So here I am one year older and thankfully not pregnant for once in three years. To celebrate this joyous occasion, I decided to abandon my children to the care of their grandparents (thank God for them) and drive up with my hubby and his uncle and auntie to Perak.
After work on Thursday, I took a coach from Golden Mile heading to KL. The driver was kind to drop me off at Ayer Keroh Jejantas rest stop where my hubby picked me up at 12 midnight. It is almost 10 years since I last took a bus into Malaysia and while I tried to exude the air of a frequent traveller to the group of rowdy American-born Chinese sharing the coach, I was unfortunately quite as clueless as them.
The decision to go to Perak was surprisingly not mine but my hubby’s. His uncle had suggested making a day-trip north of KL to Gua Tempurung, the largest limestone cave in Peninsula Malaysia and believed to have existed since 8,000 years ago. There are four types of tours through the cave ranging from easy walking to strenuous climb and crawl through the river. I needed no more convincing.
So here we are – having travelled 200km out of KL on the North-South Highway. We turned out at the Gopeng exit and hit upon the tourist centre after a short 2km drive.
The four tours in order of difficulty are Golden Flowerstone, Top of the World, Top of the World plus underground river and the Grand Tour. We had initially wanted the third option but as there was a lack of participants to form a minimum group of eight, we decided to brave the Grand Tour.
Four long hours later, we emerged wet, dirty and exhausted from the cave exit trailing the freshwater river but nonetheless feeling extremely accomplished.
We had successfully survived the arduous ascent to the topmost platform of the cave (approximately 1,000 odd steps up), followed by a daredevil descent sliding down smoothen limestone outcrops without so much as the safety of a rope or harness.
We crawled on our fours under dangerously low overhangs in which our bodies were almost submerged in the cold waters and then wading for a mile in the underground river. All this for a ridiculous fee of RM22!!
Three thoughts went through my head as we finally emerged into the brightness of the day after being subjected to total darkness for four hours. What the hell was going through my mind when I agreed to take the tour?! I never expected my desire to try something new and adventurous would meet and more than surpass it. It was an overdose of adrenaline.
Yet as I slowly began to recount my subterranean adventure, I marvelled at the wondrous beauty of the rock formation carved through the years by water eroding away at the limestone. It had an ethereal atmosphere, as if we had treaded upon a landscape that is quite out of this world. It didn’t help that we were in complete darkness, clueless to where our guide was taking us and what other stunts we were going to perform.
Our tour guide is a Malay youth in his thirties and I admire his stamina and strength to tread back and forth to make sure our group was intact and most of us were accounted for as well as helping the children, ladies and more elderly to clear the more strenuous hurdles.
However don’t be misled into thinking this is a walk in the park. Mostly we were left to navigate on our own and to our own devices. You could get lost or decide to venture through all the other chambers and I don’t think he would have been able to tell the difference.
This is the kind of ‘tour’ that is made for the adventurer at your very own risk. Although there were times I lamented at the lack of guidance and safety measures, in braving the obstacles head-on, the journey had etched itself firmly in my memory and I did feel much stronger for having completed the Grand Tour. And that is exactly how I would like to feel on my birthday every year.