On the way to Sungai Lembing, one will surely see an imposing granite and limestone formation jutting out from among the oil palm plantations.
Within the rock is Gua Charas, a lesser known and scarcely promoted cave complex said to be millions of years old.
According to the official information board at the site, its unique rock formation has made it a major attraction for amateur as well as professional archaeologists and geographers.
The main attraction of Gua Charas are the various Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu deities enshrined inside the main cavern.
To reach the mouth of the cave, visitors must be prepared to make a steep climb up a flight of stone and steel steps.
The massive main chamber is filled with dozens of statues of deities and at the end of the lit path is a large statue of a reclining Buddha.
Temple caretaker M. Subramaniam, 60, said a Thai-Chinese monk had ventured into the cave in 1959 and found a hole in the ceiling where a ray of sunlight shone through.
“The monk then placed the sleeping Buddha statue where the light hit the cave floor. Over the years, devotees built more shrines for deities,” he said.
Subramaniam, who has been maintaining the cave for 29 years, said there was also a natural rock formation resembling the goddess Guan Yin.
“Visitors, especially couples, will come to pray to the rock, asking to be blessed with children,” he said.
Subramaniam added that sometimes, white snakes can be seen near the rock.
“It is said that the snakes are the guardians of the rock. However, it is very rarely seen and devotees believe that if one catches a glimpse of a white snake, that person is extremely lucky,” he said.
The cave walls and stones are covered in graffiti of names and numbers, apparently the work of punters.
“I have painted over a lot of graffiti numerous times but there will always be new ones whenever there are visitors,” said Subramaniam.
The cave also houses the Panching Maha Jalalingeswarar Temple, which has a statue of the Sivalingam.
According to the temple’s website, the statue was brought from India in late 1989 by Jeyadevan Nachitram, a lawyer from Negri Sembilan.
The Sivalingam was hauled more than 45m up to the entrance of the cave, then rolled another 100m into the cave for installation. The work took 15 days to complete in early January 1990.
There are steps that lead further up to a second grotto, which appears not to have seen many visitors.
A lone Taoist deity sits in this cave that overlooks the surrounding oil palm estates.
Subramaniam said there were many visitors during religious festivals but otherwise, the cave was quiet on normal days.
To reach Gua Charas, take the turning at Kampung Panching near the police station. The pothole-riddled road runs about 4km right to the cave.
Admission fee is RM2 for adults and RM1 for children. Subramaniam said the donation was used for maintenance of the cave.