This trip report is a summary of a spectacular adventure that took place December 8 to December 31 2010 to the countries of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Trip participants we Kimberly Patterson (my wife), Kessler (my eight year old son), Shaylee (my six year old daughter), my dad and I. Although the photographs don't do the trip justice, a picture is worth a thousand words, so the photographs will tell most of the story (these are only a few of the 1500+ photographs taken on the trip). We visited many areas, but since this is a mountaineering site, emphasis on this particular trip report will be on the more adventurous aspects of what turned out to be a remarkable journey. Along the way we met many friendly people, sweated in humid jungles, camped with all kinds of monkeys, climbed mountains, saw giant insects, crawled on our bellies through underground caves, rafted raging rivers, witnessed volcanic eruptions, and went snorkeling, but that was just the tip of the iceberg....
The beautiful side gorge at Tangkahan; December 22.
December 10: Southern Ridges (Singapore)
After a very long plane ride and after visiting some of the tourist attractions around Sentosa, Kessler, Shaylee, Kimberly, my Dad and I needed to stretch our legs and we took a break from the city and set off to hike the Southern Ridges Trails. We hiked the Marang Trail, the Faber Trail, Henderson Waves, Forest Walk and various other trails. The forest is surprisingly beautiful so close the city and we saw many interesting insects and birds. It was a relatively tame adventure, but we were not used to the heat yet and we sweated much. We ended the hike near a Hindu Temple, which we visited before heading for the Golden Triangle to catch an all night bus to the Cameron Highlands.
Some of the birds we saw on the Southern Ridges on December 10 2010.
December 11: Cameron Highlands (Perak, Malaysia)
After an all night bus ride from Singapore, we visited several sites and did several walks, including the one to the top of the Rose Valley and to near the top of the nearby peak. It was a nice and cool hike. It wasn’t a hike, but the highlight of the day was seeing the giant insects at the butterfly farm. The kids really like the huge beetles, grasshoppers, walking sticks and scorpions.
Kim and a giant insect seen in the Cameron Highlands
December 12: Gunung Beremban (Perak, Malaysia)
From what we could see on our map, Gunung Beremban is the third highest peak in the Cameron Highlands and since the two highest peaks have a road to very near the summit, we set out to climb the third highest mountain in the area instead. All sources available said that it was a steep and difficult climb, so we didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t know if we would be successful in reaching the summit.
Shaylee climbing part of the route on Gunung Beremban.
After taking a short taxi ride from Tanah Rata to the Golf Course, we found the trail and headed up. It was a fairly challenging climb and was quite slippery and steep. We had to pay close attention to the map and there were many ups and downs, especially where we had to cross a steep gorge.
Dad climbing part of the trail to the summit of Gunung Beremban.
We heard many birds and animals, but didn’t see too many (since the thick canopy keeps them hidden, but Kessler did find a giant (and colorful) roly poly big the size of a golf ball and I found a giant centipede.
Kessler holds a giant roly poly bug he found while climbing Gunung Beremban.
After 2.5 hours of hard climbing, often through slippery mud, we found ourselves on the summit of Gunung Beremban. The views were somewhat limited due to tree cover and clouds, but it was a nice summit.
The crew takes a break after climbing the challenging Gunung Beremban.
After enjoying the summit, we decided to head down the mountain via a different route. We took Path 8 down the mountain to the Robinson Waterfall. At first the trail was easier than the ascent route, but we had to cross a steep and difficult gorge with a fixed rope which turned out to be the crux of the entire hike. It did rain a bit, which made the trails slippery. After the gorge, the trail descended very steeply down to the good and well used path near the waterfall.
Shaylee on a steep and slippery section of the route down from Gunung Beremban.
We rested and had a snack at the beautiful waterfall before heading down the good trail to the outskirts of Tanah Rata after which we walked back to the hotel. It was a tiring, but very spectacular day.
This is the Robinson Waterfall, near the end of the descent.
December 13: Gua Tempurung (Perak, Malaysia)
Gua Tempurung is a fantastic cave located near the nice city of Ipoh. After seeing photographs of it posted on a wall, we were intrigued and we all (my Dad, Kessler, Shaylee, Kimberly and I) decided to give it a try. It turned out to be an incredible “underground hike” and perhaps the best cave I have visited, surpassing even Carlsbad Caverns. At first the cave is fairly easy with stone staircases (though it is quite hot and humid), but after reaching the back sections of the cave, we took the much more challenging route out via the watercourse. There were many slides (including a 20 foot/six meter slippery slide down the flowstone) and climbs and we had to crawl and swim on our bellies through crystal clear water. It was a fantastic cave and one of the best days ever. The kids really enjoyed it and remained really excited throughout.
Kimberly in Gua Tempurung.
To top everything off, after the cave we rafted the wild river near Ulu Geruntum. In addition to big and exciting rapids, we saw big black bees the size of tennis balls, many colorful butterflies and a giant monitor lizard! There were two rafts in our group and our raft was lucky enough to make it through all the rapids without tipping. The other raft was not so lucky and they were all dumped into the river. What a fantastic day!
This is our crew starting on our adventure down the river at Ulu Geruntum in Malaysia.
This is the river at Ulu Geruntum in Malaysia. The children are hunking down in the boat.
December 14: Batu Caves (Selangor, Malaysia)
Batu Caves isn’t really a hike (it’s more of a pilgrimage or religious site in a natural setting), but we walked enough and it is interesting enough that it deserves at least brief mention. After reaching the base of the limestone bluffs by taxi we climbed up the long staircase (272 steps) and into the main cave. The main cave is impressive and is a huge open natural cathedral laced with Hindu Religious sites. It is quite intriguing and many mischievous monkeys are always dashing about.
Dad, Shaylee and Kessler headed for Batu Caves.
A monkey inside the Batu Caves.
Looking out one of the entrances to Batu Caves.
We had hoped to visit the challenging Dark Cave as well, but unfortunately it was closed. We headed back down and walked around the limestone bluffs and to the crowded but interesting Cave Villa.
Some of the landscape outside the Batu Caves.
A family of monkeys at the Batu Caves.
Although it wasn’t that much of a hike, it was all certainly an interesting experience and well worth the trip.
This is one of the Hindu shrines located inside the Batu Caves.
These are some of the high bluffs and cliffs located at the Batu Caves.
Hungry anyone? Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur. A nice way to end the day after Batu Caves.
December 16-20: Gunung Leasur (Sumatra, Indonesia)
Today was our (my Dad, Kessler, Shaylee, Kimberly and me) first day of our exciting 5-day trek through Gunung Leuser National Park. Because of the wildlife in the park, you must have a guide to enter and trek in the park. Our main objective in trekking through the park was to view wildlife, but the scenery is really spectacular too and the routes through the park are challenging and exciting. After a long bus ride from Medan (arriving late) and after sleeping in a jungle house, we started the trek at Bukit Lawang and were met by our guides there. After crossing the river in a very rickety canoe, our first stop was the Orangutan feeding platform at Bukit Lawang. This is where semi-wild orangutans are rehabilitated. We saw one orangutan along the way and another big male at the feeding platform. Several monkeys were around as well, including short tailed macaques, pig tail macaques and gibbons.
This rickety boat is the main way to cross the river from Bukit Luwang to Gunung Leasur.
One of the big orangutans in Gunung Leasur National Park. The park is very rich in wildlife.
After viewing the animals, we headed out to the more wild parts of the park. The trails were quite steep, muddy, and challenging, plus it was really humid and hot, so we were constantly soaked in both mud and sweat. Deeper in the park we saw more orangutans (which are much more wild than the ones at Bukit Lawang), including a mother and a baby.
Orangutan in Gunung Leasur National Park.
An orangutan swings through the trees in the mountains of Gunung Leasur National Park in Sumatra.
After hiking half a day, there was a Thomas Leaf Monkey in the trees, so we decided to stop for lunch. We learned the lesson as to never turn your back on a monkey if you have a bunch of bananas. The monkey was afraid of us, but when our backs were turned, it quickly took advantage of the situation and stole our bananas, which the kids thought was hilarious. Nearby we saw many giant ants up to as long as my pinky finger and we took a break to watch them.
This is the Thomas Leaf Monkey we saw in the mountains of Gunung Leasur on December 16 2010.
These are some of the gigantic ants that were common on our challenging hike through the mountains of Gunung Leasur. The ants were HUGE!
After lunch we continued on the now more difficult trail across the steep ridges and to a river. Along the way we saw several white faced gibbons and more macaque monkeys and we got a few leeches. We were covered in sweat, so we quickly changed into swimsuits to soak in the river which was a big relief. There were several tiny frogs out and about. After a short time it started to rain hard, so we settled in the tent for evening. The jungle was really noisy at night with both insects and animals.
Before we started our hike a large Black Gibbon came down to the river near our camp to drink. I quickly found the camera to photograph it. Once we were packed up we hit the steep and muddy trail. We were deeper in the jungle and the trail was more difficult than it was the day before.
Part of our route through the jungles of Gunung Leasur.
Shaylee hiking through the jungles of Gunung Leasur. The trails were quite challenging.
We climbed over steep ridges on very steep trails and climbed at least two fairly prominent peaks. In many places the trail was non-existent (the old trail was taken out by a landslide and we had to take an alternate route) and the route was extremely steep. Everyone fell several times and one time I felt myself sliding down the mountain and into my dad whom I also launched down the mountain. It was almost like the scene in Romancing of the Stone where the couple slides down the mud chute.
One of the gibbons we saw in the mountains of Gunung Leasur. They are fast little buggers so are hard to photograph. I got lucky this time.
Hiking through the remote mountains in Gunung Leasur National Park.
By the end of the day, everyone got at least one leech and a few of us had more than one of them. It was a relief when we reached camp as it was a spectacular, but challenging day. We again went swimming to relieve our sweat soaked bodies before heading for bed.
Some of the steep and challenging trails in the mountains of Gunung Leasur. Notice that Shaylee's socks are on the outside of her pants. This is to help avoid leeches.
Two more monkeys in the mountains of Gunung Leasur. December 17 2010. It was a very challenging hike, but the kids did fine.
Today was supposed to be a rest day of sorts, but we would still explore the area and visit some waterfalls. We awoke to heavy rain, so it was a good day for a rest day anyway. I went exploring down the river gorge until it dropped off a big waterfall. I took a swim and returned.
Some of the waterfalls around camp deep in the jungles of Gunung Leasur.
After an early lunch, the rain stopped and we headed up a side gorge to another impressive waterfall. It was a rugged and slippery route (and very wet). We played and swam in the waterfall, but I couldn’t climb it so we couldn’t explore the gorge (which looked interesting above the waterfall) any farther.
One of the stream crossings on December 18 2010.
One of the scenic waterfalls near camp on December 18 2010.
After returning from the waterfall, my dad and I headed up the main river gorge (while wading the river the entire time) to explore it. The route was extremely slippery and we both took several spills. At one place I waded through some vegetation and shortly after found out that I had several leeches. YUCK! I got rid of the ones I could and had my dad take the one off my back. We then headed back down the river gorge and back to camp. After dinner my Dad, Kessler and I went to explore down river again. I found an exposed, but not too difficult route around the big falls and helped the others down. We explored the gorge downriver some more until it dropped off a big waterfall and into a huge dark hole. To continue down the dark hole with ropes must be a real adventure, but we had to return back to camp.
The beautiful gorge near our camp.
This is a typical campsite in Gunung Leasur National Park. A plastic tarp over bamboo makes a makeshift tent.
It was another rewarding and beautiful, but steep and sweaty day. We climbed over the top of three prominent peaks. Along the way we saw a very strange insect (Kessler called it a scorpion with no tail) and the jungle was very noisy with white-faced and black gibbons, though they were hard to see.
Part of our route through the jungle.
We were contantly soaked in sweat and covered in mud, but that's the price that you have to pay to cross the mountains of Gunung Leasur.
We almost walked right by a mother and baby orangutan, but Shaylee spotted it and we stopped to take some photographs of it.
The female orangutan we saw on December 19 2010 in the mountains of Gunung Leasur.
Camp was a real paradise, my Dad called it the Garden of Eden. It was a beautiful location on a clear and fast river with high forested bluffs lining each side of the river. Monkeys were plentiful and playful and we saw three giant monitor lizards. One of the lizards jumped in the river and floated down through the rapids. After a swim in the river, we rested and relaxed in the evening while watching all the playful monkeys and other animals.
A giant monitor lizard and a long tailed macaque as seen along the river.
One of the long tailed macaques along the river at Gunung Leasur.
A giant monitor lizard crawls out of the river at Gunung Leasur. They can swim well and we watch them swim across the river. This lizard is about 2 meters/6 feet long.
I found some huge big leaves and on one of them found a very colorful and shiny beetle. We had a nice bath and swim and settled down for our last night of our trek through the jungle. The fireflies were impressive that night and gave us a good show. It was a great day.
Today was our last day on our jungle trek. Actually we didn’t do that much trekking, but it was one of the most exciting days of the trip. We started the day by watching the monkeys and monitor lizards while packing up.
A long-tailed macaque near camp.
A pig-tailed macaque seen around camp.
After packing up, our group (guides) tied several big inner tubes together in order to form a raft. We floated the wild river back to the village of Bukit Lawang. It was a very exciting (perhaps a bit too exciting) and we almost flipped once, but we all made it safely back to Bukit Lawang.
The scenic river just above Bukit Luwang in Gunung Leasur National Park.
My Dad set off up river to explore around and view waterfalls. After taking showers for the first time in five days, Kim, Kessler, Shaylee and I also headed up river, but we stopped at the first big waterfall. It was a beautiful spot and a wonderful way to end our big trek.
One of the scenic waterfalls near Bukit Luwang.
December 21: Tangkahan Elephant Trek (Sumatra, Indonesia)
When leaving Bukit Lawang we saw the smoking and active Sinabung Volcano before heading off to Tankahan for the night. It was a long journey on 4wd drive roads through mud, rocks and with a few rickety and scary bridges thrown in for good measure. The next morning we explored the jungle by elephant back, which was a good thing since the mud was knee deep , even on the elephant! We saw many interesting plants, animals and insects from elephant back and another bonus was that the elephant could take us across the deep rivers.
Elephants are the preferred method of travel on this route in Tangkahan(Sumatra, Indonesia). The mud is very deep and so are the river crossings.
An elephant helps us across the wide and deep river crossing at Tangkahan.
The friendly elephant that gave us a ride across the river at Tangkahan.
After the jungle trek on the elephant, the elephant wanted to give us a shower. That it did, but we returned the favor by giving it a bath. It was one of the kid’s favorite parts of the adventure so far.
Kessler taking a shower Sumatra style.
Returning the favor and giving the elephant a bath.
December 22: Tangkahan Waterfall and Hot Springs (Sumatra, Indonesia)
Today, we all set off to hike to a waterfall and hot spring. We had to swim across the river to get to the hot spring which was tucked back in a shallow cave. It was an exciting swim across the river to say the least. We soaked in the hot springs quite a while before swimming back across the river and heading down river. After that we hiked down the scenic river to a side gorge and hiked up it to a nice waterfall. Kessler, Shaylee, Dad and I climbed up and around the waterfall to find more waterfalls and pools up the spectacular slot like canyon. It was a nice little ramble.
Kessler exploring one of the gorges near Tangkahan.
A colorful lizard at Tangkahan.
December 25-26: Anak Krakatau (Java, Indonesia)
Wow! How can I possibly describe what we saw and experienced? This place was the single most spectacular natural scene that I have ever experienced. We (Kimberly, Kessler, Shaylee, my dad and I) left Christmas morning for Anak Krakatau under perfect weather. I had to take motion sickness pills because the only way to get there was by boat, but riding the motorboat was much easier on me that riding a ferry or big ship.
This is the sunset on Christmas Eve at Carita on the West Coast of Java. It was also our starting point for our adventure to the Krakatau Volcano.
Explosions from Krakatau could be heard from a long way away. First, we boated to Rakata Island (part of the old caldera and did some snorkeling (seeing many tropical fish), but my dad ended up losing his watch in the ocean. After snorkeling at Rakata Island, we got in the boat and rounded the bend to see the spectacular erupting Anak Krakatau which was exploding quite loudly. Obviously climbing the peak was out of the question! We headed to Sertang Island in order to see the explosions which were amazing to watch. After camp was set up my dad and I hike the beach in both directions as far as we could. We made it quite a ways, but were eventually cliffed out in both directions. There were some crabs to see and the beach was nice.
Day eruption of Krakatau on December 25 2010.
Exploding Krakatau from Sertang Island on December 25 2010. We camped on the beach of Sertang Island in order to see the night explosions which were very spectacular.
We thought the day eruptions of Anak Krakatau were spectacular, but then night came. It was incredible and lava bombs would explode and make it all the way to the ocean without hitting the ground! Using the known height of the volcano, I estimated that the big eruptions were shooting glowing lava 1000-1300 feet into the air (~300-400m) above the top of the volcano, setting the entire volcano aglow with red hot lava. It was an incredible scene and very noisy. I’ve never seen such a spectacular natural scene and we all agreed on this. No man-made fireworks show could possibly compete with this!
Krakatau at night.
Eruption of Krakatau.
Tom Pfeiffer took this photo. We saw the same scene while camping there overnight on December 25 2010, but our photos didn't turn out as well.
It was very warm at night and Kessler, my dad and I slept under the stars in order to see more of the volcano. We didn’t get much sleep with all the spectacular fireworks and noisy explosions going off. In the morning we were greeted by two giant monitor lizards (they must float to the island on driftwood unless they can swim this far?). After taking some more photographs we packed up and headed back to Rakata Island for some more snorkeling. We even found my dad’s watch and one of the boat operators was able to dive down and get it (maybe under 13 feet/4m of water?). Amazingly it still worked. After snorkeling we headed back to Carita on the island of Java. Anak Krakatau sure was a spectacular trip indeed!
December 27: Hutan Wiata Carita (Java, Indonesia)
Today Kessler, Shaylee, Kimberly, my Dad and I went to hike in the Hutan Waita Carita (Forest Reserve) in the mountains east of Carita on Java. We explored several side paths before heading up the main path towards the waterfall.
This is part of the easy section of the trail at Hutan Wiata Carita.
The trail started out really easy, but gradually got more challenging as we progressed along. The most challenging part of the route was crossing several (recent?) landslides, which were quite difficult to pass. Along the way we saw a giant millipede, a giant centipede and a weird horned spider (which was also very colorful). The spider dropped to the ground right when I got the camera out. We ate lunch at the falls and we spotted several entertaining, but evidently shy monkeys. After watching the monkeys we headed down the path to locate a steep and exposed (and exciting) trail to the bottom of the falls. Kimberly and Shaylee stayed there while Kessler, my Dad and I swam up through the slot canyon (which was quite challenging) to visit the bottom of the falls.
The beautiful waterfall at Hutan Wiata Carita in the mountains along the west coast of Java.
One of the monkeys around the waterfall in the mountains of Hutan Wiata Carita.
After visiting the bottom of the falls, Kessler and I walked and swam down the canyon to another falls. We then climbed out of the mini-gorge and returned to our lunch spot before descending the main trail a ways. We found a steep side track and decided to explore it.
To get to the base of the waterfall in the mountains of Hutan Wiata Carita we had to do a bit of swimming. We need to get a suntan as we were pretty pale.
The side track split several times as it climbed into the mountains and through some banana fields and I was hoping that we could follow it to the summit of Manlalawangi (mountain). Unfortunately the trail eventually petered out before reaching the summit of the mountain so we didn’t get to climb to the summit. After the tracks ended we headed back down the steep track to the main trail which we followed back to Carita. It was another fine day and a good day to start winding down the more adventurous part of our journey.
Part of our route through Hutan Wiata Carita.
On this trip, we did do quite a bit of hiking, climbing, caving, river rafting and saw much wildlife, but we did city and cultural activities as well. Because of the nature of this website, the city and cultural activities are beyond the scope of this particular trip report which for the most part only focused on the outdoor aspects of our journey. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Islamic country with about ~238,000,000 people of which over 88% are Islamic. Malaysia is over 60% Islamic and is nearing 28,000,000 in population. As an American I was somewhat surprised with my experience (we weren't worried about the trip, but I thought to encounter at least a little anti-American sentiment mixed with mostly friendly people). What I found was perhaps the friendliest people I have met anywhere in the world. I even saw a few people flying American Flags and people with American Flag sheets and pillows and many people said to us "God bless America". Everyone was friendly and I heard not one negative comment about the United States. Everyone (literally everyone we met) wanted to hear all about "Amereeka". For the most part this wasn't a guided tour (other than a few hikes) type trip, but one which we traveled using public transportation and as the locals do. We interacted with many locals. It seems the people are very humbled and grateful for the aid the US has given them during the big tsunami and earthquakes and we met nothing but friendly people. We went for the wildlife, hiking, rafting and caves, but ended up falling in love with the people. It was a great experience. Never have I been treated as well as I was while traveling overseas as an American.
House in Bukit Lawang, Indonesia.
Although we traveled independently most of the time, special thanks should go to the following: Expedition Jungle whom took us on our wonderful and challenging five day hike through Gunung Leasur. Krakatau Tour whom took us by boat to Krakatau and had to get up early Christmas morning to meet us. Special thanks should also go to our Gua Tempurung and river guides, though unfortunately since the trip was done spur of the moment, the guide's names escape me.
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