Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mt Murud Trek - the walk from Ba' Kelalan to Pa' Rabata

19th October: After three days of seemingly idle, relaxing strolls amidst the greens of Ba' Kelalan's paddyfields and sometimes purposefully high-school-ish coversations in the dark after dinner was quietly jolted by the arrival of the rest of our trekking team from Miri on Monday, a huge amount of luggage as well as a sudden realisation that we were in Ba' Kelalan to scale Mt Murud, the highest mountain in Sarawak at 2413m.

The team was made up of a motley crew of walkers and trekkers in it for the adrenaline rush of another challenge and a couple of birdwatchers intent of birding Murud. Chris Haneveld, Sara Wong, Jackie Fong, Faye Osman, Sparrow Tan, Edward Ong, Yeo Teck Seng, Ting King King and Dr Rangamal. Some have been training for this for weeks if not months on various other peaks like Lambir and Gunung Nuang before this.

Our first task was to conquer the Ba'Kelalan outer ridge and to make it in one piece to Pa' Rabata, our first jungle shelter on the same day before the trek proper to Mt Murud Church Camp at 2200m. Apparently the ridge is supposed to be the first measuring stick of whether any of us would make it to the summit.

We set off at approximately 0900 hrs 19th October after sorting out our packs and load allocation for the porters. We had with us 2 guides, Gukang and Ating, as well as 5 porters with us for the trip.

Sorting out the load before the start of our trek.

Jackie trying out the porter's load for size at our first stop before the ridge.

Our porters raring to go ... looking at the weight on their backs gave a new meaning to travelling light, they move along the trails like a ghost, silent, sure footed as if they are flying along weightless.

We all made it to the ridge which a good sign to the days of more trekking the next couple of days. Leeches encountered weren't as many nor problematic as we had predicted, perhaps because of the drier weather in the area the past few days that we were there.

View of the canopy from the ridge. The trek up to the ridge was through a community forested cherished by the Ba' Kelalan folks. There were quite a few birds heard along the trek however our paced didn't allow any prolonged stop. We were eager to make it to Pa' Rabata before nightfall.

We had our first break at 1030 hrs, and we made it to the first rest stop at a very good pace. The porters with all their allocated load caught up within 15minutes of our arrival. Considering the weight they had on their backs, they either took the secret elevator up or flew. After a short break we continued our journey uphill to the ridge.

We got to the ridge top in one piece at almost 1130hrs, the porters joined us shortly after. The cool wind sweeping across the ridge provided the well deserved respite. Having made it this high was a good sign that we'll all make it to Church Camp the next day. Surprisingly there were only a few leeches encountered along the way. But there was one pesky little guy that made to the mid thighs of yours truly and actually drew blood, this fact was only discovered upon a thorough body check at Pa' Rabata a few hours later, the slimey bastard!

The rest of the trek was mostly downhill on disused logging trails towards the valley. If going uphill was tough, going downhill on a sunny day at noon was tougher considering the constant jolt to the knees and lower back. It seemed like a never ending trail and there was very little in terms of anything interesting along the way.

One curious note was the presence of cow hoofprints all over the hills and along the overgrown logging trails. Apparently these were of cows belonging to the surrounding villages which left their charges to roam free. The cows are apparently hunted for meat as and when needed, sometimes by the owners themselves, and at other times by more opportunistic individuals.

We made it safely down the valley to Pa' Rabata about 2:30pm, by then utmost in everyone's mind was to stop moving altogether. With knees wobbling and back aching, it was a huge relief to finally be able to sit down knowing fully well that the tough part is over, or at least we thought it was "the toughest" if only for that particular day.

In almost high spirits, packs were opened, cups of tea and coffee were distributed around the shelter. In a short while one by one, took to the rocky stream next to the shelter to clean up in cool clear water.

Phew! We made it over the ridge!!!

The 5 hour trek winding uphill and downhill after the ridge did not affect our porters at all, they all smiles. Either that or we provided them with enough comedy all along the 5 hour trek that day.

Our porters taking a breather after promptly making tea and coffee for the team.

The view of the canopy from the grounds near Pa' Rabata jungle shelter.

Next up: The trek up to Lepo Bunga and Murud Church Camp, 20th Oct 2010.

A few days in Ba' Kelalan prior to Mt Murud Trek

Friday 15th November was declared a public holiday in replacement of Saturday, on the occasion of Yang Di Pertua Negeri Sarawak's birthday ... perhaps the only person in the world who's birthday can be bandied about on any convenient day as decided by the ruling government of the day. Wonder whether he was asked, "Is it OK if we change your birthday to some other day, Sir?"

It was however a great opportunity for us to finalise a few last minute preparations for our group's intended Murud trek on Tuesday.

Our advance trekking party flew into Bekalalan Saturday morning, a few days earlier than the rest of the team. Upon arrival what needed sorting out was sorted while we filled the rest of the days with leisurely pursuits in the beautiful countryside such as birdwatching and stalking paddyfields.

Sara, Chris and Nazeri formed the advanced party who waslater joined by Rangamal, Yeo, Faye, Jackie, Edward, Mr Tan, and King king who flew in on Monday, a day before the Mt Murud Trek was to begin.

We had the place to ourselves for a few days ... and what a wonderful three days we had!

16th Oct, Saturday
0730 hrs Fly to Bekalalan
0915 hrs Arrival Bekalalan Airport
0948 hrs Check-in at Sang Sigar's Homestay in Buduk Nur
1200 hrs Lunch
1330 hrs Explore Sang's backyard for birds
1900 hrs Dinner

A man's car ... all muscle and can go anywhere ... no whining here.

Heavenly view from the twin otter, not sure where this is exactly.

Sang Sigar and Julia's beautiful home in Buduk Nur, our base in Bekalalan.

Lush bamboo groove in the backyard of the house.

We were checking out the bush for an owl that was reportedly seen by several people in the area. We were unlucky that day but there were many other birds in the area ... we heard quite a few.

We the buffaloes wallow, we were spying on a few Wood Sandpiper in the same area.

17th Oct, Sunday
0730 hrs Breakfast
0830 hrs Stroll the villages
0920 hrs Entered Long Langai
0954 hrs Entered Long Lamaput
1100 hrs Reached the nice dusun at the end of Long Lamaput
1200 hrs Trudging along the paddyfields between Long Lamaput and Long Langai
1300 hrs Lunch and rest at Sang's house
1638 hrs Walked towards Salt spring
1727 hrs Reached the Bailley Bridge
1815 hrs Reached Sang's house

Rustic view of the paddyfields are a staple here, everywhere you turn to there's bound to be some expanse of green, so soothing.

Local cuties at Long Langai stealing a moment away from Sunday's church service. Both Long Long Langai and Buduk Nur has a grand churh in the making. The church in Long Langai comes complete in concrete and Grecian columns, construction still awaiting final touches.

Along the dirt road towards Long Lamaput, another small village on a hill, there goes the green again.

A sweeping view from a knoll overlooking the green paddyfields and surrounding hills.

A small village stream flows quietly.

18th Oct, Monday
0818 hrs Introduced to Headmaster of SK Bekalalan in Long Langai
0820 hrs Started an impromptu "Birdwatching 101" for Primary 6 students
0915 hrs Walked to Bekalalan Airport to meet members of trekking team
1052 hrs All trekking members at Sang's house
1400 hrs Birdwatching with SK Bekalalan's Primary 6 students
1559 hrs Wrapped up birdwatching excursions with students
1630 hrs Walked back to Sang's house

A bucolic scene right in front of our homestay, a resolute buffalo absolutely refused to budge despite the unrelenting insistence of his masters. He only moved when they finally realised that they can't make the beast do their bidding this day. The buffalo gingerly walked away when they relieved him of his day's load.

While everyone else drew two eggs with a beak, two legs and a tail, our young friend Johny from SK Bekalalan sketched a Rhinoceros Hornbill to the amazement of many in the classroom.

A lone abandoned house in the middle of a paddyfield, could be a haven for those seeking solitude and waiting for divine inspiration, all it needs is a bit of sprucing up and a few well placed potted flowers.

Young birders eager to discover the birds in their backyard, each equipped with a binocular supplied from the school. These young folks are fortunate to be having such a backyard.

I spy with my eye a tiny little bird with an orange breast and grey mantle.

The three days in Bekalalan pre-Murud was wonderful; the days were filled with easy conversations with Sang and Julia about day to day life in the village, gentle stroll in the countryside amongst the paddyfields and delicious home-cooked meals by Julia.

We will be exploring further collaborations with SK Bekalalan through Sang to bring birdwatching activities to the the youngsters as well as more birdwatchers to the village hopefully to everyone's benefit.

Please email us if you wish to get more information about idyllic Bekalalan and how to visit.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Training for Murud Trek for those who needs it

Sara has come up with a few trekking sessions to acclimatised the muscles of participants in teh upcoming weeklong Gunung Murud trek. It's nothing like practice in almost like-for-like field conditions.

First session:
Lambir Hills National Park Dinding Trail 25th September
10km walk over undulating forested path to Dinding Waterfall
ETD 0700hrs from Taman Awam OR 0730hrs at Park HQ
Expect to be back at Park HQ 1500hrs
Please wear proper shoes (NO SANDALS) and bring rain protection in case of rain.
Bring 2-3L of drinking water and some energy bars or snacks of choice.

Second session:
Lambir Hills National Park Summit Trail 02nd October
Meet 6:30am Taman Awam or 7am Park HQ to give us some headstart and return to Park HQ in daylight.
This trail is longer than Dinding, after passing Dinding Waterfall junction, there is another stream to cross. From then on, the path is mostly on the way up. Towards the last part of the climb, we will be scrambling over rocks. There are ropes to assist the climbers at the steepest part of the slope.
If the party is unable to reach the peak at 1:30pm, we will turn back.
Please bring enough drinking water for yourself (we are expected to hike for 8 - 9 hours in very hot and humid weather), rehydration salt, iodine / chlorine tablets in case you need to refill stream water, raincoat, torchlight and food. Last but not least, make sure you have enough sleep the previous night..

The trekking sessions above are also open to other members intrested to partake in some of the fun. Please contact Sara Wong for more information and further details.

As of today, the Murud Trekking is now fully subscribed with 10 members from KL, Kuching and Miri participating.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

MNS Miri 6D5N Mount Murud Trek in October

Proposed 6D5N Bakalalan - Mount Murud - Bakalalan
Date: Mon 18 Oct - Sat 23 Oct 2010

A cuppa or two or three inline with the customs of hospitable folks far away from the city lights, for illustration only.

Mount Murud is the highest mountain in Sarawak at 2423m. MNS Miri is planning a guided trek to the area in October.

Day 1 Mon 18 Oct Miri – Ba'Kelalan (Lunch, Dinner)
We will fly from Miri to Ba Kelalan via Lawas. Upon arrival, check in Homestay and have lunch. In the afternoon we either go on a walking tour of Ba’Kelalan to visit temperate fruit farm and rice paddies, or trek to the view point to have a great breathtaking view of Ba Kelalan valley. Dinner and overnight at Homestay.

Day 2 Tue 19 Oct Ba’Kelalan – Lepo Bunga (Breakfast, Packed Lunch, Dinner)
After breakfast, we will begin our trek to Lepo Bunga.
Dinner and overnight at Jungle Camp.

Day 3 Wed 20 Oct Lepo Bunga – Church Camp (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
After breakfast, pack up and trek up to Church Camp. Set up sleeping quarters. Lunch.
In the afternoon we will explore the area around Church Camp to study the various nepenthes, rhodendrens, orchids, moss and plants (some may want to do a bit of birdwatching) and trek up 30 mins to Batu Linanit for a superb view (weather permit) of the surrounding rainforest and also Mt Mulu and Ba’Kelalan.

Overnight with dinner at Church Camp.

Day 4 Thu 21 Oct Church Camp – Mount Murud Summit – Church Camp (Breakfast, Lunch ,Dinner)
Breakfast and trek to the Summit Plateau, also known as the ‘rock garden’ to discover a unique highland forest. Lunch and then trek back to Church Camp.
Overnight with dinner at Church Camp.

Day 5 Fri 22 Oct Church Camp – Bakalalan (Breakfast, Lunch ,Dinner)
Early morning wake up call. Break camp, tidy up the place, pack up, breakfast and descend all the way down to Ba'Kelalan.
Dinner and overnight at Homestay, Ba'Kelalan.

Day 6 Sat 23 Oct Ba'Kelalan – Miri (Breakfast)
Breakfast. Fly to Lawas and take a connecting flight to Miri.

Those interested to further explore the birds around this area can opt to spend extra time to explore our feathered friends at Church camp while we wait for the climbers to return from scaling the heights of Mt Murud.


Sara just had a long chat with our contact in Bakelalan. Amongst the things discussed:

a) the difficulty level of the climb.
Mr Sang cautioned that hikers have to be fit and need to be trained 3 - 4 months before the climb. Compared to Mount Kinabalu, Mount Murud is considered more difficult on account of poorly maintained trail.

The plankwalk is already rotten and it would be dangerous to walk on them. Be forewarned, it is not going to be a walk in the park.

b)Pace, local vs. city slickers
Day 2, Bekalalan to Lepo Bunga: 3 hours local pace.
For city folks maybe 5 hours. We will be staying in a jungle shelter, need to bring ground sheet.

Day 3, Lepo Bunga to Church Camp: 5 - 8 hours local pace.
This is the most difficult part of the climb including a very steep section which takes the locals 1 hour (for us probably 2+ hours). The pace will very muchldepend hikers' fitness level.

Day 4, Church Camp to Summit: 3 hours local pace.
This part is easier because the slope is more gentle.Trail will be muddy if it rains. No stream crossing.

As a contingency, we may add a provision for a breakway party to cater to those who prefer to smell the roses along the way and catch a glimpse of a few endemics (and become famous by ticking a bird that hasn't been ticked before).

The breakaway party shall wait for the summit climbers at a designated spot along the route.


Confirmed participants to secure seats on the De-havilland Twin Otter as soon as possible.

Latest Costing Estimates (from Sara):
1) Homestay - 2 nights accommodation with 2B, 2L, 2D = RM30 x 10 persons x 2 nights = RM60

02) Guides* (Mt Murud) = RM100 per day x 2 guides x 4 days = RM80

03) Porters** (Mt Murud) = RM100 per day x 3 porters x 4 days = RM1,200 (for carrying food, cooking utensils, supplies for the hiking party of 15 person, porter for personal items at participant's cost)

4) Cost of food, cooking equipment and supplies*** for 15 person for 4 days = RM1,400 (very rough estimate, no shopping list or survey have been drawn up yet)

Total cost estimated to be RM4,000
OR RM400 per person based on 10 participants
OR RM500 per person based on 8 participants

Participants are responsible for purchasing their own airfare and airport tax.

Guide (View point) = RM45 x 1 guide x 1 trip = RM45

Important notice:
a) MNS Miri (Sara) will collect $200 refundable deposit from participants to be paid before END July 2010.

b) MNS Miri (Sara) will collect $100 non-refundable deposit to be paid by participants before END July 2010.

c) MNS Miri (Sara) will collect the balance of payment END of Sep 2010.

d) There will be a $25 administration levy for non-MNS members participating. This will be used as a slush fund to organised similar trekking activities in the future.

Elevation map from MNS Miri Pulong Tau Expedition Sep 1998.

Morning mist at Church Camp by Ibanorum from Youtube.

If interested please email mnsmiri@yahoo.com or saract.wong@gmail.com

Latest update:
22nd July :
7 places have been taken up with confirmed tickets.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Long Banga Walkabout Dec 2009

Area covered. From Dec 26th to Jan 03rd we covered Long Lamai, Long Siut, Long Tungan, Long Moh, Lio Matoh and Long Banga. Careful planning and advance prep on our part didn't quite step up to local variations on the ground this being our maiden visit to the area. Yes: there are small grocery shops in most communities where you can buy your entire warbdrobe for your stay. Yes: most villages are connected to each other one way or the other depending how you want to do it. No: timetables are seldom adhered to and even if there is a one, the price has to be just right. Yes, everyone here is very flexible. We didn't manage to cover Long Lamam and Long Ajeng. Map sourced from BMF.

At Long Tungan. After having came out in one piece from what could've been our most adrenaline pumping nite-time blind white water experience down Sg Selungo the nite before from Long Siut, all were in reasonably high spirits the next day during the short walkabout around Long Tungan, a rag tag settlement of Kenyahs consisting mainly of jovial older folks.

At Long Moh. After a few cupfuls of the village local brew courtesy of a wedding several nites before and snortful of smoke from handrolled cigars, members of our party didn't need too much coaxing to take to the floor to perform "Ngajat" or at least what passed as ngajat when we executed it. The village folks gave us plenty of encouragement and opportunity to mutilate the most graceful of ngajat movements.

At Long Lamai. Meeting up with a Penan hunting party on the way to their playground along the Long Banga-Long Lamai trail. One of the men is actually working in Miri, returning home for short break for Christmas. His hunting dog came from Miri, a stray he picked up from Krokop market who's now nearly graduated from stringent Penan training in the bush.

Stories to come. All images by Sara Wong.