Apr 14, 2015

Travelog: Gunung Nuang

In everything that has happened, or does not happen, and in whatever that our action dictates, or the lack of it, there must be a meaning behind it - a sort of lesson to be learnt, a memory to be cherished, and a warning to be heeded. 

It began with a plan following the hike to Gunung Pulai roughly 8 weeks ago. It was agreed by all that for this Easter break we will go mountain climbing again as a preparation for Mount Kinabalu come this June. Gunung Nuang was suggested as the target activity, by me, as its height could serve as a practice and its location is close to all of us.

I am not planning to write a full review here - there is a lot of excellent reviews and tips on climbing Gunung Nuang. One of them, the one that we have read prior the climb is from malaysia-traveller website. The info found there was highly beneficial and I fully recommend you guys to read the review first before going there.

And so it is from one humble opinion that this travelog is better served to record what that captures us so in the moment, the thoughts that we molded into shape, and the colours of what we feel. So this post will be of the attempt to recollect the memories and the messages we sought to understand.

It began, three days ago, with the nine of us. One, is a friend to the three, and the other four are cousins and brother to one of the three friends. The five of them then went together while the three of us plus the friend went together from Shah Alam. It was a nice experience for me - my house is considerably a lot closer to Gunung Nuang as I live in Kajang but it was not often that I could do a sleepover at my friend's place.

We left Shah Alam at 5 am and reached Hulu Lipur Gunung Nuang at 6.30 am. On the way there we stopped at a surau for Subuh prayer. We were already close to the site - the sound of rushing stream could be heard and the chilly wind of dawn could be felt. I am always a bit partial to streams and rivers - more so than sea and beaches. There is a sense of serenity in dipping your feet in cold, clear water. There is a feeling of being cleansed as the flowing water gushes along with the flow of the stream, hitting your body gently with every wake.

When we reached the entrance site there was a lot of people already.We chose to go there on Saturday for this very purpose - more people climbing means less chance of getting lost. Plus, it is always a good idea to mingle with people as we could learn a lot from them.

The first 5.8 km walk was tiring, to tell you the truth. The path was big with drains at each side of the path. It was partially tarred, cemented, or filled with small pebbles. We chatted as we walked and stopped at every shelter along the way, although I scoffed at the never-ending chatter and the slow progress of the walk. To me, a day out with the nature deserves a better appreciation towards it. See the greens, breathe the fresh air, feel the mountain chill. As much as I appreciated the large number of people in the group I felt that I am always alone in wanting to get what I want. I remember as I grumbled to them that a shopping mall is a better place to go if they want to chat and banter. It's not like I don't like to socialize with people; I love my friends - but perhaps I am difficult to please.

Hihi. I love how they put the word "AWAS" ("CAUTION") like it was hypothetical.

The end of the walk is at the first sighting of the stream and the starting point of Kem Lolo. There are a few camping sites at Lolo along the stream. How I wished that we were going to camp there as well. I had made up half my mind to abandon the climb and wanted to play in the water for the rest of the day instead. We had to cross 4 streams in order to reach the next camping site, Kem Pacat, which is 2.2 km away.

It was on the way to Pacat that I began to feel sore at both of my thighs. The pain gradually increased up to the point that every ascending step will render me hopelessly wretched. Thus, I began to slow down and took rests more frequently. The rest had long gone further ahead while Amir, Asif and Syahir were on a pace in a considerable distance behind me. Making things worse was the conditions of the path from Lolo onward - that is where the term 'mountain climbing' really applies. The path became steeper, more challenging, and up to the point that you have to be on all fours in order to ascend the path.

I stopped enjoying my climb the moment I could not stand my pain anymore. It was such a pity because the path from Pacat onward was the truly exciting one. The lone fault goes to my non-existing diligence in exercising my quadriceps muscles. I brag you not; I have no problem with fitness or endurance or whatsoever - it's the pain from my thighs that I could not endure.

In that moment, I was alone. As I slowly moved my legs gingerly one foot at a time, I had plenty of time to contemplate. Humility hit me fiercely - did I smirked at some weak-looking women at the beginning of the hike, thinking I am fitter than them? Didn't I scoffed at the slow pace we were going initially? Did I feel smug thinking how prepared I was going into the mountain range bringing a pair of extra shoes, so that my main one won't get wet when crossing the streams?

But when I was in pain, there was nothing I brought that could numb the pain. I did not even think of bringing muscle gel or ointment. In the end everybody went ahead of me, even the feeble-looking ones. At a much faster pace, some of them climbed up with such ease it was unsettling to look at. There was this one Chinese guy who climbed up the rocks with no shoes on and with no supply at all. Instead he was holding a mini radio in one hand, which annoyingly was playing some Chinese 'uplifting' folk music. That did not ease my pain one bit, nor it lifted my spirit to continue my climb. Damn you, some random superfit guy.

The torture did not end there. After reaching Pacat, the real deal awaits. The path from Kem Pacat to Kem Pengasih (The False Peak) is way steeper, with some hikers we met saying that most of the path are fully rock-climbing and almost vertical in nature. Apologies are needed to be put here because there were no pictures taken. With excruciating pain and the dismaying sight of huge chunks of rock forming a hellish ascending route, I had no time to take out my camera.

The review that we read beforehand warned us that the path from Pengasih to the Peak include a 20 minute descend before ascending to the top. The descend was labelled as demoralizing, and I kid you not - demoralizing is the most polite way to describe it. When I descended down, I had formed a 20 minute continuous swear words in my head to describe the path. That is because I knew for every descend there will be an ascend on the return journey.

And at long last,


Total time taken for me to reach the peak is 5 hours 17 minutes. I arrived at 12.17 pm and rested there before going down at 1.15 pm. The way down was a lot harder and more horror, actually. If at first I had pain at my thighs, when descending the knees were now affected. Asif kindly let me borrow his walking stick and I was deeply in character with disabled people. I walked down like a cripple. At that time, I was a cripple. Every movement ached me and every climb was a torture. Every weakened step due to pain increased the chance of tripping a root or a rock, which induced further rage and ugly swearing. 

Alternating pain and frustration along the descend, my thoughts wondered aimlessly. Mostly to ease off my mind from the pain but I welcomed the intrusion nonetheless. The journey down made me alone again, but I did not hate it. I trusted my feeling to welcome the solitude and to embrace it well. Being alone should not matter much if you know there is support when you need it. It does not mean that you turn down the support, nor does it mean you shy away from people or refusing their help. It simply mean that you trust yourself to be able to walk on your own, independently, no matter how much in pain you were. 

After a long while of dealing with pain, I became accustomed to it. I was horridly reminded that it can be applied to real life as well. If you endure your suffering long enough, it does turn to numb after a while. Endure it much longer and the pain becomes a part of you. It will define you and holds a bigger influence in your life. But the pain and suffering do not go away indefinitely, not without help, and not without some effort.

Like how I asked some ointment and the walking stick from my friends to help with the pain, so do we deal with our problems in other spectrum of life. Failed a year? Get up, study harder, and move on! Financial problem? Spend less, save money, and let go of your desires. Work, work, work, and nothing else entirely? Put some life into your work. Turn your work into your career. Find small happiness in small cracks of work stresses. 

I was pressing for time. I did not bring any torchlight with me because I did not anticipate that I would be this slow, invalid and useless. When I reached Lolo and the beginning of the last 5.8 km walk, it was 5.30 pm. I was still in pain, and every ascending path of the walk really slowed me down a lot. I walked and I walked, thinking that when I ever reached out of this place, I am going to buy myself a lot of 100 Plus drinks and chugged it down as I drive home. I was done walking for 2 km when the sunlight began to fade. I looked at my phone and it was 6.20 pm. 

Out of desperation, I began to jog. Gritting my teeth whenever I met a climbing path, I continued my steady but slow jog to gain some time. After a while, I felt the sense of familiarity in the run. I used to run, I realised. I gave up that activity when I felt that I suck at running. I could never be fit enough or fast enough to run even a half marathon, unlike some people whom I envy a lot that run in crews and posted awesome achievements and stuff. 

But the past experience did help me. I could slowly jog even in pain. I could cover a good distance in limited time. And when I reached the last remaining shelter, it started to rain. I took shelter for a while, opened up my bag and put on the disposable poncho Asif gave to me. Deeply grateful with the help, I continue getting hell out of the mountain and arrived at the main entrance site at 7 pm.

In total I have been in the mountain range for 12 hours, but the moment sure felt like forever. Despite being in pain (until this moment of writing!) I appreciated the time I spent in there. I feel like I could do better; maybe I will come again with renewed energy and muscles and tackle this mountain again. I stopped by at a pump station and bought 2 big bottles of 100 Plus. As I made my way home, chugging the drink as I drove away, I thought - It all went well.

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