sign in a cave in Laos

9 June 2008

Caving at Gua Musang - Star

Surprises aplenty caving

By Liz Price

THE STAR Lifestyle
Saturday July 15, 2006
[also on All Malaysia]

There are two popular stories, and both relate to the huge cave in the hill behind the town. One account says that a group of superstitious hunters were camped out here, when a storm destroyed the hunters’ attap huts. A bolt of lightning struck the hill and almost split it in two.

The hunters thought the guardian spirit of the cave was angry and begged for mercy. As they prayed they saw a pack of civet cats run into the cave, so they lay in wait for them to come out again. However, the animals never reappeared. The hunters then named the hill Bukit Gua Musang and the town, Gua Musang.

The second story refers to a rock formation inside the cave, which reportedly resembles a civet cat, hence the name.

Today, this famous cave in Gua Musang, Kelantan is a fairly popular attraction. When we, a group of cave explorers from the Malaysian Karst Society, went up for a weekend recce, we were pretty sure we would see no signs of musang here.

The entrance to Gua Musang. — Pictures by LIZ PRICE

But imagine our surprise when one in our party went into a small passage in the cave and came face to face with a furry creature. At first we assumed it was a civet, but it turned out to be a porcupine. The porcupine was also startled and disappeared into a small dark hole.

The cave of Gua Musang is located immediately behind the town’s railway station and is reached by a steep scramble up the hillside. We got some funny looks for our caving helmets and lights, and our muddy clothes.

After a steep climb following the track up the hill, which was slippery from a recent shower, we reached the cliff face and saw a small slot. This is the cave entrance. The main cave chamber is huge, but the entrance passage is a very narrow ascending rift. There is an amazing amount of graffiti adorning the walls of the entrance chamber – it’s a shame that so many were so thoughtless in defacing the cave.

Inside the cave, we found lots of wings belonging to Atlas moths strewn around the floor in some places. Probably the porcupine had eaten the moths, leaving just the wings. We explored all the passages we could find. The chamber goes through the hill to a back entrance and you can climb up to the top of the hill, but we felt it was a bit dangerous to attempt it as the ground was slippery.

The next day we ventured out to Pulai. Pulai, south of Gua Musang, is an old gold mining area. It is said that Pulai was founded in 1425 by two brothers, Lim Pak Yen and Lim Ghee Yee, who fled China.

A narrow passageway that holds a surprise.

The brothers came here in search of gold. Once word got out, there was a gold rush and a small settlement was created. As the gold supply slowly diminished, people started planting padi to survive.

Pulai has a temple reputed to be 400-500 years old, reportedly the second oldest temple in the country after the Cheng Hoon Teng temple (1646) in Malacca. The Pulai Swee Nyet Keung Buddhist temple and its surrounding village was burnt down by the Japanese in 1941.

The temple was rebuilt in 1970 and is quite small, but it has an interesting collection of ancient cannon parts.

Across the river from the temple is a limestone hill with a new temple. Bukit Tok Cu is also known as Princess Mountain and a temple is being constructed on top of it. The workers told us that a man had a vision of steps being built up the hill in 1984, but work on the temple only started in 1997.

However, a shrine was already in existence in the upper cave when an archaeological team dug there in 1991. The upper part of the cave is not very extensive but we were able to look straight down some open shafts to the cave chamber back down at ground level. We couldn’t see any obvious way down so we retraced our way down the steps and entered the main chamber at ground level.

Looking around, we found an easy climb up inside the cave and found ourselves back in the new temple again, much to the surprise of the workers.

We had our base in Taman Ethnobotani, where there are rooms and chalets for rent. The park was set up in 1997 for the collection and propagation of medicinal herbs. This recreational and nature park is administered by the Kelantan Selatan Development Authority (Kesedar).

Some 3km from Gua Musang, the park covers 38ha of lush greenery and limestone outcrops. One small hill is located right at the entrance of Taman Ethnobotani, and here we got to watch climbers practise their moves.

The park holds many climbing routes. Apart from climbing, there are other outdoor activities like rope and wooden obstacle courses, and flying fox and abseiling. Visitors can also learn to make traps and pick up jungle survival skills. Nature lovers will enjoy visiting the deer and ostrich farms and the medicinal herb garden.

Gua Musang has three limestone hills that run parallel to the main road leading into town. One was burnt by a fire last year, and its odd appearance with the patchy vegetation growing back made it look like a mangy dog. And that’s what we called it: Mangy Dog Hill.

Most of the Gua Musang limestone hills house caves, but they tend to be quite short. Gua Madu, located on the edge of town, is now in a recreational park. Further away in the Sungai Nenggiri area are the famous archaeological caves like Gua Cha, Gua Peraling and Gua Chawan.

The Nenggiri is also a place for white water rafting.

Taman Ethnobotani
KM3, Jalan Persiaran Raya
Gua Musang, Kelantan
Tel: (09) 9126829

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