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Filipino American Expat in Singapore

You cannot pass.

Gunung Panti won’t let us climb up its slopes. According to the mystery guide along the trail, we required a permit. Kap Cal was surprised since this was the first time he had heard of a permit after climbing many times previously. Was this a precaution after the tragic events at Mount Kinabalu?

We made our way back down the trail. It was muddy and our mood was somewhat spoiled. San na kami pupunta? Mag-momotel na lang ba kami sa Kota Tinggi? Where is Kap Cal leading us?

The rain subsided when we reached the main road. Kap Cal told us his backup plan. We’ll be hiking to see some waterfalls he had visited before.

Our group started its march down the road towards a new jump-off point. There were no houses or stores along this four kilometre stretch. Only a few cars would pass by from time to time. It was like The Walking Dead, except there was lots of rain and my dear friend Mari had a leech on her sock.

Our group’s first leech encounter!

So a leech decided to attach itself onto the most animated person in our group. Mari went into hysterics as my fellow companions looked at the leech like if it were a specimen at the zoo.

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After a few sprays of alcohol, the leech fell off.

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Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort is located at the end of the road. For a moment I thought we were seriously about to enter a resort with amenities. Kap Cal told us to rest and freshen up (there was a snack stall selling Malaysian snacks at the entrance of the resort). He then mentioned that in a few minutes, our two-hour hike into the jungle would begin right underneath the bridge we just passed.

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With only an hour and a half of sunlight left, we began our “two-hour” hike towards Pelepah Waterfalls.

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It took us about twenty or thirty minutes to reach an area that resembled an official trail. More rain! I also enjoyed breathing the crisp, fresh air of the jungle. This was the real deal! Away from the Singapore haze of recent months.

A golden rule was to avoid stopping unnecessarily and to avoid putting your bag down. Doing so would mean creatures would latch onto your body or your bag. The trail wasn’t steep but there’s a few parts where if you slipped in the wrong direction, you can roll down or potentially injure yourself seriously.

Every 30 minutes we would take a quick 5 minute break to drink water.

Nightfall had hit and we were still 30 minutes away from the camp site. I ain’t doing this without our man, Kap Cal. Blair Witch much. This was when I realised the importance of a head-flashlight. Most of us were exhausted and quiet. Mari, my animated friend, was dead silent. (Tantrums?!)

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FINALLY, we reached our camp site. It was a two-hour hike up the mountain. For a newbie like me, that was a baby achievement! Na-amaze ako kay Kap Cal, it’s like he can hike these things with his eyes closed.

The camp site is about 20 minutes away from the waterfalls. We started to set up our tents. Four in total!

Like clockwork, someone started cooking… someone started to bathe in the nearby stream… someone started setting up the dinner area. I wish I came more prepared!

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Photo from Kath G.

What’s on the menu?

  • Chicken Adobo
  • Beef Steak
  • Sinigang
  • Lots of steamed rice
  • Chocolate chip cookies

WOW AGAIN. Ang sarap ng pagkain especially when you are sitting there with wet clothes, after hiking 1/20th of Gunung Panti, walking 4 kilometres to find another trail to hike 2 hours in… grabe, STEAMED RICE NEVER LOOKED SO SEXY.

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Photo from Kath G.

After eating, I started to fall asleep! I hadn’t slept the night before (thinking about leeches)… so I couldn’t take it and tried to fall asleep inside a tent I shared with two other people. This was also another important lesson: BRING A SLEEPING BAG OR BRING MATERIAL THAT CAN BE USED LIKEA A PORTABLE MATTRESS. Being tired from hiking, you want to be able to rest and recharge. Not lie in a tent over hard ground.

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Photo from Kath G.

I was so tired and sleepy, but I couldn’t sleep.

I heard my friends gossiping and snickered quietly in the tent.

“Bakit laging magkasama si ______ at si _______ .”

“Kung pwede ka at pwede siya…”

Chismis is a Filipino pasttime. Thank goodness it stays in Kota Tinggi.

To be continued.