Saturday, August 15

Gunung Stong, Ayam and Baha with no guide

Day 0 - Singapore to Dabong
[First of all, we didn't have a guide because the guide company said they were fully booked. By all means, get a guide if you can]
We boarded the train at Tanjong Pagar railway station in Singapore. Did you know that this railway station belongs to Malaysia? How cool is that? we crossed into Malaysia (and went through customs!) BEFORE going out of Singapore. Here's us looking super prepared for what was to come.

The gear of an explorer: WATER - we ended up drinking about 5 l per person per day - thank god for water purifying pills! Dry fit t-shirt (especially if going into the jungle)! Semi-rigid sole trekking shoes - some very sturdy Salomon ones - turning out to be my favorite ones because they lasted through 2 months in South America including some very tough gravel step cutting; Tough trekking pants - Columbia titanium (from the men's section of course) - I love these because you can take the lower half off and on my left lower half I have a zipped pocket in which i can store ... guess what?! Toilet paper, ha! A watch on my left hand (with an alarm for those early mornings woo hoo) Funny hair cut completes the gear.

As is the norm with Malaysia trains, the train was late (1 hour late in leaving the starting point!) and the train ride was LONG! Lasted about 12 hours actually (truth be told, we were going close to the Thai border) and because it was a holiday long weekend, we didn't manage to get sleeping cubicles.

Day 1 - Dabong - Baha camp
Arrived in Dabong at around 6.25 am (1 hour later than expected). There were a lot of singaporeans (with guided tour) there. We finally managed to get something to eat at the coffee shop next to the station (in the entire village there are three coffee shops, two of which are near the train station), after which I rushed us off from there.

The thing is, you have to get to the entrance to the Jelawang Jungle, Kelantan National Park from the train station. This is located at about 6 km from the station. In a 2005 report that I read online, I found that we first have to cross a river by boat and then take a van. Turns out, after we wandered through the sleepy village at 7 am in the morning and finally found the river, that in between 2005 and 2009 they have actually built a bridge over that river. What do you know?! So we wandered through the village a bit more in an attempt to find the way to the bridge. Eventually I asked this sleepy young woman how to get to Gunung Stong. She went inside her house, talked to a man (to ask permission?), came out with her head covered and a young boy clinging to her pants and we were off. Guess where? Of course she took us back to the train station and talked to one of the guides for us (the guides were not there when we left). One of them was kind enough to board a van that took us to the park entrance (10 RM).

I guess he had wanted for us to join them but I knew he had another group coming (singaporeans as well) and I didn't want to wait for them because a) singaporeans* are SLOW to get started (or maybe I am a speed freak!) and b) I wanted to get there fast to secure a tent space. And so we paid the entrance tax (15 RM each) and were off. There are two trails to Baha camp, on top of the Stong waterfall, the Jungle trail and the Waterfall trail. We unknowingly took the Jungle trail. We wanted the waterfall trail because you can really see the waterfall and the weather was clear (flash floods can happen when it rains). We were in Baha camp in about 1 hour. I read online that it can take up to 2 hours. The jungle, especially the lower, thicker parts, is like a SAUNA!

We arrived in camp at 09:30 (the group of singaporeans arrived at 11:30 - i would have been at my wits end by then). We set up tent, walked around, took some pictures. This is our tent (40 SGD from Giant) - the biggest two person tent I have ever been in (all the others I have been in are expedition ones and they. ARE. small)

Here we are at the top of the waterfall.

Contrary to what it looks like, I am not scratching my ass.

A bit later we went for a swim in one of the ponds, to get our appetites working before lunch. In the background there be the waterfall (warning! shorts and sports bra pics coming up)

We dried up by sitting on the rocks at the top of the waterfall and taking a lot of goofy shots (more here).

Later it was time for lunch (baked beans mmmm) . While I was preparing it one guide came to us and told us to move our tent because there was danger of a tree falling. Sadly, we had to leave our perfect (well, not so perfect now) tent spot.

Went to see the higher waterfall.

Day 2 - Baha Camp to Gunung Baha & Gunung Ayam and Ayam Camp
Woke up at 6:10 to see the sunrise.

And then we were off. Rumor has it that it takes about 7 hours to go to the Ayam campsite. We did it in 4:30. There are some plastic threads tied to the trees and some newspaper pieces (i kid you not) on the trail to show the way (for the guides i guess). From Baha camp, you have to cross one river, reach another small campsite and very near from it there is a small intersection. Take the right trail to Ayam (it might have a bamboo barrier on it). From then on, you will cross a second river (go a bit upstream to find the entrance on the other side into the jungle).

Here I am at the first river. Notice that I am also the official trash bearer.

A lot of logs on the way:

And few orchids:

And there you have it, 3:30 hours later, Gunung Baha, 1450m.

Marian changed into my t-shirt because his was super soaked.

We next missed Gunung Ayam and reached the Ayam campsite but found it the next morning. We got to the camp, set up the tent, changed into dry clothes and I started to make food - mashed potatoes with fried luncheon meat, mmm.

A couple of hours later two more teams arrived and were very surprised to find that we had actually found the way (the marks are subtle indeed but there are a lot of marks - why don't they just paint the trees?!). We had the misfortune to have a group of 6 loud frenchmen camp next to us (I guess their guide thought we would fit in?) They were loud, burping, farting and swearing (the fact that I understand french did not help me). In the end at about 9pm I had to ask them to shut their faces up (I was more polite than this of course).

Day 3 - Gunung Ayam, Gunung Stong, Dabong - Singapore
First, we found Gunung Ayam and took the summit pic.

We left early (7:20 am?) to make sure we reached Stong. Thus we could see stuff like this:

Now there actually is a shortcut from Ayam to Stong. But of course we didn't know about it so we had to do it the old, harder way. That is, reach the intersection I told you before and take a right and go straight up. And when i mean straight up, it, really is straight up because at one point you are actually climbing up tree roots for about half an hour. Imagine how bad it is to descend this. The other teams with guides of course only had to descend those parts (we met them and some wished us good luck in climbing). It was super tiring and the fact that afterwards you reach a forest ridge that always gives you the impression that you reached the summit did not help. Anyhow the summit is a big boulder that you have to climb up on so you can't miss that. We have very few pictures from this part because we were too damn tires to take bobby out.

But first! We reached a big cave and spent about 20 minutes fooling around on a jungle vine, playing Jane and Tarzan.

To the left of where marian is sitting in this picture, a bit uphill, is a very beautiful and quiet pool - no pic, sorry.

And the summit pic.

And next a super duper descent and by 4 pm we were down at the base. Super tired, muscles super aching but happy nonetheless.

Spent the next 6 hours or so (train was 25 minutes late - but 1 hour and 30 minutes late in singapore!) in the train station coffeeshop eating bad food and unknown fruits but happie as a bug! [the people there actually sent some english speaking guy to ask us at one point around 9pm what were we doing there and what were our plans - to say nothing of the stares we got from small kids that were waiting for the train :)) ]

Speaking of creepy crawly things, a trek in the jungle would not be complete without pictures of them. We saw two BIG spiders (big enough that I had to scream to get over the aaargh! feeling).

Ginormous ants:

Huge spider no 1 (sorry, new lens and still trying to figure it out):

Wtf is this?

Huge spider no 2:

And a beautiful butter-flee:

* One of the group of singaporeans had a 71 year old woman, a 75 year old man, and a couple of more seniors. Super inspiring!! The 71 year old wanted to do the Appalachian trail next year!


dor said...

Ah Stong...the sunrise there was wonderful and still is judging from ur pic... hahaha was this short trekking trip the offspring of a totally random idea?

claudia said...

Well not really .. the general idea is for us to trek around malaysia and thailand (?) whenever possible. Stong was just one of the few that can be done in 3 days ... Tahan takes 7? Ophir was just too common [but is next] and for kinabalu we needed plane tickets and really early booking :)

san said...

ah claud!welcome to the club of pple who went to stong!i love the clouds there in the morning!sad tt i din manage to go to the peak.courtest of rain and the subsequent fear of flash floods.. sigh..

claudia said...

Brr! I can't imagine how those muddy slopes would be with rain ... :((

ionuca said...

A-mazing! You realise I hate you more and more, don't you? :P

claudia said...

well, you have a pet cat, something I so wish I could have here :(( So who hates who? :P

Kim said...

how is it possible not to get a guide?i just came back on my virgin trip to stong and it coincides with Msia's national day(found out only 1 day before the trip),no probs with guide. ;)

Anyhows,love your pictures and writeup;awesome!

Wanna share this place with you,not very popular thou but equally lovely:

random passerby,

claudia said...

Hey Kim loved your photos! I would have loved to have a guide too especially since it would have saved us the gruesome ascent of Stong. I tried to find a guide by
a) googling for phone numbers- i looked for pages in english because the only things i can say in malay are "thank you" and 1,2, 3
b) emailing guides whose internet pages I had found
c) asking people on the interwebs who have been there.

a) and c) were unsuccessful - I was especially pissed about c) where people didn't answer my comments to their posts :(

b) got me responses along the lines of ... no guides available. We later found out that this was because most of the guides were attending some technical course. The guides that were on duty so to speak were taking care of the zilions of singaporeans that descended on the place, it being Singapore's national day holiday and all.

Kim said...

Glad you loved them.

ahh,yup i agree it gets abit frustrating when there's too little/totally no info on the place or language barrier.but anyhows you've conquered stong!:)

thanks for adding me on FB,just got the pics sorted so heres my take on Stong :)

Anonymous said...

i b headin there soon......... both gunung,here i come!!!!!

claudia said...

Good luck and have fun!

pirate's crackerx said...

hey.. congrats for the stong's trip... FYI, me and friends are preparing 4 stong/ayam trip on 1st January till 3rd.....

i read about your journey and the photos, it totally awesome!!
also fyi, i'm from malaysia...
stong/ayam also known as one of beautiful mount in Malaysia....
maybe one day u could complete G7
(7 highest mountain in Malaysia)
so, wait for my stong/ayam's pictures........!!

there a lot of people in this field, please visit me at