Story & photos by H.Y. Leong
The response to the Marine Group’s first “White-water kayaking for Dummies” was very encouraging and in the end, 37 members kayaked Sungai Langat over the Hari Raya weekend (December 16-17, 2001).
Grey clouds parted and sunny skies greeted members at 7:30am as they prepared to follow a trail of MNS questions from Cheras to Hulu Langat. En route, they also had a chance to observe their surroundings, with stops at the market, the town and the hot springs.
On the first day, Group A & B had to tackle questions such as where is MNS HQ, what is a raptor, what does a sweeper do, and name two turtle species in Malaysia. The cars with the highest score were Car #7 (Kumar, Bernadette, Yasudda and Andrew) and Car #6 (Su Mei, Pek Ching, Mark and Kana). The next day, Group C was given a different set of questions such as what is the largest fish, what colour is a baby silver-leaf monkey, name one MNS nature education centre, and what is the common name for Durio zibethinus. The clear winner was Car #5 (Wei Peng, Lian Hua, Cecilia and Hock Siew). Participants of the winning cars were presented with a gift of a MNS T-shirt each.
After leaving their dry clothes at the “take-out point” where the kayak trip ends, the first group of 14 members proceeded to the “put-in point”, about 8km away. There, they fitted their lifejackets and helmets, picked up their double-sided paddles and went through a 20-minute tutorial about how to use the forward and backward strokes to move their inflatable open-kayaks around obstacles. Next, everyone carried their kayaks into the water and did the 20-minute practical, a much-required exercise judging from several members going down a small rapid, backwards.
Members soon set off to look for rapids and obstacles. There were three guides with them – a leader, one in the middle and the last acting as the sweeper – all of them shouting advice and instructions to members.
Under normal (not flood) conditions, Sungai Langat is classified as Grade 1 (simple moving water without significant rapids) and Grade 2 (more rapidly moving water with occasional rapids), which are suitable for beginners. But as the river level was low, the river became more technical. For example, it was harder to read the river.
Four members who had rafted (six in a raft) in Sungai Selangor said that tandem kayaking (two in a kayak) was more challenging and needed a lot more coordination and effort. On this subject, there was one kayak that kept going around in circles while several kayaks ended up nowhere near where they wanted to go! Several partners even had to “divorce” midway and change kayaks.
The picturesque river was marred by floating pools of rubbish (Styrofoam, plastic, and durian husks) caught on the riverbanks, and one massive landslide at a river bend. At one point, there was a fallen tree across the river, and members had to steer towards one small opening before leaning back to avoid being slammed by it. There were also two disused fishing traps with its steel rods poking out of the surface, which members had to walk around. We saw an unidentified snake and a python, both dead, caught in the last trap.
The kayak guides said members were enthusiastic and very gung-ho, even after paddling for two hours and added that they looked forward to guiding them again. Overall, members did very well on their first kayaking attempt. The only “casualties” in the water was the footwear. One member lost his sports sandal momentarily in the water, while another member ended his journey with his sandals in pieces.
There were several stops to rest tired arms and to quench thirst. The guides also talked about how river flows around obstacles like rocks and trees, thereby causing rapids, and how to read the river.
After a lunch of tuna-filled sandwiches and snacks, the next group prepared to kayak while the morning group headed for the Gabai waterfalls and the Dusun Tua hot springs, before heading home.
Thanks to Stella of the Science and Conservation Unit, MNS for compiling a river fact sheet about the importance of our rivers and how to take care of them. Thanks also to Jin Khoon, the Trail Guru for coordinating the Adventure Trail from Cheras to Hulu Langat, which made the car trip more enjoyable.