Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A natural freshwater lake of Malaysia; a journey back in time…Part1

Joining two enthusiastic friends, I recently visited a tranquil and almost hypnotic inland natural freshwater lake in the state of Pahang. Unlike the man made Tasik Kenyir in Terengganu, my experience at this natural freshwater lake gave me an insight to how life may have been hundred years ago.

We started our journey in the evening. Nature Guide John drove all the way. It was quite a long drive with several stops along the way to get supplies. We were planning to camp out, so canned sardines and instant Maggi noodles would be the order of the day. By the time we got to the town of Temerloh, the sun has set. It’s still a long way to go…so the journey begins.

Many stalls such as this along the way

Fresh fish, acar and salted fishes

On the way through Termeloh, we passed by some stalls selling local produce, which includes salted fish, acar, some kuih and freshwater fishes like Patin and Tilapia (African Mouth Breeders). The fishes are bred in the cages near the river banks. But…huh…were they pricey. A kilo of Tilapia was going at RM14! Same kind of fish, also from fish cages sold at major shopping centers in Klang valley only costs between RM4.50 to RM7.00 a kilo. Perhaps the fishes at Temerloh are tastier but for double the price in big cities, I’ll give it a pass.

Fish cages along the big river in Termerloh

No way I am paying RM14 a kilo for Tilapias!!

I have not been to this lake. John has visited this place once before and driving at night on this lightless road, surrounded by acres of palm oil estate can really be scary. It was pitch dark and the possibilities of running into animals like wild boars and cows is.

We drove slow and did a number of track backs. Missed some turns and some signboards were obviously missing. The directions we got from some of the locals weren’t all that helpful either. It was always the usual ‘not further down…’ or ‘near the fallen tree’. Somehow, we drove on and on and never seem to get to the place we wanted to nor did we come across a single fallen tree. There were fallen trees all over the place!

It took us close to 3 hours from the town of Temerloh to get to our destination. Our local contact has been waiting patiently for us. The last 10km of driving saw u weaving through narrow semi-paved roads in rubber plantations accompanied by the occasional pushbikes whooshing inches away from our car.

Stem and his son Moi have been expecting us. They are some of the friendliest and nicest souls I have ever met in my entire life. They offered us their bed in the simple wooden hut they call home but we had to decline. We brought tents and supplies…plus depriving them of their comfy bed is definitely not a nice thing to do.

After a bit of searching around, we finally found a suitable camp ground. A clearing near a jetty to the lake. It was already 11pm when we started pitching our tents. Our bodies ache and tire from the long drive but the anticipation for what’s in store the following day had our hearts beating. We can’t wait to see this natural freshwater lake of Malaysia.