25th - 26th September 2010: Ascending Mount Ophir
I learned at the grand old age of 12 that you can't avoid politics, even over the most uncontroversial, insignificant and apolitical of issues. And so it was no surprise for me to encounter the politicking, aggressive campaigning and alliances of convenience that came into existence just a month or two before the Malaysian Nature Society Annual General Meeting. As a committee member of the Malaysian Nature Society (Selangor Branch), being a witness to all the politicking that was going on only strengthened my resolve to be fair, ethical and responsible always, and to always keep my conservation and environmental education goals in sight even if everyone around me is getting disheartened or disinterested. As Plato put it, "Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber." And so soldier on I must, for the sake of the Society and for what's left our our wildlife and our natural environment.
The 63rd National AGM of the Malaysian Nature Society was held on Saturday, 25th Sept 2010, at the Taman Rimba Lagenda Resort, Gunung Ledang National Park, Johor.
Approximately 100 members turned up for the AGM. The results, though expected, did not generate much enthusiasm. Many members, including myself, either abstained from voting for a new President or merely voted for the candidate they disliked the least, rather than the candidate they liked better (because there isn't one). Still, the new President is backed by a dynamic and strong new council this year, consisting of people that the members love and respect. I trust that the new council will raise the Society to greater heights.
Our lodgings for the weekend consisted of very basic but satisfactorily clean and servicable huts in the National Park. I shared a hut with my buddy, Dr. Rangamal, or "Doc" for short.
Doing the full trek to the peak of Gunung Ledang, also known as Mount Ophir, seemed like the perfect remedy to the tedium of meetings and elections. My 12 other trek-mates thought so too. Note the preponderance of senior citizens in our group of trekkers! Well done, seniors!
Unusual-looking fungi that I saw on the way to the Water Source. I thought they looked a little like Magnum ice-cream bars with some of the chocolate coating chewed off.
Taking a break by the cold, clear stream at Sungai Segitiga.
"The trees are God's great alphabet:
With them He writes in shining green
Across the world His thoughts serene."
Scrabbling up the rocky trail, which wasn't very steep yet at this point.
We had to either climb through the caves or over the rocks at Gua Kambing to get to the next checkpoint. I opted for the ladders through the caves because I like caves.
This is where strong tricep and deltoid muscles come in handy. The natural handholds and footholds are not always within reach. I was too short to reach the footholds, so I had to haul myself up onto the overhanging roots. Woe betide me should the root give way!
The only way up this rock face is by holding on to these ropes and climbing up. No safety equipment, no helmets. We earthy-crunchy types seem to thrive on living on the edge.
On your mark, get set, CLIMB!
Okay, fellas, you're almost at the top! Just a few steps more! There, that wasn't so bad, was it?
Natural bonsai trees and shrubs at an elevation of over 1000 metres.
Sweaty, stinky and proud to have reached the summit.
The MNS Team of 13 is happy to have reached the summit (4,185 feet) after over 5 hours of climbing.
... And if this were Bollywood, the heroine would start rolling down the hill and her saree would keep on unravelling for 9 kilometres or so, and all the while the hero and heroine would keep singing without missing a beat, while random tea pickers and farmers (all at least one shade darker in complexion than the hero and heroine!) would dance and sing back up in mellifluous voices that sound suspiciously like Sonu Nigam / Udit Narayan / Lata Mangeshkar.
Lantana camara -- if only all invasive specie were this pretty!
A wild slipper orchid -- Paphiopedilum barbatum.
A tropical pitcher plant -- Nepenthes gracilis.
Elephant Rock! See the forehead and trunk?
We learned from our guide and the Park management that we may be the last group of trekkers to ascend Gunung Ledang, as the State Government has plans to close off the national park and mountain to the public.
This is a matter of grave concern to us, as many of my compatriots, like me, suspect that there may be plans to 'develop' the National Park for oil palm cultivation. Rumour has it that the state royalty has plans to construct a palace halfway up the mountain as well. If this were true, one can only imagine the accompanying environmental impact -- increased noise and light pollution, the construction of roads and sewage and waste disposal infrastructures and the increase in traffic by the royal family's entire entourage of official cars, servants and flunkeys.
We hope that there is no truth to the rumour. We hope that there are no plans to develop (read: destroy and damage) the National Park. We hope that any and all plans made in connection with the Gunung Ledang National Park are in furthering the cause of habitat conservation. And if they are not? Well, if they are not, then we will do everything within our power to raise public awareness on what is at stake, and campaign to protect, conserve and rehabilitate the mountain and National Park.
Because Gunung Ledang is worth saving, and worth fighting for.