Sunday, 6 March 2016

Caving @ Gua Gunung Keriang

I had my first caving experience at Gua Gunung Keriang about 7 kilometres away from Alor Setar city. Gunung Keriang is a limestome hill about 200 metres high rising up in the middle of the flat plains of Kedah surrounded by padi fields. Its quite strange for a  very large piece of limestone in the size of a hill surrounded by niles and miles of black soil of vast padi farms.   

The older generation had believe in the legend that Gunung Keriang was once a ship sailing with a  beautiful princess on board. A large bird called Sang Gedembai was attracted to the Princess and ask her hand for marriage but was turned down. Angry at the refusal, Sang Gedembai then throw a spell on the ship with all on board into stone. It was said then that on the olden days, communities around the limestone hill can borrow cooking utensils and cutlery if they wanted to organise a feast or kenduri. However now there are no more such utensils and was believed had turned into stones since people who borrowed either loose them, broken or broke certain promises.  
 

Below is Gunung Keriang's  Western face.



On a Friday morning, nine of us accompanied by two experience Gunung Keriang Caver guided our climb to about a 100 metres above ground on the Eastern face from Taman Rekreasi Gunung Keriang before descending into the cave (look at the photo below) 

I regretted that I did not have a good camera and strong lighting to capture the inside of the caves. All photos below on this post was captured on Lenovo A850 camera

Top and bottom pic is the view of the cave entrance before moving deeper and descending down into the numerous caves below and above. The entrance is made up of karst landscape. 

Head lamp is compulsory because once inside the cave its pitch dark. Its also advisable to wear the safety helmet because at certain areas during the crawl or emerging from the underground cave, one can get hit on the head from the low limestone ceilings. Since our group did have any safety hats on, I did got three hits on the head and just lucky because I wore a hat. However I did have bruises due to the knock. 
Below: I am making my way into Gua Rambo

At certain parts of the cave we have to either crawl or weave our body through the narrow openings or scale along narrow ledges and at certain spots ravines below.  
There are many caves within Gua Gunung Keriang but we were only taken to explore not even a quarter of the total caves in it. 

Among the caves that we visited are the Gua Angin, Gua Cepiar, Gua Tanduk Rusa, Gua Rambo, Gua Buaya, Gua JutawanGua Komunis, Gua Jutawan. 

We had light meal at Dataran Buaya (Crocodile plain) where it was believe to be the "singgahsana" of the princess.  It's a courtyard and on one side there's a cliff resembling the throne with images of drapes flowing down to the floor. Opposite the throne was where it is believed the kitchen, where communities around the hill used to borrow. 
Photo : Rock formation at Gua Buaya resembling a crocodile half submerged under water. However to my assumption that it might be due to years of calcium deposit by the flowing water.   

The Dataran Buaya was the largest cave to my assumption among all the caves that we explored that day and being there feels like being on the deck of a ship with cool refreshing wind blowing onto us.

At Gua Komunis there are Chinese inscriptions on it dated back to 1961. It is believed that the during the insurgent, the communist guerrillas might have used this cave hide or as one of their base. At one location there is a visible rectangular shape of a trapdoor leading somewhere underground but nobody dares to open it, afraid the floors might collapse as can be seen within the surrounding. The iron ring to open the door had been stolen. 



Top: Chinese inscriptions found in Gua Komunis. Can someone translate what does it means or just some memories left behind by some vandals. 

Photo below is believed to be the remains of a bowl (due to its shape) that has turned into stone. This piece was located at Dataran Buaya. 



At the end of the trip of the day we reached the West Face of Gunung Keriang where development by Unit Pembangunan Ekonomi Kedah's (UPEN) project was abandoned. What a waste of resources when the 8 storey lifts and the walkway and lighting was completed but it was abandoned. Its another tourist attraction asset for Kedah put to waste. 

If you find its so scary to walk in the darkness of the multiple layers of caves inside, there is also another options of exploring the West Cave Entrance (where we exit) Refer to the aerial view photo of Gunung Keriang on this blog, where we exit. Howeve I am not sure if permisison from anybody is needed to cross the line into the West Face of the hill. 


This photo of our enthusiastic cavers (LOL) with our guide standing third from Right. All except me looks to have  cleaner clothes. The reason I skipped crawling into the muddy clay earth of Gua Jutawan.
Many had read about sales of crystals at the foot of Gunung Keriang and yes, the crystals were mined at caves inside the hill. The guide explained to us that the different caves has crystals of different colours. 

Due to unmanaged crystal mining, its quite hard to find then unless exploring deeper into the caves. 
 Top: one of the crystal harvested in one of the caves from our guide collection. Bottom: new crystal formation on the roof of one of the caves and it will take hundreds or thousands of years before taking shape and can be harvested.


  

Top photo is a sample of a crystal block that was brought down before being broken down into smaller crystals for sale. This boulder block is being displayed at one of the stalls that sells crystals from Gunung Keriang as souvenir. After the caving experience I wonder how they carry down such a big piece of boulder out of the caves and down.  Bottom: one of the souvenir shops that sells crystal located at the entrance of Taman Rekreasi Gunung Keriang.



My experience caving was a very educational trip for me while at the same time teaches self discipline and teamwork. 

After reading this post you and you need the challenge of caving, remember find the right guide. Never go alone and follow instructions while inside. I am looking forward for the next trip inside Gua Gunung Keriang.   


HOW TO GO TO GUNUNG KERIANG

To help you find the route to Gunung Keriang, refer to this map below and I choose Menara Alor Setar as the starting point since its a popular landmark for Alor Setar.

ACCOMODATION

Keriang Hill Resort is located at the south end of Gunung Keriang and many homestays around. Likewise, you can choose to stay in the city since its just a short distance away.  




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