Article By Mohd Azhar Ibrahim (firstname.lastname@example.org)
My Landy Malaysia convoy of seven 4wds were on a mission to distribute Nestle milk powder and Milo sachets donated by Nestlé (Malaysia) Berhad, to the Orang Asli at the Pos Kemar Resettlement Area in Sungai Siput , Perak, last Thursday. Since not everybody could leave at the same time, we divided ourselves into two groups.
The first convoy which consisted of six people travelling in three 4wds carrying the cargo, with Rambo, ‘Chef’ Danial Lim aka Petai, and my son Amin at the wheels, were supposed to rendezvous at the Rawang RnR area before heading 220km south to Sungai Siput at 8.30pm. The rest would follow suit on Friday afternoon.
However last minute grocery shopping, compounded by ‘Cupcake’, my Defender Twin-cab Puma taking a wrong turn in Rawang, resulted in a two-hour delay before the advance party of six, headed by Rambo with guest of honour Noor Azam of Edaran 4×4 Accessories Sdn Bhd on board, eventually took off at 10.30pm.
Stopping briefly at the Simpang Pulai Layby, we reached Sungai Siput at 2am, refuelled, and proceeded to Lasah, and another 20km of gravel track onwards before making camp for the night near Sungai Piah.
Danial then prepared some hot drinks and the inevitable Maggie mee for refreshment. However, most of us preferred to catch up on our forty winks. Hitting the sack out in the open at 1,200 metres above sea level was both bone-piercingly cold and refreshing at the same time. All of us slept like logs, only waking up in the morning at the sound of a lorry and Hilux laden with loggers passing inches away from us before crossing the river. We promptly reheated the leftovers from the night for breakfast before crossing Sungai Piah.
Pos Piah which consists of four villages: Gentes, Kembok, Piah, and Teras, is the resettlement area for the Orang Asli of the Temiar stock. Our convoy stopped at Kampung Gentes, populated by some 38 families, to hand over the first batch of supplies to the relatively young Batin (Chieftain), Ariffin Longchar.
The next delivery was made further up, just after passing a matau (Cantonese for timber logging station) near Kampung Jarau Baru, where we came across Lian Seng Nong, a 56-year old Temiar with 15 grandchildren under his roof. We also handed appropriate portion to his next door neighbour, 56 year-old Endang Itam, who has one grandchild under her care.
The convoy proceeded upwards to Pos Kemar and to Kampung Banun which fringes the Temenggor dam, searching for a camp site location. Alas, we did not find any. The river at Kampung Banun where we made lunch would have been the perfect backdrop for one but for the unsuitable grounds.
Azam recommended we back tracked to the lower parts of Kampung Kemar where there is sufficient clearance for a camp ground at what used to be a matau. However, the site was abuzz with the movements of tractor, skidder, steam-roller, and san tai wong (Cantonese for ‘king of the road’) lorries used to haul timber logs out of the forest. The cacophony produced by these heavy machines is not unlike that at a construction site. But the wayward traveller cannot afford to be choosy.
I was eager to try out my new Fred Shires Tarptent. The brochure says it only takes two minutes to set it up. The fact that it took me over thirty minutes made me feel rather inadequate. And even then, condensation from the high humidity due to the heavy dewfall made my beddings damp, and sleep difficult.
In consolation, two cheap ‘pasar malam’ (night market) carbide lamps that I brought, proved very useful. They easily outlasted the battery operated fluorescent bulbs for illumination. This was only after our cameraman Eddy aka Kodi worked tirelessly to rectify a defect in one of them.
A camp site is incomplete without a campfire, so I set about making one. It provided much welcomed warmth as Rambo, Azam and I maintained vigil for the second convoy of four vehicles, which eventually arrived at 4am. Within minutes, Danial deftly whipped up hot meal and beverage for the famished new arrivals before everybody bedded down for what remained of the night.
The clanging of the san tai wongs as they set about with their work early Saturday morning made sure everybody was awake, except for the three children with us, and Amin, who is a natural late riser. Later in the morning, he and Azam led the whole convoy through yesterday’s pace for the benefit of those who’ve just arrived, while Rambo, Danial, David and I remained to prepare lunch. David got stung by a bee and developed a palpitation. Fortunately he calmed down after some medication.
There’s no arguing that we had to move camp. Azam recommended we check out the ‘Long Beach’ situated further down. The place used to be another matau a decade earlier. When we got there, we were greeted with an immense amount of open space beside a steel bridge. You can easily organise a jamboree for a hundred 4wds here. The river was flowing fast, deep, and clear. As an added bonus, somebody had recently completed building two bamboo platforms replete with a cooking bench underneath the bridge. Rambo was visibly delighted at our find.
As is fitting for such a fortuitous occasion, dinner was a sumptuous affair of seafood tom yam, som tam ( finely sliced pickled mangoes sprinkled with chillies), KFC-like fried chicken, otak-otak (grilled fish paste), and grilled squids. Not surprisingly, we stuffed ourselves silly.
Post dinner, Eddy, Azam, and I sat around the campfire nursing our coffee over some friendly conversation. We were joined by our guides Mohd Aris Mat Taib (9W2KCR) and local-born Abdul Hamid ismail.
Hamid Ismail told a fascinating story of his late father’s unique experience working at the nearby Elphil Estate, when on the morning of 16th June 1948, the manager A.E. Walker was assassinated by Perumal, who was the estate’s lorry driver.
Walker’s murder was followed thirty minutes later by the killings of two other British planters 1.6km away at the Phin Soon Estate (now Sungai Siput Estate). The incident sparked the Malayan Emergency, which lasted till 1960.
Perumal was shot dead by the guerillas a week later when he wanted to surrender to the government.
Understandably, the British (and our history books) painted him as a cold-blooded terrorist and packed his wife and children off toIndia. But according to Hamid, his father had insisted that Perumal was a good chap who was forced to do the dastardly deed as the communists had threatened to kill his entire family if he refuses to do their bidding.
Later on our way home, he pointed out the memorial stone at the entrance of Elphil Estate to commemorate the British planters, members of security forces, staff and their family members and civilians killed during the Malayan Emergency.
The next day, after a refreshing frolic in the river, we headed out to Pos Piah to unload the rest of the rations, toyed around with a cute baby otter named Kubok, which belonged to one of the residents; before moving for home.
As far as off road driving go, the track we encountered ranged from mild to medium, but could have easily turned hardcore had it rained. On the whole, it was a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, I have some misgivings about what we saw when we were there.
Initially Eddy wanted to take photograps of the logging operations area but Rambo cautioned him against doing so. Loggers are just as sensitive to having their deeds on print as the forest is to their logging.
There are limits to harvesting any natural resource if sustainable management is desired. But thanks to our destructive inborn abilities, human beings have wreaked havoc on earth. Deforestation has contributed extensively to global warming.
Today the whole world is beginning to express concern for the rapid destruction and degradation of the eco-system.
The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.
Although no extensive research exists to precisely quantify how much of biodiversity is lost as a result of these fellings inMalaysia, you don’t have to be terribly smart to see that the damage is quite substantial.
If we continue unabated, the earth itself will be the worst for it. Conservative management has therefore got to become part of the development of the forest resources.
When all is said and done, Nature is not for us; it is an inseparable part of our worldly existence.
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*all pics are taken by Nikon D90
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