If the first three legs we were “on road”, for the fourth and final leg, we went off road. We needed to drive from the main road to somewhere deep uphill and from there on, hike downhill and cross a river called Limpahko. Or Limpako. I am uncertain of the spelling as I do not have a proper and detailed map of Endau Rompin with me at the moment. Nevertheless, that was roughly how it sounded when somebody spoke of the name of the place.
The road condition was so bad that even some 4WDs could not go through the road without help. For those that drove cars, including my ride, I would leave it to your imagination. After awhile of trying, we finally gave up and almost everyone parked their vehicle at the side of the road, leaving it behind and started hiking, with backpacks on our back. Only a pickup truck — Paul’s truck — went all the way up.
The hike was not too bad and not too far. I reckon it was probably a two or three kilometers hike though the terrain provided some challenge.
Two Orang Aslis — all visiting groups into Endau Rompin must hire at least a guide — guided us to our base camp. Maybe base camp inaccurately describes what we had but I am content with the noun. So, base camp it is. The two guides went into separate ways somewhere. One went into the river, cross it and went upstream while the other went along on the river without crossing it. I were confused and this posed a dilemma for me. Firstly, I did not know which way was the right route. I certainly do not want to lose my way on the very first day of the expedition. But I had no choice and it all up to my preference, and lunch.
The route into the river was not preferred due to one reason: water. Being wet is a terrible thing and so, I would like to be as dry as possible. The other route on the other hand required climbing. While I did not think of it while deciding on which route to take, the dry route was leech-rich. Unable to decide, I depended on wisdom of the crowd. More than 10 individuals went into the river and so, I followed them, like a lemming.
The river route was a bit worrying actually mostly because I had electronics on me — a camera and cell phone. Having them wet would ruin all the fun I would have had there.
Talking about electronics, I had planned to bring along my laptop. I was thinking, in the middle of the night with minimal light source, life might turned out really boring. Somehow at the very last minute, I ditched the idea and I am glad I did that.
Back to nature, the river was pleasantly cooling. I was whining quietly on how bad it was to be wet at first. Wet boots made my feet heavier than usual for the obvious reason. With a backpack on my back, the hiking was not made any easier. Moments passed and only later that I began to appreciate the cooling effect of the river. For more than half of the journey, we traveled under the angry sun. It burned so mightily that it was noticeable how little activities were carried out under the open sky.
The river sheltered us from the heat. My feet immediately felt the soft touch of the river. With rainforest on each sides of the river, the atmosphere was completely, to me, if I may say so, heaven-like. This is heaven, I told myself. No 72 virgins for me please for this would suffice, I yelled in my head.
The river was not wide. Throughout the hike, the widest part of the river probably measured around 10 meters. The deepest part was a little over waist deep. I had to clear my pockets of electronics in order to cross the river without regrets.
Cool and clear river water. To the right is the base camp.
It turned out, the group that took the river route reached the based camp earlier. Apparently, it is the easiest and the shortest route. Nevertheless, we were separated by mere 10 to 15 minutes. Really, nothing to shout about. But we were leech-free, unlike the other groups which presented the leeches of Limpako a feast to remember.
The base camp was beyond my expectation. Before we were briefed by group leader a week prior to the expedition, I had thought that we would have to sleep in tents and move around with the tents with no base camp. Quite the contrary, we had a makeshift barrack or long house made out of wood. Some had the pleasure of sleeping in hammocks or maybe trampoline, hanging in the air while others like me, slept on the floor which was made of tree bark.
Yes. Tree bark. I had never considered that tree bark could be used for flooring. Regardless, it was not comfortable but was definitely better than sleeping on the ground while the experience and the new knowledge made me, and I believe many other, wiser in term of survival skill. For a person that wanted to bring a laptop into an ancient jungle growth, you could imagine what kind of survival skill I have!
All in all, the accommodation was luxurious by my expectation standard whereas the expectation is admittedly slow. I for one did not expect a washroom, no matter primitive it was.
The best thing about the base camp is the Limpako waterfall. Before that, I apologize for I am using the name Limpako rather liberally. I am unsure if Limpako refers to the river or the waterfall in particular. Whatever it may be, the falls are made up of a number of cascades. From the camp, three cascades were visible.
The Limpako Falls with impressive cascades. If one is to climb up, one would see more cascades. Anyway, from the left, clockwise, Paul, Andy, TH and Patricia. The rest jumped in soon after.
On the first day at Limpako, in the day at least, activities were limited. With everybody exhausted, it was good. Exhaustion however did not prevent many from dipping in the water at the lower end of the cascade. The water was gentle, clean and clear. Everybody was visibly happy, smiling and talking, making new friends and strengthening old bonds.
I spent considerable amount of time in the water, letting the falls massaged my back, feet immersed in water, feeling the smooth stones of the riverbed. If the sun had stayed up in the sky forever, I would not get out of the water. Alas, the sun always set in the west and so it did on that Saturday.
Dinner was modest but the fact it was cooked by the Orang Aslis made it a little bit special. But to come to think of it, the food was probably comparable to that was served at the Malay College long ago when I was there. Here in Endau Rompin, Kuala Kangsar seemed to far away. On the same weekend, the alumni of the College gathered at Kuala Kangsar, celebrating the annual Old Boys’ Weekends. I have only been to the Weekends once after I graduated from the College. But this is Endau Rompin, not Kuala Kangsar. And clearly, not Kuala Lumpur but Kuala Marong and Kuala Jasin, as I will soon tell you later.
Later in the evening under the bright moon, we had a night hike. I did not wanted to join it initially because I was tired, sleepy and my boots and pant were wet. The night hike would require me to cross the river all over again and I had wanted to give my stuff a chance to dry up for the next day. So, I found myself giving comment at general, questioning what would we do when we would not be able to see anything. W** S**** answered me, saying it is a chance to talk to people. I smiled.
Armed with two flashlights — one worn in the head and the other a typical rod-looking flashlight — I joined W** S****, as well as Katrin, Christian, our medic Dayang and a number of others into the wilderness.
We set out of camp by crossing the river, leaving the falls behind, ascending to higher ground, led by an Orang Asli guide. If I remember correctly, his name is Azmi. Gary and TH, the leaders of the expedition were there to make things a little bit smoother. Digressing a bit, I know Gary from Raptor Watch while TH is someone new. New but fun, just like Gary! They might be twins for all I care! They never went anyway without one another!
It was dark in the night in spite of the near full moon. The trees conspired to make sure that we would have trouble navigating through the jungle without flashlight.
For those the followed the other route to the camp earlier, they recognized the trail. For me, I did not.
After a while on dry left, we ventured into the river. Christian said something to the effect of “just when you think you would be dry, here we go straight into the water all over again“. Throughout the expedition, I got that feeling for so many times that I lost count.
Once we got into the river, I immediately recognized it. I took this trail to get to camp earlier in the day.
We traveled light but I still wished it ended soon. It was that feeling all over again. That “are we there yet” feeling. That feeling reminded me of that misadventure I was in at Yosemite. Boy…
By the time we got back to camp, I realized that leeches were all over my legs and body. My pant was full of blood. I have been bitten by leeches before but this time, the quantity was just ridiculous. Worried, I went to somewhere quiet and stripped for a thorough check of my body. I was just thankful that none was found in my private part!
For the rest after that, they just laughed at me while enjoying supper. What more could I do but laughed together with them?
All the excitement set up the perfect state for a good night sleep, lulled by the songs of nature. The insects, the waterfall, the serenity…
p/s — special thanks to L** W** S**** for allowing me to post his wonderful pictures here at this blog.