Baha's Camp lies near the top of the (apparently) 270m high seven-tiered Stong Waterfall, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in Peninsular Malaysia, that is located in the 21,950 hectare 'Gunung Stong State Park' (formerly known as Jelawang Jungle). The camp serves as a launching point for trips up to the higher levels of the waterfall as well as for treks to the multitude of peaks that one can find in the area, the most renowned being Mount Stong and Mount Ayam.Before we go on, please jot down the numbers that are listed below. If you do see any suspicious behaviour when out hiking, encounter things like traps and snares, or even see protected animals or their parts that are sold as either collectibles, pets, or for (so-called) medicine, then please do not hesitate to contact the wildlife crime hotline. Be sure to try and document it as best you can with photos or video without putting yourself in danger, and take note of the details: descriptions of those who are involved, as well as when and where it took place.
"The Wildlife Crime Hotline, managed by the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT), provides YOU an avenue to report offences involving endangered wildlife in Malaysia. We protect the identity of all informants, only key info of the reports are forwarded to the authorities."
The entrance to Gunung Stong State Park lies relatively close by the small town of Dabong in Kelantan. The town can be reached by either following the road from Kuala Lipis to Gua Musang and then on to the D29 trunk road that goes straight up to Dabong, or by taking the overnight intercity KTM train (also known as the Jungle Train since it passes through heavily forested areas) that leaves KL Central around 20:30 and arrives in Dabong around 07:00 the next morning. Once you arrive in Dabong you will find signs alongside the road (or when in doubt ask the locals) that point the way to the park.
By the time we arrived at the park, it was pretty late so we quickly repacked our backpacks after paying the entrance fee and started to make our way towards the trail entrance. Before that however, one of the guides came over and foolishly tried to scare us with talk of bears and tigers and the difficulty and trickiness of the trail. Since there were no guides (apparently) available, he was going to let us go on to Baha Camp without one, and said it in such a way as to almost seem as if he were doing us a favour. He then went on to sternly state that if we were to head for any of the summits, we would have to retain the services of one of the guides that we would be able to find at Baha Camp.
Trail up to Baha's Camp
We made our way West up the slope and onto the concrete stairwell that lead us past tall trees with huge, sprawling buttress roots and old, dodgy looking wooden chalets that were scattered around the area. The path lead to a bridge at the base of the waterfall which was the junction between the waterfall trail and the forest trail. The path just before the bridge continued to lead West and would have taken us up along the Southern side of the waterfall whereas the trail that continued on after the bridge took us into the forest. Since it was starting to get dark fast at that point, we chose the latter.
The very obvious trail also bore West after the bridge (Northern side of the waterfall) and began to climb almost immediately. The inclination was normally between 30 to 45 degrees but reached 60 degrees or more at certain sections, although there were ropes that had been setup to assist the ascent. The climb felt a little bit more strenuous than it normally would have as we were also carrying fairly large backpacks (possibly up to 15kg in weight).
We reached a little shed after about 30 minutes of very slow trekking (covering a distance of 570m) where a left turning would have taken us to the side of the waterfall. Those who follow the waterfall trail from the park entrance would have to cross the waterfall and make their way up this path to converge with the main trail that we were on. Shortly after, with just over an hour of trekking, we reached Baha Camp.
Suunto Movescount Stats
By the time we reached the camp, the sun had set and it had begun to rain heavily (the images below were taken the following day), so we dashed into the wooden huts for shelter as soon as we reached the camp. The guides that had already set up there didn't look too happy to see us as there were a large number of people who had already made camp so the conditions there were a little cramped. We tried our best to dry off in the little corner of the makeshift kitchen that we claimed as our own and decided to prepare dinner in the shelter since we had a lot of time to spare whilst waiting for the rain to cease.
The wooden huts that were normally available for rent at RM10 each were not available due to the large number of campers and after a guide called 'Dek' found out that not everyone in our group had tents or hammocks of their own, he surprisingly went out of his way to set up a tarp and a ground sheet for us. He even lent us an oil candle for the night. Setting up my Hennessy Hammock was very straightforward as all I had to do was find two trees with some space in between them.
I only realized how large the sprawling campgrounds were the following morning. There were two large areas that could accommodate a number of tents as well as six wooden huts that were made available for rental. The other structures comprised of a large kitchen and dining area and a small shack that sold provisions including t-shirts. Apparently the campsite is able to accommodate between 150 and 200 people at one time.
Aside from Dek, the other guides seemed to almost resent our presence, almost as if we were cheating them out of their livelihood. I personally am a lot more satisfied when I plan trips by myself and have complete control with the ability to decide what to do and when to do it. The logistics can be a pain to deal with in the initial planning stages but there is a certain element of satisfaction when the plans come to fruition. Guides also seem to always overestimate the duration and the difficulty of the routes and always seem to be in a rush to get to the next point as the novelty of the jungle trail has been lost to them. I find that hiring a guide to do all the planning and hiring porters to carry all your gear (as most travelers do for treks such as Everest Base Camp) ends up just taking away from the sense of accomplishment, almost like a lazy trekkers way out. I think the only advantage to hiring a guide would be for the abundance of knowledge of the local flora and fauna (and fungi) that they possess.
We found banners advertising the upcoming 'Mount Stong International Climbathon 2013' that is to be held on the 22nd of June 2013 with a trail that is supposed to cover a distance of 14.5km from the entrance of the Gunung Stong State Park following the waterfall along it's South side. The banners state a URL for the official website (that doesn't seem to work) but they also have a facebook page that contains some information about the race.
Just to the left of the Baha Camp entrance lies a small trail that leads to a rocky outcrop at the edge of the waterfall that rewards you with some great views of the eastern horizon. Most campers make their way here in the early pre-dawn hours of the morning for the sunrise views. Unfortunately for us the views were less than spectacular as the horizon was obscured by clouds that completely obscured the views of the sun.