White Water Rafting @ Sungai Selangor

27 03 2010

White Water rafting down Sungai Selangor was the plan for today! Radzi, my cycling buddy had called a few days ago inviting me for this trip. After some discussion I managed to get 3 of my friends in on the trip too. So early this Saturday morning saw Hector arriving at my house in Subang Jaya. Arnaiz and his wife were to pick us up here at 7 a.m and rendezvous with Radzi and his friends in his house in Kelana Jaya.

Drivng to Kuala Lubu Bharu

With 6 of us in 2 cars we started our journey to the head waters of Sungai Selangor at the town Kuala Kubu Bharu. We reached KKB at about 8.30 and had some breakfast in town. Then we were on our way to the launch site. On the way there Radzi took us to see a part of the river that we will be going down.

Sungai Selangor

Just look at the rapids! The white foam is what gives the sport it’s name. We would be shooting through those white waters soon. It couldn’t be soon enough for Hector who was very anxious get his first go at shooting the rapids. We arrived at the launch site a few minutes later but found we were the first ones there. After a rather long wait the rest of the group arrived, followed by Piee and his merry men, with the rafts and the safety gear.

The rafts arrive

life vests and helmets

Piee is the owner of the adventure company that we have employed to take us safely down this river. Don’t let his small stature fool you. A former investment banker, Piee chose to quit his job to do white water rafting full time. He set up this company as a way to enjoy this sport and earn some income. He recently joined the international white water rafting competition in which he was placed 12th in the world rankings!

Piee and his men

After determining that mst of his customers this morning had none or very little experience, he set out giving a thorough briefing. he and his men gave a very good demonstration of how to handle the raft and our paddles. he even managed to inject some humour into his lecture, saying “if you suddenly feel cold, you’re in the water”, “if you suddenly feel cold and you open your eyes and see yellow. . . you’re in the  water AND under the raft” hahahaha! very funny though I did not think so later.

We all listened quite intently to his lecture knowing we all had to work as a team to get as much fun from this outing. I could see Arnaiz and Mila off to my side. Arnaiz had this familiar smile on his face which said “I have a bad feeling about this!”

From the launch site, river water was quite fast but still relatively calm. Within a few minutes we came around a bend in the river and saw the bridge above us. Ahead was the first set of rapids, the saem one we saw form the bridge earlier this morning.

The bridge

And then it was shooting one rapid after another almost none stop. We had to paddle according to the instructions of our guide or risk capsizing our raft. “Forward paddle”, “Left Aft”, “Over left” and many more which Piee taught us this morning. It was hard work but absolutely fun. The following pictures are courtesy of Radzi and his new Olympus waterproof camera.

Notice how we all had our oars upright inside the raft? Well this is so that we do not accidenty bump one of our mates off with the ends of the oar! I fell off the raft a total of 4 times! Twice I found myself submerged under the raft. I even fell off  while  we were navigating one of the smaller rapids, after getting back in the raft , the bewildered guide said, “nobody falls off at this rapid!” How embarrassing.

Along the route we stopped at several places along the river to either take a rest or to allow each raft to take turns navigating the bigger rapids. One of the longer stops was at this waterfall. Even after getting acclimatised to the cold waters of Sungai Selangor, the water from this waterfall still felt super cold!

Sitting under the waterfall was quite an experience. The cold water gave your nerves a jolt while the the force of the falling water gave your body a good massage!Can you see the expression on Arnaiz’s face?  I did not realise why he was looking so miserable until much later when he told me he fell. . . just as Mila told him to be “careful of the slippery rocks”. And fall on the right side of his face he did! I guess he was right to look so worried during Piee’s briefing earlier that morning.

Group Photo

At this particular rest stop, the organizers provided us with snacks of apples, chocolate and energy bars. I wonder how they kept the containers from falling off the rafts? After a group photo we got back into our respective rafts and continued on down the river.

This video was taken by Radzi with his waterproof camera. My raft was already downriver waiting for his raft to clear the rapid. You can see my raft in the video hwne he pointed his camera downriver.  It was obvious to everyone that he was NOT taking part in the pedaling! hahahaha! But he did come off with a great footage of shooting the rapids! If I am not mistaken this particular one is rated 3 in a scale of 1 to 5. The Selangor River has only one rapid that is rated 4.5 and it;s called the “Chicken Drop”.

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My Borneo Adventure part 4

24 03 2010

Inside the Fairy Cave

Entrance to the cave

The entrance to the fairy cave is rather small and unimpressive and does little to reveal the size and beauty of the main cave.  But being small and low it was ideal to experiment with flash photography. But having no tripod made it quite a challenge finding a suitable place to place the flash unit. We needed to light up the subjects (namely ourselves) and part of the cave while keeping the flash body out of sight.

Mystic cave entrance

The sign at the entrance advises those who enter to watch their heads as the cave ceiling drops to a point where most people need to duck or risk knocking their head on outcrops of rock. Just behind the main entrance of the Fairy cave the passage narrows and visitors are made to climb up a narrow set of wooden steps.So up I went  for the very first time.

I have yet to visit the Niah and Mulu Caves (both also in Sarawak) but the Fairy Cave is by far the most impressive cave I have ever been to. Even Batu caves in West Malaysia pales to the size and beauty of the Fairy Cave. You enter the main cavern from it’s lowest point and climb up using some steps provided. careful, these steps are very very slippery. You can see from the picture above staircases leading up to the mouth of the cave (not in the picture). As you climb up higher and higher the cave opens up and reveals it’s true size and beauty.

Woon Hwan and Tzy Wen had been telling me about how impressive this cave was but I was not convinced. I had really wanted to visit the Mulu caves, which by the way was the original intention of my trip to Sarawak. But plans changed and that plan had to be postponed. But now i am suitably impressed. The main cavern is so huge that neither I nor Tzy Wen could snap a picture which shows it in it’s full glory. To do that one would need an Ultra Wide Angle Lens and a multiple lighting system. perhaps one day i would return here to do just that.

Viewing platform

The Borneo Parks and Forestry Department which is the caretaker of the cave has done a great job in providing ease of access to the cave  whilst  maintaining it’s natural beauty. I know the staircases do not look as if they were put there by nature but it’s an acceptable compromise. At least they have not made gaudy guardrails and lighting systems! Almost right at the back and centre of the main cavern is a viewing platform from which you can see the main opening of the cave. You can see Woon Hwan giving Tzy Wen a lesson on the flora and fauna found in this cave and how they evolved over the last few million years. Me? I was so impressed by the beauty of the cave that I missed his talk. I really did not know he was such a Naturalist.

I had thought that this was it. The Main Cavern. I wanted to get up to the mouth but then Tzy Wen and Woon Hwan showed me that the Fairy Cave goes back even deeper. Far deeper than i have ever been in any cave before.

Just look at that! This part of the cave is just the beginning. You can see Woon Hwan in the near distance and Tzy Wen in he middle. This part of the cave is easily 150 metres long but still well lit as it faces the main cavern. Our attempts at using the Nikon remote flash system proved to be inadequate to light up the cave.

Here is  Tzy Wen trying his best to take a self portrait but to no avail. His camera and lens were just not up to it but I did manage to fire a few shots with my camera and remote flash. You will notice that most of the cave is still in darkness. Still the cave went on but past the point where Tzy Wen tried his self portrait, the cave was enveloped in darkness. Sunlight from the mouth of the cave does not reach this part of the cave. The picture I took of Woon Hwan above was only possible with the use of my flash at full power. Even then I had to use photoshop to increase the exposure by 2 full stops! If you switched off your torchlights in this part of the cave, you would not be able to see anything, not even your own hands placed in front of your face!

Staircases

These sets of steps are typical of the ones you will find all over this cave. The ones here lead up to the last part of the cave and out into the opening you see at the top (midlde of the picture). One lesson we learned form trying to take photographs in a cave. It’s very hard to do it with just one flash unit. Too little power and you cannot light up the subject, too much and you overexpose the cave nearest the flash unit.

out of the rabbits hole

A short scramble over some rocks at the top of the staircase leads you to the opening at the very back of the cave. Compared to the size of the cave, this looks like a rabbits hole. hardly noticeable from 20 feet away. to the right of this opening (left in this picture), is a path that is supposed to lead you up to the top of the hill in which the cave is situated. We did not dare go up as it was rather slippery.

Cave Mouth

After a short rest we climb back down into the hole and headed for the main cavern. Upon reaching it i took the picture above. This is the main opening to the Fairy Cave and is the only source of light. Soon we had to leave the cave and make our way to Sematan where we planned to stay the night.

I hope to come back here and spend more time exploring this cave and perhaps make my way across Sarawak to visit Mulu too. There si so much to Sarawak left to see. Anyone who loves the outdoors would find Sarawak a treasure trove of adventure.





Cycling to KL

22 03 2010

Sunday Morning 21st March 2010

A few days ago my cycling buddy called me up inviting me to cycle in Putrajaya today. He said it would be awesome with the hot air balloons in the background. The 2nd Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Festival was underway since Friday and would end today. But alas we did not have transport for 3 bicycles and riders. So the plan was to ride to Klang and back early this morning.  Again our plans were dampenend by the sight of rain cloud as I woke up at 6 a.m. Yung Tian, sent me a message saying it had just stopped raining in Shah Alam where he stays and the rain clouds were moving toward Klang. So with that news, I told him to come over and I would plan another route for us. Radzi then called to suggest a ride to Kuala Lumpur with a breakfast stop in Taman Titiwangsa on the other side of the city.

I did not take any pictures on the ride to KL but here’s a picture of Yung Tian with our 3 bicycles at the canteen by the lake at Taman Titiwangsa. If you check out the video in the link I have provided above for Taman Titiwangsa, you will notice a sports complex on the right. This canteen is situated in the same sports complex. After breakfast and a 30 minute rest we decided to start our return leg.

Climb up Bukit Damansara

Being on a bicycle exposes you to a lot of dangers from motorised traffic. So it’s best to follow and respect all the traffic rules including waiting at the traffic lights. Radzi proposed that we go thru Damansara on our return leg. I forgot about the steep climb up Bukit Damansara until I was about 1 kilometre from it. Although it was his first time, Yung Tian climbed it like a champ. I guess being 20 years younger and not smoking has a lot to do with it. We finally arrived back safely in Subang Jaya at about 11 a.m after cycling for about 1 hour. Since the road was quite empty of traffic, I took the opportunity to snap this picture from my moving bicycle. Yung Tian must have  realized this and posed for the camera. I guess he can be quite a poser. hahahaha! In all we covered some 54 kilometres this morning. Not a bad ride for one that nearly did not take off due to weather.





My Borneo Adventure part 3

20 03 2010

Tasik Biru and The Fairy Cave.

On the way to Sematan , Tzy Wen and Woon Hwan had planned to stop and show me Tasik Biru (Blue Lake) and the Fairy cave. We arrived at the Lake at about 2.30 p.m but it was far from hot. The skies were overcast and would remain this way until the last day of my trip to Sarawak. Tasik Biru is not a natural lake but a result of open cast gold mine that was flooded.

The lake got it’s name from it’s very colour. I am not sure if my pictures do it justice but the lake was actually blue in colour with probably a tinge of green. Tzy Wen and Woon Hwan told me that it is prohibited to drink from or bathe in the lake as the water is poisonous. I wondered why. Then I came by a signboard that was erected at the top of a viewing platform.

The lake owes it’s colour to a very toxic and poisonous element called Arsenic. But it seems that a nearby village has been using the water from this lake for their drinking water since 1997 when their water supply was cut off. (read the article by The Star 2008). I noticed that there were no fishes in the lake that I can see.

We left lake and made our way to the Fairy Cave nearby. We were unsure if the cave would be open during the Chinese new year celebrations but we took a chance and headed for the cave. We arrived and found the cave entrance open. This cave has a rather unique entrance. Nothing like the those found in West Malaysia.

That Tzy Wen going up the first set of stairs leading to the cave. The actualy entrance to the cave is situated about 100 feet above the ground level. The tower you see in the picture was erected to provide easier access to the mouth of the Fairy Cave. The remnants of the original staircase leading up the the cave can still be seen to the right of this tower. Believe me, you would not want to try climbing up those stairs. They looked very steep and treacherous. A groundskeeper who was sitting at the top of the first set of stairs (you can see Woon Hwan with his back to the camera talking to him) said a few people have actually hurt themselves badly falling from the original set of steps.

During the Second World War, the Fairy and Wind caves became a refuge for those trying to escape the Japanese Army. It was said the Japanese threw hand grenades into the cave killing a number of people. I have yet to read the history of these caves but I will surely visit this place again on my next visit.