Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Off the beaten track : Gunong Stong, Jelawang , Kelantan..

On my way back to Slow Temiang to get my monthly supply of 'fresh 'oxygen' and watch my 'gaharus' grow, I make a detour towards Gunong Stong, some 40 kilometres from Gua Musang, north-westerly,[ taking the alternative route to KB when you are about 5 km from GM and assuming you are driving from Simpang Pulai-Loging way...], and 3 kilometres from sleepy one street town, with the 'world famous' railway station, Dabong. Those of you guys who want to visit Stong one day can take a train from Sentral and stop at Dabong. The Camp Baha 'boys ' could collect you from there and bring you to the 'resort' at the foothill of Stong, first crossing the Sungei Galas. You may instead want to take a leisurely 2 hour drive from KL to Simpang Pulai via the PLUS Highway and then aim for Loging and 5 Km from GM, take the route to Dabong.All atotal of 5 hours drive, no traffic except on the PLUS Highway.

I do not know how Gunong Stong got its name but I suspect since it is actually one big lump of granite massif from top to bottom,and since the stony face of the Stong waterfall is so prominent the Kelantanese add a 'g' and remove the 'e' from the English term 'stone' and so it was named: Gunong Stong.

"Then, even after that, your hearts were hardened and became as rocks, or worse than rocks, for hardness. For indeed there are rocks from out which rivers gush, and indeed there are rocks which split asunder so that water floweth from them. And indeed there are rocks which fall down for the fear of Allah. Allah is not unaware of what ye do."
Surah Al Baqarah , 2 : 74

The waterfall here is 7 tiered, the highest of which is a bifurcation with one stream coming from Gunong Stong proper and another coming from Gunong Ayam. At tier 3 there are 3 interesting 'sinkholes' and I tried diving into one and it must be about 10 feet deep but do be careful because the diameter is just about able to fit the body and one might get stuck in there !

One may approach the resort people at the foothill to arrange for the climb and could spend the night there at the foothill before the climb but a better way would be to contact direct the Camp Baha 'boys' [ Ed, Lod and Sid ], the 1st pitstop' some 400 metres above sea level. Beautiful view from even Camp Baha. Very basic camping facilities and basic bamboo chalet available by the waterfall.

[ contact :0199591020, a guide would wait for you at the resort to guide you up to Camp Baha. As for the resort at the foot hill, there is nothing to shout about at present. It has been left dilapidated for years but I saw the new manager this time who probably will spruce things up.... and increase the charges as well! ].

Must warn you though.....no toilet facilities up there, all 'au naturale'.
" No excuse, you guys must have one otherwise how can this place handle all these Mat Salleh and tourists!", I scolded the boys. They told me they used to have a decent flush system once but all got clogged up by a small group of Singaporean chaps !
"Digging a hole in the ground up here at base Camp Baha is difficult, Sir, as you meet rock within a few feet". My God ! These boys, what petty excuse.

The climb to the base camp for sloopy, unfit city dwellers like me would take one and a half to two hours of often times vertical climb. But once you reach there it is worth it. Bring your own foodstuff. Water is plenty and FOC. Spend a night here and listen to the sound of the cicadas and baboons and other night creatures.

There was this particular specie of cicada that only make itself prominent at precisely magrib time with its eerie 'pontianak-like' cry that make my hairs stood on ends! After that, surprisingly no more sound ! This must be a magrib-praying cicada who act as 'bilal' calling on all those 'unseen' inhabitants of the forest to begin their nightly prowl......Seram !!.... The nights here are certainly long and cool....ideal and perfect for a nice long tahajjud and continuos dzikr !

The next morning watch the sunrise from the stony granite of the fall, have a proper 'maggi mee' breakfast maybe and proceed to the climb. Give yourself 4 hours of steady climb up and three coming down to base camp. Have another leisurely evening and night sleep before you head for home next day. For those of you who would rather have a lazy day by the fall, ask your guide to walk you up to the 'bifurcation'.

Try to keep your expectations and things simple here and enjoy nature, you will be OK ! Time does travel slowly up there at Camp Baha. In fact, keeping things and expectation low all the time in general seems like a good adage, making life easy for us and people around us. I remember during my mountain climbing days a few years back when I was doing Mount Kinabalu annually with my children. At 13,000 feet it was a different ball game even though I must say Kinabalu is one of the most friendliest 13,000 feet mountains in the world ! Because of its rarefied air, you just focus on being able to breath....breath in, breath out then take one step, breath in breath out then another step...that to me was a very 'sufic' moment : my bad loans, my difficult patients, my various wrong ' life and death' decisions, my disappointments with friends, colleagues and family, etc etc and etc,..... all forgotten.

Life after all is just three bated breaths: the one you have just finish, the one you are about to complete, and insyallah, the next one that is not yet actually guaranteed that it is yours !

Places like Gunong Stong bring me back to basic.......

"By the declining day, Lo! man is a state of loss, Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance."
Al Asr , 103 : 1-3

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