NOTE: I wrote this last year, similar experience but different write up on Camping in Kenong.

You gain strength, experience and confidence by every experience where you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

By definition from the Kenong trip

Fear = leeches

The thing you cannot do – walk

It is perplexing yet excruciating how 3 days with Mother Nature can change your perspective about yourself. 16 people comprising of 8 females and males respectively ventured into the forest of Kenong Park, Pahang on the 31st August 2007.

With leisure walking, a quiet time reading and perhaps solitude time relaxing by the stream in mind, I’m sure the 16 participants gathered more than they have bargained for the cost of the trip.I presume for the young hunk who traveled from France and joined us must have had an interesting tale to tell his friends when he returns home.

The morning started with breakfast at Kuala Lipis town and the group got acquainted with the trekking guide, Appu in Appu’s Guest House. Appu’s sparkling eyes greeted us warmly. We took the opportunity during the waiting moment to exchange words with one another. 17 of us, we were no longer strangers as we hustled each other in lodging the food onto our backpack respectively.

Before beginning our journey, we witnessed the marching parade in the streets of Kuala Lipis. Gleefully, we stood admiring the patriotism spirit shown by our fellow Malaysians. Hoping on to the Merdeka wave, equipped with the camera, some of us waved enthusiastically as the band marched by.

We then separated into two groups. We tucked ourselves into the van. Everyone was clearly beaming with excitement as muffled sound of conversation was heard in the van. I took the opportunity to catch some winks. By the time I woke up, we have arrived at the oil palm estate. We squeezed carefully out of the doggie door of the van and waited for the other van to arrive. We waited. Patiently. As time passes by, some of us got bored and naturally we entertained ourselves. Some made pranks, posing eccentrically for photos while others rested the minutes away.

Soon enough, the driver realized that something was amiss and so he urged us to hopped back into the van. We cramped ourselves without much complain. Mid way, we met with the other van and the driver exchanged words with Appu. Apparently the driver misunderstood the drop off points and it was too late to return to the origin location. I was dazed with the happening but I obediently followed with the flow of events.

We arrive at the startup point and had a group picture. The 1.5 hour trek (as indicated in the itinerary) began here.

The first hour, we walked with our chirpy smiles, straining past the majestic forest. Along the way, we met the silent crawlers occupant of the woods, the leeches. Many willfully set heart to remove the uninvited guests from our socks. The leeches were sinking its nasty teeth into our fragile flesh.

Soon, we arrived at the native village and indeed we applauded, an enormous audience, admiring the natives’ hut.

Our journey continued up the hill and down the path. Yet, no visible sight of our destination. We stopped for lunch and I heard a question targeted to the leading head, “How long more? I thought it was just an 1.5 hour trek.” said the tired voice. The reply came diplomatically, “We are almost there, just another 15 minutes”. I accepted with anticipation that our lodging campsite to come in due time. Little did I realize the walk took us 5 hours ! The miracle of unconditional strength our feet brought us to an empty vast area. Even though, we could no longer express our innermost thoughts, our expression showed relief that we have finally arrived. It was as though in a brief moment we settled ourselves comfortably under the fly sheet and 4 young women shared the tent. Before we sat our heavy body on the tree logs, the “salt medic” was on call, busy in action, examining and killing off all the unwelcome leeches surrounding the campsite.

Most of us refreshed ourselves at the nearby river bank. Albeit, the water was muddy and milky, all of us were grateful for a good “clean” wash. There was something strangely attractive, even compelling washing in the stream. Drying our clothes and shoes had a new dimension.

Meanwhile, Appu was very busy preparing dinner for us at his “luxurious” kitchen. As he did so, without even being conscious of it, I had this sense of extraordinary respect for him. He managed so well with his bare hands, handling the fire, cooking for a group of 17 individuals. Dinner was served and we feast ourselves with the delicious curry chicken and fried vegetables. Appu then entertained us with his adventures in Kenong park. By then, my eyes were too heavy for me to carry. I quietly sneaked into my cozy tent and dreamt away.

The morning crisp of 1st Sept, Saturday came and the campsite radiated with a beautiful sunshine. Roti breakfast with tea/milo never tasted so good in my life. Thriving for our next shower, we eagerly packed the essentials for a short 10 minutes walk to the waterfall. The walk was short, however the climb to reach the waterfall was quite a challenge for some. When we finally reached the waterfall, the spirituality in the realm was indescribable. We swam and played in the water like a bunch of 8 years old. We then head back to the campsite after a good wash in the waterfall. Once again, Appu worked his magic hands and cooked us lunch. We ate like a pack of hungry wolves.

Our journey continued to the next location, Buta cave. We carried our backpacks along with our undying spirit and ventured into the woods. The walk was long and it seemed never ending. The dedicated photographer clicked away on her camera but her energy seem to have drained away with each mile taken. The shining moment came when the last three person in the trekking group heard a loud grunt in the nearby path. Without hesitation, the sweeper shouted, “Run !! Just run !!” and ran we did to save our dear lives. Whatever the sound was, we will never find out but the run revealed that we had strength in our poor legs.

After 6 hours walking, it felt like eternity.Our body knew no pain or suffering. There was only the steady rhythm of our footsteps. Our blood donation to the forest was welcomed with an open heart by the hungry leeches. In spite of this, we marveled ourselves with the leech bite marks and even compared amongst ourselves who had the biggest, fattest, feeding leech pet.

The light at the end of the tunnel finally became visible. An angel voice spoke “We are here”. The sight of the cave was a blessing for us. We cried for joy. This lodging site looked much equipped than the first one. It had well built planks, laying out a square area. This is the place where we sat and rested our tired butts. All of us then followed Appu to the nearby stream. We scrubbed ourselves and we chatted away. From the stream, we saw some chalets. We were told that the chalet toilets were haunted! The water felt cooler as the words were spoken. Chills up my spine so I hurriedly washed myself and went back to the campsite.

We gathered around the square corner and chatted away while Appu prepared dinner. A few of us shed a helping hand. Food was delicious and warming to our stomach . The night continued with story telling. A tale told that made me beamed with fear. Apparently there are two wandering spirits protecting Appu. The surroundings seem rather quiet as Appu continued his story. Then, we heard noises in the greens above us. It was too dark to tell what it was and I wasn’t ready to find out. Perhaps it was the chill that drove us back to our sleeping area. All of us went to bed thereafter.

The next morning, we knew the walk back out of the jungle would be again a long walk. So, we dreaded packing up. Nevertheless, the time has come for yet another walk. Surprisingly, the path was much shorter but the sun wasn’t very kind to us. Midway, we saw another hut. The structure of this hut was very special. It showed fine craftsmanship . Two little boys were standing in the hut while the picture was taken. They smiled so brightly as we walked past them.

Our journey took us to a village. We saw buffoloes and chickens. It was rather obvious that we were uptown people as we gazed in amusement with the farm animals. While seated and rested, Appu surprised us with cans of 100 plus. Our thirst was quenched and indeed we were grateful to Appu for his well thought gesture. Soon, we continued our journey and we reached a river. We hopped on to the boat and crossed Kenong river. The sight of Kenong forest slowly diminished. My heart felt a sudden sink as I bid the woods goodbye.

The journey back to Kuala Lipis on the van was rather solemn. When we arrived at Appu’s Guest House, each of us took turn to have a quick shower. Very few words were spoken then, those we spoke were words of gold. I will always treasure those special moments I shared with my new friends.