Friday, February 22, 2013

Belum : Part 3

Full-on! 

The highlight of our trip was a boat ride to the Royal Belum Park.
Our organizers had packed in a visit to a Rafflesia site, orang asli village, animal salt lick and a waterfall.
This means -- an entire day on the trail.

Boat houses lashed together at the resort
A large tree in the rainforest
One of the many natural sites in Royal Belum
With rain, comes the leeches...

It rained over the last couple of days.
I can say the same for the night before as it poured from as early as 3am till early in the morning.
Michelle was rather upset and told me that the run to the Royal Belum Park may be screwed.
But the weather held up.
We went to the dining area to have our breakfast and were looking forward to the Rafflesia site.
This would be our second encounter with Rafflesias in Peninsular Malaysia.
Two guides with their 40hp outboard boats came to round us up.
And as usual, the loud ladies and their brats were the last to turn up.
I was surprised to experience their enthusiasm.
Steve Khong, the resort operator gave the children their special life jackets and packed lunch before he sent off the group.
Our trip began with a boat ride to Banding.
We were told to purchase some snacks for the Jahai tribesmen.
One of the ladies in our group actually bought vegetables to be handed over to the aboriginal people.
Throughout the trip, this lady asked a lot of senseless questions. Which was really annoying.
Anyway, we reached the Rafflesia site on time and started a 15-minute hike.
Azmi, our guide showed us an area where the flower buds were found. But none were in full bloom.
The man actually located one on a hill slope which was already rotting. But that was better than nothing.
Some of the older women in the loud group had refused to hike up the trail. So, they stayed behind.

Vincent, capturing the Rafflesia on camera
The Malayan Scorpion

I had two encounters with a large Malayan Scorpion. 
Contrary to popular belief, this bug is not as aggressive as perceived.
I switched my lens from wide angle zoom to my trusty EF100mm F2.8L macro lens and started shooting away.
First, I mounted my MR14EX ring flash and noticed that there were some 'soft' corner. Turned out that the diffuser layer was blocking my lens.
Turned off the flash and took a couple of shots using natural light and it worked.

The sum of all fears: The Scorpion striking a pose
Meet the Jahais

Our next destination was an orang asli village.
Having worked with some and seen them during my forays to the wilderness, I'd say that this should be given a miss.
And outsiders should not give handouts to the aboriginal people.
Its obvious that their dependency had grown when a busload of people visits the village to hand snacks and trinkets to their children.
And again, the annoying old lady in our group was asking some really stupid questions..

The Sungai Ruak falls
One of the sites that is still in pristine condition
Chilling out
Having it their way..

We proceeded to an animal salt lick located about 30-minutes boat ride away.
I told Azmi the guide that it was time to break for lunch.
The children on the other boat were getting restless.
We found a shaded area near the salt lick and took the lunch boxes out.
Some of the older ladies were unhappy and wanted to eat on the boat.
Seeing as it is, these city slickers may be reckless. They are very likely to throw their food and plastic spoons in the river. So, bad call.
We ate and proceeded to the salt lick.
This was when the unexpected happen.
One of the young boy had a leech on his testicle and was washing up in the little creek next to the salt lick.
Clearly, the boy was traumatized..

Kelah sanctuary

The last item on the schedule was a visit to Sg Ruak, a fish sanctuary.
We hit the scene at about 3:30pm.
At this point the screaming ladies were apprehensive about hiking to the waterfalls.
They went along after much assurance from Azmi, the guide that there are no leeches on the trail.
I saw a lot of Tiger beetles on the ground and was impressed with the simple set-up at the waterfalls.
There, I took some slow shutter shots and enjoyed the sight of fishes swimming in the stream. You don't get to see this everyday.
As I made my way up to the falls, two of the younger ladies were hiking out with their children. One lady in particular, was carrying her daughter and scolding her all the way.
The outdoors is not for everyone. And like I said earlier, hiking in such trails is not suitable for children below the age of 12. That's a fact.
I spent some time at the falls and can actually see leeches zeroing-in on some footwear that were left on the rocky banks of the water pool.
Later, we boarded the boat and headed back to the resort..

The boat landing area in Sungai Ruak

Hanging out with the Khongs
Farewell dinner

We were quite happy with how things had turned out.
The Rafflesia was a bonus and along the way, we also spotted some eagles and hornbills.
Our host threw in a BBQ dinner which was the main highlight.
During the time, I was waiting in queue behind one of the screaming ladies.
She was scooping some roast chicken on the tray. 
While I watched, the lady scooped everything and walked away. That was utterly inconsiderate and as I see it, the ugly screamer was just down right greedy.
After the meals, it was time for another documentary session before we called it a night.
The following day, we checked out from the resort and started to hit the road on a long drive back to Kuala Lumpur..

Summary

The trip was worth every ringgit and sen.
Our stay at Belum Eco Resort was really pleasant. The food in particular, was excellent!
Spare the screaming ladies, a leech on the right testicle belonging to their little boy and a really annoying orang putih celup, I'd say that we had a good outing.
Having heard about the bird life in the area, I might do a follow-up trip in September this year.
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