Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Firefly Trip at Kuala Selangor

It was a smooth over an hour drive. I fell asleep somewhere in between. Though, it felt like I was awake throughout the ride. There was so much to see in the nothingness than the absent of urban landscape, the scenery we so used to appreciate. One can’t seem to imagine living without civilisation”, until one notices how peaceful it is as such.

The meeting time was 2.45pm but the SMS reminder from Sze Ling was as early as around 8am. The trip started as one by one we arrived outside the building of our beloved Toastmasters venue. Bing, Sze Ling, me then Andrew. We all hopped into Bing’s four-wheel-drive, then headed off onto the road with a discussion about LDP, NKVE, DUKE, highways and expressways, all of which Sze Ling admittedly savvies not.

Feeling tired from karate classes the morning earlier and the night before I dozed off into a dreamless sleep and awoke in front of a small tupperware of sugar coated pieces of gingers with fingers here and there diving into them. But most reminiscently, I woke up into a straight single lane road or two at most, with only palm oil trees to be seen outside the side windows. What a nostalgic sight it was as it reminds me of my childhood years back in Sabah taking the seven-hour trip up and down hills balik kampung from KK to Lahad Datu.

Somewhere along the way the exchange of conversation involved Andrews unintentional discouragement towards Sze Ling of how difficult it is to learn Chinese language from scratch as an adult, to learning to ride a motorcycle, then to riding bicycle, and to how kampung kids adapt very well to their surroundings.

But this journey is not about that. This is about Bing’s Guide to the Kuala Selangor Nature Park. As we arrived, probably about a quarter pass four and after having a good view of the distance lighthouse, we stopped by a Kopitiam for a drink, and immediately Bing introduced us to our assignments, but only after hearing of how Sze Ling won’t be able to live in a place where shops closes as early as late afternoon.

Before having our drinks handed to us, Bing handed each of us an orange covered blue ink pen and a pocket-sized MNS (Malaysian Nature Society) sketchbook each, each of which has an image of a painting of a species of animal each painted by talented young children on the front covers. Mine was a mural like Panthera tigris (the tiger) mother with her cub painted by a twelve year old, Andrew’s was that of a face of an adolescant Pongo pygmaeus (the Bornean Orang Utan) close up, and Sze Ling’s was a realistic painting of a beautiful landscape background and the foreground of what she thought were elephant backsides, which actually turned out to be the backsides of a mother Rhinoceros sondaicus and its young (the Javan Rhinoceros). Our challenge was to draw two species of animals and two species of plants each with both the common name and scientific name written down. The winner by unanimous decision from three unsuspecting judges soon to arrive will win a prize.
Back into the four-wheeler we went and on our way to the nature park, but only after Andrew swallowed down four pieces of sandwiches like no man’s business. To our surprise or to no surprise, there we see monkeys around even before we parked the car as in, real monkeys, not the naughty juvenile Homo sapiens as we so often refer to as monkeys. Bing handed a pair of binoculars each of them are German made high quality robust binoculars to the three of us while she had her single scoped tripod-attached viewer of her own.

We decided to have a toilet stop before entering the nature park, but Andrew and I gave up just as soon as we took sight of the men’s. Bing gave us a quick Toastmasters quality tour speech of what to expect as she stood in front of the billboard map, then off we went. The first lesson we learnt was during our first animal sighting. It was a monitor lizard swimming in the stream while Andrew and I were in a conversation taking our sweet time walking, as Bing yelled “quickly!” And the lesson was “nature doesn’t wait for us” Bing explained. We did manage to catch a glimpse though but just before it dived away.

The next exciting event was up at the watch tower where we witnessed and learnt to identify all sorts of birds. We watched egrets stalking for fish, swallows maneuvering swiftly up and down, raptors flapping elegantly and others birds which only Bing can name then. I manage to spot an impressive number of interesting sights as I vainly convinced myself that I had super-senses as a by-product of my karate, while our city girl Sze Ling barely got any. As for Bing, no need to mention, and Andrew was probably thinking about more food. We took turns to view through Bing’s scope as her well trained eye spots birds followed by an efficient setup of the tripod-attached scope, one sighting after another.

Returning to the stream of the monitor lizard, we set off a different path on long yet intriguing walkway of nature. We strolled by the wetland mangrove habitat with content as we walking pass and alongside the aggression and childlike restlessness of the macaques, which Andrew seem to think to look like squirrels, and contrastingly the elderly-like passiveness of the silver leaf monkeys, and certainly the never to be forgotten the beauty of the ugly alien-like mud skippers posing on a log for us to admire. Gazing into the well-known unknown subjects through our lenses opens one’s eye to why some can appreciate what sounds like a boring thing to do. One just can’t resist to notice every detail¾the texture of the fur coat of a the monkeys, the colour of their eyes, the blurring agility of the macaques, the posture of the steady silver leaf monkeys, the blue spots on the skin of the mud skipper, their breaths and the blinks of its eye, the elegant lengthy stretch of the egret’s neck protruding from its snow white body, and the curvature of the tucked-in neck o f the grey heron resting over its solid torso having its grey wings wrapped around its sides with hints darker markings contrasting with its white belly.

Not long after and without realising, two hours have now passed and it was nearing 7 o’clock. Our three unexpected judges were arriving¾Shi Wei, Jack and VK, and it were time to go. Once we found them, we headed straight for the lighthouse, Bukit Melawati, where silver leaf monkeys have adapted feeding off tourists and whoever feeds them. Sounds romantic, but no! Not a good lifestyle for the monkey to adapt, as Bing explains. The monkeys whom are originally leaf eaters not only becomes dependent on humans to feed but also feeds on food which may not be appropriate to their bodies, and worst even, humans pass diseases to the monkeys. After spending a few minutes at Bukit Melawati, all the seven of us headed to another adventure, which was the adventure of refueling our empty stomachs with pleasure.
We had dinner at a seafood restaurant called Hai Ung in Pasir Penambang located just on the riverbank of Sungai Selangor giving us a brilliant view of the dusk sky conjuring up the silhouettes of the leafy mountains over the river. We ordered seven delicious dishes of which the deep fried squid was unanimously the winner. But before coming to that conclusion, there was another winner to be declared unanimously and the winner for Bing’s contest, which was me, which was the excuse of why it was my job to write this in the first place. Nevertheless I am honored to write, as well as to win a piece of a brilliantly decorated fridge magnet (thank you Bing, and thank you fellow judges Shi Wei, Jack and VK). By the end of the meal and without realizing that throughout the meal the view of the food has completely taken over our attention from the view outside the restaurant. All of a sudden the silhouettes of the mountains vanished into a pitch black sky.

Hence this is where I shall sign off in sharing with you our experience at Kuala Selangor as one more adventure before us lies, a tour to VK’s recent ancestry family history in Kuala Selangor, before the main and final event of the evening than gazing into the hovering light bulbs of natur that both to be told by She Wei not long sooner.