Monday, June 29, 2009

Attempted Sightings of Wild Elephants In The Belum Rainforest


I ventured deep in the unexplored heart of the Belum rainforest last week to catch a glimpse of the elusive herds of wild elephants that throng the vast untouched ancient rainforest in the Grik area. I am very familiar with the East West Highway that links from Grik to Jeli and in my entire life, my family and I have never seen any pachyderms while we were driving on the highway for almost 30 years.
After hours of peering into Google Earth, I pretty much summed up where these gentle giants might be roaming. I started driving from Temenggor Lake to the spot very early in the morning and I was rewarded with this view.
What a view

5 minutes walking on a trail, I saw a few piles of elephant dung. I examined closer and the piles were still fresh!!! Did a herd of wild elephants pass through a few hours ago or were they just around the corner? Seeing their fresh dung kept me excited and finding more along the trail made me realized that I was damn good at Google Earth's geographical topography.
Spotted elehant dung as I walked in

Tahi gajah liar


Still fresh

I was also told that there was a hidden waterfall inside the trail by some Orang Asli and looking at the time, I reckon the wild elephants would be deep inside the rainforest. I hired a guide for Rm20.00 to take me to the waterfall. The guide told me that it would take at least 2 hours to reach this waterfall and that I'd be only the third person to ever visit this waterfall. How I wish my fellow waterfall buddy, Mr Lim Siang Hui was there. Mr Lim and I have discovered 2 relatively unknown waterfalls and this time I had to proceed without him.
Nice tree

20 minutes into the trek, I realized that maybe Mr Lim might not share the same enthusiasm with me as my legs were covered with leeches. The leeches of Belum are a different kind of breed and was gross and disgusting.
Why do I do this?

Pulling out 16 leeches

Entering the unexplored Belum

Crossing the rapids

Slippery rocks

2 hours into the trek and I was feeling miserable. The river was not as clear as I'd hope it would be due to logging activities and the leeches were unbearable. To add to the misery, I was carrying probably a 15kg bag pack for unknown reasons. Finally, I reached the Sayung Waterfall and I stared at the mighty natural wonder with shock and awe.
The elusive Sayung Waterfalls

I spent less than an hour there to make lunch and off I went. Along the way, it rained ...heavily and heavy rain invited all the leeches of this ancient rainforest out for a buffet spread of me, myself and I. Oh how I suffered. Drenched, tired, a heavy bag pack, brown river, leech bites and an uphill route doused my semangat spirit. But once I reached the main road, I was feeling better and trudged my way back to my vehicle.
Drenched and miserable

All in all, eventhough I suffered during the hike to Sayung Waterfalls, I thoroughly enjoyed the discovery of the elephant feaces. Now I know where to wait and spot these beautiful creatures in their wild habitat.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Diving In Terrific Tioman

Since I took up my Open Water Course in April 2009, I've been itching to go for a dive and I opted for Tioman since it was the closest to KL in terms of driving. I started my journey after work at 6pm and arrived in Mersing by 130am. I stayed overnight in Mersing Hotel and the total cost for me to reach Mersing was :
Toll = RM39.00, Petrol = RM50.00, Hotel = RM45.00
Gearing up at Eco Divers Dive Centre

I love the simplicity of this dive centre

Making fun of new soon to be Open Water divers

Not paying attention to DiveMaster.When can I dive already?

View of Tioman at the jetty

Before coming to Tioman, all I wanted to see was moray eel, moray eel and moray eel.
I hopped on the ferry at 11am and reach ABC / Eco Diver's at 100pm. Went for a quick lunch and the next thing I knew I was diving in Pirate Bay. The first awesome marine life I saw was a cuttlefish. Mean looking eyes and fluttering about near the sand. The second most coolest mammal I saw was a baby white moray eel. They look mean even when they're young. Objective met. Such a cool dive site. A few minutes later, a small school of baracuddas swam past me and my eyes just stayed on them. Above the baraccudas was a lone crocodile needle point fish.
Eco Diver's Neptune beautiful brown boat

Can't wait.Move already!

Site was still 15 minutes away and I have my fins on already

Tioman island view

So lucky to be living in Malaysia. PLease abandon all travel overseas

The second dive was at The Last Frontier. Saw my first lion fish and a school of bumphead parrotfish. My divemaster said I was extremely lucky to see the school of bumphead parrotfish.They were about 12 of them and their size was as big as a door of a Kancil, give or take.coolest part though was the drift diving. My first drift dive and I just chilled with the current although the current sent me away from my divemaster , I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
Reading my favourite magazine en route to dive sites

That night, I hung out with the divemasters at Sunset Cafe. They served the best thin crusted pizzas and drank beer all night long since Tioman is a duty free island. A can of Tiger beer costs RM2.80. I went to a club in Bangsar last Thursday and I paid RM23.50 for a small bottle of Tiger beer.I bought so much beer that I even bought a full can for :
Kitten abuser

The next morning, we were on our way further from the island to the dive site of Chebeh. I saw my first sea turtle there and a lone big jackfish lunged at me thinking my index finger was bait. The second dive was at Soyak. Over at this site sealed my affection for Tioman. The corals were amazing and teemed with beautiful crevaces and rock tunnels. The best thing was I ventured off slightly on my own and I thought I saw a clam underneath a coral and I said to myself "Clams don't grow under corals". I went for a closer look and lord almighty what I saw was a body part of a Giant Moray Eel. I had to search around the coral to look for the head and once I found the head, I just stayed there for a good 5 minutes watching the moray eel get irritated by a smaller fish. I've always wanted to see a moray eel and in Soyak I did. Soyak is awesome. Later on, my divemaster Azam, asked me if I could swim through the rock tunnels. He knew that it was only my 8th dive but I think my bouyancy was pretty, hence the invitation. So off I went, swimming under the rocks and emerging on the other side. I got slightly scared when my tank scraped the rock wall but pas de' probleme. I went through 3 rock tunnels and my tank was near empty and it was time to resurface anyway. Suddenly, my dive master took of his shorts and exposed his buttocks to all of us. He also surfaced with a client's regulator. Apparently, this dive is Azam's 200th dive and mooning was part of every divemasters ritual when they reach 200 dives.

Nearly had my eye out.My fault

Ladies,do your male dive buddies look like this?

Ladies, do your male dive buddies look as succulent as this?

One word to summed this all up - Poisoned!!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

XTERRA Malaysia 2009

XTerra basically is a rougher and wilder version of a standard Olympic triathlon. Cycling on asphalt tarred road is replaced by pot hole ridden plantation muddy roads and beach trails.Running on asphalt tarred road is replaced by jungle trails with roots and terrain that can twist your ankle 90 degrees. In my own terms, I would call XTerra a triathlon kasar as opposed to a triathlon halus (standard Olympic triathlon).This is my first participation in a triathlon and I learnt new triathlon lingo like transition area, swim and bike segments, colored swim caps and drafting (What the hell is that?)

We all assembled at the swimming start off point and at 8am sharp, the Raja Muda of Pahang flagged us off. The first few minutes of swimming was tough because I'd be touching someone's feet and someone else would be touching mine. When that happens, I figured Im getting too close and I surface to look around. This proved a bit too tiring for me and I started swimming out from the swim lane. After 15 strokes or so, I would look up to find my way and usually I'd find that I've been veered off course by the currents. I took it cool and easy on the swim. Freestyle all the way. By the time I got out of the water, it was 830am. Not bad, not bad. I didn't feel tired or anything just yet.

Running to the transition area was fun. The crowds were cheering and I high fived a couple of them to get me all pumped.
When I reached the transition area, it looked pretty empty but I wasn't pressed for time. I wanted to have fun. I put on my shoes, my CamelBak, munched a small portion of my McMuffin and off I went with my RM400 Le Run Solaris MTB.

Cruising down Jalan Semambu was just magical.
It was a cold cool morning and a slight breeze from the sea made the ride really enjoyable. Then along the way, I realized the petrol in my bike was pretty empty and I made a detour to the petrol station to fill her up.

Once I entered the old Jabor plantation road, things were starting to get pretty tough. It didn't help that there was a drizzle underway.

I had to dismount several times to push the bike up and I was glad I wasn't the only one.

The trail was extremely challenging for me as the trail began to get slippery. I fell down once while trying to take my camera out. Once I was down, I might as well take a photo.

I am so new at MTB that I would push the bike DOWNHILL. Usually, the riders would just cruise downhill but not for me. I was afraid of not being able to control my speed and crash into the bushes. Very very afraid of that. I looked at my watch and it's been two hours on the bike trail already. My bike and I was entirely covered with mud and Mr Fatigue was starting to set in.

But there was one part where divine intervention assisted. Right towards the end, I rode to what I thought was a not-so-steep downhill but a few seconds downhill I realized that the downhill had another continuing downhill. I couldn't brake nor dismount because by doing that,the bike would have skidded due to the momentum going downhill and not to mention the condition of the trail. That was when I started to pray to God to just let me get through this twisting and turning downhill trail. I left it to God because if I knew if I tried to do something, I would end up as a corpse and the plantation owls would be having a good time. My exact words were "Dear God, this is so fast and I don't know how to handle it. Help me calm down and get me through safe". 20 harrowing seconds later, I was back on level ground and happy to be on level ground. Then I forgot about God altogether.

I came out at a highway and knowing that I survived the plantation trail without any injuries made me more semangat
. I entered the small kampong roads passing by the Kuantan Satellite Earth Station and made my way to the Beserah beach. We had a choice to either ride by the shore or ride a trail slightly above the shore. The latter proved to be impossible. It is so much effort to cycle when the tyre is sunked into the damp sand. Riding by the beach was nice and just simply awesome to have the wind blowing into my face.

After the beach trail was the jungle trail. I had to sometimes push and carry my bike
up and down slopes because it was impossible to ride through the roots and branches strewn along the trail. While still in the jungle, I could start to hear the emcee and that indicated I was pretty near to the transition area. I was quite proud to make it that far. The final trail was out of the blue as I had to ride on wooden walkway stilts leading all the way to the transition area. Phew I completed the 30km bike discipline.

It's 12 noon and I heard that the winner clocked in at 10am. I've been punishing myself for the past 4 hours and I still have 10km of running to go. I chucked my mud and sand covered bike to the side and realized that the transition area was empty.

I even saw a guy washing his bike indicating that he has completed his race. Bastard. The running disicpline had me running to a nearby hill called Bukit Pelindung and going uphill was torturous at that point.

What's worst is that I have to undergo two loops of the running trail to complete a 10km distance.
Right towards the end, I came out by the beach and limped my way to the finishing line at 5 hours 23 minutes.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am officially a triathlete. I had a blast in XTerra and enjoyed every moment of it. It was a well organised race and I am definitely coming back next year ..with my faithful Speedos.