Monday, 12 November 2018

Forever Falls - a day trip to Selama in Perak

Fishing in Oil Palm Estates

It seems this part of Perak is all about waterfalls. We’d seen signboards for so many in our recent travels that we just needed to pop around to the area again and explore a little more.

The destination this time was Selama, about 100km from our home. We turned off the North-South Expressway at Alor Pongsu and saw something we had not seen before - people fishing in flooded Oil Palm estates! It seems the area is very swampy and low lying and the two main rivers in the area, the Kerian and Beriah rivers, do tend to flood the estates every now and then.

As we drove, we could see the canals were all full to overflowing and the estates were probably knee-deep in water. At regular intervals along the grass verge of the main road, people were seated, wide-brimmed hats protecting them from the late morning sun, fishing rods poking out like long tentacles looking for the fish that swim in these flooded areas. Some people had more than the single rod, handles stuck into the ground, their lines stretching out like the threads of a spider’s web, hoping for prey to latch onto a hook and be yanked out onto land.

A lady said ‘yes, there are fish’ when I casually asked her. And later on, I asked someone at Lata Tebing Tinggi and he confirmed they do catch fish including the very hardy and much-sought-after Haruan (Snakehead).

I am very familiar with the Haruan of course, as my late father used to fish this almost exclusively. The hardiness of this species is legendary. They can survive on next to no water for long periods. I know this for a fact because we used to keep them alive in a large Ham Tan Kong (Salted-egg Urn) until Dad could slaughter them and every now and then, and always in the middle of the night, they’d smash away the brick-laden mesh on top of the urn and fall into the little drain beside it. All this was just outside my bedroom window and whenever it happened, I’d be awoken by the sound of bricks landing on the cement floor and the subsequent slapping of the fish as it attempted a getaway down the drain.

A typical Ikan Haruan.
Pyjama-clad, I’d quietly unlock the front door, check the drains and grab escaped fish to replace them in the urn. If I was lucky, they would have gotten only a few feet in the dry drain. I used to marvel at this large fish gulping and thrashing away in the dry drain, gaining a few inches at a time with the minimal purchase it could get on the smooth glazed sides. Fish safely back in the tank and with more weight on the mesh, I’d sneak back in the house, clean up and get back to bed.

Mum made some very nice soup as well as steamed-fish-otah with the Haruan and I have fond memories of both though less so of picking the bones out of the flesh as we prepared the meat.

Banking on finding a nice waterfall

Our first stop this trip was Lata Tebing Tinggi. This is not far from a branch on the A115 just after the Rantau Panjang Post Office. We followed this branch road for about 7 km, as did first the Sungai Mengkuang then one of the two rivers that feeds it, the Sungai Tebing Tinggi from which the falls takes it name.

Plantations and orchards line this road and houses regularly pop up as well, often in pairs or clusters. This is quite a generously populated area even though traffic here is very light. On a left hand bend in the road is a little side road that led us in to Lata Tebing Tinggi a short distance in.

We parked by a concrete shelter and wandered down a set of semi-circular concrete steps and onto what I thought was a wooden bridge as the surface comprised 2-by-4 planks, some of which were missing, but which turned out to be a very solid concrete structure instead. The bridge fords the river and to our left was a series of cascades. Above the right bank is a road, roughly parallel to the one we drove in on, which stops at a cluster of buildings and then continues as a muddy track that leads up a hill. The buildings were in various stages of completion and included a larger structure as well as numerous little chalets. Some of these were built quite close to the bank and were open so I could peek inside - they were essentially one room structures with a bathroom/toilet inside. Others were being constructed on the side of the hill and the number of these structures indicated to me that this must be a popular spot.

Around the same time we arrived, a young man also came up on his motorbike. I chatted with him for some time and it was he who told me about the Haruan in the estates. He lived about 30 or 40km away but worked not far from here and he was going to enjoy a dip here before starting his afternoon shift.
He was a very chatty bloke and mentioned another set of falls, much more spectacular, near Sungai Bayor. He gave me some confusing directions and we said we would check it out later.

I often travel with my feet clad only in sandals and the advantage to this is that you can go wading in them or take them off quickly if necessary. The water looked particularly inviting and so I took the sandals off and wandered into and across one of the pools and clambered onto a dry part of the rocks, the water cascading down on my left.

Poor Mei was being bitten half to death by mosquitoes (she seems to attract them worse than flies to syrup) and when I’d finally convinced her to take her hiking boots off and follow me, she found the cold river water to be quite a salve for the bites.

We spied this in a tree near where we parked. We found his cousin on the other side of the river too. 

Mei cooling off her many mosquito bites.
We sat on a rock, enjoying the sun as our new friend splashed about just where the water foamed over the rocks. We were soon joined by a bunch of girls who gamely took their shoes off and waded through the water, carrying their lunch and not at all bothered by the fact their long dresses were getting wet.
They clambered up behind us to where the water was more still and in a large pool and there they splashed about. Beyond them the river seemed quite flat and flowed at a sedate pace.

We eventually got back to our car, waving goodbye to our friend who was drying himself off. What a wonderful place this is where one can splash about and relax in a mountain stream before heading off to work!

Our helpful friend enjoying himself before work. 
Upcoming tiny chalets 

Provide a bin and still this happens. Sigh. 
Not a lot of space to picnic but sufficient, I think. And the pools are reasonably shallow in many spots.

In Search of a waterfall with no name

Our friend’s instructions were not very clear though I caught bits including some mention of a fork. We took the main road out and after what I recognised was his first landmark, we promptly could no longer correlate any of what we could see to what we could remember… We went past some very nice properties along this road and just had to stop every now and then to snap a picture. We eventually got to Sungai Bayor and at the junction where SK Sg Bayor is, we took a right turn, following the narrow road in. The road was shaded on both sides and every once in a while there’d be a branch off to the right. We seemed to have, by chance, rediscovered his trail for this seemed familiar. Or perhaps it was just happy circumstance that led us down this road.

He had mentioned a fork in the road and at what I thought was the one he had mentioned, we took a left and at the very end there was a clearing, a couple of concrete shelters and even a tarmac area for parking. A river ran beside the road and this tarmac area and up ahead, beyond the shelter, we could see and hear a mid-sized waterfall, its water crashing down over a rock face onto a pool which then spilled over and ran off as the small river beside us.

A tiny chapel not far from Alor Pongsu.

Beautiful properties not far from Sg Bayor. 

...where the buffalo roam... 

The tarmac area on the left and the river with the lower falls beyond it. 
Interesting patterns in the rock 
Following the trail upwards 

A trail went upwards on the left of the last shelter, its clayey surface wide enough for a very narrow car but seemingly much too steep and slippery for ours. We asked a bunch of kids lounging about on their motorbikes nearby where the trail went. They weren’t sure so we decided to find out for ourselves.
The trail was definitely not for cars though we could see fresh motorbike tyre tracks. Picking our way up the sticky and slippery surface, we walked past jungle growth on both sides which began to give way to rubber trees. All along the path I could see evidence of scratching/digging - by animals, definitely, and probably wild boar. When I see these scratchings, I look for the tell-tale oval depression with two large protrusions in the middle - the perfect mould of a pig’s snout. I could not pick out any this time, but many of the scratchings were around rubber trees and I know wild boars love rubber seeds.

At a clearing further up, a large rock allowed us a beautiful view of another section of falls, this one much more spectacular than what was further downstream. Water spouted out over a triangular rock face about 3 storeys tall. The water’s path split across protruding rocks, to fall a little and split again, and again. The entire rock face was a pyramid of rock awash with cold mountain water which crashed down into a narrow gorge then flowed downstream.

Camera on a tripod, I crouched down and grabbed some shots which turned out rather nice.

What was not so nice was making our way back down later…

Worth the mud and clay and even the leeches... 
Can you make out the scratchings? 
Collecting latex 
Scratchings at the base of the tree.
We’d walked on some distance until the path levelled off and the surroundings became drier and less shady. This was now clearly someone’s rubber estate and the pots collecting flowing latex were all in good shape and obviously in use. The motorbike tracks we’d seen must be estate workers collecting latex, we figured and this also explained why some steep sections of the track were concreted. Still, how the motorbikes got any traction on the clay surface was beyond me.

Mud and sky...

Traction, it seemed, was beyond me as well as we began to descend along the trail. Loose leaves were a no-no to put any weight on so we picked our way along the trail, moving from left to right just to find secure footing.

At one point, I stood still for moment, camera in my right hand, backpack on my back and tripod slung onto the strap on the left, looking down the path, trying to figure out where to put my foot next. My sandal soles were jammed with sticky clay and one moment I was looking down the trail and the next I was flat on my back looking up at the leaves in the trees…

My feet had slipped out from under me in an instant. My tripod jabbed me in the underarm and my camera ate some clay but both of us were otherwise undamaged. If you trek up this trail when it’s damp, beware!

We spent some time cleaning up back down at the river. In addition to lots of clay stuck fast on the soles, I found two leeches beginning an intimate relationship with my feet as well. Must have been when I was taking pictures.

Driving out, I decided to try the right side of the fork as our friend had mentioned something about there being another set of falls there too. We drove along tarmac for some distance and across a couple of bridges then the road petered out into gravel and clay. Some bits were very tough going indeed and I had to crawl along, picking my way past deep ruts and large holes. If it got any worse this would qualify as true off-roading.

More interesting houses

Rough track out 

No trails were marked on any of our map apps but I could see that we were heading in the direction of some roads and houses and after half an hour or so, the road improved and we emerged into a housing area with some pretty houses and cows that stared at us behind fenced paddocks. We rejoined the main road and eventually made our way home.

All in all, quite an adventure!

Lata Tebing Tinggi is at 5°12'26"N 100°46'48"E
Summary: The waterfalls are really just rapids and the pools are suitable for wading through or splashing about. Not much space for picnics though when the chalets are completed this should suffice. Might be busy on weekends.

Unknown Waterfall near Sg Bayor is at 5°14'10"N 100°47'40"E
Summary: The lower falls are very accessible and suitable for splashing about. Shelters mean you can have picnics and so on but the area is small.
The trail up to the high falls and beyond are popular with hikers and are a good hike with a few things to see. Might be slippery in the wet though.

Picture of Haruan from

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Forever Falls - a day trip to Selama in Perak

Fishing in Oil Palm Estates It seems this part of Perak is all about waterfalls. We’d seen signboards for so many in our recent travel...