So a couple of months back I was in my parents’ hometown of Ipoh. Famed for it’s limestone caves and hills, it’s refreshing to get away from the hustle and bustle of concrete, high-rise Kuala Lumpur and just enjoy the scenery here. Instead of hanging out at the usual malls and stuff, we decided to be extra adventurous this year by going caving at Gua Tempurung. Gua Tempurung literally translates to ‘Husk Cave’ and measures over 3km long, making it one of the longest caves in Peninsula Malaysia.
Travelling from town to the outskirts of Gopeng, we took in the dark green of the surrounding limestone hills amidst the backdrop of the clear blue sky. It was an extremely sunny day (not that it mattered much where we were gonna go!) The air was clean and fresh when we alighted at the foot of the hills. My parents dropped Bro and i off, and we got the Top of the World/River package (medium challenge), which would take approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours to complete. This was actually our first time caving for real – the last time we were here we stuck to the well-lit walkway, and that only took 40 minutes.
Dressed up in comfy tracks and sneakers with a good grip. I was really tempted to bring my camera along, but on second thought, I only put our torches and my water bottle in the water proof plastic. It turned out to be a good thing because guess what? I lost my torches D: More on that later.
Anyway, Gua Tempurung has existed since over 400 million years ago . It has a jaw-dropping collection of stalagtites, stalagmites and other formations, that have been cut and shaped by the mountain’s running water and streams for hundreds of millions of years. When you look at them, you’re looking at something that is almost as old as time itself.
Time to head in!
We set off from the checkpoint at 10 am with a group of 20 people, led by a cute tour guide called Pata. The first leg of the journey was the normal 40 minute ‘dry’ walk on the path – while Pata showed us the various unique formations inside the cave’s limestone and white marble interior. There were even little sparkles along the cave walls where our flashlights fell on them – crystal deposits used to make the actual jewelry and accessories we often see in shops. One of the stops had us climbing a over a hundred steps – it was giddy looking down from such a height from in between the steps. Wobbly knees while I hung on to the railing for dear life!
The song Misty Mountains from The Hobbit came to mind as we explored the path and marveled at the beautiful insides of the mountain – ‘through dungeons deep and caverns old’. This would not have looked any out of place if it was the set of the novel Lord of the Rings, like the beautiful underground mines of the Dwarves in their ancient kingdom of Khazad-Dum.
Continuing our journey, we got to the end of the paved pathway, and into the adventurous part: A steep slide-like formation that extended 7 metres down the cave. Some of the abangs of the group went down first – it looked scarier than any shyt I’ve seen so far, since there was a part where it was almost a vertical drop to the bottom – you could easily break a leg if you didn’t do it right. We took turns sliding down one by one. The surface is surprisingly smooth and slippery, so it was hard to use your hands to create a friction brake. After much summoning up of courage, I went down before my bro (can’t appear like a pussy in front of him nao!). The last part had me sliding down almost out of control – but thankfully the abangs caught me without damage.
We then clambered down this narrow little hole to the bottom of the cave (I swear if anyone in the group was fatter we’d get stuck.) This part of the cave was pitch black, and still very dark even with the flashlights.. and we finally touched water! The underground river runs on for a long distance, and the cavern is very narrow in places. Following the lead in front, we had to get on our hands and knees at some points to crawl through the confined holes , some with water levels so high we only had our heads above water. It’s a good thing we were wearing long pants coz the hard stones and pebbles on the underground river bed scraped our palms raw. And yeah, about the torchlights….they floated out of my pocket when I was swimming in the water. LOL.
It was particularly scary at this stretch where we had to swim in the water up to our necks, and it was so dark without the flashlights I could barely see the silhoutte of my bro in front of me. I kept imagining weird things popping out of the water …. D:
Lost track of time inside the cave, since we didn’t have watches, but when we finally emerged in daylight I felt like a vampire: the sun hurt my eyes after having adjusted to the dark for so many hours. Felt rather relieved to be breathing fresh and clean air again instead of the dank, dark of the cave. I’ve survived my first, real caving experience! I’m glad nothing like The Descent or Sanctum happened..
It’s definitely something to remember to be able to experience crawling through a cave, even though I was initially pretty chicken to do it. It’s liberating and exhilarating to set a target and actually complete it. I kept reminding myself that if I couldn’t even complete such a simple task, how am I supposed to take on backpacking? And I’d never know until I tried. I’m glad I did. c:
Also, random picture of a monitor lizard spotted crossing the road over to the jungle.
Goodbye, Gua Tempurung! It’s been so much fun. I should try taking on the hardest challenge next time I come visit.