For those who dont know where and what is Gunung Ledang, here's a little introduction. The 4,186 feet high mountain colours the backdrop of the little town of Tangkak, Johor. This mountain kononnya was the residence of an ancient Javanese princess who had wanted to elope with Hang Tuah, the main henchman of Sultan Mahmud of Melaka. The couple, however never got together because Hang Tuah was too much a loyal man to betray the king, who wanted to marry the princess himself after she was offered by her brother as a sign of gratitute to the sultan for helping him shoo external forces that threatened his kingdom. (Ps: the story might defer a little from other sources but hey, this is what I learnt from Puteri Gunung Ledang-The Musical!)
Ok stories aside, let's get back to Tangkak. Pekan Tangkak.
As you exit from the Toll Gate, you will be greeted by this big sign that says "Welcome to Tangkak". Bet they dont anticipate much traffic coz there isnt any traffic light at the junction- only a roundabout. Tangkak is famous for its textile industry. If you drive down the only main road of the town, you can easily find at least 80 shops selling cloth. And they are filthy cheap.
So many shops that it is not a surprise to see a familiar name at the signboard of one of the shops.
Anyway, walking in the shops in Tangkak brings back memories of my childhood days in Taiping and Kampar. Tell me, where else on earth can you find this kind of keropok?
My God, I miss them! When I was a kid, my late father used to buy these for my sister and I. We especially like the ones with honeycomb in the middle- a little like keropok roda. Aww...I miss those days.
And then, there is this:
Chinese bahulu. My late granny used to buy us this when I was young. I didnt quite like it though, for a reason I cant explain in words. Perhaps I get bored of bahulus fast. I dont miss this food, I just miss my childhood days and granny, of course.
As we were stopping at the traffic light, I saw a pickup truck that had very interesting stuff on it. Like this.
Wild boar and dogs, just caught from the woods. Looks like somebody gets to eat wild boar curry that night and I am so jealous! Darn!
Perhaps one of the reason why I was fascinated with the scene is my late grat-grandfather was a hunter. So dont play-play, I have hunter's blood in me! hehe........
Anyway, we, the committee of the entire project (Which I think I didnt mention earlier...OK, my company organised a charity programme to clean up Gunung Ledang as well as to give out donations to the underpriviledged of the surroungding area) had to go down Tangkak much, much earlier than everybody else to do some preparation work and all that.
Kolej Matrikulasi Johor (KMJ) is where our participants put up their first night.
We took the estate road to Gunung Ledang, which passes through a dam. For the first time in my entire life, I actually saw a dam! And it's beautiful.
The dam and I
We spent a night at the mountain and slept in tents pitched by the roadside. There were only 2 girls in the team, Yannie and I so we stayed in the same tent.
Can you tell which is my tent? There's a clue in the picture....
The first night was more of camping than working coz it was already pretty late by the time we reached the campsite. So we rested and barbequed our dinner. The guys made Yannie and I prepare the food for them! So bad! But the two park rangers barbequed the food lah.
We had grilled chicken and fish. The chicken was marinated in a special sauce, onions and salt. The chicken came in huge chunks so it took quite a while to cook. If you are a toxic freak, you DONT want to touch it coz some parts can be quite carbonised (aka burnt). But I tell you, the burnt part tastes the best! Salty and crispy..um um...
I cooked too =)
That night, after dinner we went for a night walk to the Telecom tower and the plateou where the participants will be camping upon their arrival. The night was beautiful I assure you, and very, very cold. Dew were dropping like KL drizzle. I so wished that I could capture what I saw and experiece that night on camera but all pictures were pitched black. I so wish that there is a camera that could capture exactly what the eyes see...
This is the best night shot for that night. Afiz was sms-ing while awaiting for the walk to continue.
That night, it rained heavily. My tent was flooded and my fingers were stinging from the chillies that I chopped earlier in the afternoon. I couldnt sleep. But only one good thing about the flood- I could soak my fingers in the puddle of water to cool down the sting. We later switched tent with another guy. I woke up with cold and damp feet and a stray underwear beside me. One of the guys must have left it outside his bag in the tent that Yannie and I slept coz that tent also doubled up as a store room.
After the rough night, we were sent down to help another team with their ground work.
Seeing a proper bed made me feel so glad that I could actually sleep! Haha...The hostel room of KMJ reminded me of my varsity freshman days when I was staying in 9th college. My room back then was also as cozy as the one I was staying in for 2 nights.
Yannie and I slept like we have never slept before! 9.30am to 12.30pm, and then 2.30pm to 5.00pm. haha...like a vacation only! But we'd rather be up at the mountain than rotting in the room coz we cant go anywhere and do anything.... But then again, it was still good to sleep in all day and dry our stuff that got wet from the rain.
From ground level, the mountain can be seen standing so mightily. This is my favorite shot.
We contributed some stuff to the kids of Sekolah Kebangsaan Paya Mas. The school is a small one, having only one class for each level of education. All the kids there from the surrounding kampung.
We donated 10 bicycles for the top 10 kids in school. When the bikes arrived, the kids were so excited and were surrounding us and the library (where we store the bikes) to have a glimpse of the stuff. I know their feelings- it was the exact same feeling that I used to have when I see new bicycles in the shop, wondering when I will own one. I still feel it till today.
Yes, I am a bicycle person. Despite not riding for almost 10 years, I still can cycle and balance myself on 2 wheels! How do I know this? Well, I tested one of the bikes....Hehe
Bikes with IJM stickers.
You may think its so embarressing to be cycling around with the company logo but the peeps in the kampung dont think so. In fact, some of them even requested for our stickers to be pasted on their cars, house, etc. Man, here in KL, we only paste the stickers on safety helmets, cranes and machineries! Certainly NOT on our cars.
The kampung folks were very supportive of our activities. They even organised a convoy to welcome our participants from PJ!
I noticed that these people are so darn patriotic. They love their state and the are not ashamed to carry their state flags all the way!
I guess they are simple people. They love to have guests coming over to their humble village. They are warm and hospitable people.Putting up the IJM banner
Our particpants seem excited with the whole Ledang thingie and were eager to see what;s lined up for them.
The whole event kicked off with a friendly netball match between the kampung folks and us. everyone was supposed to be wearing fancy clothes to play but somehow our players forgot about it and were wearing proper attire instead.
But the kampung folks were such as sport and they continued on with the game.
We scored the first goal. I think we beat them 3-1 or something like that. I was too busy taking photos, didnt have time to count.
Anyway, it was very beautiful to see people from different backgound coming together as friends.
The guys were more serious about fancy clothes and football. The team's theme was 'All Black'. Cool.
I guess they were inspired by the image at the back of their busses.
They even came up with their own version of the 'Haka'.
The game begins. I like this picture. People playing football with Gunung Ledang at the back.
The ketua kampung was such a sport. He played with his Baju Melayu complete with a songkok. He still managed to save some goals but still, we won. Hehe..
Everyone had a great time.
That night, we were presented with silat and kuda kepang, a Johor cultural dance. Both involved a lot of spiritual elements and I must say that it can get pretty scary sometimes. But more disturbing than scary to me. They came complete with Tok Batins and Pawangs.
I didnt take any shots of the Kuda Kepang because I dont want to bring home any spirits. Too complicated to explain here. Besides, everything can get pretty haywire when the kuda jumps over and starts attacking people...Gotta save my camera!
After the performance, we went to bed early to rise early the following day. Adequate sleep is required for the big climb!
I thought there will be problems for the people to standby by 7.00am. I was wrong.
Everyone was already waiting for breakfast and the trucks to transport them to the mountain. They dont need to carry up their bags, we'll do it for them.
That morning, we the committees had to wait a good 1 hour 30 mins before the truck arrived to carry us to the campsite at the mountain. We were famished. Thank God there was a Pajero so we took it to pack breakfast for ourselves.
Darn the army fellas for that.
We eventually got there after the long wait. Undarn the army fellas for this.
The trail to Ledang passes through a palm oil estate. Road was extremely bad but I managed to get really, really good shots of the cars behind us. Thanks to my Panasonic Lumix. I highly recommend that camera to all photograpy enthusiasts.
At the foot, was the estate road.
As you move on, it was tarmac road.
It wasnt my light setting to the camera that caused the pic to look like that. It was the environment itself, misty and windy.
We reached the campsite, did some packing and headed straight to the Telecom tower which is also a gateway to the peak.
I find it rather peculiar to have the welcome signboard on a supposedly restricted area.
We tracked up to the peak while waiting for the participants to arrive. The last stretch for them was quite daunting, having to climb a stream of ladders. But I heard the worst was the wall where they have to climb with ropes.
I so wish I could join them. But duty calls.
My team and I managed to reach the peak... It was beautiful. But the weather was windy and cloudy and nothing much can be seen from the peak.
But I still managed to get a few shots.
I think this is the aerial view of Pakan Asahan.
After the brief visit to the peak and the cave, we were back to our checkpoint, the final one for the participants. We waited and waited and waited until.....
They were happy to have made it to the peak! They've done it!
From where we were the secenary was breathtaking.
After that it was all back to the campsite. Committees get to sleep in covered tents because they deserve it for all the hard work they did! So others cannot complain ok!
As for the participants, they sleep in poncos.
Here at the open campsite you get to see many charactors of people. Like this guy.
A full grown man still in a Doraemon towel!
Men bathing with just their underwear and towel. If this is not Malaysia, probably you can see ladies bathing there in their undergarments too.
That night I was supposed to be on guard that night. But seems like the others guys didnt wake up so I just went out to take photographs of the moon and night view. It was beautiful but unforfunately, I cant get any good shots because I dont have a tripod or any good place to place my camera on.
7.30am. The sun can be seen at the horizon.
8.30am. The sun was up and shining mightily.
Everybody went down to the school field for the closing ceremony by army trucks. I was with the last group which left like 9.30am? The wait was long and we spent our free time chatting and munching on junk food...
To be honest, I have not been into an army truck prior to this. And I never imagined how the driver's area looks like. I was surprised to see that....
They run on automatic gears and equipped with power steering. Got air-cond also! But no radio or CD player. The only form of entertainment was the singing of the soldiers as we were travelling down the road.
We were late for the breakfast with the VIPs but still managed to get the last few packets of nasi lemak anyway. But I had to leave my food when the Tengku Mahkota Johor, TMJ came for the opening ceremony coz I wanted to take photographs. Hey, its not everyday that you get to see somebody from the royal family (although I dont fancy them that much).
Finally, after everything was over, we took a group photo. I dont know why I get to sit with the main committees and VIPs.
I returned home happy with some sunburn on my arms, neck and face. And needless to say, tonnes of work on my table, waiting for me to process.
So burnt you can see the watch strip on my arm!