Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Teluk Ketapang Story Part 05: The Third & Fateful Attempt

We planned to start our hike early as it was a public holiday. We didn't want to get caught by human traffic at the Penang National Park. Unfortunately, it was still raining heavily from the night before when we woke up just before 6am. We decided to sleep in for the time being and decide later at 7 or 8am if we should continue with the hike or cancel it.

Two of our friends who were already at the Penang National Park at 6am were our eyes there. As the rain started to dissipate at 8am and the thought of the two of them having waited for us for over two hours, we decided to proceed with the hike. It was only when we met them at the entrance of the Penang National Park did we realise that they also didn't have the heart to ask us to cancel the hike because of those who had stayed over at my house. Since we were already there and the rain had stopped, we carried on with the hike.

As we reached Sungai Tukun, it started to pour very heavily. We were undecided if we should just proceed on or call it a day. In the end, we called it a day and went for brunch at Tanjung Bungah. As we were finishing our bowls of Hokkien Mee (and Jawa Mee for some), the skies cleared up and the sun came out so brightly. We were tempted to pursue with our hike, even if it was just until Teluk Duyong. We decided to get it over and done with that very day and started our journey to the Penang National Park again.

We started our journey into the park close to 1pm and reached Teluk Duyong in about an hour's time. As we sat down to catch our breath, it started to rain again. It didn't rain for long and we were left with a decision; hike back or continue on to Teluk Ketapang. I'm sure you know by now what our decision was.

We decided to forge ahead since we were already at Teluk Duyong. This time around, we used a different path (through the rubber trees instead of the durian orchard) which we discovered from our previous attempts. Not only is this path easier, it is faster. We reached the crossroads near the giant boulders which we stopped at previously. With the help of a compass, we used the path through the giant boulders this time around. This was the path I had wanted to explore during our last attempt but I was unsure if all the members of the group would be able to maneuver across the giant boulders safely. If it was just me alone, I would have jumped down those boulders and probably already on my way to Teluk Ketapang but this was not the case and I had to think of everyone in the group, weak or strong.

With the knowledge that even old ladies could do it and photo evidence that this was the right path, we forged ahead and found markers left by previous hikers. Clearing the path on land can be difficult enough but doing in on the boulders is a whole different ball game. Dead leaves and debris covered the holes and chasms between the giant boulders. Plants grew above the boulders which all needed to be cleared first before we could allow the rest of the group to pass. This was the most time consuming part of the hike. The rain had also made parts of the trail slippery and very difficult to trek and this also took a huge chunk of our time.

We moved forward and finally found the giant tree stated in the guide. We treked up the slope and was led by markers all the way until we reached yet another fallen tree. As always, we had to find a way around it and clear the path on our own. It started to rain again and quite heavily too. Up to this part of the trail, we were beneath canopies of trees. We could now see the skies above without trees blocking our view.

It was getting late, between 4 and 5pm. We had a decision to make; either we start trekking back or continue forward. There were a few reasons why we decided to move forward to Teluk Ketapang instead of Teluk Duyong. Although the determination to find Teluk Ketapang was still strong, it was actually basic survival instincts that finally decided which path we took.

Since we were nearer to Teluk Ketapang than Teluk Duyong and the journey was downhill from where we were, we would had made it out of the forest much quicker if we went to Teluk Ketapang instead of going back to Teluk Duyong. The knowledge that sunset will befall Teluk Duyong first and Teluk Ketapang later also meant that we would have more light to illuminate our path if we moved towards Teluk Ketapang. As mentioned earlier, our path back to Teluk Duyong would have been heavily covered by tree canopies which will make it even darker.

We would have to maneuver through many boulders too and in the heavy rain, that would have been a more dangerous thing to do. For those old and privileged enough to have visited Pantai Kerachut and Muka Head before it was developed, you would remember the time when you had to maneuver through large boulders just to get to Teluk Duyong. This was way before they built bridges and wooden stairs to make the trails easier. The path to Teluk Ketapang was scattered with such large boulders which you had to maneuver across so you would understand it would have been folly to do that in the rain. We had also hoped that there would be tourist or fishing boats around that area which we could hitch a ride back. We moved towards Teluk Ketapang without blinking an eye and our only goal was to do it before nightfall.

At around 6pm, we finally reached the elusive Teluk Ketapang. The joy of finally finding the place was quickly overshadowed by the realisation that there were no mobile networks in the area and no boats were to be seen due to the strong waves. It was then we knew we had no choice but to camp here for the night.

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