Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Visit to Cameron Highland and Trekking to the summit of Mt Berembun

 First agenda on the trip - the Executive Committee Meeting at the MARDI Agrotech Park

1. Introduction. The trip to Cameron Highland from August 27 to 28, 2016 was organised for three main considerations: to have the monthly Executive Committee meeting of the Alumni Association of MARDI, to visit the Association's strawberry project and finally, as part of the healthy program of its members, to climb one of the summits of the mountain around Cameron Highland.  Seven of the members of the Committee were able to participate whilst four extended their apologies. We departed at 8.15 am on Saturday August 27,  in a van provided by MARDI and were in Tanah Rata at around 1.00 noon. 

2. Committee Meeting and Visit to the Strawberry Farm. The Committee meeting covered the usual items of the Agenda. With the adoption of the minutes,  reports from the Secretary, the Treasurer and the various bureau - Economic and Entrepreneural Activities, Sports& Recreation, Religious and Spiritual, Communications were then tabled and discussed.  It was followed by the visit to the strawberry farm.  The farm extending an area of two-and-half acres are rented from MARDI and have been grown with strawberry utilising the fertigation system. It is being managed by AlMashoor Sdn Bhd whose Chairman is a member of the Committee.  The Committee was happy with the progress of development of the farm and discussed a few challenges encountered in its implementation. The delegation was treated to a steamboat dinner at the Passadena Hotel, Brinchang, hosted by the Chairman of AlMashoor, Dato' Syed Rahman.         

Second agenda on the trip - visiting the strawberry farm of the Association

The strawberry farm on fertigation system

The new strawberry area being prepared for planting

The steamboat dinner
3. Trekking to the Summit of Gunung Berembun (GB). On the second day (Sunday Aug. 28) of our visit to the Highland, the three members (Ezanee, Dagang and I) who have indicated interest to go trekking were up early.  We were informed during the Committee meeting earlier that the original plan to trek to Gunung Irau was not possible as we cannot get the permit to climb from the Forest Department.  The trek up G. Irau, we were informed, takes a total time of three hours to get to the summit and three hours to get down.  G. Berembun was said to be a relatively easier peak to climb and that the return time to get to its summit is half that of climbing G. Irau.  We had no option except to trek G. Berembun.  The starting point was at the compound of the Forestry Department at Tanah Rata.  As soon as the three young guides (Khairi - leader, Shafiq and Nordin) joined us at 8.30 am we started our climb.  Initially it was an easy low slope trek but subsequently the first challenging hill was the obstacle. I knew I needed a walking stick to assist in the climb which I managed to get and Shafiq assisted in trimming it.   Nordin led the pack followed by Ezanee.  In front of me was Shafiq and Khairi was the  sweeper. Both Dagang and Ezanee were fast and able to keep the pace of Nordin, who I was informed, was the fastest guide among the three of them. Before long, both Dagang and Ezanee, were way ahead and did not respond to our voice call. After having managed to get over the steep hill, it was followed by a steep downhill trek and finally reaching the resting point at around 10.00 am where I caught up with my colleagues. After 15 minutes rest we were on our way to the summit.  It was a difficult and testing climb. Shafiq was assisting me in the climb, showing the easier path to take. Khairi was uplifting my spirit and saying that this was a real mental test. I told him that, as far as I am concerned,  I am strong mentally. If anything it is my physical, my body whether it could withstand this physical endurance.  I was glad to reach the summit at around 12.00 noon where Nordin has already prepared Milo drink for the trekkers.  Soon after we were joined by two German trekkers who were on holiday in Malaysia.  Both are teachers on summer holiday and were specially impressed with the hospitality of the Malaysian people, but however, did not like the traffic jams in Kuala Lumpur. Shafiq who appeared to be well-informed on the various treks around Cameron Highland, said that there are16 peaks that adventurers can trek and the most popular is G. Irau.  The other popular peaks are Brinchang, Jaga and Berembun.  The flora of Berembun has a number of herbal species good for diabetes. He indicated that G. Irau is relatively easier to trek and more popular among adventurers.  On the morning that we were trekking GH there were 3 other groups of trekkers (foreigner) we met whereas the number that were climbing G. Irau were many times more.  
   The downhill trek was very challenging and for considerable distance I had to be assisted by both Khairi and Shafiq.  It appeared to be no end in sight.  At last we passed through the strawberry farm and ended the challenge in MARDI Agrotechnology Park at 3.00 pm.  In my assessment this climb is more challenging and difficult compared to trekking up Mt. Kinabla at 4013 m asl.
   After a quick refreshing bath and late meal, we departed at 5.00 pm from Tanah Rata and reaching home 11.00 pm after going through two very bad traffic jams on the way.           

            Third agenda of the trip - trekking up Gunung Berembun: Office of the Forestry Dept was the                                                       starting point of the Climb

The signage showing direction to the summit

The trekking with Dagang and Shafiq

It was cool in the morning and the jacket was still worn

Khairi with the label identifying the 'berangan' tree

The old fallen logs on your way

The rich flora seen along the trek

As the morning warmed up the jacket and hat ended in Shafiq's bag

The obstacles along the trek

At last reaching the summit - with Dagang (in orange) and Ezanee

With the guides, Shafiq next to me and Nordin on the extreme right

The other peaks around C. Highland as viewed from G. Berembun

Photo with the German couple at the summit

The start of the challenging downhill

The diverse flora seen along the trek

4. Concluding Remarks.  It is an exhilarating experience to get away for a short period from home.  Glad to see the strawberry project of the Association is progressing well.  Most of all the success of getting to the summit of G. Berembun definitely gives a great feeling of physical achievement and inspires me to pursue the trekking of other summits in the near future. Next in the pipeline is going up for my 16th climb up Mt Kinabalu scheduled for early 2017.  Hashim boleh!

Posted on Hari Kemerdekaan 31st August, 2016  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Further Exploration of Beautiful and Clean Putrajaya on Bikes with the Grandchildren

Skyrides Festival Park is the starting and ending point of our Ride

First shot with Putra Mosque and Prime Minister's Office in the background

1. Introduction.  I have cycled in Putrajaya a number of times.   The first ride I had was when I joined a big group of cyclists quite a few years back, cycling from the Botanical Garden, then the Wetlands and around the periphery of this Federal capital, for an estimated distance of 60 km.  It was an enjoyable ride going through the picturesque route with lots of trees and cool atmosphere with many water surfaces around. On another occasion I rode along the route by the lake.  Another breathtaking experience and indeed Putrajaya is a beautiful, clean city.  It is, therefore, not surprising that I have decided to invite my two grown-up grandchildren, Shazwan Adrin (19 years old) and Syafiq Aqmar (17 years) on this this biking trip to explore this beautiful capital.  Both of them are studying in the UK and are presently back home with their parents for the long summer holiday. I have organised this trip so that I can interact with them and get enlightened as to their study life in a foreign country and and at the same time, perhaps share with them a little, a living style that is balanced, incorporating elements of spirituality, healthy living,  environmental consciousness and community involvement.

2. The Ride.  Shazwan and Syafique stayed overnight at my house in Bandar Baru Bangi and that night, after dinner of chicken satay which they relished, the bicycles were cleaned and oiled.  Shazwan and Shafique brought the foldable version of the mountain bike, whereas I have an old horse, purchased in the late 1990, when I was actively mountain biking in Sabah.  On the morning of Wednesday August 10, 2016, we left Bandar Baru Bangi at 6.45 am for the Skyrides Festival Park where we left our vehicle and at 7.30 am we were on our way, by the lake heading for the nearby Seri Wawasan Bridge and then the beautiful Putra Bridge where we had the awesome view of the pink Putra Mosque and the majestic Prime Minister's Office in the background.  I took the opportunity to brief Shazwan and Syafique on the development of Putrajaya as the new Federal capital.  It was conceptualised in the 1980s by the then Prime Minister, YABhg Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and development work started in the midst of 1995 on the 11 320 acres, which was previously Prang Besar Plantation with rubber, cocoa and oil palm. I recollected, in my working days as a research manager in MARDI responsible for agricultural commodity, I used to visit the cocoa research area of the Plantation. We proceeded further and arrived at Wawasan (Heritage) Park, one of the many green areas established.  The Park was beautifully landscaped and provided with such facilities as benches that line by the fringe facing the lake and picnic areas with tables and benches.  The pedestrian avenue are planted with shade trees, which among them, are the common rain tree.  In the fringes of the lake I recognise weeping willow and 'putat' among the species planted.  Slightly away from the lake, yellow palm are among the trees planted.  I must confess that many of the shrubs and trees that adorn the landscape of the Park, their names slipped my mind - quite an embarrassment to Shazwan and Syafique- who were inquisitive to know these from their agriculturally trained grandpa.  Even to the question as whether the Putrajaya Lake is man made or natural water bodies was something I was not sure of.  I then decided to read more about the capital city.
  The Park did impress the two young men. Shazwan expressed the beauty and peaceful feeling riding through it and that the Park is 'bersih giler', the Y Generation expression that the place is very clean. After the Park and the residential area by the lake we passed the Seri Gemilang Bridge with the impressive Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) nearby, then the Anjung Floria Exhibition ground, the incomplete monorail suspension bridge, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque (also known as the Iron Mosque), the Alaf Monument and finally Skyrides Festival Park where we started. The ride with many stops for photography ended at 9.30 am covering an estimated distance of 25 km.  The exact distance was not known as the Garmin apparatus given as a birthday gift from my daughter, synchronised by Shazwan and for the first time worn on this Ride to record the details, was forgotten to be switched on.  We had breakfast at the nearby restaurant by the lake and all the three riders going for the same dish of nasi lemak ayam berempah+telur mata, accompanied by our newly found kitty friend.

3.  Putrajaya. The new capital, Putrajaya, was the vision of the then Prime Minister, YABhg Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who conceptualise its development on the 11 320 acre site as a garden and intelligent city, reserving 38% of the area for green spaces.  Accordingly, the green spaces were developed as parks - Botanical, Wawasan and Agriculture Heritage.  YABhg Tun also planned so that all processes in development of the city - planning, architecture, design of all structures are undertaken by Malaysians, and all construction, landscaping are done by Malaysian companies and materials are local. I understand only 10% of the materials used in the construction of the city is foreign.  Development of the city started in 1995 and after 20 years, there are still many construction activities looking at the earth works and the cranes that are seen above structures that are coming up. The Putrajaya Lake that encircles the administrative capital was man made, covering an area of 650 acres, designed to hold water to cool the city, for recreational purposes with boating, fishing, transportation and eco-tourism.  The many beautiful bridges that span the lake and add aestaticism to the capital, also have interesting history as to the architects responsible and the companies that constructed them. Putrajaya is a city that we Malaysians are truly proud of.                         

Signage of Wawasan Park

The many trees fringing the Lake in the Park

Benches for the visitors and the picnic area with green roof in the background

Avenue trees - the common rain tree

Landscape flower bushes in the Park

Administrative buildings in the Federal capital

SeriGemilang Bridge with PICC in the background

Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque in the background


The Alaf Monument near Skyrides Festival Park

The breakfast - nasi lemak ayam berempah - more calories added than lost during the Ride

The new kitty friend that joined us for breakfast.  It relished the ayam berempah

Posted on August 12, 2016