Saturday, April 25, 2009

Taman Negara: being close to nature

A boat full of foreign tourists going for 'rapid shooting'

A boat full of merry-men cruising along Sungai Tahan

The small, rustic chalets on the edge of Taman Negara in Kuala Tahan

Feeding fish at the Kelah Sanctuary, Sungai Tahan

Spiritual obligation. Boarding a boat which will take us to the Kg Kuala Tahan mosque for our Friday prayers

I had the good fortune of joining a trip to Taman Negara two weeks ago. I’d heard so much about it. And I've seen it so many times on TV too, especially in tourism advertisements. But this was my first trip to Taman Negara in Pahang.

The Taman Negara National park sprawls over 4,343 sq. km. For comparison, that’s six times the size of Singapore! It is one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest in the whole wide world as it has never been destroyed by ice ages.

Legally declared as an area for conservation in 1938, the 135 million year old Taman Negara is a haven for flora and fauna. It is said to be a sanctuary to hundreds of species of birds, butterflies, insects, fish and plants.

Okay, so I didn't manage to catch any glimpse of tigers, elephants nor rhinoceros. But, as we traveled by boat along the rivers I could not help but be awed by what Mother Nature has to offer deep into these jungles. Gigantic trees line along the river banks, some almost straddling across the rivers with trunks so huge that it makes you just wonder how old these trees must be.

The greenery from the leaves of trees come in all shades and hues. But occasionally you’d notice a few trees with yellow or orange foliages which make them stand out from the ‘crowd’. Just gorgeous.

The river waters were not as clear as I had imagined it would be, though. Sungai Tembeling was like teh susu. Sungai Tahan was more like Nescafe ‘o’. But if you are into fishing, then this is the place to be. Popular species like the kelah and sebarau abound. But in the National Park they are protected. So it’s a catch and release affair here.

But if you like to be close to nature, this is one of the places on earth that you’d want to experience first hand. And it’s right here in Malaysia.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Genting Sempah conquered

Pak Kamad "scolding" me to ride faster

The whole gang taking a breather and enjoying the mountain views (pics courtesy of Jefri)

Azizi conquers Genting Sempah!

Those words could well have been the headlines in the newspapers last Sunday.

Oh, yes. Not many riders can lay claim to having rode to this iconic hill station. It sits atop the Banjaran Titiwangsa at the highest point (about 600m above sea level) along the old (and new) KL-Kuantan link by road. However, before I get too euphoric with this achievement, let me bring myself down to earth.

Sure, I reached the top. But not after a lot of huffing and puffing. Not before some excruciating pain and physical suffering (full report here).

The fact is, I’ve never been big on stamina. That’s why I played volleyball at school as opposed to fast-paced hockey. And when it comes to football, I prefer to watch only (Liverpool of course) and avoid playing it. So when you consider the fact that this ride will be a long and winding 16km up-hill climb all the way to the top, I should have known better. I should have thrown in the towel and cabut!

But because I was “volunteered” by my so-called riding mates to organize it, there was just no way out of it.

However – and at the risk of sounding a bit crazy, here – I have to say that I’m glad to have gone through it if only for the experience in camaraderie, as well as, a lesson in what the power of positive, soothing words of encouragement can do to one’s spirit and self-belief.

You see, due to the extreme physical stress, barely half-way up the climb my heart rate was already past the maximum level and things were not looking to get any easier. So, resigning to the fact that I was just not up to it (what the hell am I doing here?), and not wanting to spoil my friends' ride, I decided to discontinue the ride and asked them to proceed without me.

Which they did reluctantly. But barely 10 minutes later they returned for me. Ethics-wise, they said, it was just not right to leave a fellow rider behind all by his own.

Henceforth began a patient, selfless act of coaxing and motivating me all the way to the top. This was led by Pak Kamad, supported by Dr Taufik, Jefri and Prof Sani. They talked to me, they cracked jokes and they teased each other along the way. They even had time to comment on my riding techniques. And before long we had reached Genting Sempah.

I was elated. I had made it after all.

Thank you so much guys. Despite the aches and pain, with your encouragement, I managed to grasp victory from the jaws of (almost certain) defeat back there.

Errrr…so when is the next ride up to Genting Sempah? ;-D