One of the reasons why I don't mind climbing Ledang is because I have this assurance that there are no leeches on mountain. Where did I get this assurance? Why, from the net of course. Just before the 1st Ledang climb, I entered the words "leeches and ledang" in google.com. After spending quite some time on the computer, I was convinced that there were no leeches in Ledang. Hence, my eagerness to climb Ledang for the 2nd time on the 23rd of May last year, and my 3rd today the 17th of Nov.
Our target was to get about 40 hikers but because this was an interesting mountain to hike, many people signed up for it. Since we had to book the guides ahead of time, Messner had set 7th of Nov as the last day for registration. There were about 60 confirm climbers then and Messner booked 6 guides. But as the trip drew closer, we received calls from our buddies asking if their friends/relatives could join in and it was really a tough decision for Messner to make.
So, as at yesterday morning we had 67 confirmed climbers. Messner had requested for an extra guide, so we would have 7 guides in total. Afternoon came and one by one the calls started to come in. Two were sick, two didn't want to come because they didn't think they were fit enough, another one was in Sabah. His plane got delayed and would be back very late and the last one said he thought we were taking the extended trek and declined last minute when he found out that this option was no longer available. It was deemed too dangerous for hikers because of the heavy downpour the last few days.
Many calls were made between Messner, Sirdar and I as the number of climbers decreased. By the end of yesterday, Messner regretted booking guide number 7.
My day started at 3.05AM. The alarm rang but I lazed around till the 2nd alarm sounded out. I felt good, having adequate rest. I had been very good, sleeping early these past few weeks and getting like at least 7-8 hours of sleep daily.
Some of us planned to meet at 4AM for breakfast at the Lobak foodcourt. Madeline came at 3.35AM to pick me up and together we went to pick up 2 other climbers on the way. I didn't have the mood to eat, but still I had to eat something to curb the butterflies in my stomach. I ordered wontan noodles and a cup of tea. By 4.25AM, Sirdar gave signal for us to leave the foodcourt. We had to be at Kemayan Square by 4.30AM to meet the others who didn't join us for breakfast.
When we reached Kemayan Square, Rach and Sirdar sorted out the transport. Shortly after that Rach told Sirdar that she wanted to leave early because she didn't want to speed. So the 3 of us, Madeline, Pat and myself quickly got into her car and off we went. Pat and I were talking at the back when Rach made her way to the tollgate. 30 seconds on the highway, Pat looked around said "Eh, isn't this the road to KL?". We were stunned for a moment. Yes, Rach took the WRONG turning and the next toll was about 15 minutes away. Rach accelerated and made the U-turn at the Nilai toll-gate (nope, we didn't time it as we were all too tensed up, not daring to make a sound).
To cut the long story short, we reached the Tangkak toll gate at 5.50AM, We made it in time... but I don't know what happened the cars from Seremban. They didn't wait for us as expected. I was a bit shocked because usually we would wait for each other unless there was a call from anyone of us saying that we would leave first. Fortunately, we stopped there for toilet break because I recognised one of the drivers from KL. He was parked right behind us. I called Messner and he gave me the directions to where they were having breakfast. (Messner and some other climbers stayed over night in Tangkak). We waited until 6.05AM before shooting of from the toll.
We didn't linger around much at the restaurant. It took about probably 1/2 hour or so to reach the base of Gunung Ledang.
My first photo shoot of the day at 7.07AM - The Park office. :)
My duty on that day was simple. All I needed to do was to pay the Park Authorities the required amount for the entrance, permit, insurance and guide fees.
After declaring all our stuff, we had a short briefing and the guides were introduced to us. The Park Personnel was kind enough to scrap off one guide because there were only 61 of us.
We were told that the peak of Gunung Ledang was off-limits to the public since the 8th of October 2010 by the Sultan of Johor. Today we would only reach up to CP7 (Checkpoint 7). It's really sad because the view at the sumit is VERY beautiful. To climb up to CP7 only would have been a waste of time to some.
During the briefing, Messner assigned Douglas the the front man (no one was allowed to overtake him) and Edwin to be the sweeper (the last person of the group). Sirdar appointed 4 "ropemen" to carry 4 30-foot-long ropes and some others to carry the harnesses and other extra stuff. Jeffrey, Wilson, Kenny and one other guy were given the honour the be ropemen. :)
8.06AM - Our journey began with 739 steps. Having trying to build up my stamina by hiking up Broga hills, Bukit Kepayang and walking at Lake Gardens, I was quite confident that I could walk up the steps without any difficulty. To my horror, I was panting at probably step number 300. :(. I slowed down my pace and allowed others to overtake me.
8.20AM - Sometime after the steps, I suddenly realised that we were walking on soil. Wow, I concentrated so hard on finishing the steps part that I didn't even realised that we were off the cement concrete.
CP1 came in view at 8.26AM. 1 down 6 more CPs (checkpoint) to go, I thought. I was feeling good. We took a 2 minutes rest before leaving CP1.
The ground was not as wet as we thought. I was constantly looking out for leeches despite my conviction of Ledang being a leech-free mountain. Hey, you'll never know.. a leech may just pop by to say "hi, can I have some of your blood pleaseeeee? ". :)
Kolam Gajah sign (Elephant Pond)- the extended route to CP5. I heard someone said that this route is more scenic, but it would cost you another extra 1 hour.
9.19AM - CP3. Yes!!!!! 4 more CPs to go. Either my camera was not good enough or my hands were shaking (I suspect both reasons are valid), but can you see the orchids growing out of the boulder?
This tree is so big (pic above on the right). It kinda reminded me of the redwood trees in California.
10.03AM - This is a T-junction, left is to CP5 and right is to Kolam Gajah. There isn't any CP4 to bypass, s this sign marks as a CP4 to me. They have taken out the Kolam Gajah signboard so you can only see the Sg Segi Tiga (CP5) sign.
After the T-junction, it's all the way downhill to CP5. This is the part where you can move a bit faster to catch up with the rest. When you hear the sound of water flowing you know you are very close to CP5. There's a brook just before CP5. Cross this brook and you are like 10 seconds to CP5.
10.37AM - CP5. YAY!! 5 down , 2 more to go. Boy was I glad to see the team. Rach and I had a bite here to recharge knowing that next 2 hours would zap up all our energy.
The trail gets steeper after CP5. A signboard stating where we can get our FREE KFC.. no lah. :). KFC here means "Killer for Climbers". Unfortunately this time I do not have Sirdar to carry my heavy backpack. He is way ahead of me helping out with the rope section at Batu Hampar. I guess I have to carry it myself.
Oh, btw, lemme introduce Desmond (pic above). He, together with his friend Christopher, was with me almost the whole journey. He encouraged me by saying "jia yu" (add oil) once in a while.
The song "One Step At A Time" by Jodin Sparks ran through my head with every step I took on the KFC stretch. (Thanks Arn, for introducing me this song which really helped to keep me going).
Gua Kambing. (Goat cave). We slowed down a lot here because there were many 1st timers and they didnt know what to expect in this cave.
12.03PM - 2nd cave. Here, Joo Tatt was making goat noises. After going through the 2 goat caves he is now qualified to make those noises. (Funny guy).
We were all on fours. After 2 climbs I sort of know what to expect, so going through the 2 caves were quite easy for me.
How in the world did I managed to pull myself up at this part, I really don't know. I'm pretty amazed at myself sometimes. :P Previous 2 climbs I had Sirdar with me most of the time, but this climb, I had to depend on myself. There was no doubt that others had helped by their encouragement and once in a while lent a helping hand. :)
One could only guess......................the rope section???
Some used the roots to ascend, some used the rope. I thought I'd better save whatever strength I had, so I went up with the help of the roots.
After the appetizer, there was this scary signboard which pointed out where we should go next. According to the guide, it would take about 15 minutes to Batu Hampar (rope section), but I thought it should be less than that. Let's see, it was 12.25PM when I crossed this signboard.
and ta da.......
This is what we call the Anak Batu Hampar. ("Anak" means child). Pam was like.... aiyuhhhhh "do I need a harness? This slope looks steep. Can my shoes take it?" I bravely said (as an encouragement lah) "Let me go first. If I can do it, you can also do it". I was a bit scared, but I pressed on. (TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME... was ringing in my head).
I made it FINALLY. It wasn't too bad. I hollered out to Pam and said "It's okay, you just need to use a lot of your arm muscles". Yup!! My arm muscles were screaming out, "Hellooooo why did you wake us uppppp? We weren't prepared at all". Oh well, the brains were the ones giving out the order... what can I do but follow, right?
12.40PM - Now, for the Mother of all rocks. This is THE Batu Hampar. If you let go of the rope, you're a goner.
Hmmmm.... now with or without harness??? My muscles cried out "YES ", my brains said "WHAT?? you want to be a WIMP? No harness!!!! My muscles sighed.
I heard Messner called out to Sirdar "One coming up without harness. THE BOSS". Aiyoooo, it was so embarrassing. Sirdar came down to assist. I asked him to take my backpack while I gather all my strength for this section. Surprisingly it was easier than the Anak Batu Hampar.
Yup! Our 2 heroes.. Kenny and Jeffery. Jeffrey helped from the top and Kenny went up and down the slope to assist the ..ermm damsels. Jeffrey gave a lot of support by encouraging damsels with words such as, "Pammy honey, come on, sweetheart, you can do it" :). His voice was even sweeter then honey. I told him not to overdo it, or they might let go of the rope. :P
The view was simply breathtaking. Since the peak was off-limits, I think this is the only view of Ledang's surroundings. I helped take a few pictures before heading off to the bonsai section.
I like this part after the Bonsai section. It was like another world or something. My camera didn't capture what I saw. :(
We managed to have a quick bite and some coffee mixed with milo (Neslo). At 1.37PM, the sky let loose. It started off with a few reasonably-sized drops of rain, enough to make us get up and take out our rain gear.
Soon we were heading upwards again. We had to go up a little to descend from another route called the "Jalan Pelita". While ascending I spotted a leech. YIKESSSS!!!! I pointed out to Rach who was behind me. I didn't have time to take a picture of it (sorry, Jyrki, I knew you have a fondness of leeches but I would slow everyone down by taking a picture of it). The rain made it slow for everyone to go at a faster pace. I was kind of glad because I didn't feel like walking fast at all in this rain.
But once we started descending, everyone (in a line) was moving very quickly. We could hear the thunder and see lightning flashes, and I was praying in my heart , "Oh God, no rain, no thunder, no lightning PLEASEEEEEEEEEE... and NOOOOO LEECHES... not on my legs, not on my hands, not on my body.." This prayed was repeated over and over again in my heart.
At the beginning, Rach was behind of me and Siva was either in front or behind of me. He was telling us stories about his experiences in other mountains. Once in a while we had to stop because either the guide was waiting for the back group to catch up, or he had to block a pathway or something. Once he had to give in to "the call of nature" and was away for quite some time. We were all waiting in the rain thinking how long will he take. I think we waited like 10 minutes before we someone gave orders to go ahead. So we moved on and suddenly the guide was zooming passed us. Then once someone spotted a small green snake. The guide helped to put it away.
Many a times we stepped into brown/black murky puddles of rain water mixed with goodness-knows-what living creatures swimming in them and each time I went "erkkkkkkkk" or "yuckssssss". This was sooooooooo not my cup of tea. :)
We were moving so fast and I couldn't believed it when I saw someone went past me very quickly. It was Jeffrey. Wow!! He was way behind me when we first started off. We finally reached CP3 (Jalan Pelita bypasses CP4-7) at a decent time. I did not bother to take my camera out from my bag. My pants were soaked with rain water and although my Timberland was certified as water-proof, the rain from my pants soaked my socks and stepping in the puddles of water didn't help at all. I could feel my toes getting old and wrinkled.
When we finally reached the steps, I was like... wow!!! this is the end!!! At the bottom of the 739 steps, I asked Michele for the time. It was 4.40PM. We made it in 3 hours!!!!!!! DOUBLE WOW!!!!!!!!!! I didn't know I could descend so quickly. We hurriedly declare our rubbish to the Park Authorities and went to the car to get our clean clothes. It was still raining then. We bathe in cold water and came out fresh. :) The rain stopped not long after we came out from the bathroom.
Oh yeah, while I was in the bathroom, one of the climbers was bathing the the cubicle next to me. She screamed, "leech, leech" and I had this thought "Thank God it's not me who is experiencing the bite of the leech". After like 20-30 seconds I remembered I still have my packet of salt in my track pants. I asked if she wanted salt, she said yes and I threw it over to her cubicle. Later, she told me that she tried to get it off her leg by pouring her shower creme on it but it didn't work. Fortunately I still had my packet of salt.
About 20 minutes after I bathe, I saw Sirdar. I was surprised. Usually he would go back to help the last of the climbers, either to carry their bags or give moral support just by being with them. Hmmmm...I guessed this time he was confident that all will make it out of the jungle before dark.
We left probably at about 7PM and had dinner in Tangkak at our usual restaurant. Surprisingly, this time the food was so-so only. I thought perhaps it was just me so I kept quiet, but some new climbers in my table voiced my thoughts. Hmmm... usually after a full day's climb, one's appetite would be so huge that they wouldn't notice what they were eating. I guessed wrong. I even forgot to take pictures of the food. This is highly unusual of me.
All in all it was a good climb despite of the downpour. The company was excellent. I've made some new friends and got re-acquainted with the others. Will we have another Ledang trip in the near future? I'm not too sure. And before I forget, THERE ARE LEECHES IN LEDANG!!! :D