Friday, March 28, 2008

1st Tahan Expedition, part 24.....Melantai to Tahan Hqrs

Day 7 of Actual Climb...Monday April 21st 1969

Melantai to Kuala Tahan

Today, we were not in any real hurry knowing full well that this last leg of our journey was merely a trek back to Taman Negara Hqrs, about 5-6 hours away. However a more important reason was Ahmad....or rather his condition. He being a man of the jungle usually was way up before any of us even stirred from our sleepiness.

But that morning something was not right as we were all up before him. Now that by itself was most unusual. So we looked into his tent. He was not feeling too good. I recalled he said something about his " kepala pusing and badan sakit "[ head spinning and body ache]. We asked him what had caused it. He sheepishly revealed that he had consumed both the iron tablets and the anti-malarial pills that I had given him and he thought that was the cause of his problems. And he was probably right. He had taken them before he slept.

Here was a native of the jungle who had never taken such chemicals before and his body was obviously reacting to the iron and quinnine. So, I suggested he drank hot tea and more water to dilute whatever effects of the drug. We took our time to get ready, taking things easy to give him enough time to recover. The guys prepared a good breakfast for all, including Ahmad. By about 8 am, he was feeling much better and was ready to lead us again. We broke camp for the last and final time and bade goodbye to Sungei Melantai. Fortunately, Ahmad was able to recover otherwise we might have to fashion a makeshift stretcher to carry him back. Then we were off again onto the trail heading south. We arrived at Tahan Hqrs around 2 pm in good weather.

The 1st thing we did on arriving back was to report to the Park office, accompanied by Ahmad, that we were all safe and sound, and had achieved our objective. Ahmad confirmed everything that we stated. The Park Superintendent then asked Twang Peck Ee, our Expedition Leader, to provide him with the full list of names of the climbers and other details.

He told Peck Ee to come back later for a cert or letter confirming our achievement.

The 1st thing I did after that was to head straight for the Park canteen. There, I ordered some cold Coke or Coca-Cola as it was properly called for myself and some of the guys too. When we were discussing what we missed most the previous night, for me , that was my answer. I would give anything to have a simple, super cold COKE drink on ice preferably! Nothing else tasted better or quenched my thirst better that day. I supposed it was pretty much the same for the others. We re-ordered Coke and sat down to enjoy one of life's great pleasure! Only "tortured"
Tahanners would understand this.
Later, after we had washed up and had our lunch, we were each given an original copy of the Certificate/Letter which had our names on it. It was done on the Taman Negara Letterhead and dated that same day......the 21st April 1969, that we ended our climb. In all, we took a grand total of 6 DAYS and 6 HOURS for our expedition to Tahan and back. Was there an attempt to set a record in terms of duration, by us? The answer was and is " NO !". We were aware that we
were "trailblazers" from Singapore. Whatever time it took us to succeed wasn't important.
What mattered was that we had to conquer the peak.
Nevertheless, we were well aware that we had planned for a 10 day expedition....not knowing what to expect. So, in the end, we were pleasantly surprised that we....the 1st Singapore Tahanners... had done it in 6 Days and 6 hours.
In doing so, we became the 1st Singaporeans to conquer Gunung Tahan.
And that was a matter of some pride and joy to all 10 of us.

In the evening of that day, we met up with dear Ahmad again. We had gone through all our group and personal items and all excess items were donated to him. They included all our unused tinned food, rice,sugar, cereals and other utensils and barang-barang[ things ]. He was grateful for our donations and the extra guide fees we handed him.
Then from his pocket he pulled out something to push into my hands...and added he did not want them any more. I stared at the pills and tablets of iron and quinnine in my hands. We all had a great laugh!!! He said in Malay to us that those pills were bad "ubat"[ medicine ]. Ha ha!!

He wasn't wrong at all in his conclusion.

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