A nasty looking spider! :p
Creepy crawlies on the cave floor... :p
Having lingered there for about 20 minutes, we were urged to move on to our next cave, Gua Hijau, via a portal from Gua Kelawar.
Entering Gua Hijau, with it's high ceiling and monolithic looking walls...
Patches of green moss line certain portions of the cave wall, giving the cave its namesake. On emerging through the Gua Kelawar portal, we found ourselves standing atop a high natural promenade, overlooking the cave floor located about 10 meters below, accessible through a small meandering rocky path. A few large boulders litter the bottom of the cave with one feature being a deep hole at one corner with its bottom too far down for our lights to pierce through and another feature, a 'skylight' revealing a peek of the jungle beyond.
The cave's 'skylight'...
The ‘green’ of the moss appears to be the color of jade, giving the impression that the cave wall is lined with seams of this precious mineral.
Your's truly, squatting to take pictures of the cave...
The greenish hue of the moss that line the walls of the cave giving it's name... :)
We paused to take photos, the more restless among us attempted to clamber up a very steep and slippery rock face to reach a small 'cave' within the chamber which they surprisingly manage!
No rest for the 'wicked'? ;) Diverging from the main route to seek adventure... sadly, the Ali Baba cave did not hide Yamashita's treasure... ;)
However, if they had expected to find General Yamashita's hidden stash of gold, there wasn't any because it was empty and also led to a dead end. :p Good effort nonetheless! :)
Group Photo, Gua Hijau... Yeah! :D
Soon it was time to move and the guide informed us to proceed to Tangga 99. Expecting it to be a natural rock staircase, I found in its place, rungs of steel ladders leading all the way down from the cave mouth to the jungle floor below, a long rusting metal chute its companion.
The rusty ladder that constitutes part of Tangga 99
Deceptively though, there is indeed a short flight of wooden stairs just before the cave opening where the ladder starts.
The exit of Gua Hijau leading to Tangga 99. Notice the wooden stairs close to the top...
Here is where I found my first documented leech attack for this whole caving trip, though thankfully not on myself! :p ;) Apparently, Janice had unknowingly brought along a hitchhiker, who had comfortable grew fat sucking the blood off her while we were doing all that climbing and walking. We only noticed the presence of her hitch hiker by the growing stain of arterial red spreading across the back of her shirt. :p Huge (it was almost 3cm long), fat and filled with her vitae, the leech plopped nicely on the ground as Moon shook it loose from Janice’s shirt.
Waiting our turn to descend down the ladder, one by one please... ;) It is here that Janice found her 'companion'... :p
Taking from a scene out of some B-grade science fiction movie, Janice, like some alien ‘queen mother’ unexpectedly pleaded for the it’s life, citing the ‘bond’ they now shared through the DNA coursing through the sightless wormlike parasite’s slimy orifices. Yucks! :p
Janice's alien 'offspring'! :p
Her pleadings were so heartfelt that we had to no choice but to reluctantly leave it for another chance for it to prey on nary an unwary traveller in the near future (Sorry guys, we were more afraid of Janice sprouting claws and fangs attacking us if we ‘harmed’ her ‘alien’ offspring, hahaha). :p
Despite this, I climbed down the ladder quickly, more than pleased to keep as wide a distance between myself and the blood sucking critter as I can. At the foot of the steps on the jungle floor, I met up with Mr. Lee who offered me a morsel of information.
Close to the foot of tangga 99, shortly before discovering there wasn't 99 steps after all!
Apparently, ‘Tangga 99’ didn’t really have 99 steps after all. It was actually short by about 10. :p I suppose the ‘99’ is more for glamour sake than actual fact.
Once everyone had gotten down the ladder safely, we proceeded to make our way back, retracing our steps back to Gua Penyu.
Returning to the jungle trek heading back to Gua Penyu
This time, we proceeded to venture into the cave which in actuality, was really a large natural corridor leading to… a dead end. :)
Along the way, evidence of what was supposed to be the posts for a chain railing can be seen at certain intervals. Perhaps it was a show cave once? At the end of the corridor, were pools of water filled with tadpoles and other swimming insects.
Like most cave expeditions, we were ordered to switch off the lights to experience the pitch darkness. Squels of “Preciousssss…” echoed in the dark confines as Gollum made his appearance... ;)
Entering Gua Penyu, a long corridor with the ceiling descending until it was about 2m high at the end
As the lights were turned on back again, some of us squatted down to observe the insects and tadpoles, others idled around looking at the cave walls while I focused my attention on the rocks above, paying particular attention to the dripping water off a stone stuck to the cave ceiling, which was really only about 2 meters from the cave floor.
Trying to catch that ‘moment in time’ when the drop of water was just about to leave the stone, I was almost left behind in the gloom when the rest of the party slowly pulled out of the cave.
Trying to catch that 'moment in time'... 1,2,3! 1,2,3! ;)
The result... :) A drop of water just about to fall of the tip of a rock... hahaha!
Fortunately, I wasn’t that addled and managed to follow the group out into the light.
From the exit of Gua Ular, we made our way back to the parking lot thus ending our expedition for the morning.
Adventure over! Now to return to the car park and to the resort for a cleansing shower! :)
It was almost 2pm by the time we finished.
The guide passed us his business card, suggesting us to find him for future destinations into Taman Negara before we parted ways. We moved back to the resort, take our very much needed showers before we checked out.
At this point, we parted ways with Chelsina and her group. They taking the more ‘scenic’ route back to Kuantan while we KL people moving south towards the East Coast highway with the riverside town of Temerloh as our destination. Contrary to its famous reputation as the ‘Patin’ Capital of Malaysia, we could hardly find an open decent restaurant in town, a repeat of previous misadventures to this small town. :p Hmmm… maybe somebody can suggest a good restaurant for us to drop by next time?
Thereafter, we went for our tried and true option, none other than Restaurant 126 close to Kampung Bukit Tinggi on the Karak highway. We had to ‘starve’ a little but when we arrived there we were rewarded with a good selection of food which included once more their famous pork bellies (trotters!). Eschewing the ‘seafood’, we ordered more terrestrial dishes such as sweet sour pork, tofu and vegetables, the bill coming up to a paltry RM8/head! :) A very good deal indeed! :)
And so once more comes the ends our expedition. As I drive into the sunset back to the city lights of Kuala Lumpur, I dream (and plot) for the next adventure… ;)