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Thursday September 13, 2007
By TUNKU SHAHARIAH
TUCKED away about 17km from Pengkalan Hulu in Perak is Gua Gendang. A river from Gunung Baling flows 1km through the underground enclosure.
At some points of the cave, one, who has to wade through in waist-deep water, must be armed with a torchlight to move around as it is pitch dark inside.
Before entering the mouth of the cave, we had to trek for some 500m through a rubber estate.
The water level at the cave opening where a rivulet flows down from the Gunung Inas mountain range was at thigh-high.
As we move our torchlights all over the cave walls and roof, the awesome sight of the lovely stalactites and mineral water flowing from the ceiling of the cave greeted us.
Our quiet but sharp-eyed guide, Sipong, a 65-year-old Thai-Malaysian who goes by the name of Pak Din, sipped droplets of water from the stalactites.
“The water’s refreshing and drinkable,” grinned Pak Din. We were not game to the idea but we tasted a bit anyway just to make him happy.
Although we did not see any fish or marine life in the water, our guide told us that there were hundreds of freshwater ikan baung (catfish family) in the cave.
As we walked, we came across some rugged limestone rocks and sodium carbonate formation.
“In the past, people had blasted the rocks to make tabletops,” said Pak Din.
He said the pavements in the cave would make a great picnic area as the soil there was firm.
Gua Gendang had carved a reputation during the insurgency period, he said.
According to Pak Din who was a former soldier during the Japanese Occupation, the communists had used the cave as it had a secret vent inside that leads to Baling town.
“A ray of light shines like a beacon inside the centre of the cave as the sun passes through the secret vent during the day,” he added.
A short distance before we reached the other end of the cave, which leads out to the lovely sunlight and the river, we rested on one of the huge boulders and turned off our torchlights to experience pitch darkness and deafening silence.
We also stopped at a spot inside the cave called Lubuk Kerbau, which is favourite spot for anglers.
We swam for a while in the cool river just outside at the cave. That marked our hour-long trek inside the cave, which was a wondrous experience for us.
How to get there
Drive from Baling to Pengkalan Hulu via the new Butterworth-Gerik Highway. Once in Pengkalan Hulu town, head towards a small Thai village called Kampung Tasek.
Pak Din will be happy to be your guide if you want to make a trek to Gua Gendang. He can be reached at 019-3705287.
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