Taman Negara activities will keep hikers occupied, but this blog post aim to focus on two aspects :
1) Me as a proud Father
2) Teamwork and brotherhood of rescue party
Kids’ resilience, stamina, and appetite for adventures always exceed my expectations. And we parents can only validate these traits in an outdoor setting.
The Taman Negara activities (itinerary) from Meetup group SANL (Singapore Adventurous Nature Lovers) highlighted “1 Cave and 1 Tent”, package include hiking in a primary Rainforest, rapid shooting etc, I was sold.
..we are not going to forget Taman Negara anytime soon.
… an incident happened on the first night, and my boy suddenly realised he was on his own. Well, not exactly, as he can still seek help from fellow hikers (mostly Aunties and Sisters).
#Skillset – We just need to open our mouth and ask for HELP.
Without my constant nagging ( Yup, I am guilty), Wei not only hiked to end-point with a heavier load, he even managed to make new friends. Way to go Young Man!
The experience and memories which we brought home from the “130 Million years old” Rainforest was priceless! I have no doubts the skills which Wei picked up (independence, teamwork, networking) during this trip will mold his character into a better person.
My original intention was just to bond with him, Father and Son.
.. but ideal was dashed on the first night. Someone in our group had been injured and 7 guys were mobilised for stretcher party.
.. Part (1) – The rescue party
0700 Day 2 – As I transferred some of my baggage over to him. I remembered telling Wei “I will see you at camp site tonight“.
In actual fact, I was worried about him but I still needed to instill confidence.
Alas, it was a promise which I could not fulfill 🙁
For the next 24 hours, my group struggled to lift someone to safety.
It was tiring for us to lift and drag the stretcher and “R” to our rendezvous point, Gua Luas (Gua in Bahasa means Cave)
3 km – Distance was a mere 3km away, but it was tough to navigate the forest floor with a stretcher.
We were at the mercy of the Rainforest. Muddy grounds and thorns, thick roots and trunks, leeches and insects. FORTUNATELY, the Rain left us alone!
AROO! (haha) We kept joking about that Spartan slogan to keep our spirits high and kept fatigue away.
Lost count of the number of times we slipped and lose our footing or got stuck in mud. We were bogged down by narrow paths at some sections.
6 Hours -Progress was miserably aching and slow. We took 6 whole hours to carry “R” to Gua Luas!
What kept me going was the urge to finish my task and get back to my son quickly. I was still worried for him.
We were also concerned about the main group, who had to help carry our load and hike to the camp site.
The gals formed 75% of our hiking group, posing here infront of cave Hotel before they set off on their own journey.
You go Girl! Hiking through water and mud, small thrills for the seasoned hikers. Do read till the end for Xia’s blogpost account from the main group 🙂
As I am drafting this blog post, four of my toe nails are still bruised (black nails), and I injured my left knee again.
My fellow stretcher party did not have it easier. TS, Leon, George, Jason and wife, Keewan and Freddy. (Special mention to two guides Farook and Captain America! and the other guides)
Other gossips :
– Leon secret stash kept us high (this is a secret among the 8 of us haha)
– Behind us, we can always hear “Darling Darling are you ok?” so mushy
– Infront, we got a 50 year old TS putting us to shame. He was the pillar who always single-handedly pull the stretcher across obstacles (clap clap!)
– George must be wondering how his wife is coping with the main group
– Jia Hui was R’s companion throughout. She attended to R, slept the least and carry a heavy load herself. Salute!
All of us were tired, but none dare to give up
We kept each other motivated (sometimes with lame jokes) when we were exhausted. The intensity of this 3km stretch was equivalent to my recent Sundown Marathon!
During a run, I can estimate my own pace and aim for the next milestone. Deep in the Rainforest, where is the next milestone?
A “Kodak” moment, but you will also see our tired face behind the smiles.
1,2,3 Lift ! We could only managed 50m or 20m at every stretch, before our wrist, back, and shoulder needed a rest again.
Too much doubts…
We did not know whether a rescue team (the Park Rangers) would reached us in time.
Our food and drink were running low, and we ourselves might be affected by hunger and cold in the night.
To make things worse, Jason and Freddy were injured and 7 men went down to 5. Fortunately, Captain America help us in the last 500m. Otherwise, we would have taken longer to complete our task.
1600 Day 2 – Finally reach Gua Luas, the waiting game begins
A quick 1 hour nap to recharge. All our arms, shoulders and back, every joint was aching. Guides had prepared hot tea and plain porridge.
2336 Day 2– Fortunately, 16 of the Park Rangers filed towards us in the middle of the night. We were tired but elated to see them.
…we saw Bright Lights and HOPE!
By this time, R has also recovered slightly, and able to articulate her needs. This was a vast improvement when she first collapsed from fits.
RELIEF! Relief! Relief! Smiles all around at the cave 🙂
The Rangers brought us dinner, humble Nasi Ikan Bilis and 100 plus but this was The best meal I tasted throughout our 3D3N trip.
0030 Day 3 – With R secured in Rangers’ hands, the 8 of us made our way to the jetty. We trekked another 4 km in 4 hours through the night.
0400 to 0600 – Slept at broken house near Jetty. We were KO and I woke up thrice shivering uncontrollably due to cold and exhaustion.
0630 to 0700 – Rangers (R and Jia Hui) caught up with us, and we all ferried back to the main group.
Above is the timeline for our rescue actions. I hope my own actions to save another person would embed in my kids, the capacity to reach out to help others, and to emphatise.
.. Part (2) This was our original itinerary
2000 Day 0 – We took an overnight bus from Marsiling. We took 2.5 hours to cross both SG/MY custom due to long Labour Day weekend.
0700 Day 1 – Breakfast at Jerantut (Pahang). Click for train map of KTM (Singapore to Jerantut).
1000 – Kuala Tahan Jetty ( official name for this location is Jeti Taman Negara, GPS coordinates 4.383445, 102.401541 ).
This is the start point for most visitors to Taman Negara. We need to take a boat across to Taman Negara National National Park HQ.
1 hour of admin work. Registration and declaration (of your belongings) to ensure we do not leave rubbish behind. Get ready RM 5 for camera “tax”. Final briefing from our guides etc.
Spotted many with Magnum ice creams, our last indulgence hee hee.
Map below, Pahang and Taman Negara surrounding. Cameron Highlands is 4 hours away in the West, and Kuantan 2 hrs to the East.
Taman Negara National Park is 4000 km2 , that is about 60 Singapore!
1145 – Our group of 40 convoy upriver in 4 long boats, we are going deep into the heart of Taman Negara. More land and River details here.
Meandering up Taman Negara’s Tembeling river. 90 minutes later, we reach the trailhead for our hike (GPS 4.517222 102.475000 estimated)
1310 – Disembark at broken house, this is our hiking start point.
Hiking Fun and explorations
Orang Asli can use extracts from “ipoh” tree for their poison darts (and blow pipe).
We keep seeing the majestic Malang tree, huge tree stump and white trunk reaching for the sky.
What goes up must come down, and there are plenty of slopes for hikers to overcome. Our supposedly 8km hike was actually 12km. The first 3 km was relatively easy, minimum obstacles. Path was flat and easy to walk.
The trails were ok for me, but my load was heavy. We needed to carry our dinner and lunch and enough water for 2 days. I had four 1.5l water bottle and 5 cans of food with me.
Streams come and go, offering refreshing respite. I am puzzled why everyone is so scared of mud and water, trying their best to keep their boots dry (haha). These diversions were creating unnecessary bottlenecks and delays.
We came across so much Elephant dungs and footprints (look at the size!), hope we do not cross path with a herd!
Besides the constant perspiration from the humid Rainforest, we had to watch out for leeches too. Everyone was bitten at least 5 to 10 times eeeks!
We sprayed everything to get rid of the disgusting leeches, salt, vinegar, lighter or even 风油 (medicated oil)! Once the leech dislodge from our leg, we could flick it away. We were wondering why the leeches seem to latch onto the same wound, and they love to suck from the gals’ tummy area!
1630 Gua Luas – First checkpoint after 3 hours.
The group might have taken too much time to reach this point. With a few hours left before sunset, we quicken our pace to reach the next Cave (4.5km away).
It would be tedious and dangerous to navigate with headlights in total darkness.
1845 Gua Kepayang Besar, our “hotel” for the night
The cave stay was a surreal experience, I had never slept in a cave before and this one was big enough to swallow 100 campers easily.
Self designated toilet for males and females and make do with basic necessities. The only comfort was our bedsheet and headlight.
We quickly change and power-bath (a first for Wei again) before settling down for dinner. By now, we could hear Thunder and Rain lashing outside the cave!
Take note temperature will drop around 2 or 3am in the Rainforest or cave, we had campfire to keep us warm and dry.
Light sleepers will have problem dozing as we can hear people chattering (and echo of laughter) across the wall. Scores of bats will stare back if you dare to shine the light towards the ceiling.
Warm dinner prepared by our guides. We did not need anything elaborate, we would prefer to rest for the night.
2000 Day 1 – We knew something was wrong when one of the hikers (call her “R”) had not reached the cave yet. Discussions were ongoing between our guides and organisers on how to extricate R.
She had a seizure (fits) and was immobilised. A group of hikers had stayed on with her to help stabilised her condition.
2200 – The rest of us get ready to rest for the night.
0100 Day 2 – I set off with a team to resupply those stuck outside. I would hate to be in their situation, floor is wet after the rain, and it would be hard to have a proper rest.
0400 – Reached back cave at 4am and slept 2 hours before being activated for stretcher party
0730 – The 8 of us set off for our evacuation mission. We knew it would be tough, but we all volunteered as it was something we needed to do. There was a risk that R’s condition might take a turn for the worse.
.. most of us underestimated the efforts needed
We play rescue workers for the next 6 hours. Transferred “R” 3km to our rendezvous point.
A life was in our hands. We could not afford to give up halfway. There were doubts whether we could make it, but we just got to grit our teeth and carry on.
1600 – Reach cave Gua Luas, finally.
Meanwhile, the other group had already reach camp site (Danz Eco Resort, GPS 4.390373, 102.411227 ).
0800 Day 3 – Rescue party finally reach camp site.
There are two accommodations options, camp and capsule . Capsule looks nice and posh from outside, but we prefer tent for a more authentic experience. A pity I did not get to admire the stars of Taman Negara.
Camp site come with its own “beachfront”.
1100 Day 3 (Last Day) – I had hope to scale the canopy walk with Wei but he was not interested. Sucks, denying my last opportunity to bond with him at Taman Negara :p
Proud of you, my Son !
Back at camp and happy to see Wei well taken care of. The Aunties only had positive feedback about him. Helpful, Independent, Rugged 🙂
You know I could not be by your side because I had a higher calling, but you stood up to the test and completed the hike with the aunties.
You have shown me your independence, maturity and most importantly confidence. Although we miss certain activities this trip, seeing you grown up makes everything worth it !
We would like to explore Taman Negara activities again, sharing some tips for fellow hikers :
a) Taman Negara is relatively easy, but distance is longer. If I compare to Gunung Belumut (1000m 6 hours up/down, difficulty rating of 3/5) , Taman Negara is (2/5).
b) Use headlamp instead of torchlight. Always free your hands, so you can break a fall or grab a branch for support.
c) No matter how short is the trek, bring extra water and night light. I did not bring night light for the rescue as I had assumed I would reach camp site before Sunset. It is very slow and dangerous to navigate without lights at night (and eerie too)
d) Get a Travel insurance (coverage during trip, and medical expense post trip)
e) Whistle – We can only shout so long before our voice is hoarse, whistle will produce audible sound for Rescuers
f) Proper hiking shoes, (or ask about Kampong Adidas) from Malaysia towns provision shops. We need good grip.
g) Pack your bag , use ABC. A for “Accessibility”, B for “Balance”, and C for “Condense”. Google and YouTube for tips, use hip (not shoulder) for support. (sample video)
h) Anti-mosquitos, spray/patches. I brought saturated salt-water in those cheap Daiso spray-containers to counter the leeches.
g ) Raincoat is a must for trekking, protect yourself and your bags
h) Ziplock bags to keep items dry
i) First aid pouch
j) SG (Coach 8 hours) -> Kuala Tahan Jetty (Jerantut) > Taman Negar Park HQ -> 90min Boat up river – Hike start point
L to R. George, Farook me and son.
Thank you to all our Guides and Rangers! Things could have easily got out of hands, if you guys had not rendered assistance 🙂
‘Teaching is best caught not taught’.
Hoping my kids can pick up some positive traits too.
– Help others but take care of yourself first
– Always look out for each other
– In stressful situations, teamwork is everything
– Naysayers will be there to discourage you, focus on the positive side
*Read Xia’s blog account from the main group’s perspectives, their boots and “adidas” were never dry hee hee 🙂
** Keewan’s One-More-Night Taman Negara video 🙂