Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kampar - Part 1 - Off Spelunking!

Spe-lun-king (noun): refers to amateurs without the proper knowledge, or training, in the recreational sport of exploring caves. (from wikipedia)

Through the wonders of Facebook, a friend of mine invited me along to a Caving & White Water Rafting (WWR) trip at Kampar on 16th May, organized by the Malaysian Outdoor, Trekking & Hiking Society (aka MOTHs). I've always wanted to get more involved doing outdoor activities, so I figured.. "Hey, it's a start." So, I spread the words around and managed to rope in a few friends, and we were all set to go on Saturday morning.

The plan was to meet up at my place at 630am. I know. It was ridiculously early, but Malaysians being Malaysians, I figured people would actually start showing up around 7am. We left at 730am, and still had to drive out to TTDI to pick-up another friend. We were suppose to regroup and meet-up with the rest of the convoy group at Sg Buloh RnR at 8am. Poor Reha (the organizer) had to wait for us as we were the last to arrive. BUT... through the fortunate combination of Japanese engineering and one hell of a driver behind the steering wheel, we got ahead of the pack and were the first to arrive at Gopeng toll plaza. Cam-whoring session ensued.

We regroup at Gopeng toll plaza before moving on to Gua Tempurung, which was only a further 5 minutes drive away. There, we met up with our tour guide, Maxxy, from RIVERBUG, where he briefed us on the caving trail, which would span approx 2 hours, as well as the safety protocalls.

I must say I was pretty nervous at this point. I've been to a few caves in my life, but never really went off-the-trail caving. And the fact that we need torchlight was another matter to be worried about. Have I mentioned that I am terrified (horrified!) of the dark? So, being the ever obedient people that we are, we strapped on our safety helmet and armed ourselves with our trusty flashlights (and a badge of courage for me!), before trooping onwards into the cave.

Took this picture of the caving tour packages available from the 'park' rangers. Definitely would try the Grand Tour next.

For the first half of the tour, we maneuvered through the dry part of the cave, pretty much on-trail and just followed the hand railings and stairs available. It was... interesting enough. Maxxy, the ever experienced tour guide, showed us the stalactite and stalagmite, told us the science behind the formations, and let our imagination go wild with some of the rock formations. We found one that looked like a fossil from Planet of the Ape.

After tirelessly climbing up countless steps, we finally got to 'The Top of the World' - the highest point you'd ever reach in the cave. And if you're scared of heights, I'd advise you to not look down because from this vantage point, you'd see one hell of a steep climb down into the pit of the earth. My legs were just shaking as I was making my way down those stairs, gripping the handrail for dear life in one hand and the torchlight in the other. Not an easy task.

A preview of the climb.

Once we reached the bottom, the only lights available were from the ones we had to carry along with us. Thankfully for me, there were plenty of people in the group to provide plenty of lights. There were 2 junctures from this point. If we were to take the left turn, we'd be walking deeper into the dark, and as Maxxy told us, would also take us to the Grand Tour route. We took the right turn instead, and continued on to the end, where - from here on, we'd begin our off-trail spelunking.

In order to 'officially' go off-trail, we had to step over the railings, take a slide down some muddy rocks and climb down this tiny hole in the ground. There were a bit of queing involved, as there were another group in front of us and we had to go through with this individually. But I must commend that our group were pretty efficient, and without much drama or fuss, because we managed to get everyone down within 30 minutes.

The slippery slide down.

The climb into the rabbit hole.

Once you've cleared this part, you're already standing in the river that passes through the cave. And after the stuffy heat of the cave, it was just so nice getting wet. Maxxy led us the rest of the way, as we trudge through the water.... crawling... ducking... swimming... posing...

And despite the uncomfortable weight of the helmet on my head, I was suddenly so glad to have it on. I'm pretty sure I'd have gotten a few concussions without that helmet. It saved my life! Well... that, and my torchlight.

We lost track of time, but it didn't matter. It was a great experience, and definitely something I'd try again.

Continue: Part 2 - White Water Rafting

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