Monday, August 12, 2013

Nuang, the "Half-Trans"

As part of the training for the coming TMBT100, my running buddy UuBan has suggested to do a "trans" Nuang originally scheduled to be on 25/8/2013.  However, thank to the block of long Hari Raya holiday, many trekkers/runners from other running groups planned to trek on the second day of Hari Raya (9/8/2013) at Gunung Nuang, UuBan suggested to follow the pack for our "trans Nuang" on the same day.

This post is more about my "Half Trans-Nuang" preparation rather than an accord of the whole journey.

What is "Trans Nuang"

Gunung Nuang is the highest peak in Selangor, situated at the intersection of Selangor, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan.  There are 3 trails to the submit of Gunung Nuang.  We can trek to the peak of Gunung Nuang either via Ulu Langat (most popular and difficult) in Selangor, or Janda Baik in Pahang, or Gombak (least popular).

To do a "trans Nuang", we start from Ulu Langat --> acsend to Gunung Nuang submit --> descend to Janda Baik --> ascend to Gunung Nuang submit (again) --> descent to Ulu Langat.

The GPS profile for the trek can be found here

According to a source (!/2013/05/trail-route-pangsoon-nuang-janda-baik.html), the profile of the trek is:

DISTANCE : 38.65km

I physically and mentally unprepared for the "full" "trans Nuang" yet when the plan was drawn.  For the training, I was aiming for the "half" version of "Trans Nuang" which U-turn at Chemeroh Waterfall instead of the trail end of Janda Baik route.

The outing turned out to be tougher and longer (in terms of time, not distance) than TMBT50 last year, and the second longest "time-on-feet" of my life.  What a "training"!

New weapons

After the surprise and lesson learnt from my first visit to Nuang almost 2 weeks ago, I was humbled and tamed by the many slopes and gradients at some parts of Nuang.  A few weapons have been added to the arsenal for the upcoming battle:
1.  A better pair of trekking shoes with spiky profile.  During my first visit to Nuang, I slipped many times and finally sprained my left ankle left me with zero running mileage for 10 days.
2.  Waterbag with tube.  During my first visit to Nuang, the water bottles fell out from the side pockets of the backpack each time I did a pulling-up or jumping-down, until I have to put them back into the backpack.  I have to stopped very frequently each time when I drank.
3.  Brighter (80 lumens) and waterproof headlamp.  This would be the first time I trek in the complete darkness.
4.  Knee protectors.  I didn't use them as they are intended for.  I wrapped them around my calves as a "poor man" substitute for compression sock and for protection against cut.
5.  Ankle protector, for my sprained elephant left ankle.
6.  Walking stick.  I knew it is useful but eventually, I didn't use it.  I just didn't know why I intentionally left it in the car?  Pure arrogance?
7.  Handphone pocket.  I was expecting calls during the long-hour trek with minimum signal coverage, hence quick access to handphone is important.

The packing list

This is also a close simulation of what I will bring during TMBT100...

For the "fuel", I was experimenting new food like raisin and fruit cake.  Raisin turned out to be nicer than chocolate bar.

For pure "entertainment" purpose, I tried various varieties of chocolate bars as I have been eating Picnic for too long.

In addition to the tubed-waterbag, I also brought another 2-liter waterbag for refill on the way.

And my trusted camera (not in the photo, of course)!

The attire

The following is what I planned to wear/change during the coming TMBT100...

The socks were not in the photo.

For the training, I wore doubled layers of sock.  A pair of shorter sport socks inside and another pair of thinner (but longer) socks outside.  So, my left ankle was wrapped like a chinese rice-dumpling (粽子) with 3 layers of fabric.

Left and right calves was protected against fatigue and cut by "poor man" compression wear, which surprisingly worked very well.

Just in case I got lost and was forced to stay overnight in the forest, I also brought a pair of sweater, raincoat and reflective jacket (to help rescue operation, just in case).

I didn't expect to use the cap for this trip.  However, it is a mandatory item for TMBT100.  For simulation purpose, I give the cap a free riding trip.

Things I should have brought

1.  Handphone portable battery charger.  I found out that there is only phone reception (Maxis) at the peak and certain trail on the Janda Baik side.  For most of the time, the phone was still actively transmitting in search of radio signal.  As such, the battery depleted faster than before even though I made only 3 calls, all on the Janda Baik side.
2.  Muscle pain relief (Deepheat, Counterpain),
3.  ORS, plain forgetful!
4.  Honey, how could I forget this?
5.  More dried fruit.  Swee Kiah shared his dried fruit (dates and fig, 无花果) with me.  I shall tried these food next time.
6.  Dried meat.
7.  Contact lens.

The Journey

We need to be at Nuang park by 4:30am, I planned to have my very early breakfast at McD before heading to Nuang.

I woke up at 2:30am and left the house at 3:15am.  No, I didn't see the "good brothers" despite the 7th-month of Lunar calendar.

Reached McD by 3:30am.  Order the McDeluxe set for consumption in the car, and take away an extra McDeluxe to be brought to the Nuang peak as lunch, I started my 45 minutes drive to Nuang Park.

Everyone was there before 5:00am.  After quick preparation and group photo, we hit the trail at 5:15am.

Another group photo at the start... (photo courtesy of Swee Kiah)

From the photos, 5 of us were aiming for "trans".  The rest were aiming for the peak with some of them were attempting the peak or being at Nuang for the first time.  I found out later that there were 3 more persons from other group attempting to "trans" too.

Unlike my previous trekking, due to fear of unknown and time-wasting, not many photos were taken except at Chemeroh Waterfall (where I had my lunch and longer rest) and Camp Pacat (on my way back).

1st Quarter, UluLangat to Nuang Submit

Journey to Camp Lolo was done in complete darkness.  I took the opportunity to try out the long v.s. wide setting of the headlamp in the wild.  UuBan, Swee Kiah, Ms. Leong and myself were in a group, with Foo and Dr. Wong about 10 to 20 meters behind us.  UuBan and Foo were also busy laying paper trail for the remaining tailing trekkers.

We reached Camp Lolo at about 6:30am.  Campers at the camping ground were still in their dreamland.  We continued our journey without stopping.

The route become narrower and we could no longer walk side-by-side as before, but in a queue with Swee Kiah being the first and I was the last.

Suddenly, the black dog that had been following us from the base started to bark and scuffling was heard.  Front trekker, Swee Kiah, stopped and everyone at the back followed.  Not knowing what was happening, I moved forward and found out that the dog was fighting with a snake right in front Swee Kiah.  Swee Kiah was seen taking video of the "Discovery Channel" scene and others started to take out the camera for shooting too.  Thank to the "man's best friend" that we are spared from the possible lethal "kiss".

The sun rise when we were on our way to Camp Pacat.  As the sky brighten up, the group up their pace except me.  I tried not to let my heart rate went too high as I still had a long long day ahead.  Five of them ahead of me slowly disappear from my view before we reach Camp Pacat.

I reached Camp Pacat in complete daylight at where I met only Foo and Dr. Wong.  I urged them to move on as I wanted to take a short break and to take the trail slowly.

Along the way to the peak, I met a trekker-in-red who was trekking up alone with friends camped at Camp Lolo, and a group of 4 young guys from Kajang who were suffering from cramp.  They told me that they had started to attack the peak since 2am but lost their way somewhere.

I reached the False Peak (Puncak Pengasih) at about 8:30am.  Exhausted, I had a short rest while filling my tubed-waterbag with more water, with quick swallowing of 2 mini egg-tarts and some raisins.

I reached the peak at about 9am.  Miss Leong was the only one from the group still at the peak, with the rest had left for the descending journey to Janda Baik.  I was told that they had left about 5 to 10 minutes ago.

The temperature at the peak was quite low with mild wind.  I was not sure of the actual temperature but was shivering at times.  In order not to catch a cold, I had another very quick bites on more egg-tarts and raisins while sharing some with the snake-killing black hero.

2nd Quarter, Nuang Submit to Chemeroh Waterfall

The journey to Chemeroh Waterfall was quite boring.  The entering to the trail was quite dangerous.  First, I had to try lowering myself down from a huge rock taller than a person using the rope that has been previously attached by someone.  The landing area was just next to a cliff that I dare not to take a peek.

Then, there was a "horse back" passage with cliff on the left and right.  I literally held my breathe while crossing the "horse back".

After the 2 initial obstacles, the rest of the descend was straight forward.

I reached Chemeroh Waterfall at 11:30am, 2 1/2 hours from the peak.  There, I saw Dr. Wong tracing back from the Janda Baik side...

Dr. Wong told me that he did his "u-turn" from the "bamboo forest" (which I have no idea where is it) and was on his returning journey.  UuBan, Swee Kiah and Foo were probably 15 minutes ahead, and most likely already at the trail-head of Janda Baik.

Met another group of trekkers (that I don't know)...

The tiny "waterfall", or should I say, "stream"...

The forest access towards the Peak...

Water was fast flowing and clear...

I was wondering the type of "life-form" in the water as I will be relying on the same water for the returning journey, so the following video...

Surprisingly, I don't see "life" in the water perhaps the flow was too fast.

My "lifeless" pair of "wheel" taking rest...

... and the "men's best friends" that have been following me from Ulu Langat since 5:15am...

I was busy feeding their "black buddy" who saved us from nasty snake-bite too.

Lunch time.  McD's Chicken McDeluxe...

Shortly, I saw the familiar face of a Facebook friend appeared from the bush, the "fast and famous" Mr. Choo...

This is the first time that we met in person and formally introduced ourselves after knowing each other for a year in the Cyberworld.

Choo started his journey from Ulu Langat at 7:30am, 2.5 hour later than me.  However, we reached Chemeroh Waterfall at almost the same time.  (Later, Mr. Choo overtook me on the way back to the peak despite I left the waterfall 10 minutes earlier.  He, eventually, finished at Ulu Langat trail-head almost 3 hours earlier than me!  Salute to the 55-year-old senior trekker!).

As there is another out-and-back 1.5 hours journey to the trail-head of Janda Baik.  A quick mental estimation told me that I could barely made it (if there is no "drama") before darkness if I proceed to Janda Baik carpark now.  In order not to take unknown risk, I decided to "u-turn" instead of proceeding to Janda Baik trail-head.

After re-filling the waterbags and a total 50 minutes rest, it was the returning journey.

Before returning, I left a sign, made by tearing the "paper trail", to notify the front pack that I was safe and was on the way back...

3rd Quarter, Chemeroh Waterfall to Nuang Submit

The returning journey to the peak from Janda Baik side was somewhat easier than UluLangat-Peak trail.  Best of all, there is handphone (Maxis) reception at some part of the trail.  I received a few work-related missed-calls and smses 1 hour into the returning trail.  I took the opportunity to rest and to reply the missed calls and smses.  That was also the time when Choo (who was returning from the waterfall 10 minutes later than me) and UuBan (who was returning from Janda Baik trail-head) overtook me!  Both of them were very fast.

At 2:40pm, after trekking for about 2 hours 15 minutes from the waterfall, I was back at the submit again.

There, I met Choo and UuBan again.  They had their rest and prepared to descend back to Ulu Langat.

Shortly after Choo and UuBan had left, Swee Kiah appeared from the Janda Baik side of the trail.  Swee Kiah shared with me his dried fruits (dates and fig) and suggested me to try during my next hike.

I also had some Kit-kat and final pack of raisins, and of course, my accompanies (Ah Whites and Ah Black) also had their shares from me.  Besides, I top-up my tubed-waterbag with the final 2 liters of stream water from the spare waterbag.

At 2:55pm, both of us started our final stretch of journey, the descend from the peak back to Ulu Langat.

4th Quarter, Nuang Submit to Ulu Langat

From previous experience, I knew that I need about 3.5 hours for the return journey.  That means I could made it back to Ulu Langat park before the sunset.

The stretch from the peak to Camp Pacat was more technically demanding which, at some places, I need to use all my four limbs to move forward.  I tried resisting from jumping down nor to exert excessive impact on my ankles and knees, especially my left ankle.

For most part of the trail, I was walking downwards facing left bending my left leg while landing on my right foot at very slow pace.  This was to minimize the impact on my left ankle.

After 1.5 hours trekking from the peak, I was at Camp Pacat.  There, I finally saw the legendary signature tree of Gunung Nuang (that I missed during my first visit)...

I was very glad to see this tree in real.  From most photos I saw in the Internet, I knew that the "signature" of Gunung Nuang will not survive for long as trekkers like to stand on the twisted branch posting for photos, which I think, is not advisable.  If there is average of 500 trekkers visiting Gunung Nuang and stand on the branch every week, I don't think the tree can survive in it original form in the near future!

Shortly after Camp Pacat, I heard footsteps behind me some distance away.  I stopped and looked back after hearing Foo called out to me.  Foo was suffering from dehydration and bad body response to the gas-sy 100plus.  Despite the dehydration, he managed to do the "full" version of "trans Nuang" and catch up with me.  We decided to move on together in support of each other.

We took a short break at Camp Lolo and later at a shelter of the "never ending road".  When moving at the "never ending road", I started to feel sore knee and slight discomfort on the left ankle which I tried to avoid for the training.  Nevertheless, we moved slightly faster hoping to beat the sunset.

At 7:30pm and after trekking from the peak for more than 4 hours, and 14 hours 6 minutes in total, I finally got back to Ulu Langat park.  UuBan (who did the "full trans Nuang" and has finished 1.5 hour ahead of me) and Lin Fong were waiting with their camera for our finishing shot...

Finally, I was fortunate to be back without much drama (touched wood!) despite the very slow pace.  The crazy "training", without me realizing it earlier, turned out to be the second longest "time-on-feet" I ever done!

I am now looking forwards to the "full trans Nuang", which should be in the training agenda in 2 weeks time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Wrong use of Solar Power

I have been working under the sun regularly.  And as quite an 'outdoor' fellow, I have not had sun-burn for 18 years (the last time I had sun-burn dated back to 1994).

However, TMBT2012's "strolling in the park" really open my eyes on the potential of Solar Power, not in supplying free energy, but to burn.  Just to share my stupidity of not wearing/applying any protection eventhough I had a cap and sunblock in my backpack.

Do not scroll down if you...
1.  are in the middle of a meal;
2.  don't like lizard;
3.  hate alien show...

Day-1, Post TMBT...
...fried chicken wing with arm-porch mar...

...fried chicken thigh...

...neck tattoo...

...found new species of "orang utan" in TMBT trail...

Day-2, Post TMBT...
...Alien transformation...

Day-3, Post TMBT...
...bristling on cheek and ear...

...human snowing, leapard transformation...

...snake transformation...

My wife said she might want to divorce me, my sons said I have transformed into a monster, and my daughter said I cannot hug her... oh no...!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Losing 'virginity' to Datuk, the Gunung

No, I have not changed the 'scope' of the blog.  The space here is as healthy as before.  This tiny (amid rusty) little corner is still like the title says: "Off Duty Electrician"... what I did when I was not holding a 'testpen' and 'multimeter'.

I had my first ever offroad hike at Gunung Datuk last Saturday (28,July,2012) thanks to Steve Yap's invitation.

The decision to join the hike came at the very last minute as I was not sure if I would be free on the hike morning.  Was both mentally and physically un-prepared.  I did not have any trail-hiking gear nor basic trail shoes.  I was mentally treating the hike like a normal weekend long run training... except that, for this weekend, the running route is a little far from home.

However, the hike turned out to be an eye-opening experience and completedly change my perception of trail and mountain hiking, largely due to the fantastic climb group and the destination!

Gunung Datuk, the background
I did a little background search on the "Datuk" the night before the journey.  From the map, it is located not too far from Rembau, which is a town halfway between Seremban and Tampin (my mum's hometown).  However, I was not too worried about the exact where-about of the "Datuk" as we (Steve and the climb group) were supposed to gather at the Senawang toll before heading to the base.

From the internet, I found out the following facts about the "Datuk":
- Height at the peak: 884m;
- Height from the base: about 800m;
- Trail length (one way): 4.6km;
- Facility: basic toilet;
- Fees: RM5;
- Difficulty: (irrelevant to me, as I had no prior experience)
- Interesting facts: It is the highest peak of Negeri Sembilan (incorrect, check Steve's comments below).  We will be able to see the Strait of Melaka at the peak if the sky is clear.  We should be expecting to see wild mushroom, ants, insects, worm, centipede, millipede along the trail.  There is a "footpring of Hang Tuah (some said Cheng Ho)" at the peak... I must check this out.

With these interesting facts in mind... was really anticipating the hike.

The Journey to the Base
Woke up at 4am, together with opening ceremony of Olympic 2012.  Didn't bother to turn on the TV to had a peep at the Olympic 2012 opening because I know it would be another multimillion dollar fireworks, lights, torch... etc.  Would leave that for the re-play.  Had my usual routine before long run.

Left home at 5am.  Planned to have breakfast at fast food restaurant at one of the R&R along Seremban highway.  Was surprise that the McD near the Sungai Besi toll was so crowded with many Muslim friends queueing for their last meal before "Puasa of the day" started.  So decided to move on instead of wasting time in the queue.

6am, was lucky that the KFC at the last R&R before Seremban was completedly empty.  Had my quick and unhealthy breakfast before heading to the Senawang toll meeting point.

6:30am, reached Senawang toll.  Saw a few cars parked at the side right after the toll.  Not knowing anyone from the group except Steve, I parked my car next to an "uncle-in-sportwear"'s car, hoping that he is from Steve's group.  Few minutes later, more and more cars with "driver-in-sportwear" came.  I was quite sure that they must be from Steve's group.  Broke the ice by approaching a lady seemed like a leader.  Found out that she is Melissa mentioned in Steve's email.  After a short chit-chating and wait... we started our remaining journey to the "Datuk's base".

From Senawang Toll, we took a right turn to the old Tampin road.  This road brought back all my childhood memories.  Back in the 70s and early 80s (before the begining of the Plus era), this was the only road (the windy and old) to go to my Grandmum's (mother side) house.  This is the road that, as a small kid, I vomitted at the roadside a few times more than 30 years ago.

7am, after about half an hour drive along the wider and smoother Tampin road (compared to 30 years ago), we were at Rembau.  A tall "gunung" appear before me.  I guessed it must be the "Datuk" and managed to snap these... Rembau with the 'flat-top' Datuk at the far background...

...and a clearer 'Datuk' with the beautiful glimpse of morning sun behind the 'Datuk'.

Five minutes after passing Rembau town, we made a left turn to road N111.

After about another 5km, we made another left turn into a palm/rubber trees plantation.  The tarred road was narrow and windy but otherwise in good condition...

In 5 minutes, we were at the base.

By now, my car mileage meter showed 94km from my home.  This is probably the furthest training run route from home.

The Base
The road leading to the carpark.
The carpark is large enough for 20 to 30 cars, including 3 lots meant for buses.

Another view of the carpark.  The registration counter (red roof) is on the left of the photo...

There is an eatery, but was closed...
Was not sure if it is still in operation...most likely yes.

The climb group was having breakfast before the climb.  The food was prepared by the group.

After the breakfast and a short briefing by the team leader, we headed into the wild.

The Trail
The trail started with a short descending to a small stream.  After crossing a concrete bridge, it was all the way up with most of the trail having gradient more than 45 degrees.  A large section was having gradient of more than 60 degrees.

The foliage was thick enough to block GPS reception.  The sloppy path was mostly criss-crossed by tree roots forming the "natural steps" for climbers.

There were many spiders and insect along the trail.  I managed to capture the photos/videos of some of these creatures in the wild...
...marching ants (many many of them)...
...Zhen will surely like this!

Overize ants, about the size of 2/3 of my thumb...

Oversize milipede...about the length of my GPS watch...
The poor giant pede was earlier stepped by someone.

There are 2 damaged huts at about the halfway up the peak.  Only the roofs survive.  I think the roofs still can serve their purpose as rain-shelter... that might probably why they are still there.

Skinny little leech looking for prey...

There are many beautiful mushroom and fungus.  As a typical Chinese that eats anything, I was tempted to have a taste of these interesting looking mushrooms especially some of them do look like the expensive Chinese herb called "lin zhi".  However, I want, in the very near future, my children to be able to see these alive in the wild... the the conscious told me that we must protect these creature in the wild.  Only idiot will eat them...especially if you are a climber.

"Lin Zhi" in the wild...

...more "lin zhi"...
This one is having diameter of 1 foot!

Another beautiful "lin zhi"/fungus...

A Smurf house...

Smurf village...big cluster of mushroom...
Wondered if we can find little blue creature under them.

Another Smurf village hides underneath a fallen tree...

After an hour exhausting hike up mostly slopes of more than 45 degree, we finally reached the camp site at the peak...

To reach the absolute pinnacle for breathtaking view, there were 2 more ladders to climb...
The first ladder was easy...

...and the second ladder...
Thanks to Mr. Yee (a 65-year-old uncle) for posing for the photo.  The second ladder was long and shaky.  The landing area at the top of the ladder was not flat.  We have to hold on to a thick rope tied to the rocks to get ourselves up to the landing area...and it was scary initially.  Not recommended for the weaker-heart.

This is what I meant...Steve (man in red) was trying to give himself a final pull up the pinnacle...

Finally, was at the pinnacle of Negeri Sembilan...
...with Kota town or probably Tampin at the background...not very sure.  The far end should be the Strait of Melaka.  Unfortunately, the cloudy weather block the seaview.

Managed to capture the 360-degree view at the pinnacle...

A breathtaking view...
The houses on the left of the photo should be Rembau.  Again, Strait of Melaka should be at the far end.  The temperature was probably 25-28 degree while this photo was taken.
Dark cloud forming/dispersing on the top right cornet of the photo.  The dark cloud was very near to us.

We (the first group that reached the peak) spent about 1 hour at the peak.  Had hot coffee, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum (special thanks to Melissa and KG)... nicely prepared by the fantastic climb group!

Yes...I did see the footprint of "who-ever"...forgot to take the picture of the footprint.  Was told that the mysterious footprint has been there when one of the group member reached the peak in the 60s.

We started to descend at about 11am.
The descending was very easy on the heart and lung, but taxing on the knee and thigh muscle, especially when I was wearing road-shoes.
The worse came when I had to land on slippery or smooth surface.  I was forced to use extra strength to hold my two legs together... to avoid from making "acrobatic leg split", in Chinese, "one word horse".  Most of the time, I had to be very cautious in choosing the landing spot to avoid twisting my ankle.  It was no walking in the park.
I managed to capture the following when negotiating a section of rare flat surface on my way down...

By 12pm, we were back to the base again.  The descending took about the same time as ascending...except Steve-the-ranger who spent only 1/2 hour (incorrect, check Steve's comments below) to complete the descend.  Must learn the tactic from Steve.

The Incredibles
I met an incredible and inspiring couple, Alex and family (my codename: The Incredibles)...
The photos was NOT taken at the base...but the peak!  The incredible couple reached the peak with their 5-year-old son (Stewart) and 10-month-old baby girl (Alicia).
Alex and little Stewart were seen barefoot when I met them at the peak.
Little baby Alicia was probably the youngest human reaching the peak.
I fully respect the family.
The Incredibles posing next to giant boulder of the pinnacle...

Little Stewart and baby Alicia exploring the peak...
Ants? What ants?!!
Mud? What mud?!!
Kid should not run barefoot in the wild???  You must be kidding.

Next climb, yes... with family along and binoculars.