Monday, July 25, 2011

2nd day - Stonging to the max!!

This is the day we were supposed to conquer Stong peak. The plan was to get ourselves ready by 9 am since it will take at least 4 hours to reach the summit and we needed to get back to camp before dark. I woke up around 7.30 in the morning and was still a little sleepy due to the disturbed sleep caused by the rain (not because i'm used to sleep in a 6-inches-thick Dunlopillo mattress, i'm not that spoiled, hahaha).

Flashback to the night before, the heavy rain caused all of our hammock residents to run 'amok' and deliberately tent-crashing on available ones. Even with the canvas covering the hammock area, they seemed unable to survive from being showered. Pity them. I was so sleepy i didnt open up the sleeping bag for me to sleep in and making it as a pillow instead. It turned out to be a very cold night after all due to the heavy downpour. I could feel the water flowing outside the tent. To make it worse, the 4-men tent, which barely fit the four of us without big movement (i couldnt even turn during sleep), also faced tiny droplets of water leaking despite the 2 layers of protection (who could peacefully doze off when water is sprinkled on their face).

Immediately after waking up (yawnnn), I went to the river to do the appropriates (brush teeth, wash face, went shi shi, etc... hahaha), and ended up getting myself wet when suddenly i feel the need to try a morning bath on a mountain waterfall (i think i'm the only one who bathed that morning). Without hesitation, I jumped in..... Brrrrrrrrrrrrr... it felt like bathing in a melting glacier! Soooo cold but somehow refreshing I'm not sleepy anymore. After done bathing, I dried myself, changed and rush to help a few others to prepare our breakfast and lunch (we will have lunch on top of Stong so we prepare 'Nasi Goreng' - 'hangit' (overcooked) version). I had 'roti canai' with sardine gravy for breakfast. After finished, the troop and I prepared ourselves for the hike to the peak of Stong.

For this hike, we were not tortured by the heavy backpack anymore as we traveled light. We only brought limited and necessary stuffs such as our lunch pack, water, camera, headlamp (in case we arrived at camp after dark) and not to forget our 'success drink'. We left Baha's camp at 10am and started climbing. It was not as hard as the 1st day since we were on free-body mode (imagine Son Goku with all the heavy weights off :P). The climb route also varied from flat forest route (Dek called it bonus track) to muddy track (where we needed to step on twigs and bamboos in order to get thru without getting our feet soaked) and to moderately inclined slope. I, being excited and enthusiastic as I am, was at the most front following our guide. Some of the experienced hikers acted as last man to ensure that all members were through (esp.the girls). We stopped by a few place to rest and wait for the others to catch up. Among the pit stops were by a stream where we topup our water supply, a fallen tree trunk bridge, Gua Bogor (our last water source) , nearby a big boulder and Permatang. I'm simply overwhelmed by the greenery of the nature, with the camera always on my right hand, I continuously took pictures throughout the hike.

As the atmosphere became more frigid, humid and watery; the trees flanking in the path become shorter, we knew that we're almost reaching the peak. At this time, only 3 of us were in the fastest group, leaving the guide and the rest at the back by more than 10 minutes. As we walked, we reached an area resembling a small plateau but still with trees, which means we're there, yet there was no signboard that indicate the Peak of Stong (even Broga with 400m height have its own signboard). We came across a big boulder and walk past it to find that we're on a declining path towards the other side of the mountain. So we turned back and tried to find the missing peak carefully when one of us spotted a yellow signboard on the big boulder that we came across before. With rejoice, we climbed on the boulder and here we were, at the Peak of Stong! (Star Wars victory music)

The moment was unexpressed by words, it greatly revitalized and we were all very happy and excited (again, mebe it was just me since the 2 others had been on a higher mountain before huhu) with the fact that we have conquered Stong, the fact that its peak was already beneath our feet. We spontaneously took picture of ourselves one by one before the others arrived. For your record, the area on top can accommodate around 20-30 persons seating. There are no room for camping, hanging hammock or even to lay down.

After 10 minutes, 3 others arrived. We helped them to take photo at Stong peak and we took out our 'success drink' ('air kejayaan'). You might know what it is right guessing on the name itself. I learned the term only the night before we departed to Dabong. According to my housemate, Hafiz, they refer it to the drinks that they bought ONLY to be opened at the peak. It is not plain drink, it should be the drink you really wanna drink, something special that you can afford to bring to the top of the mountain. It served as a motivation to reach the peak. So we got ourselves a lot of 'air kejayaan' such as Tropicana Twister Orange, 100 Plus (this is just to plain but who cares hahaha) and a few more according to each personal taste. I brought up Ali Cafe Powerroot Coffee (originally I had the idea of bringing canned Starbuck or bottled Coffee Bean latte but i dun have enough time to get one). One of us even bought Ferrero Rocher as 'success food' and we shared all that we have with the six of us. Believe me, on top of the mountain that you hiked up, everything tastes nicer.

Then little by little the number of people arrived at the peak increased. We helped ourselves with 'Nasi Goreng' lunch prepared earlier. Some of us even brought stove and cooked Maggi, boil water for hot Nescafe and we all ate together everything as one big family. While rested, we chatted and posed for photos (well who dont). We spent almost 1 1/2 hours at the peak and then ready to return to the camp.

The downhill task was way easier. We were using the same route we hiked up. The 1st six (including me) moved at quite fast pace that we managed to get to Baha's Camp in 2 hours. We stopped by Gua Bogor to pray just in case we couldnt make it to the camp before dawn. The journey were more likely the same, put aside the declining path. We reached the camp at 5.45 pm, hurriedly showered so that we could prepare dinner while the others were still on their way down. For dinner, we had 'nasi' with 'tomyam' and 'telur dadar'. We played cards, some others played weird games until someone decided to go 'lepak' by the waterfall cliff. So all of us went back to the tent taking our headlamps and jackets, and walked to the cliff of the Jelawang waterfall peak. There was enough room for all of us to lie down. The strong breeze gushing from the stream towards the open, blanketed us with its freezing chilly whisper. The full-moon shining that night, illuminated the surrounding with its mild beam. It was a serene moment that not all could experience. After spending hours there, we returned back to the tent with clear mind and obviously peaceful dream awaited us inside.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hiking Trip: Stonging is fun! WTH?

If you google or refer to a dictionary, u will find that the word Stonging never exist. Somehow i love to use it to describe my recent very very awesome and adventurous hiking trip to Mt. Stong (so you should got it by now... Stong-ing). Located in Dabong, Kelantan, Mt. Stong is one of the hikers favorite spot having Jelawang Waterfall, one of the highest waterfall in Southeast Asia flowing down its cliff. As this is my 1st experience going for a real hiking (Broga is juz way too easy to be called a hike... kidding, hiks), I was very excited to go. Since I dun have any hiking equipment, I did lend a few with the help of Hafiz, my housemate (thanx a bunch!). The only necessary hiking stuffs I bought for the trip is a RM8 pair of rubber shoes, a Tesco headlamp and a last-minute-notice-u-need-to-buy Vertical sleeping bag (Vertical as in the brand, not the way i have to sleep in it, haha). The rest of the stuffs I bought dont really play an important role but they surely contributed to my success in cheating starvation (Cadbury chocs, potato chips, packets of instant mushroom soup, 3-in-1 Nescafe sticks, Mentos, Ali Cafe coffee, bla bla bla).

We boarded train from KL Sentral on July 14th at 8.30pm. We took the coach with second class upper bed as the lower ones are sold out. The train stopped by Gemas to 'change head to the other direction' (LOL), so we took the opportunity to help ourselves with 'nasi kari ayam' sold at the station (it was not bad cuz I managed to finish it - since I already had Zinger tapau-ed by Hafiz plus the train's 'nasi goreng' earlier). We decided to call it a day after a few rounds of 'tipu' (a type of card games using the standard poker deck).

We arrived at Dabong KTM station at around 7.30am. It took us almost 11 hours to arrive. We had breakfast while waiting for the others to arrive (5 of us are from KL, 5 from Penang, 9 others from Kelantan). After everybody has gathered, we changed into our hiking attire since we will be going to Gua Ikan area to do spelunking or to put it in a simpler and understandable term, caving (yeah, who would use spelunking when we barely encounter it let alone need to think on how to pronounce it, rite? btw, its a US term to imply caving). Gua Ikan Recreational park just 10 minutes drive from Dabong station where we will start our adventure. Upon arriving, we are introduced to our guide (Dek), had a short briefing and light warming up session.

Off we went. According to Dek, there are a few caves that we will explore. Our very 1st cave is a very one-way-only-Alice-in-Wonderlandish narrow cave route. At points we have to duck, crawl and squeeze ourselves into the only small gap to pass through. As for the other caves, they are large enough to organize a bubble bath party (just to make my point, no dirty thought please...hahaha.) Well, pics worth a thousand words.

After the spelunking session (can't resist to use it once i know the meaning, LOL) , we had a rest at Gua Ikan Recreational park while waiting for the pick-up van to arrive. The recreational park is somehow looked disorganized and uncared-for but still it is inviting enough for a few local visitors and families to picnic at nearby stream. Since we are from different smaller groups, we made use of the hiatus to catch up, socialize and get to know each other better (is it 'we' or it is just 'me'? *evil grin*). I also took that chance to exercise my hand working with the old camera i bought during my studies.

The pick-up van arrived and we were chauffeured to the foot of Mt. Stong after stopping by Dabong station again to pick-up our stuffed and heavy backpacks. We temporarily settled down in the given dormitory to prepare ourselves (pray, 'throw big stone' - the fact that I will spend two days without proper cleaning and sanitation is enough motivation for me to empty as much as i could - ewwww, it might sound yucky, but it is one of the top priority stuffs that people often overlooked). We also repackaged the ration (rice, other food) into smaller portions to be equally distributed among each member of the troop to be carried uphill). We then, had our lunch, provided by the resort and started our journey up (after recital of doa for safety) to Baha's Camp, our campsite for the trip.

Welcome to Baha's Camp (what?arrived already?). It was the extremely hopeless, helpless, tiresome, mentally challenged moment on the way up to Baha's Camp I dun even have time to blog (talking as if i'm doing real-time blogging, haha). The 2-hours journey up to Baha's Camp is not as easy as i imagined. With a 20kg backpack and continuously ascending, nearly perpendicular (i'm just exaggerating here but you know what i mean) route, it was even hard for me, average sporty guy to go up, due to lack of stamina or the unnecessary overweight burden, i cant tell. I kept telling my mind to focus and to continue walking (climbing?). Yet i was the second person of the troop to arrive at the camp (not trying to be competitive, just to mention how hard the climb was, even seasoned hikers were can be overwhelmed by the toughness of the track).

Upon reaching the camp, i could hear the stream gushing next to it. I put my backpack and ran directly towards the stream just to feel the chilliness of Jelawang stream. It was effectively rejuvenating that all the fatigue inside seemed to be dispersed out of me.

After all of us reached the campsite (which is just next to the waterfall), we put up the tent and settled down. Some of us even decided to sleep in hammock (i should get one for myself for next hiking trip).Next activity... guess what? 1st clue, camping near waterfall, 2nd clue, its almost dark. OF COURSE! We needed to clean our sweaty muddy selves before the sun crawl back into its cradle. The coldness of the nearly 3-storey-high waterfall was shiveringly unforgettable (well, at least we got cold water supply throughout the camping period... for freeeeeeee).

That night, we did nothing much, some of us helped with the cooking preparation, some played cards, some chatted, all under one canvas roof. Food intake need to be controlled as we dun bring much (just enough for 20 pax for 6 meals) and to avoid the trouble of finding hidden place and good timing for restroom matter (esp. the big one... hahaha). We had our dinner, continued playing cards and chatting when it rained heavily like never before. I rushed to my tent and took the sudden rain as a sign of 'goodnight'. Zzzzzz....

To be continued....