Jungle Camping Trip In The Wet Monsoon Season Part I

Taking advantage of the Deepavali holiday and Awal Muharam Holiday, me and my elusive camping partner decided to get our feet (and the rest of our anatomy) wet in the jungle. Jungle camping are usually not done in the wet monsoon season around the tropics due to various issues like wet firewood, lots of leeches, difficulties in doing activities in the rain and etc etc. So I think it is high time to prove that this notion is very wrong and rain is not an issue at all during camping. For me, wet monsoon season is one of the best times to camp in the jungle.

One of my favorite activity during trekking is trail mapping, so I brought along a topographic map of the area for trail mapping purpose and use the GPS from my Samsung Galaxy S2 to support the accuracy of the mapping. Other than that, I also wanted to get some picture materials for JungleJournals.com and since this is a new blog, I figure I better start from a new collection of pictures specifically suited for JungleJournals.com.

But first, I would like to wish my Hindu friends out there a very Happy Deepavali and also a Happy New Hijrah Year to my muslim friends.

Jungle Camping Preparation
We began preparing for a camping trip two days prior to our departure but all of a sudden our friends from Kg Orang Asli Kemensah relayed the news that the jungle trail to our usual camping site located between Kuala Lumpur - Janda Baik was blocked by some land slide and fallen trees. I immediately picked up the phone and called my friend Keong (My-Rainforest-Adventures.com), for some fresh suggestion on new campsites. He suggested an area near the famous Ulu Yam Recreational Forest and after a few detailed Q&A, I said my cheers with a thousand thanks to him for sharing one of his favorite campsite.

According to him, nature around the campsite is well preserved due to the terrain and very few visits from overnight campers. However, we both agreed that it's best not to publish a good campsite indiscriminately on the web due to conservation reasons. So, those who wish to camp in this particular campsite must be a responsible jungle camper and may contact Keong at his website for info.

The Jungle Trek
After lunch on Thursday 15th November, we started our trek from a resort where we parked my car. The resort caretaker was good enough to let us park there for a small parking fee.

Jungle Camping Trip In The Wet Monsoon Season  Wetting My Boots
Due to heavy rain for the past few days, the lake on the left hand side was flooding the trail.
The trek began on flat trek beside a swelling lake, forcing us to wet our boots early on. Not a problem for us as both of us were wearing Jungle Boots and are used to wet feet in the jungle. Trying to avoid your feet to be wet is considered one of the most amateurish mistake one can make when jungle trekking. The second would be trying to run away from leeches.

Jungle Camping Trip In The Wet Monsoon Season Rubber Tree
An old rubber tree with a very creative latex 'pancur'. The pancur was improvised from a rubber leaf.
Around 10 minutes later, the trek took to a rather drastic climb into some heavily vegetated rubber plantation. We observed that the rubber trees were old and were then untapped due to the rain (rubber trees are not tapped if the tree trunk is wet). Rubber trees were the main canopy provider during the first leg of the trek. At that moment, I was seriously thanking God for Deet and Citronella Mosquito Repellent. Anywhere in the world, mosquitoes are found very abundantly in rubber plantations. The same goes for this one too.

Jungle Camping Trip In The Wet Monsoon Season Abandoned Condominium
The Abandoned Hillview Bungalow. I made a promise to myself to have a stop here on the way back.
Several compass bearings later, we passed an interesting looking jungle hut on the way uphill, most probably built by orang asal using materials from the surrounding jungle. I made a GPS fix for a physical landmark on my map and due to the unfinished state, we dubbed the landmark as The Abandoned Hillview Bungalow.

At this point, some refreshing rain started pouring sporadically from the sky and cool us two hot campers trekking uphill. One of the advantages of jungle trekking during the rainy season is, you'd often be excused from being a hot and bothered trekker - wet and bothered, maybe not. We were fortunate as the rubber tree canopy was quite thick, so we were spared from the constant heavy pounding of the raindrop to our heads during trekking. I was too busy with mapping the terrain and reading compass bearings so I left the yapping and clicking whenever the weather allowed to my camping pal.

Jungle Camping Trip In The Wet Monsoon Season hilltop Rest
Resting on the hill top... Drink loads on the trail.
Around 45 minutes later, a little wet from the rain, we arrived at the hill top where we stopped to take a GPS location to confirm our bearing mapping and take a drink. Right before we restarted our trek, the rain ceased completely and sun started to shine brightly that very instant. Talk about wet and hot climate, huh?

In the second leg, the trek was comfortably downhill and the rubber plantation gradually turned to bamboo bushes and secondary jungle along the way. Rain continued to fall sporadically. We passed some very picturesque views along the second hike. But due to the sporadic rain-and-stop, we were unable to take pictures - what the heck, it was still viewable from our Mark II Eyeballs and we simply enjoyed the views for ourselves.

Building The Jungle Camp
An hour and half into the trek, we arrived at a small clearing beside a fast flowing jungle stream that we suspected to be a campsite. It was in an abandoned orchard, safely upbank from a river that was supposed to be clear but the water was brown with silt from the heavy downpour earlier. From the bamboo frames and scattered rubbish left behind, we were sure that this is the campsite mentioned by Keong. The rubbish was minimal compared to other more frequented campsites but this proved that our reluctance to give away good campsites indiscriminately are well founded.

Jungle Camping Trip In The Wet Monsoon Season Campsite
I was quite p*ssed-off during this, upon seeing the rubbish. Note my soaking wet clothes from the sporadic rain.
We hung our backpack to a nearby Langsat tree and do a little campsite scouting around but unfortunately, the very spot where all the rubbish were left proved to be the best place to pitch our camp. There are always idiots who repay the bounty of nature with non-biodegradable rubbish and they dare to call themselves campers.

So the first order of the campsite, was to collect all the rubbish left behind by other campers. After a cleaning session filled with buckets of complaints and chronic abuse directed to the rubbish-makers, we began collecting jungle materials to build our camp.

Jungle Camping Trip In The Wet Monsoon Season Campsite Rubbish
Campsite rubbish, courtesy of some irresponsible camper
During the initial scouting around the campsite, we also noticed there was a bamboo bush quite suitable to build our camp with some distance upstream from the small river. After two trips of bamboo harvesting, I suddenly spotted a Pit Viper's head poking out from a dead wood near the base of the bamboo bush where we had been doing the harvesting. It was actually only two or three feet away from me when I was harvesting the bamboo!

Being mortally petrified to snakes (don't laugh, Paul!) and unwilling (afraid) to commit a second degree murder under the Jungle Penal Code on our first day of camping, we decided to use solid wood instead for the rest of the materials needed.

When cutting down trees for its wood, I would always select only non-valuable trees (not timber, medicinal or fruit tree type) and I always avoid cutting the whole tree at the base. I always make a point of leaving a two or three feet of stump for them to grow back. Trees that are best suited for camp building purposes are usually secondary jungle trees like Mengkirai (Trema Angustifolia) or other soft wooded secondary jungle trees. These trees are readily available in quantity and  I believe, this tree cutting practice will reduce the damage to the jungle, as secondary jungle species like the above are not able to form a primary jungle. At least it is much better than cutting down a baby Dipterocarp tree or a juvenile fruit tree which are the main backbone of  Malaysian Primary Jungle.

Our finished Base Camp, with a unique camp-bed layout. My home away from home.
We proceed to clear the grounds from dead leaves and began building our camp following my unique Jungle Base Camp Layout design. This type of layout is very suitable for jungle terrain during any season and can accommodate up to three campers under the same flysheet with comfortable sleeping and living space. However, this setup only usable with camp-beds campers and cannot be used if a hammock is involved.

We took about an hour and fifteen minutes, leisurely finishing our base camp in no hurry. When done, the base camp was complete with a taut 3m x 2m flysheet to provide a dry area, drainage around the higher camp side, two adjoined army camp beds to sleep on and an A-Frame rack to put our foodstuffs on. This camp layout is also very suitable for individuals like me who feels claustrophobic in the confines of a normal cocoon type hammock.

As if the nature intended to test the sturdiness of our dry area, the rain started again with renewed seriousness to repeat Noah's Great Flood. But, since our dry area was properly set up and all the urgent camp structure were already established, I simply welcomed the rain from under our flysheet. God knows how relieved we felt, sitting under a well pitched camp watching the raindrops pounding the ground outside our dry area. The colors of the jungle surrounding us became surreally vivid and glossy during the rain and I'd swear no High Definition TV can do justice to the view. Plus, to observe the whole jungle dancing to the rhythm of the falling rain from under the comfort of our camp with a mug of hot coffee in hand, was no less than a blessing from God.

Dinner and Rest
Refreshed from our well deserved rest, we both lazily unpacked our stuffs and loaded them under the dry area. Around 4.30p.m., after some purposely slow and relaxed work of pitching camp, both of us were very satisfied with our camp setup and we headed out to collect some rain-soaked firewood for tonight's campfire. Many advocates of No-Camping-During-Wet-Monsoon-Season never knew that firewood though wet on the outside, are very much dry on the inside. We collected them under the camp bed for cutting and splitting later.

With some teamwork, all things that needed done were finished very early and both of us took some time checking our camp for safety and tidiness, enjoying hot coffee and sorting out our personal space on our private camp beds. Not willing to change into my dry clothes yet, I left my partner at the camp for some more scouting around the camp to see what the campsite had to offer. The river was still a little muddy from the rain uphill but I know for a fact that this river stream will clear up quickly and I expected an innocently clear jungle stream the next day. Fishing may also be quite good when the river clears.

Jungle Camping Trip In The Wet Monsoon Season Our First Day Dinner
Who said a jungle camper can only eat Instant Noodles or Sardines during camping?
Feeling satisfied that our camp is safe from the river overflow and after some mental notes of things to do the next day according to available attractions nearby, I returned to the camp and we both cooked our dinner. Since both of us were not hungry yet, we decided to let the dinner wait for us while we sat down and began cutting and splitting our firewood. It may seem to be boring for some people - cutting and splitting firewood. But many a camper immensely enjoy the satisfaction of this particular chore. We are no exceptions. The rain drops slowly thinned down as the the day beckoned first evening of this camping trip.

Jungle Camping Trip In The Wet Monsoon Season Collected Firewood
Firewood under the camp-bed. This firewood stack proved to be a problem later. See Part II.
Before dark, we took our bath in the river and changed into dry kit. With our dry clothes on, feet freshly powdered and a little snotty from the dip in the cool stream, another round of sweet-hot coffee was in order while we lit the campfire.

Firewood that we collected earlier was cut and split beautifully to expose the dry wood inside. Minutes later, a healthy campfire was born and with it, mosquitoes of every make and model zinged away like retreating Stukas from our camp. We then simply sauntered around the campfire and did not even bother to put our Mosquito Repellent.

Jungle Camping Trip In The Wet Monsoon Season Relaxing Near Campfire
Ahh.... Bliss. Thank God for camping, coffee and pipe.
When night finally arrived, a rather luxurious jungle dinner was served and again, fresh sweet coffee was boiling slowly in the billy can on the campfire. After dinner, we sat on the camp chairs near the camp fire, smoking, chatting and enjoying the sound of the jungle crickets announcing the arrival of the moon. I checked my journals and write part of this entry in the jungle.
 
Also in the comfort of my camp chair, I saw friendly darkness slowly envelop our camp - giving a meaningful life to our campfire and brought a sensation that defined jungle camping - Bliss.

7 comments:

  1. What a nice 'Abandoned Hillview Condominium' view.. :) Enjoy reading your journal part I... Eager to read your Part II. Keep it posted/updated.

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  2. bro, ur base camp flysheet, what size was it? - Fahmy

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  3. Sorry lambat reply bro! Busy gile pindah rumah. Saiz 3 X 2 meter.

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  4. I feel this is one of the so much vital information for me. And i am happy studying your article. However should observation on some general issues, The web site taste is ideal, the articles is actually great : D. Excellent activity, cheers.

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  5. This article is very good & informative.I have gain so much information from this blog.I like your blog.

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  6. This looks like a ton of fun. And that abandoned bungalow is an awesome find!

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Everyone can have their say but say your words in good spirits. Cheers!