Friday, August 05, 2011

Pelepah Falls Adventure

What to do when you have a free weekend with nothing much planned? Take advantage and head out for a short getaway!! Which was what I did precisely last weekend! Was s'posed to go Tioman for a weekend dive, but that didn't pull through, so backup plan - Pelepah Falls trek! Organized by Mr Jack, who claimed to have successfully completed the trek up to Level 11 waterfalls some 10 years ago, and broadcasted to other fellow trekkers that the trek is a walk in the park, just like Bukit Timah trek. I only knew about this statement after we completed Pelepah Falls, sensing the betrayal felt by the other trekkers..

JJ had asked if I wanted to join, and knowing that there is a waterfall to be found and enjoyed, well, how can I NOT go? And since Tioman is no-go, Pelepah Falls is the one!

After much emails correspondent (i think over 40-50) discussing about the prep work, when and where to meet, how to go etc etc, it was finally decided that we drove in with 3 cars 9 pax (Jack the guide, JJ, YoongHern, Shawn, Daniel, Victor, Kelly, Carolyn and Me). An early start was delayed due to latecomers, and whatever reason we ended up reaching Kota Tinggi (start of the trek) at 2pm instead of the proposed 1230noon.

Waiting by our car prepping for the trek

All geared up, we started the walk through the plantation 1st.

And that was when all things started to fall apart, and our s'posed guide's reputation and credibility started to be in serious doubt.

1st, we couldnt find the correct way to the start of the trek. The supposed metal bridge couldnt be found. But then again, that was a memory of 10yrs ago.. So Jack decided to climb up the highest peak to take a view.

Then, Yoonghern got stuck in mud, which was hilarious though...

But eventually, we found the starting point - marked with the "AWAS" tape.

So begun the many river crossing (4 in total), and the fairly ok walk along well trodded paths and we discovered marked tapes left by different groups who walked the same path before..

The 1st 2 river crossings saw the gals and Victor changing shoes to slippers and back

But it's not all flat and smooth. Well waterfalls are meant to flow from a higher ground to a lower point, so at some point, climbing uphill and rocky routes were expected. Which somehow did not gel with the 'Bukit Timah Trek' pep talk..

Grabbing onto the rocks for life!

At some point during the trek, it turned into a rope climbing exercise/ abseiling if you look at it the other way round.

Along the way, our guide's (Jack) memory was tested severely and from the confident "Yes This Way", it became "Ya I think so, this looks familiar", "Got Marker, just follow"...

So that led us to a deep river/stream crossing where cobwebs were left undisturbed for however long (i.e. normally means no one has walked past the section)

Wading through the knee deep water

The best way across knee deep water? Forming a human chain!

Along the way, we veered off the river and up to higher ground and kinda felt lost for a moment as markers disappeared. Still we just kept going in the general direction of the upstream river/waterfall towards the Level 11. We passed by Level 7/9 waterfall (we assumed those were the waterfalls at that time). And finally after abt 3hrs, we kinda saw the light and were more confident in our direction as we landed at the top of a waterfall.

Another 45mins-1hr walk and wala! We reached Level 10

Using slow shutter speed to capture waterfall

A brief waterfall stop and we proceeded onwards to higher ground to try and find a good clearing for our campsite.

Just before the sunsets, we managed to find a fantastic clearing to set up our tent, campfire and hammock (which we improvised to become groundsheet since there were no trees at the clearing).

With the campfire going, it was time to dry of the smelly clothes...

Guess what animal's footprint is that? We were not sure, but they were all over our campsite! That set alarm bells going in the guys' heads and they set out thinking about protecting the campsite.

1st off, with the use of comscord and beer cans, they set up traps that would be triggered if the s'posed animal tripped on it. S'posed animal was suspected to be a tiger who walks in a single file ala cat walk, since the footprints were in very neat single file, and the other set in reverse direction also single file.

Next step was to set up night guards, with the 6 guards taking turns keeping watch in the event that some animals decided to attack us.

Ended up nobody really slept that night due to - Cold, Hard ground, Uncomfy sleeping position, Just couldnt sleep. With the exception of JJ, who really just slept like a dead log.

Broke camp early next morning, according to our proposed schedule, and set off at 830am, thinking that it's going to be an easy trek down in probably 4-5hrs. Packing up all our rubbish (have to be responsible to the environment) in an extremely big plastic bag, it was hand carried down the waterfall. Not the best way to carry trash, but for whatever reason, that was the way it was carried...

A stop at the level 11 waterfall was a must! So we stayed there for some time, soaking in the water and performing our best Storm Warrior poses.

The guys attempted to throw the trash bag down the waterfall instead of carrying but it got stuck at the rocks. So I had to climb up the waterfall to re-direct the trash.. And in the midst of it, some of the mess tins fell out and landed on the river bed. And I felt the tins out literally. Yes, was walking along the river bed and felt metal objects by my feet..

After the soak, it was onwards to the next pitstop... We decided to detour to Level 7 which we missed on our way up.. Not an easy way down to Level 7, with slippery steep rocks..

But it was worth it! Not the prettiest waterfall, but the best water force!! Standing beneath it, letting the water fall on you was like the best massage you'll ever have!

And that was where it all went completely and utterly wrong! After Level 7, by the instinct & 10yr-old memory of Jack, we went up the other way, which after 15mins was going opposite (back to our campsite). So another 15mins of trying to research the area, we routed back to Level 7 waterfall, and went the other direction. Instead of going back where we came by the previous day, we took a totally different route which was marked by 3 markers...

And that was where we had our moment of 'LOST'. The markers disappeared and the trail kinda ended.. But us being us, we still kept going forward since it was generally the correct direction (downstream of the river)

This is the kinda terrain that we endured for almost 2hours, no obvious trail, steep slopes (if you fall, you're gone), and just roots and rocks to hold on to..

A fair amount of bashing around was required, chartering over unchartered terrain. Even though we found 1 RSAF hat and a discarded poncho along the way, which we suspect belonged to a lost SAF men who may or may not have made it...

We tried to go uphill to the ridges since the mountaineous terrain would end at the start of the trek, but once up there, we realized that we could NOT trek through the overgrown forestation..

So, we decided after much thought to go downhill towards the river, since that is the river which we followed on our way up. So the theory is as long as we follow the river downstream, we should find our way back home..

So with no trail leading downhill, we bashed our way down, slipping and sliding. Leading the way was YoongHern, JJ, Shawn and myself. While Jack took care of the other group of trekkers, engaging ropes to kinda abseil downhill..

This was the moment when YoongHern truly regretted not getting the Parang..

Eventually, after god knows how long, we saw the light!! The river bed!! The familiar river stream!! Where we trekked past the previous day!! It was such a relief! After 2hours of being lost, and at 3pm, we were finally on the right trek! Thank God we left camp early, if not, god knows what would have happend.

After that spell of aimless bashing, it was straight forward onward trek to the very beginning. Very soon, we reached the "AWAS" tape!

And just when we thought we had happily reached the end, the gates were locked! So we had to climb over the gates, avoiding being pricked to death by the barbwires...

Eventful trek, all thanks to our very experienced Guide Jack :). Shack? Not really but for the others maybe. But extremely tired due to lack of sleep. On our way back, our driver almost fell asleep at the wheels. Luckily with Old Town Coffee, we made it safely back home after being stuck in JB jam for 2hours!

Moral of the story - Never trust a 10 yr-old memory. Never leave JB after 7pm especially on Sunday. Parang is useful when it comes to bashing. Plastic bag is not the best way to carry trash.


Anonymous said...

nice adventure. i been searching for campers adventure on this area since we'll be going there this weekend. no guide and our first time camping in malaysia from sg :)

DianShan said...

Have fun! It's not a difficult hike but the trails CAN be misleading and confusing sometimes. Just follow the river up and down and you'll be fine.