Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kg Sokmek and Kuala Gandah, May 9-10, 2009

For a Pahang boy it was ashamed that I only going to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary now. Indeed it is better late than never and in my case the timing was never been better. And the thing that I like most about this trip it would be a camping excursion with the family again. This time with a big PT family as well. With the help of my good neighbors we made plan and it could not have been executed any better.

We would have been in the bus as well if not for the trip to KT to pick up Kakak. The kids would have loved it or I’d make sure they love it he he he. Secretly I was the one that was eager to be on the bus. We left at around .8.30am as soon as the bus arrived to pick the others. I knew we were going to be very early ahead of the slow bus. So I planned to stop for breakfast on the way out of Gombak later.

It was the usual Saturday morning traffic on the Seremban KL highway. I drove at a moderate speed so as to ensure I would not be too far ahead of the bus. The traffic on the MRR2 was better then the usual, despite not pushing the Ranger I was still very early when we passed Taman Melawati. On the way back to Raub last week we stopped at the Nasi Dagang place for breakfast and it was not as we expected. We opted to try the new Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa outlet. I did not wish to have the nasi lemak so I ordered Mee Rebus just like Sam. Mai, Baqir and Kak CIk ordered nasi lemak each. In the end all of us were disappointed with our selection. To us the outlet runs the risk of being just a so so outlet and if the owner is not careful a potential closure. Nevertheless we took our time there.

The Gombak Karak highway was it’s normal Saturday self. Some sections during the climb were closed for upgrading. Now without prompting I sped up and as we were climbing towards the tunnel Baqir said we just overtook the bus. I did not see it but indeed the bus was now behind us climbing slowly. With that speed I knew we would be about 40-45 minutes early when we reach the resort.

As I was familiar with the route finding the resort was easy and we pull over into it at approximately 1115. There was already a lady setting up what I presumed to be our lunch. I gave my salam and introduced myself as the group from Bangi and immediately she acknowledged me. I got my confirmation that we were at the right place and without waiting a moment we started to explore the place. While doing that Din called me to enquire the way in and about ten minutes after he arrived. The bus carrying the rest eventually arrived 20 minutes later. With their arrival officially started our Kuala Gandah excursion. The plan for the day was to have lunch, choose our chalet and go to the elephant sanctuary straight away. I decided to go with the bus and parked the Ranger within the chalet compound.

I just could not help to think that it would be wonderful if I had my bicycle when the bus took us through a steep undulating road to the elephant sanctuary. There were at least four steep climbs and would be a good workout no doubt. The day was a bit hot then the usual and took a toll on some of us. Being a Saturday it was a crowded sanctuary waiting for us. Since I did not care for anything else but to enjoy the area I just went with the flow. Baqir, Kak Cik and Mar reading my senses did not asked to do anything special as well but to enjoy the place the best we can. Aizam went in to register and came out with 10 yellow and a lot of red stickers. He started to gather us around and explained that the yellow stickers were for the elephants ride and the red just to join the other activities. When he asked who would want to take the ride all the children almost yelling put up their hands. But I knew better. We gave the opportunities for others to go for the ride and took the red stickers. Since, the caretakers would only take out the elephants at 1400 to start the day activities, being early, we just sat around waiting. It was suggested that we go into the building to watch the video show but the place was packed with people. In the end we just waited outside under the shade.

There were five elephants at the sanctuary chained up waiting when we walked in. Two big ones and the others of medium size. We started to gather around taking photos of them being prepared and hosed down to cool off before the activities. One of the small ones suddenly trumpeted out a long loud sound and immediately the brave souls that put up their hands for the ride started to return their yellow stickers. I just smiled.

The first activity was elephant feeding. The announcer started to brief us on the proper way of doing it and with the fruits ready in front of us we started to feed the elephants. I was busy shooting at will to care only once in a while looking over to make sure Mar was within my range. The fruits were gone as quick as they were brought outside as if the elephants have not been eating for a while. I guess it was due to the heat apart from been hosed down they had to eat a lot of fruits to cool down. Soon the announcer came on air to move us to the next activity, elephant riding. Initially we were made to understand that the elephant ride would take us through the jungle and denai nearby but instead the announcement said that it would only a ride in circle in the middle of the compound. I was even more not interested to ride. At the same time the keepers took out two calves for the others to be fed, play with and get close to. By now the crowd began to gain momentum and soon almost the entire compound was filled with visitors. Since none of us had decided to ride the elephants we spent our time moving around from one elephant to another. Mar. Kak Cik even Baqir were not brave enough to get close to any of them for me to have a clear shot of them with the elephants. I substituted them with other subjects that I found interesting like the cute European girl rubbing a calf lovingly. To be truthful I was lucky to be there actually.

Initially I was bullish on taking to the water with the baby elephants but after witnessing the state of the water in the river I backed off. I spent my time taking more photos of the happening around me. Funny thing was I was actually looking at more equally, if not more, excited people in the water than the elephants. As if they needed the bath more than the elephants. That was when the baby elephant decided to poo in the water and everyone closed by automatically scrambled out of the way. I stood on the bank laughing. Watching human being with their antics was more fun and rewarding for me. Closed by to the baby elephant taking bath was the platform where the rest with yellow tags gathered if they wish to get dump by the elephant in the water. Although I can appreciate the activity but I could not understand how fun could it be? Especially for the elephants.

The day was still hot and humid when we left the sanctuary. By the look on everyone’s face I could sense they were happy and glad to be there. So I was glad for that as well. As soon as we got to the ‘resort’ we had out late evening tea and said our prayers. The evening activities varied depending on your responsibility and wish. The kids were of course having fun exploring the place together. Rizad was on the boat with some of them boating around the pond. Some of us men were busy preparing for the night either building our tents or campfire. The anticipation for the night was too much for some of us. Others chose to enjoy the nice evening chatting by the pond and watching others with their activities. The whole thing reminded me of my childhood life in my kampong. So nostalgic at times. Of course being too familiar with the whole thing and what needed to be done I comfortably went through the motion. Firstly, putting up my tent followed by helping the rest building a campfire, catching fish and going around taking pictures. After all that it was just waiting for night to fall so that we could pray and walk across to our serving place next to the owner’s house for dinner. It has been a while since last I had been using a communal bath so much so I got caught up reminiscing while at it.

Dinner was rice with ‘masak asam’ ikan patin as the main dish and because of that we became vegetarian. I devoured the sayur and the ulam to compensate not being able to eat the patin. I was that hungry and had no complaint what so ever. What I like most about outing like this is that we were presented with a lot of opportunities to chat and got to know our neighbors a bit better. That’s what happened during dinner. I guess dinner was just the prop or tool for us to get together more. That’s how important get-together like we had to the community and yet for all the worldly reason that we have today by design or not we are always silo in our habit. In the truest sense this community get together is the way forward for us. After awhile we decided to walk back to our chalet as we still had our BBQ and campfire to start. Walking on the bank between the two fish ponds immediately brought back the memories of walking on my Wan’s paddy fields at night when I was young. Had we have homemade torch with us it would be so surreal and real. Even without that the beautiful full moon shinning on our right was more than compensate the limitation. I forgot to mention this fact to my children and I hope they are reading this.

Back at our camp we straight away started on the campfire and BBQ. Because of the hot dry day the campfire was easy enough to start and the children started to gather around playing. I had my guitar with me but I was lost as to what I should be playing. It was so obvious what I had in mind would not suit everyone’s there. Looking at the children sitting and standing aimlessly AIzam expertly managed to gather them around and cajoled them into a children sing along session. He was so adaptable with it that I really commanded him for doing it. Another talent discovered on the night. In our next outing I know who to trust with kid’s activities. The only setback was that there were not many teenagers for me to be useful to them. Baqir and Kakcik seemed lost and decided to find their own thing to past the time. I was useless with the guitar and was rescued from the agony when Rizad called his nephew to play. So I became the support cast by playing acceptable bass. From there on suitable songs started to be serenaded to accompany the children singing. This happened about two hours when, because of the days activities with the elephants, the children shown signs of tiredness and slowly they retired into their respective chalets or tents with their mothers. Mar just walked into our tent close by and crashed into a deep sleep. Immediately the songs started to change to evergreen and the contemporary. But I fared no better and ended up mostly being singer rather than a guitar player. Had not for the sound that came from us it would have been a still quiet night. I could imagine listening to the cracking fire eating up the dry woods and the symphony of crickets as the background music. We were oblivious of all these of course. The best part was there was not any mosquito or at least none came around to bother us. Amazing, the owner joked with us in the evening when someone asked about it. He quipped ‘yes there are mosquito but if you see one please let me know.’ I understood what he meant then.

Night slowly creeping leaving us to welcome early morning but we refused to budge and still playing and chatting. In fact the owner later came by to join us. We continued with our singing and chatting without having a conscious thought when to stop and go to bed. The truth is I sensed that no one was actually would want to be the person to say ‘let’s call it a day.’ It was so tempting to continue until morning and all of us were in a state of refusal. In the end Aizam was the brave soul who finally said ‘I am tired it is time to sleep’. Automatically all of us walked up to the restroom/toilet to ease ourselves and then flew into our nests for the night. It was not too soon enough I put my head down and into my sweet dream. I think it was sweet helped by the cool breeze blowing in through the tent’s ‘windows’.

My buzzer dutifully woke me up at 0545 and without missing a beat sat up to get ready for suboh. Sam was awake instantly as well and together we climb into our chalet to wake Baqir and Kakcik up. Since I thought there would be a lot of people at the washroom I decided not take my bath yet but just to clean myself and pray. But there was only Acong there and immediately after I said my prayers I went back to have my bath. Which was the right decision as the tap ran dry just before the day broke out. After my bath I straight away packed up my things so that I did not have to rush later.

I was walking along the pond to find something nice to photograph when I saw Rizad pulling out the boat with his children. I yelled out to wait for me and since Acong was also close by we got onto the boat together and started to pedal around the pond. It was misty yet beautiful morning around the area. The heat from the pond created an exquisite morning fog which few hours later enhanced by the mist coming down the valley from the mountain area. We chatted and became nostalgic in our own way. One definite agreement between the three of us was this would not be the last time we are doing the outing. We were already talking about Tasek Chini and other possibilities. Thinking about it now the options that we have could be Kuala Woh, Sungai Congkak, Gunong Ledang and of course Tasek Chini. From the boat we witnessed the area came to live as the day broke in. People going forth with taking bath and getting ready as well as a few already on the bank enjoying the morning. Had we had our bicycles with us then we would be flying to the elephant’s sanctuary or where ever already.

Breakfast was a non event for us as we prepared for the Deerland and eventually our trip to KT to pick up Kakak.

After breakfast we waited for the bus to arrive from KL before we could go to the Deerland. It was really hot by then and it was only 0930. The bus arrived at 1000 and the rest straight away packed in their luggage so that it would be easier later. As for us we were set to go even before breakfast.

The Deerland was about four kilometers from our chalet and going towards different direction from the Elephants Sanctuary. The owner was actually at the entrance when we got there and he even directed our bus driver to make a turn few metres away and park right in front of the entrance across the road. When I saw the entrance and the surrounding my first impression that this was going to be a fun and wonderful place to be. Indeed it was.

Our exciting journey for the day started by the owner himself gathering us around and gave his briefing about the place. We were lucky to be the first big group to arrive that day and we grabbed the opportunity and benefited to the fullest. Later our group was assigned to a specific assistant who took the role as your guides as well experts in zoology. Patiently he took us around and introduced to us their open participative mini zoo with deer as the main attraction. Open participative zoo means instead of us looking at the animals from a fence or guarded enclosure we were taken around to play and be around the animals. The deers were so tame that we could not believe that we were actually among them. There were several species of deers there and I was really surprise to find out that Malaysia deer could grow as big as buffalo. The assistants gave us small basket of cut fruits to feed the deers and as soon as they saw us with the bucket in drove they came jumping and jostling for the fruits. Feeding them became a fight to fend off some of them from nudging you down. They actually stand on their two feet to get to the fruits we were holding. Some got even their small basket snatched from them. A young lady was so scared that the beast would hurt her yelled hysterically. It was a funny as well as a worrying scene at the same time. I was trying very hard not to laugh but it was really difficult.

The Deerland assistant slowly took us around to be educated about other residents. Hedgehog, ferret, quills, snake, ostrich, birds, and a very friendly sun bear. By 1130 we were done with the place. To me it was the best ‘zoo’ that I had visited in my life. With that we gathered ourselves said goodbye to everyone and off we went towards KT.

Please click here for the photos.

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