Thursday, March 27, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 23....K Teku to Melantai

Gunong Tahan Descent -Day 6 of Actual Climb, Sunday April 2oth 1969
Kuala Teku - Melantai

We awoke very early to the beautiful and melodious calls of jungle birds and hungry monkeys announcing a new day. It was a peaceful morning as we set about digging up our cache of buried food and preparing for a good breakfast. We would need all the energy for the tough journey still ahead of us. This was one stretch that most Tahan climbers, even today, would find daunting. Breaking camp
very early, our intention was to set off before the heat and humidity got to us. We put our haversacks on, clambered over to the giant boulders that sat right smack on the banks of the Sungei Teku....for a "last look" at the awe-inspiring, fast- flowing river [ Top photo]. It seemed that we each wanted to etch or burn the images we were fortunate to be witnessing into our our mental hard disk [ No computers then! Never even heard of such.].

Then we turned southwards and headed for the river crossings. The problem with leeches resurfaced. In one of the river crossings, Jesudason had a slip and that was how some of our films got wet and were damaged.
The river bed were mostly of slippery pebbles, rocks and uneven stones upto waist deep in some places. He wasn't the only one who had a slip.
We were fortunate that no one was injured in the river crossings. In many later expeditions over the last 4 decades, some serious and even fatal incidents had occured...either at river crossings which can be flooded or along the trail.
Having endured the Malang hills, we knew what to expect and so rationed our water very carefully. We had adapted well to our surroundings and our movement as a group was VERY DISIPLINED. There were no stragglers within our 10 member group. We wisely followed the instructions and guidance as given by Ahmad. Following his speed and tempo on the return trek, with no slacking off by anyone, proved one thing.....that all the tough physical training we had carried out paid off. This will always remain the golden rule for Tahan expeditions....henceforth.
We reached Melantai, our 1st campsite before nightfall. All exhausted, we went to bathe and
swim in the gentle waters by our camp. This was one night we could really afford to relax as Tahan Hqrs was only 4-5 hours away reserved for the next day. We were in early celebration mood as we brought out all the foodstuff we had from our packs and from the buried spot. We had planned for a 10 day expedition but that was only our 6th day on the trail. So with much extra food, we had reconfigured the amount for our meals. That night would be the last dinner we would be taking on the trek.
Later, as we all sat snugly around the campfire recounting the incidents and events of the previous days, and discussing about what was tough, what we each learnt, what we miss the most during these 6 days, etc..... Ahmad, who by then, was accepted as like one of us, joined in.
By the campfire light our conversations eventually centred on him. How we could help him as he had helped us splendidly.... alone. We took stock of the things we had and still needed and decided that we would donate all extra things to him when we were back at base camp.
I was checking out my medical kit when Ahmad came to sit beside me. For the 1st time during the entire trip, he was curious and asked me about the various pills and tablets I had dished out to all every morning. He wanted to know what each was for and why were we taking them. I tried my level best to explain in simple Malay what each pill was for. For example, the iron tablet...I said simply, " Makan ini boleh jadi-sehat dan kuat!"[ eating this result in health and strength]. For anti-Malarial tablets I said," Makan ini...kalau nyamok gigit awak, badan tak sakit-lah!"[ eating this....when mosquitoes bite, your body will not be sick!]. After going over my medications with him, he asked whether I could give him some....iron and anti-malarial tablets.
No I had more than enough. I explained the dosage to him.
Later that night, we drifted into a restful sleep....all of us.

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