Category: Travelogue

Gunung Ledang expedition :: This one’s for you, Dad

Gunung Ledang is among the toughest climbs in the country but Khairul Ashraf Kammed has a personal mission to fulfil.

AS a child, I was very fond of the story of the mythical princess, Puteri Gunung Ledang, who demanded a ridiculous dowry when the Sultan of Malacca asked for her hand in marriage through his messenger, the warrior Hang Tuah.

Among the requests she made: that two bridges, of gold and silver be built connecting Malacca to Gunung Ledang, that she be presented with the hearts of mosquitoes, tears of virgins and, the blood of the sultan’s son.

The proposal fell through, of course, because the demands were impossible to meet, as she knew they would be.

But for me and the members of Outbound Adventure Crew (OAC) who have been here at the Gunung Ledang National Park, Johor since dawn, the word “impossible” is not something we can allow our minds to entertain — we have a mission to hike to the summit of Gunung Ledang, or Mount Ophir, this morning.

At 1,276 metres, Gunung Ledang is the highest mountain in the southern part of the peninsula and it is also regarded by seasoned hikers as among the hardest to climb in the country.

For someone who proclaims himself as an outdoor enthusiast and adventurer, it is a personal challenge to conquer Ledang. It will be in honour of my father, who came close to reaching the peak a few years ago.

The mesmerising full moon is glowing beautifully and the night is brighter than usual, which we take as a good omen. Most of the crew doze off in their sleeping bags at the porch of the park’s hall, while others are happy to sleep in the cars. I, on the other hand, am simply so intrigued by the moon, I decide to keep my gaze on it for as long as I can.

Prior to the climb, we declare all items we are carrying in our bags — plastic-wrapped food, water bottles, canned drinks, batteries, torch light, clothing etc.

At the end of the trek, the warden will check whether we have brought back everything stated in the form and if the items don’t tally, we will be fined or lose the deposit that is included in the total climbing fee. This is a good way to ensure the environment is unpolluted by man.

At 9.30am, after the briefing and stretching, the 43 of us are divided into smaller groups which come with a guide. Everyone is brimming with high hopes.

Our first task of accomplishing the Lagenda Trail is to ascend 739 artificial steps, the Tangga Mahligai. But this is no small feat as it requires a lot of stamina even though the steps are not steep. (There is another popular trail known as Asahan Trail which starts from Malacca.)

After going up the first trail for about 40 minutes, the route turns into natural jungle trails and we head for Bukit Semput, the first check point. True to its name, I am breathless when I reach here. Even the climb up Batu Caves is no match for this.

Along the way to next checkpoint Hentian Meranti, I notice quite a number of decaying trees with large mounds. Heading towards the third checkpoint, the descent down the hill is a bit of a relief. But once I start seeing large boulders in front of me, I have to start persevering again. One little step at a time, ascending to reach Batu Orkid, the third checkpoint. Along the route, there is a junction,Simpang Laluan Kijang, leading to Kolam Gajah waterfall, the fourth checkpoint, but we have to skip that today.

Moving on towards the fifth checkpoint, I see some reddish brown trunks. A group of Singaporean hikers overtake me and I am now among the last batch of the OAC members.

At this point, my water supply is already depleted. I am really exhausted. Several times I feel like giving up and abandoning my mission. But the only reason why I’m still walking is probably because the other hikers are much older to me and it will be pretty embarrassing if I cannot keep up.

Before reaching Simpang Bukit Satu Dua, I come across other OAC members and join them. They are kind enough to share their drinks and it is their motivation that keeps me going. Thanks to Jdee and Bonda, I am now more focused on reaching my goal.

We pass by Simpang Pedita and make a brief stop at Taman Bonsai. From then on the trail has many steep slopes (70 to 75 degrees) and we have to use ropes or tree roots to climb up. We are blessed today as the weather is fine and the rocks are not slippery.

By 1.30pm, I start to feel a strain on my neck and there is a tingling sensation on my right knee. The lack of sleep last night is really taking its toll on me. Now is the time the battle with my mind begins. This would probably not have happened if I had some shuteye before the hike. To make things worse, I had skipped breakfast and only drunk some water.

I am hungry but I only have sunflower seeds, some leftover spicy tapioca chips which I had been munching on while driving from Kuala Lumpur and a small pack of peanut butter biscuits which Lokman (OAC’s president) had given me earlier on.

I begin to feel my hike is a fool’s errand. It is like going to war without having any weapons. I close my eyes and take a deep breath and try not to think of anything. I can hear the sound of the wind, pretty much like waves. There are no other voices as I am now left to my own devices.

When I calm down a bit and regain my strength, I drag myself to the final checkpoint, Kem Senget, or the water point. Arriving at 2.30pm, the rest of the OAC members are about to make their way to the peak.

Lokman gives me two pills (probably painkillers) to help ease the pain on my leg. Azrul gives me his extra bottle of isotonic drink. I gobble up the peanut butter biscuits — my first meal of the day.

Only Shahfarin and I are left behind as he is the sweeper for the climb. Towards the top of Gunung Ledang, about less than a hundred metres, Shahfarin suffers cramps in his leg. Now, the roles are reversed and I let him go ahead.

Along the way, I come across the first batch of hikers who have become the earliest to reach the summit of Gunung Ledang for the day.

Words of encouragement from them to keep pushing forward just make me more eager to achieve my goal even though I’m hiking at a snail’s pace.

After about an hour from the last checkpoint, around 3.30pm, I stamp my footprint on Gunung Ledang. Father will surely be proud of me.

One of the most scenic landscapes in my life lay before me. Everyone congratulates me for reaching the peak. I am over the moon, the feeling of satisfaction is just indescribable. The pain and fatigue seem to have dissolved.

All of the OAC members manage to reach the top of Gunung Ledang and definitely we spend our time taking group photographs and selfies as proof of our glorious achievement.

Amy, Em, Azrul, Fendi (our guide) and I stay on until 4.50pm, taking time to cook some instant noodles. For us, it feels like the most delicious meal we have ever had.

As dusk descends, I am determined not to be the last hiker to return. Armed with a torch, I walk alone boldly, following reflector markers on the trees. At 9pm, I arrive in camp, in time for our barbecue.

Read more: This one’s for you, Dad – Travel – New Straits Times

Category: Travelogue