The Gunung Stong State Park (GSSP) also known as Jelawang Jungle lies in central Kelantan. There are several peaks in the area, the most popular among climbers and hikers are Gunung Stong, Gunung Ayam and Gunung Baha. The other popular attraction is the seven-tiered Stong Waterfalls, reputed to be the highest in Southeast Asia. Not far from GSSP lies a group of caves formed over 225-million years ago. Collectively known as the Dabong limestone caves, the caves have now become a staple part of the tourism packages offered by tour operators to GSSP.
We took a sleeper train to Dabong, Kelantan. The train was scheduled to depart Singapore at 7pm and reach Dabang the next day at 618 am. The train departed on time but reached Dabong at around 9 am. It is the norm for KTM trains to be delayed, especially for longer journeys.
The Dabong train station and nearby food-stalls were crowded with hikers. Most of them were Malaysians and probably took the same train as us. Our guide was supposed to meet us at the train station, but there was no sight of him. We wondered around, looking lost, hoping that our guide would notice us. After 15 mins, a guy claiming to be from the tour agency we engaged, approached us. He told us that all the available guides were engaged but he would try to put us in another group with a guide. He instructed us to have breakfast first at one of the food-stall while he made arrangement for us. We waited for another 30 mins before a young handsome chap by the name of Yo, approached us, introducing himself as our tour guide. Somehow, the tour agency had managed to find a tour guide just for our group. (Later, we were informed that all the tour guides operating in Stong State Park belong to the same tour guide cooperative even though they may be working for different tour agencies.) After some discussion on the itinerary followed by more waiting time, we finally set off on our trek. By then, it was already 11 am.
Below is our trek itinerary (which was only firmed up an hour before the trek)
Day 1: Explore limestone caves in the vicnity of Dabong.
Day 2: Climb Gunung Baha, Gunung Stong and Gunung Ayam
(Due to time constraint, we didn’t attempt Gunung Ayam)
Day 3: Climb Stong Waterfall
There are many limestone caves near the vicinity of Dabong. Among the popular ones are Gua Gelap (Dark Cave), Gua Kris (Kris Cave, Kris is a Malay word for sword), Gua Pagar (Fence Cave) and Gua Ikan (Fish Cave). We visited all the caves excepted Gua Ikan which had been badly vandalized by graffiti. I would say that Gua Gelpa which has an average width of less than one arm length is the most interesting cave. Due to its narrowness, we had to manoeuvre through it in an Indian file. Half-way through the cave there is a small opening just above ground level, where we had to lie flat on our back to crawl through. There are many bats hanging from the cave ceilings. One of the most interesting inhabitants of the cave is Whipscorpion which looks like a hybrid between scorpion and spider (http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showthread.php?p=5483043)
After our cave exploration, we returned to the train station for a late lunch, followed by a 2 hrs trek to our campsite – Baha Camp. Baha Camp is located at the top of the main fall of the seven tier Stong Waterfall. The main fall with a drop of 270m is one of the tallest in West Malaysia. The other tiers of the waterfall with less impressive drops are located above Baha Camp. To reach the camp, we had to cross the river and scale up steep inclines of between 60 to 90 degrees.
Baha Camp has two camping grounds, one on each side of the river, that can accommodate between 150 and 200 people at one time. There are also a few wooden huts which serve as the sleeping quarters and kitchen of the mountain guides. There is a small shop that sells sweets and snacks but not meals or drinking water. A small hut over a dug-in hole serves as the camp toilet. There is no water tap or flush in the toilet. Toilet users are to bring their own water (scoop from the river) in for washing and flushing down their wastes.
We set up our improvised tents using groundsheets, ponchos, army arc of fire sticks (basically just stakes that act as tent pegs) and nylon strings. Our tents were filmsy and exposed to the nature elements. When it started to drizzle in the first night, we shifted our stuffs discreetly to the mountain guides’ kitchen, hoping to sleep under shelter on the kitchen benches. Unfortunately this move was discovered by one of the mountain guides who told us to return back to our tents.