What is it that makes one return to a place again and again?
That’s a question that I am often asked. And for different places there are different reasons. Of all the mountains that I’ve reached the summit more than once, there’s always something that attracts me, something that warrants a return. It could be because I have fallen in love with the place—Gunung Irau and it’s fantasy-like mossy landscape immediately comes to mind. On the other extreme, I journey up Gunung Nuang just to remind myself why I hate it. Sometimes it’s simply to experience the place at different times of the day. I’ve been to Gunung Datuk so many times, but there’s still something that’s elusive. Of the 24 hours in a day, I’ve yet to be at the summit of Gunung Datuk from between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. To watch the sun set beyond the Straits of Malacca from the summit is what I want to do before the year is out.
Sometimes I go on a journey to a same place because of the company of people or even if it’s just one person—a return to Gunung Kinabalu within a year of my first summit is one such case.
At other times, it’s the challenge and varying degrees of difficulties the mountains pose that make me go back again and again. Bukit Kutu is one such place. I have a pretty bad record with this mountain—I’ve only had a 50% chance of successfully reaching the summit. This mountain seems to play games with me. Many a times I decide to return to the place is because I find it embarrassing to tell people that I got lost at Bukit Kutu. It’s been over a year since I lost the trail after walking for an hour and lost in my bid to reach the summit. So I will go again. I have to—I can’t let the mountain have the better me.
But I’ve other reasons to return to Bukit Kutu now.
One of the attractions of the mountain is that there used to be bungalows at the summit, which were destroyed during World War II. The remains and ruins of the bungalows that once stood over a hundred years ago still exist. Just to see the lonesome fireplace and to drink from one of the existing wells makes hiking to the top a worthwhile experience. Having said that, I admit I’ve yet to explored all the ruins. Somehow I’ve never thought of venturing amongst the tall grass that has grown over the building sites. I’ve always been contented of reaching the summit.
But when I was spending the night in a bungalow provided by Orang Asli at Pos Atap, Goh spoke of the Bukit Kutu bungalows. I realized then that I should have explored all those places to truly know the place.
And so it is that I’ll be heading up Bukit Kutu again with the intention of placing footprints in the bungalows (or what’s left of them) sometime this year. But before I make that trip, I’ve been looking for materials from over a hundred years ago—back to the time when the bungalows were built by Lambert Bowen (apparently so, but I’ll need to confirm this).
The one that caught my interest is the “Photograph collection of the British Association of Malaysia and Singapore” that is held at the Cambridge University Library. In the collection of photographs presumably taken by Ernest Barton Maundrell (1880-1916) are about 10 photographs related to Bukit Kutu. One photograph is labeled: “New bungalow, Bukit Kutu. Showing Lambert Bowen (1870-), an engineer in Perak and Selangor and R. Desborough (no information), standing in the doorway of a small bungalow.”
To see that picture will be a wonderful journey through time. To see that picture will give evidence of the completed building. To see that picture will give me the pleasure of knowing more about Malaysia. I’ve written to the library,
and am awaiting their response. I hope some good will come of it. and I have received a reply. The good news is that I can actually get a copy of the image now that the copyright has lapsed. The bad news is that it’ll make a large hole in my pockets. Well, I can get lesser quality images, but in this time of age the digital image in high resolution would be the best choice. Each digital image from the Cambridge University Library cost £24.00 per image. That’s way too much! Actually, I would get the images if I was earning my wage in Pounds. But the fact is I do not. As much as I’d like to get the image as soon as possible, the conversion rate between Ringgit and Pound is too high to warrant a purchase of even one print. Well, I know where I can get the image now, and I hope I can see that image one day.
An interesting clipping about ladies from The Story of Kuala Lumpur 1857-1939 by J. M. Gullick.
Other references to Bukit Kutu exist, and tracking them down is not easy. But thanks to Google Books, I got to read a few clippings and excerpts from various books. Now it’s time to track down books such as The Story of Kuala Lumpur 1857-1939 by J. M. Gullick and The Selangor Journal.
Pages 187 and 188 of The Selangor Journal Vol. 5. Click of images to get larger-sized images.
Pages 189 and 190 of The Selangor Journal Vol. 5. Click of images to get larger-sized images.
Sifting through antiquarian books and finding such stuff keeps me going because of my interest in history and the land. Reading such stuff makes me appreciate the places I go to even more. And I also like the fact that the search for more information can never really end as long as someone continues to write about them. I would love to learn more. I would love to have others search for more, too. And I would love it when one hundred or more years down the line, what I write become leading points for other seekers who return often.