Berkelah Falls

For the Good Friday weekend, I joined friends to trek up Berkelah Waterfalls, somewhere off Kuantan, Peninsula Malaysia. It has been almost 10 years since I went up this waterfall. Those were definitely fond memories. It was after much unstructured planning and countless impromptu phone discussions that we managed to book a mini-bus, gather the logistics, find the participants that we managed to settle everything in time to make the excursion happen.


Attendance taking – photographer not included

Some things went wrong for all the right reasons. The mini-bus came late and we basically kept ourselves entertained with plenty of senseless banter to get ourselves better acquainted with one another. When the transport finally arrived we loaded our equipment up and headed for the Causeway with the new customs. Clearing which, it would be a long overnight ride all the way up to the region of Kuantan. Most of us could hardly sleep thanks to how we so considerately moved to fill up the seats from behind. Those larger taller guys suffered in the cramped back seats while the petite ladies squeezed 4 of themselves into 3 front seats with much discomfort.

The first time we visited Berkelah Falls, we had to get off at the main road and walk our way in. This time, the mini-bus dropped us right before the entrance of the Berkelah Falls Reserve. It was just before dawn, and we were cold from the freezing mini-bus air conditioning. The first thing we did when we got off was to prepare breakfast as we waited for day break.

The stream by the entrance
The stream by the entrance – Silky effect achieved by low ISO, small aperture and low shutter speed

The water from the stream was awfully cooling. Most of us squirmed upon contact. But it grows on you somehow that you will learn to enjoy it.

Balanced rock - taken using an off camera flash fired with CLS
Balanced rock

Of course, this is but a first glimpse of the outdoor experience Berkelah Falls have to offer. We made our way along the concrete path that leads to the forest trail. Trekking up Berkelah Falls is relatively straightforward. The trails are well-trodden, so it is unlikely that you go lose your way.There is a little climbing involved, but nothing near dangerous. The rule of thumb going up the falls is to always ensure that the waters are by your side and that you are moving in the direction against the flow.

View of the first falls on the trail
View of the first falls on the trail

The way up to our choice base camp is actually quite a distance. But there are plenty of open spaces along the trail to take breaks. By breaks, I mean taking a seat, dropping our backpacks and venturing around to take pictures.

Taking a well-deserved break
Taking a well-deserved break

Everybody wandering around
Everybody wandering around

One of many ubiquitous silky waterfall shots
One of many ubiquitous silky waterfall shots

The morning fog
The morning mist

The shot that I messed up
The shot that I messed up

Yangyi and Zengrong
Yangyi and Zengrong

Group Photo
Group Photo

So continued our way up the falls.

Continuing the way up
Continuing the way up

The gradient
The gradient of the terrain


Negotiating a minor obstacle

Met up with one of many frogs in the area
Met up with one of many frogs in the area

rock formations
More rock formations

more rock formations
Portrait view of the same rock formation


Slightly easier terrain


Effects of river processes

Silky water
More rapids


Spider web

Just as time passes quickly when we are enjoying ourselves, we arrived at our base camp in no time as we snapped our way along.


Mark and Zengrong helping Veron get through a crevice among the rocks.


Nicholl loses no time to snap photos


Liyan, Irene, Jasmine and Miaozhen


The resident sleeping god


Yangyi and his WTF pose.


Paradise found, with a twist!


And another shot without Michael


Directly behind me.


Our base camp area.


Nuah-ing on the rocks


Zengrong and Veron


Fish found in the water


a rare self portrait

Since we were pretty early, we frolicked in the water since it was a must-do activity.

While the others prepared lunch… So chauvinistic, right?


Ripples

After setting up our base camp and lunch, most of us carried on without our full equipment to reach the first waterfall at the top.


On our way up to the highest falls


Jasmine and Guoyong are rock-huggers

It took us longer than usual as some were not as confident of their footing on the terrain. Most had to go barefoot along certain areas as even the expensive Tevas and Chacos were not up to the job. In contrast, the obscenely cheap (I bought mine at RM8.90) and ugly and ultra resilient rubber-tapper’s shoes provided unequalled traction and grip on the terrain.

Anyway, at the end of the climb, we were greeted with this sight…

I don’t know about you, but it was definitely worth the climb. Of course, whoever went up must have their attendance taken…


One of the rare moments where I get someone to take a photo of me

Up there, I slipped on some algae went into the water and my LowePro camera bag was fully submerged. But I fished it out quickly enough and opened it up to find that my equipment had remained dry. The experience gave me a lot of confidence that LowePro products can protect my camera equipment.

We needed to return to base camp by dinner time but it start to rain. We had to take shelter in the canopied area. Unfortunately, we were swarmed by hordes of mosquitoes. Thankfully, the rain was just a passing shower and we continued our way down.

But Zengrong and Veron turned up and wanted to reach the top waterfall. Conveniently, the others suggested that I stay and keep the two company while they carried on their way down.

It turned out to be a good idea, as I was able to take time to take pictures.


Proof of presence of me and my camera. :p

The three of us finally returned to base camp for dinner and to wash up. As night falls, some of us stayed out to pit ourselves against each other in a few games of scrabble while the others retired to the tents. A few games later, we too burrowed our way into the tents for the night.

The next morning, we broke camp as we prepared for our descent and return home.


There is always a display of eye-power


A universal sign of the digital camera era

Before we left, some of us had to experience the water for one last time…

Having had enough fun in the water, we backtracked our way down to the entrance for yet another group photo…

As it turned out, Michael got stung by some insect on the way down and swelled up pretty badly and we had hop town to town for a clinic. We also re-arranged the seating so that the girls would take up the space at the back seats while the guys took the front.

We finally found a clinic at a small township for Michael after an hour or so and managed to get ourselves a good meal at a kopi-tiam. Some of us managed to do a little shopping too.

We then returned to our mini-bus and continued our way back to Singapore. Along the way, we managed to catch a few movies courtesy of a small pirated DVD stash in the mini-bus. We managed to catch Watchmen, Pink Panther 2 and even Monsters vs Aliens which was not shown in cinemas yet. A quick spoiler: it has plenty of spoofs and awfully funny characters, so catch when it reaches the cinemas. We promptly got rid of the stash the moment we reached the customs.

Reaching Singapore, and specifically, Jurong East, we went for another meal at the kopi-tiam before splitting to back home. Of course, we promised that we would plan another follow up outing soonest possible.

Geylang Bahru Visit

Some weekends back, some friends and I went back to Geylang Bahru to visit some of the residents as a follow-up from the Christmas caroling “operation” we undertook last year.

Seeing them have so much hope and joy was especially encouraging during these times of uncertainty. It undoubtedly makes one rethink his priorities and what one’s joy should be based upon.

We will be visiting them again soon. So if you are interested to join us, do leave a comment or send me an email.

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Koyong’s Baptism

Group photos from Koyong’s Baptism.

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The post-ceremony gathering at MacDonald’s. and messed around with the Creative Lighting System…

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Xinzhan wears a social-repellent T-shirt.

Lighting is achieved with a SB-900 held outstretched 45 degrees on my left hand (i.e. camera left) fired at +2 EV setting while the background is darkened by setting -1 EV on the camera.

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Same -1 EV setting on the camera and +2 EV for the remote flash 45 degrees from a high angle on camera right.

Absolut Vodka

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There was a second model moller that didn’t want to be photographed. Unfortunately, I remember her for being the ultimate ditz from the biggest beauty pageant disaster ever. I am guessing that she shied away either because as an atas moller like her, she can’t be seen doing a waitress job or maybe this waitress job will breach her contract with her moller-ing agency.