(L-R) Me, San Tee, Jasmine, “Stephen Badak”, Chee Hoong, Sylvia, Bathmanathan, Shanmugan, and Su Ming.
Taken early in the morning after the first day’s ordeal, and just before the start of the trek downhill for further adventures.
This trek took place in 1997.
It is now many years later. Even so, I can still remember many of the events vividly. For one reason, it was one of my earlier treks, and everything was rather new to me. Perhaps I had taken every step, every breath, every sight with keen interest and exitement. But a more obvious and essential reason why my memories of this trek is not lost is that my friends and I reached a peak that wasn’t Gunung Ledang’s. Despite having 3 trek-mates who scaled the mountain before, and having walked a solid 9 hours, it was apparent none of us were meant to put our foot on the actual peak. Maybe we didn’t reach the peak because of the badly drawn map we got, or the curse of the scorpions we trampled upon along the trail, or our over-zealousness to reach the peak that we miss the diverging path right at the beginning of the trek. But who’s or waht’s to blame? No one. Nothing. We may have succumbed to the mountain, but the trek became our muse. Here then are but some tales.
Reaching the Wrong Peak!
Each time we came to diverging paths and thought that we might be lost, Jasmine reassured us by saying, “I think this is correct. I remember going up and then going down all the way.” Those were words of encouragement, but after a few times I reminded myself that it was Jasmine saying those words.
By late evening, we had hiked for 9 hours. Many of us were tired, hungry and frustrated. We had tried numerous paths, but they either led no-where, or made us walk in circles. As sunlight struggled to touch the densely shaded ground, it became apparent that it was impossible to find the right trail anymore. When we reached an open ground, we decided that we’ve had it for the day. We pitched our tents, and unpacked our load. We looked around us, and we saw the same view all around us — tall trees, short shrubs, the ground sloping downwards on most sides, and higher mountains in the distance. That was when we realised we were camping on a peak. Except that it was the wrong peak, a peak we didn’t know. It wasn’t Gunung Ledang’s peak.
The Rain that Brings Joy!
None of us owned water filters then, and we were lugging many used 1.5 litre-bottles filled with water. As we trekked, I hid a bottle of two for when I came down. After all, it was a waste of energy to carry water I was going to drink a day later all the way up and down the mountain.
I carried enough water for myself, but a few others didn’t. The ones I remember most clearly are Shan and Su Ming. Being the last person to join our group, Shan brought only a bottle for the trek. Su Ming brought water, but he kept mum about it. So throughout the trek, they took sips from everyone elses’ water. As for the rest, the long trek drained us and we drank more than we anticipated.
After we set up our camp, we realised we didn’t have enough water to drink, cook, and brew coffee. But, thank God for Malaysian tropical forests. It rained that evening! When rain came, we were all dancing with joy. Some opened their mouths wide and let raindrops in. Some held out their windbreakers and collected little pools of water. While others used the tents to flow water into our empty water bottles That night we had water — rainwater.
Unfortunately, we didn’t collect enough water. When we cooked dinner, we were very careful with our water. A lot of water was used to cook rice. But we used a mesh tin full of rain water for three different dishes. First, we boiled the sealed aluminuim pack of Brahim’s Chicken Rendang. When that was done, French beans was put into the water for quick-1-2 minute-boil. After that, we prepared Maggi Tang Hoon soup in that water. And dinner never tasted any better on that mountain that day.
The Case of the Flying White Ghost
I don’t believe scary ghosts exist, but this trek nearly changed my belief when I thought I saw a ghost.
It was getting cold that night, especially after the rain, so we built a campfire. Everyone wanted to keep warm, but no one wanted to pick up sticks. We only had very few wet sticks and branches to keep the fire going throughout the night. At about midnight, Chee Hoong and I went searching for branches. We found some. As we headed back, I was complaining about how selfish everyone was and that it was always me who picked up sticks. Suddenly Chee Hoong stopped in her tracks and grabbed my arm tightly. I looked at her and then at the direction she was looking.
We saw Ghim “Badak” Hui and a piece of white cloth hovering lightly above his head.
Chee Hoong was scared stiff. And thoughts about the existence of supernatural beings began creeping into my mind. I glanced at Badak. He was keeping warm by the fire, and he was oblivious of the cloth that floated up and down just above him. I prayed a silent prayer. Then I reassured Chee Hoong that there is no such thing as ghosts.
I urged her forwad, but she resisted. I suggested that she stand and wait while I investigate the ghost. She refused, and said she’d come along wth me. We took little steps quietly, afraid that the ghost might see us. As we got closer, the white cloth flapping more fervently in the air as if it was fanning Badak.
At that moment, a cold chill ran down my spine. But with a fair damsel in my arms, I acted bravely. I inched my way forward and Chee Hoong followed closely behind. After a few more steps the ghost disappeared.
We quickened our pace and came within ten feet of Badak. The dying campfire illuminated just a few feet of the nearby surrounding and we saw a dark figure, like Death, next to him. We feared for Badak’s life, but it wasn’t doing anything menacing. It just stood still. Then as we got even closer to the campfire, it all made sense, and we caught the white ghost.
Sylvia was our ghost!
She had been standing next to Badak all this while. We didn’t see her earlier on because she was in dark coloured clothes. That hid her in the darkness of the night. Plus, she had bent forwards with her back facing the campfire to dry herself. And our floating white ghost was now hanging loosely around her waist. It was merely her wet white towel that she flapped over the fire earlier on.
Aargh! To think that Sylvia and a wet towel caused such traumatic moments in my life! But the good thing out of this incident is that I can still say,”I don’t believe scary ghosts exist.”
My Dashed Desire for Dry Socks
I don’t like trekking with wet feet. That night, I carefully propped my sock over the camp fire to dry it. Even though I knew they would smell of smoke, I wanted to have a pair of dry socks when we walked down the mountain. But my desires were not meant to be fulfilled. After I went to sleep, Shan accidentally knocked my socks into the fire while trying to keep himself warm. And with that, my desire for dry socks went up in flames.
The Silence after a Shout
The next morning, we had a simple breakfast—didn’t have enough water for a hearty meal—packed our things and prepared for our journey. Having decided we would not attempt to find the real G. Ledang, things should be as simple as back-tracing our way out of the jungle. Instead, some of us had a fright when three of our friends went missing. we shouted the names of 3 persons walking behind us. they replied. we walked on. less than 5 minutes later, they were gone! they took a wrong path at a fork! we spent some 40-50 mintues chasing after the 3 of them. it took so long because the 3 of them thought they were way behind us. so they started walking faster, and when they still didn’t see us, they walked faster and faster…
An insect buzzed across my face and landed on my left arm. I am not an entomologist, but it sure looked like some wasp. I stopped in my tracks, hoping that it would just fly away. I tried blowing it, but it didn’t budge. Then I felt a sharp piercing pain. Instinctively, I swatted it and flicked off its remains. The area was still buzzing with those insects, so my friends and I got going again quickly. But before we escaped, an insect chased us and managed to sting Su Ming on his forehead. We rushed on. When we were further away, I saw my arm had started swelling—and the horrific thought that I might live with a Popeye-typed hand came to my mind. I looked at Su Ming, and realised he wasn’t turning into some hideously looking monster. So it just me who was allergic to that insect sting. My arm swelled for another four days after (even with proper medication ad care). I should have kept whatever was left of the bug for identification purposes. That way, I might have gotten the proper antidote and did not have to suffer for so many days. But I guess I’ll never know what stung me, and I’ll just have to live with the mark that’s left on my arm.
Gunung Ledang Overview
Elevation (feet): 4,186
Elevation (meter): 2,176
Latitude: 2° 21
Longitude: 102° 38
My First Summit: 14-15 April 2000
My First Attempt: 6-7 December 1997 unsuccessful; got lost