Wednesday, February 27, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 8.....DAY 2 of Actual Climb

Wednesday, April 16th 1969 - Day 2
Sungei Melantai - Kuala Puteh

We woke up very early to the morning calls of owls and other jungle creatures. It was still dark outside our 2 tents. For light, we have our candles as there is practically no wind movement in the thickness of deep jungle. Light also came from our natural wood fire and the single Bluet Cooker which we used to boil tea, Milo or nestum. Ahmad, our guide made his own preparations mostly. Everyone went about his tasks effectively and happily. Soon, we gathered round the cooking area for breakfast which consisted of a hot
drink to warm us up and cereals.

Photos: The Rugged 10 enjoying the raw beauty
of Sungei Puteh, near our campsite!
During this time, as Chief Medic, I will take out my medical box and dole out the relevant tablets for the day to each member. Some they must consume immediately while some they could keep for later use that day.
What tablets ? Whatever for?
1. Salt tablets prevent muscle cramps
2. Iron tablets a supplement to
prevent anaemia owing to the total absence of fresh meat and vegs.
3. Anti-Malaria pills

4. Water sterilising kill bacteria before drinking the water.
We took the first 3 types of tablets.....
everyone., except Ahmad our guide. But he was watching us closely as that was the 1st time he had observed us at breakfast. I noticed he looked a little bewildered by our tablet-swallowing ritual. He was by nature a shy and quiet chap who hardly asked any of us questions. He was very focussed and professional in his own inimitable way.
[But his natural curiosity would get the better of him ....after we had "conquered" Tahan peak and on the way down, at the last campsite. It caused us a minor scare ....and I was fully involved. Details will follow in next few posts ].
So....we broke camp and brought out the foodstuff marked for that portion of the return journey. We chose a safe and identifiable spot and buried our carefully wrapped stuff. That would help lighten the group load with each passing day. You can see photos of that 1st breaking of camp in my earlier posts.
A short discussion about today's climb with Ahmad yielded little information about the nature of our route. Remember.....we had no maps, nor detailed prior knowledge of what we were facing, back then.

Today, climbers will hear about the 27 Malang Hills [' malang' means 'unlucky' ] and Gunung Rajah. Bukit Malang as a whole is actually a ridge of 27 hills. There is no water up there. It was and still is the most testing part of the route to Tahan due to the lack of water and the repetitive up and down, energy sapping nature of the terrain.
Ahmad told us to fill all our water bottles to the brim as we would need every droplet this day.
After taking a final look at our campsite, we embarked on our 2nd Day trek with Ahmad leading. Almost immediately, we were heading uphill at a steep incline. This was the beginning of the ridge and it entails a climb of 365 metres in altitude. It was tough going. The previous day's exertions, although quite tough, was beginning to look like a picnic in comparison. Thick jungle everywhere, slippery-moss and lichen covered rockface and boulders made climbing precarious.
A few of us actually rolled off backwards, in full gear, a couple of times as a result. I was one of those who had a "roll off", not a fall, and my right shoulder sleeve was caught by some prickly, sharp vines which tore off at the seams [ see photo in previous posts ]. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

After about 2 solid hours, we reached a flat plateau, where we had our 1st major rest. Here, minor cuts and abrasions were treated. We were travelling in a northerly direction on the ridge. Twang, our Expedition Leader checked that everyone was ok and all intact....before we descended that rest point and continued on our most exhausting and challenging encounter on these Malang hills.
Our 1st Major Crisis
About 2 hours later we had another major rest stop called by Ahmad, again on a flat plateau. Water was copiously drunk to prevent dehydration. We were all drenched in full sweat, soaked to the skin. Everyone was numbed to the core. It was that tiring! So we just laid ourselves down to rest our tired bodies. Then, out of the blue, in the stillness of that place in deep jungle,Tng K G
suddenly said he could not carry on anymore! He said it very softly but apologetically.
Suddenly.....our great historic adventure was hanging on a precipice.
Even Ahmad was affected and got involved.

How did we solve this crisis?
What happened next and how we dealt with that unforeseen critical situation
is an important learning point for all....even today.
[ Story to continue in next post ]

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