Gunung Bunga Buah

My climb up the 1430m Gunung Bunga Buah. A nice day trip, not too difficult for seasoned hikers, but the trail is more like an obstacle course.

DISCLAIMER: This post was written in 2012. Information may be out of date!

Location: Gohtong Jaya (Genting Highlands), Pahang, Malaysia.
Start point: 3.395699N, 101.767510E 922m a.s.l.
Summit: 3.374284N, 101.740044E 1441m a.s.l.
Difficulty: Moderately Hard. Some steep sections, trail is mostly muddy with a lot of obstacles. Not recommended as a first hike, but doable for anyone who exercises regularly.

Date climbed: Sat 1 Sep 2012

Having not climbed any challenging mountains for 2 weeks (not counting my 4th trip to Broga which I found to be easy & relaxed), I was itching to climb something new. I decided on Gunung Bunga Buah as it is fairly close to PJ/KL, and doesn’t have a reputation of being too difficult. I was a bit apprehensive as I was bringing along 3 other people (a total of 4 climbers) to a new location, and I had not climbed with any of them before. Further more, most of them had not done half/full day climbs before.

I would like to quickly touch on the subject of group dynamics, which should be an important aspect to consider – if you climb with people you’ve climbed with before, you know each other’s level of fitness & pacing, and how to motivate one another. I have to admit that I (as the navigator and person who researched the mountain) probably didn’t lead the group as well as I could have, and was too eager to plod on ahead at times. However, I’m glad that we all reached the summit safely and got back out before sunset.

Gunung Bunga Buah stands high at 1430m, but is different from other mountains like Nuang in that you start at relatively high altitude. The trail consists of many ups and downs rather than a single ascent to the summit and back. The great thing about this is that the whole climb is done in nice cool weather. On the other hand, do keep in mind that the return time from the summit will likely take the same amount of time. (On single ascent/descent mountains, the descent is almost always significantly faster) From the research I’ve done, Gunung Bunga Buah is also well known for its leeches. While I’m sure they do come out in large numbers after a rain, we only saw a few around on this particular day, and none of us got any bites. Needless to say, go mentally prepared for these bloodsuckers!

We left PJ around 7.20am, reaching Gohtong Jaya at 8.30am. It’s up to you how close you want to park to the starting point, which is a small orchard/farm. I decided to park in front of a restaurant at the shoplots, just for extra peace of mind as there is a lot more activity going on there. (Hopefully less chance of anything happening to the car, although these days anything can happen)

You’ll have to find your way through the orchard to the start of the trail. It’s a bit hard to describe, so either (1) use the GPS trail I recorded, (2) ask the people at the orchard, who were very friendly, or (3) if you have neither GPS nor people to ask, you’ll have to make a turn around one of the buildings and head towards the slope. Whatever you do, please watch your step and do not step on any of the plants at the orchard, as the land is private properly and we are outsiders ‘trespassing’ on their land to get to the trail. As goes without saying, do not litter – that goes for the whole journey!

The first part of the climb consists of a ~20 minute climb through steep and potentially slippery slopes. If you’re not used to these type of slopes, don’t despair, since it’s only for a short section. You’ll soon find yourself on an old tar road (which used to be the old road to Genting). Keep a mental image of this junction, as you’ll have to go back down the same way when coming back.

Emerging onto the old tar road after climbing through the orchard

From here, keep walking along the road until you notice it bending sharply to the right. At this point, turn left into the undergrowth, and in a minute you’ll emerge at the well known old quarry, with it’s grand looking cliff. Honestly, the photos don’t do it justice – it’s a sight you have to see for yourself.

Junction towards old quarry. Go left here.
The old quarry you’ll emerge at a minute later

Keep walking along the road, which has been closed for such a long time that nature has already reclaimed most of it. Most of the time, you’ll be walking through dense undergrowth, and you’ll be “in touch” (literally!) with nature. As such, long pants are recommended (though not required), if not you may end up getting quite a few scratches and possibly rashes along the way.

At some point, you’ll find  yourself on the other side of the mountain ridge, and you’ll get your first view of Bunga Buah’s peak. It may look far away, but it’s doable! The viewing point also includes a great view of the valley. On our climb, we could hear the loud cries of what we assume to be gibbons – though we never saw any of them.

First view of Bunga Buah’s peak

Keep walking along the dense path (It’s hard to imagine cars drove here many years ago) until you reach the “real” trailhead which leads to Gunung Bunga Buah.

Trailhead to Bunga Buah

From here, there’s a short steep climb, followed by a long downhill section. It can be tiring going down, because you know that you’ll have to go up on the journey back! Interestingly, I tend to prefer going uphill as it’s always easier to find footing and easier on the joints. Those who have climbed Gunung Nuang will recognize the similar clay. Eventually, you’ll reach the bottom of this section, and begin the climb up towards the summit of Bunga Buah. While there are no extremely steep sections, what makes the trail difficult is the sheer number of objects lying across the path – branches, roots, rocks, etc., which you’ll have to either clamber over or crawl underneath. Some people say that Bunga Buah is tougher than Nuang – which may be due to the trail difficulty. (However, Nuang requires vastly more endurance and strength. Overall, I’d say that Nuang is still MUCH more difficult).

Along the way, you’ll come across a clearing with the word “AIR”. I assume that if you turn off at this junction, it would lead to a water source. We did not follow it this round.

“AIR” – highlighted in the photo. Probably leads to a water source.

About half and hour on, you’ll reach the start of the “Rock Garden”, which some say shares similarities to Bukit Tabur. It’s no where nearly as dangerous as Bukit Tabur, but provides a nice change in terrain. At this point, you’ll also be able to get the best view of Genting Highlands (if there are no clouds). We stopped here to eat our lunch. The ground around the rock garden is also oddly spongy. I’d strongly recommend you take careful steps – I don’t know how much weight the ground can take, or if it’s secure. The last thing you want to do is go tumbling down!

View of Genting Highlands (behind the clouds) from Rock Garden

The summit of Gunung Bunga Buah lies about 30-40minutes from the rock garden. There’s a large clearing you’ll reach, but this is not the true summit. Just walk about half a minute further on until you see the triangular metal structure, and here you can end your journey! (I understand that the trail continues further on, down towards Batang Kali/Jalan Sungai Tua, which is a LONG way away)

Gunung Bunga Buah’s summit

As of September 2012, the summit is infested with bees, so if you don’t like bees, you probably won’t want to stay at the summit too long! On my climb, we set the turnaround time at 1.30pm, which gave us ample time to get back to Gohtong Jaya. Always set a turnaround time and stick to it strictly!

All in all, Gunung Bunga Buah was an enjoyable, relaxed climb. I’m not sure I’d care to return to it anytime soon, but it’s not bad. We ran into about 20 people in total along our climb, including a big group who had camped up at the summit the previous night. I expect that not many people (if any) climb Gunung Bunga Buah on weekdays. As with any climb, let someone know your plans. There is hardly any phone reception (Maxis, at least) throughout the climb (except near the start and towards the summit).

I have to congratulate 2 within my group – PY and ZR, who completed the climb with broken shoes. ALWAYS be sure to wear proper footwear when climbing places such as these!

GPS Details (From start to summit)


Click for GPS trail map image

Duration: 4 hours 24 minutes (can be done much faster)
Length: 7km
Average Speed: 1.6km/h
Max elevation: 1441m
Min elevation: 922m
Vertical Up: 827m
Vertical Down: 310m

Download GPX, KMZ (Google Earth)
View on EveryTrail

Preparations

Average time: 4hrs up, 3.5hrs down. Plan accordingly. We started ~9am and set turnaround time at 1.30pm

  • It’s not a race. Stick together, and if any can’t make it, turn back together.
  • Depending on weather, may be cold.
  • Bunga Buah is very famous for leeches. Dress appropriately or bring insect repellent if you want to avoid bites.
  • Lots of shrubs/bushes, long pants recommended.
  • Trail can be slippery.

Checklist:

  • Minimum 2 liters drink, isotonic recommended
  • High energy snacks/lunch
  • Hiking shoes & extra socks for comfort, if you need
  • Raincoat/poncho
  • Small towel
  • Hiking stick
  • Insect Repellent
  • Extra clothes (both shirt & pants), can leave in car
  • Plastic bags for dirty shoes/clothes, can leave in car
  • Extra slippers to change into afterwards, can leave in car
  • Emergency gear: flashlight, whistle, knife, lighter, 1st aid kit
  • Optional: gloves, tarp/flysheet, cord/string, mat, water filter/tablets, etc.

(See my personal packing list here)

Broga Hill for the 4th time

My 4th trip to Broga Hill near Semenyih, Selangor. Total hiking time is under an hour, and is suitable for beginners. The reward to work ratio is very high, as there are great views from the summit. It can be very crowded on weekends/public holidays, and unfortunately, garbage is littered all along the trail.

DISCLAIMER: This post was written in 2012. Information may be out of date!

Location: Broga/Semenyih, Selangor, Malaysia.
Start point: 2.938412N, 101.901154E 105m a.s.l. (Opposite Rabbit Fun Land)
Summit: 2.950264N, 101.903020E 396m a.s.l.
Difficulty: Easy. No technical skills required. Trail is not steep, but can be slightly slippery especially after rain. Good place for beginner hikers.

Date climbed: Tue 21 Aug 2012

This was my 4th trip to Broga Hill, which is famous for its lack of trees (It’s also known as the “Lalang” [long grass] Hill), and its good view of the surrounding area, given the relatively easy climb. Unfortunately, its popularity means that the trail is very worn, and there is a lot of rubbish littered along the trail. Additionally, it can be crowded on weekends and public holidays. In fact, on my 2nd trip there, our group was stuck in a constant human traffic jam all the way up to the summit, which upon arriving was so jam packed that we had no place to stand.

On this particular visit, it was busy, but not the worst. I went there to show a few of my friends around. My friends are all good hikers, in better shape than me, but it was their first time, and one of them was to lead another group of people a few weeks later. The climb takes between 30min to 1hr to climb, and since it is an easy trail, we decided to bring along a bag of charcoal and some food (sausages and Ramly burgers) to cook on the summit.

Parking costs RM2, and is located just opposite Rabbit Fun Land. From there on, the trail is very clear. Just remember to keep right at the fork ~5min from the car park (It’s the path which goes up in elevation). From there, you’ll walk through jungle for about 15-20min until you emerge at a steep climb to the 1st summit. From the 1st summit, you can hike onwards to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th summit. The 4th summit requires a short rope section where you have to pull yourself up a few boulders. At the summit (396m), you can hoist yourself up the big boulders if you want to, or continue on to Gunung Tok Wan (which we didn’t). There are a few bees around the summit which you want to watch out for. In fact, on my 3rd trip there, one of us was stung and we were chased all the way down to the 2nd summit by other bees!

If you do climb Broga, please do other people a favor by bringing a few garbage bags and collecting the garbage on your way down. Yes, it’s not our garbage, but it will hopefully make the climb nicer for others.

The slope leading to the 1st peak after coming out of the jungle.
View from the 3rd peak
View of the 4th peak from the 3rd peak. The rocks require the use of a rope.
View from the 4th peak. KL (including the twin towers) is visible on a clear day
Cooking our breakfast. Photo by J. Ng.

GPS Details

Download GPX, KMZ (Google Earth)
View on EveryTrail

Duration: 47 minutes 53 seconds
Length: 1.8km
Average Speed: 2.2km/h
Max elevation: 396m
Min elevation: 105m
Vertical Up: 320m
Vertical Down: 32m

Gunung Nuang (Attempt 1: Failed)

A failed attempt on the highest peak in Selangor due to time constraints.

DISCLAIMER: This post was written in 2012. Information may be out of date!

UPDATE 26 September 2012: I reached the summit on my 2nd attempt! Read the story HERE.

On 17 August 2012, I attempted to climb Gunung Nuang with 4 other friends. Gunung Nuang, the highest mountain in Selangor, is known to be a fairly difficult climb which usually takes a whole day. From the various blog posts I have read on Gunung Nuang, it doesn’t seem to be a particularly fun mountain to climb, being famous for never-ending muddy and slippery slopes, and very few nice views. While the 1493m peak isn’t nearly the highest in Malaysia, the challenge comes from starting at a low altitude of 190m.

The climb can be separated into a few sections: Start – Never Ending Road – Kem Lolo – Kem Pacat – Puncak Pengasih – Summit.

The weather had been rainy for a few days prior to our climb, so we went mentally prepared for leeches and muddy terrain. We left KL around 6am and started our hike just after 7am, as the skies were just starting to turn light. By the time we had hiked for 20 minutes, almost everyone had picked up hitchhikers: leeches. They would become a constant sight throughout the trip, both on the trail and on our legs. By the end, everyone had 5-10 bites, except myself, as I had decent leech protection on.

We reached the end of the “never-ending road” at 8.30am (1:15hrs hike) . Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn and ended up crossing the river twice, unnecessarily. The detour cost us almost half an hour, after which we arrived at Kem Lolo @ ~9.15am (~2:00hrs hike). After that, it was a long slippery road to Kem Pacat, which we reached at 11.10am (4:00hrs hike). Unfortunately, due to time constraints (one in our team had to be down by 6pm) and my pace being on the slow side, we realized that we would not make the peak in time to get back by 6pm, so me and a friend stopped at Kem Pacat. The other 3 left any unnecessary items behind and set off for the peak.

The 3 other climbers returned to Kem Pacat at 1.40pm, unfortunately not having made it to the top. There had been a fallen tree along the path which took a long time to clear. They reached Puncak Pengasih (~1480m) at ~12.30pm, and decided that they wouldn’t make it in time to the peak for the 6pm return time. Also, water supplies were running slightly low.

We all headed down, reaching the entrance just after 5pm. We were defeated by Nuang, mostly because of time constraints. I will be climbing it again, as I know I am capable of reaching the top. For now, Nuang can laugh at us, but we WILL defeat it!

Here’s the 5 of us who climbed that day. (I didn’t really take any photos, and didn’t mark any waypoints on my GPS, as I was tired and didn’t have enough time to do so anyway. Next time!)

GPS Details

Download GPX
View on Everytrail
View on WikiLoc

Total distance: 10km (to Puncak Pengasih)
Total time: 5 hours 15 minutes (to Puncak Pengasih)
Average speed: 1.7 km/h
Max elevation: 1481m
Min elevation: 190m
Vertical Up: 1609m

From Everytrail:

Story
Didn’t make it up to the summit. A few factors:

  • Heavy thunderstorms for previous days meant trail was very muddy and slippery
  • High humidity meant more sweating
  • Time constraints (had to make trip < 10hrs)
  • Not enough water
  • Not enough sleep previous night
  • Accidental detour near Kem Lolo

There were a ton of leeches.

Tips

  • Climb on a dry day
  • If you have a water filter, you can refill at Kem Lolo (5.8km from trailhead ~600m)
  • You can leave unneeded supplies at Kem Pacat (1100m) to make your summit attempt easier. Either mark your belongings or leave a few friends there. Collect your supplies on the way down.
  • DON’T leave trash around!!!
  • At the first river, don’t go down the steps to cross the river. Take the trail on the left to follow the big pipe.
  • Bring headlamps, you may end up climbing in the dark

Automatic Shutdown/Wake Up on FreeNAS

In an attempt to conserve as much electricity as I can, I used some python scripting to automatically turn my FreeNAS server on and off as required. Requires programming knowledge.

WARNING: THIS POST ASSUMES SOME PROGRAMMING KNOWLEDGE, as you will have to tweak it to your own setup. If you aren’t able to generally figure out what is going on in this post, you shouldn’t try it. I take no responsibility to damage caused to your system! I wrote this post in a rush, so I may miss out basic steps.

In an attempt to conserve as much electricity as I can, I turn off my FreeNAS server whenever it’s not being used. Unfortunately, this was quite a tedious task to do manually. So, I used some scripting to automatically turn it on and off. The scripting for auto shutdown is done on the FreeNAS server, while auto wake up is done client-side.

Auto Shutdown

Using a cronjob, the FreeNAS server monitors a preset list of computers (via IP addresses). Once all the computers are off (i.e. no longer reachable on the network), it’ll turn itself off.

1) Create a file named shutdown.py with the following code: shutdown.py

2) Edit the IP addresses section with whichever computers you want to monitor in your network, e.g.:

###### IP addresses #####
# IP addresses go underneath this line, one on each line in the format: ip_list.append('x.x.x.x')
ip_list.append('192.168.1.2')
ip_list.append('192.168.1.3')
###### End IP addresses

3) Place the file somewhere on your server, and make sure it’s executable. You can make a file executable by SSH’ing into the FreeNAS server, and entering the command chmod +x /mnt/path/to/shutdown.py, changing /mnt/path/to/ to the directory that shutdown.py is in.

4) Create a cronjob to run the file. You can do this via the Web UI. For example, the following settings run the script every 5 minutes from 12am-5am. You can adjust this to your own liking.

Automatically Wake Up

Whenever any of the computers in the house are turned on, they send a Wake-on-LAN signal to the FreeNAS server and automatically mount the shares.

Mac OS

Python is required to run this script! Basically, these scripts will check every 3 minutes that the FreeNAS server is on, and that the network shares are mounted. If not, it will attempt to turn on the FreeNAS server (by sending WakeOnLAN) and mounting afp shares. Please feel free to edit the scripts as you see fit, or change the directories they are in, of course making the necessary changes.

1) Create the file com.hoongern.nasmounter.plist in /Users/<your username>/Library/LaunchAgents

2) Create the file nas.py in /Library/Scripts/. YOU HAVE TO EDIT the configuration in the script as required:

3) Restart your Mac. If I remember, launchctl should find the new task. You can run launchctl list and check if com.hoongern.nasmounter is listed. If it’s not, I can’t actually remember what to do. I don’t actually use Mac OS, you see…

Windows

To be honest, I haven’t written a script for Windows. Not that it should be hard at all – just use a similar python script, the Task Scheduler, and the “net use” command to mount Samba shares. If there’s enough interest, I can write it up and post it here – let me know!

Linux

Again, no script yet. Shouldn’t be difficult with a similar python script, cronjob, and the “mount” command to mount Samba/NFS shares.

OpenWRT, a great alternative to DD-WRT

A short opinion on the 3rd party firmwares DD-WRT and OpenWRT, running on my TP-Link TL-WR1043ND router.

For many years now, I’ve been running DD-WRT on my Linksys WRT54GL & WRT54G2.2 routers. The two routers have lasted for over 6 years, but recently they started to develop certain issues such as wireless dropouts and slow ping times (including packet losses).

As a replacement, I decided to go the cheap route and get a TP-Link TL-WR1043ND router. To be honest, my home network requirements are pretty small. I didn’t care too much about wireless throughput as most of the network is wired gigabit. The only features I needed were:

  • Flexible port-based VLAN tagging
  • Full dnsmasq control, for assigning hostnames/domain to local machines
  • Dynamic DNS client (for dyndns.org)
  • Remote SSH management

To be honest, I have managed to achieve much of this via DD-WRT, but the whole interface is messy, with various settings being in seemingly random places. In particular, VLAN/port based tagging was so confusing via the Web UI, and CLI management (via SSH) felt disconnected and more of a “hack”, as many commands have to be saved as start-up scripts.

Enter OpenWRT, which may not have as “nice looking” a Web UI (though more than enough, in my opinion). What draws me is the neat layout of the OS. All configuration is done by editing config files directly in the file system. In addition, all the configuration options are nicely separated into different files such as ddns, network, wireless, dhcp, firewall, etc. The flexibility is nearly limitless, and because one is able to give names to interfaces and reference them in other configuration files, things are far less confusing. Configuring the switch was a breeze via the Web UI, and I was able to set up my Unifi internet connection easily to split up Internet and IPTV.

OpenWRT feels much more like a fully-fledged OS. For example, there is direct access to iptables. All I need to do is to change /etc/config/firewall, and when I’m done, just restart it with /etc/init.d/firewall restart, just like in any other Linux installation. Also, OpenWRT has built in package management, with the ability to install more packages (Yes, DD-WRT does have similar ability with optware). I quickly added WebUI Wake-On-LAN and OpenVPN.

To be honest, there are a ton of other things you can do with OpenWRT, and this messy post isn’t really a thorough comparison of the two. But having used both DD-WRT and OpenWRT, I have to say that when you need flexibility and getting the most out of your router, OpenWRT definitely trumps DD-WRT (which is still a good 3rd-party firmware, no doubt, but more useful for general/easy tasks, or for nice graphs). Once you have grasped the basics of how to manage an OpenWRT installation, you’ll be amazed how the configuration is so much easier to apply and how it works.

Malaysian Mountain Hiking Gear

A while back, I wrote a post on what I EDC (Everyday Carry). While that list included many items which I do find useful, a number of them are only useful in an urban area. Further more, when one is climbing mountains, any extra weight makes things a lot harder. Here is a list of the probably-still-more-than-necessary equipment I use while hiking. To be honest, I’m far from being an experienced hiker, but as someone who loves gear, I thought I’d still write this.

Clothing & Shoes

Top: Cheap & thin t-shirt (mostly the breathable sports type). Something I don’t care about if it gets dirty or torn. If I’m climbing high altitudes, I may wear a singlet underneath.
Bottom: I wear a pair of cycling shorts (tight), which prevents chaffing and leeches, and can also be used as swimming attire. On top of that, short sports pants mostly, but for high altitudes (or very narrow trails) I wear trek bottoms.
Socks: 2 pairs of socks for greater comfort, and if I’m going somewhere leech infested, I add 2 pairs of thin stockings in between the socks to prevent leeches from getting to my feet.
Shoes: A pair of Columbia hiking shoes. Lightweight and decent ankle support, though unfortunately not waterproof. It does have a few flaws: the treads are too close together to be effective in the mud, and wear out over time. In addition, there isn’t enough protection near the bottom of the sides against roots/rocks. I also have a pair of kampung adidas, which I have not gotten around to using yet.

Clothing. Clockwise from top left: T-shirt, cycling shorts, short pants, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of stockings, extra socks, singlet, long sleeve singlet, raincoat
Columbia Hiking Shoes

In addition, I carry the following in my backpack:

  • Extra long-sleeve single for warmth
  • Extra singlet
  • Extra underpants
  • Light (<1500m) or medium (>1500m) raincoat – Also for extra warmth if needed
  • Extra pair of socks

While most mountains in Malaysia don’t get very cold, if it rains heavily, summits can be EXTREMELY windy and cold, to the point where you start shivering badly. I’d estimate with wind chill, you may experience chills < 10 degree celcius. There are times I’d consider taking my lightweight down jacket or a fleece T-shirt, but generally a singlet + long sleeve singlet + t-shirt + raincoat is sufficient.

Navigation & Electronic Gadgets

  • Small compass – Only good for finding North/South/etc. Will replace this with a Suunto A-10 in the future
  • Qstarz BT-Q818XT Bluetooth GPS receiver – I found my phone’s GPS to be inferior. With AGPS, I get <10 second locks and <2m accuracy (with DGPS in the USA I get ~1m accuracy). 36hr battery life and makes my phone last longer
  • Samsung Galaxy S Plus GT-i9001 – Nav Software: Google Maps  & Navigation, GPS Essentials, Bluetooth GPS, My Tracks, EveryTrail, Compass, SkEye. The main reason I went with Android was the fact that I could easily use external GPS receivers and remove the battery (I carry an extra).
  • Casio Pathfinder PAS400B-5V watch – Technically a fishing watch; it’s rugged (nylon strap), shows moon phase, sunrise/sunset and has a silent (vibration) alarm
  • Topographic map of the area – Sometimes I get lazy to print it out, but honestly it’s good to do so, in case the GPS breaks. Although it’s next to impossible navigating in the jungle anyways, if you’re lost, unless you’re very experienced.
  • Digital Camera – currently I’m using a Canon Ixus 310HS which isn’t mine, but generally I let others take photos

IMPORTANT:My GPS, smartphone and camera go into waterproof pouches to protect them from rain & rivers/streams. One definitely can’t afford to have them die in the middle of a hike!

Part of my collection of waterproof bags & drypack

Flashlights, Fire, Signalling & Emergency

Light:


AA battery included for size reference

  • 4Sevens Quark AA (0.2 – 170 lumens) – Main flashlight. Small and powerful, I run it on a Li-Ion. Soon to be replaced with a dedicated headlamp, probably the Zebralight H51F[w].
  • 4Sevens Quark 123^2 (0.2 – 190 lumens) with headband – Secondary flashlight which I can also turn into a headlamp. I run it on a rechargeable Li-Ion cell with 2 spare CR123 cells in my backpack.
  • iTP EOS A3 (max 80 lumens) – Backup flashlight, runs 1xAAA. I hardly ever use this (it’s really small & light) but it’s there if I need it.
  • 4Sevens Quark Turbo X 123^2 (max 500 lumens) – I only carry this if I’m going somewhere I know I’ll need a lot of light.

Fire:

  • 2″ Firesteel / Ferro rod
  • 2x WetFire fire starting tinder
  • 2x simple butane lighters
  • Small box of matches
  • Candle

AA battery included for size reference

Signalling & Emergency:

  • Whistle (Fox 40) – It’s loud and works underwater, but it does require a reasonably strong blow, so effectiveness in an emergency is yet to be tested
  • Signalling Mirror – Good as a general purpose mirror but also features a sighting hole which shows exactly where you’re pointing light
  • Emergency Blanket

Tools & Knives


AA battery included for size reference

  • Benchmade 556 Mini-Griptilian – A small but sturdy 3″ knife. Personally, I find it on the heavy side, but it serves me well. I keep it in a drybag (or wetbag) as tropical jungle humidity can ruin even 154CM steel. Alternatively, a 2.5″ SOG Flash 1.
  • Spyderco Ladybug H1 – Backup blade, very small but rustproof
  • Leatherman Juice Multitool – Decent for its size, although I don’t really like the can opener and scissors compared to those in Swiss Army Knives. Recently, I stopped carrying this as I didn’t find the need for pliers that often.
  • Swiss Army Knive (Tinker)

These days, I generally also pack a small 10″ machete/parang, Chandong style. While it’s really not big enough to do proper cutting, it’s still ok in emergencies, or clearing the odd bush or branch. I decided that if I got a bigger parang, I’d never carry it because of its weight!

Depending on the length of the trip, I may bring my set of sharpening stones – 4″ DMT diamond stones (photo below). At home, I use the Spyderco SharpMaker, and so keep all my knives with 15°/20° edges.


AA battery included for size reference

If you’re going on an uncleared path or need to do any serious work, a machete is essential. Unfortunately, I don’t have one right now.

Food & Hydration

Food tends to vary a lot, but I try to carry carbohydrate-rich snacks, and fatty food. This tends to be foods like nuts (cashew is my favorite), peanut butter/nutella sandwiches, oat bars, dried fruit, etc.

Now and then, I carry a small alcohol stove I made (a penny stove), with about 60ml of methylated spirits and a small mess tin, however, I’ve generally found this unnecessary as I bring foods which do not need cooking and already carry a good amount of water treatment devices.


AA battery included for size reference

For hydration, I sometimes carry the 2x 1 liter bottles pictured above, but these days tend to just use the standard lightweight plastic bottles (600ml and 1.5L), to carry anywhere between 1.2-6L of water. I tend to sweat a lot, so all liquid I carry is isotonic (I make my own isotonic drink with 50ml ribena + 1/4tsp salt per liter of water). On long climbs, one may have to refill water, so I carry a few measured packets of salt, each to be diluted in 1 liter of water, and 30 grams of sugar, as well as 75g of glucose drink mix. If I don’t consume enough salt, I start getting muscle cramps.

For water treatment, I carry:

  • Small carbon water filter, good for 75L of water, pictured above
  • 10 chlorine dioxide tablets, each good for 1L
  • LifeStraw 0.2 micron filter, good for 1000L, pictured below.

One thing I lack currently is a proper hydration pack, which would make life much easier!

Shelter

I carry a 7’x10′ lightweight tarp/flysheet, to which I’ve attached 4m of mini paracord (2mm) to each of the 6 attachment rings. In addition, I carry a hammock with an attached mosquito net. With this lightweight setup, I can pretty much camp anywhere if needed. (I.e. in case I can’t cross a river due to high levels, etc.) Of course, it does add about 1.2kg to my overall pack weight.

Rope/cordage

I’m a huge fan of ropes and knots, and even though I don’t do any climbing, I always have cord with me. On person, I always carry 10m/30ft of orange paracord.

In my bag, I have:

  • 30m/100ft of green paracord (pictured above)
  • 7m/23ft of 15kN 25mm tubular webbing
  • Some amount of 25mm/400kg rated webbing for my hammock
  • 30m of rafia string (mostly for marking trails)
  • 7m of mini paracord
  • 2x 30kN lightweight non-locking D-carabiners

I’d love to carry a good amount of proper 6-8mm static rope for me (i.e. Amsteel Blue), but costs just don’t allow me to do so right now.

Other

I generally carry a wooden hiking stick, which has many uses besides being a hiking stick.

I use a medium sized 32L Columbia backpack which isn’t suitable for camping (for which I borrow my friend’s 70L pack), but works well for day hikes, and has good waist support. Inside it:

  • 1st aid kit (medicine, bandages, tweezers, etc.)
  • Small tub of Vaseline (for preventing chaffing)
  • Small notebook, mini sharpie, mini pen
  • Sewing kit
  • Fishing kit (courtesy Lee YK)
  • Glue (Superglue & small hot glue stick)
  • Garbage bag & zip-lock bags
  • 25 liter Deuter dry/wet bag
  • Tissue paper & small towel
  • Bandanna
  • Roll of gaffer tape
  • Extra eyeglasses & swimming goggles – For full UV/impact/wind protection and swimming.
  • Clip-on sunglasses
  • Insect repellent (I have 2 types – Mosiguard [lemon eucalyptus oil] & DEET) – VERY important in the jungle!
  • Garden gloves

There are a few other small items I carry around but they’re not really related to hiking so I didn’t bother mentioning them.

In general, my pack’s weight without any liquids tends to weigh in about 5-7kg. There are times when I imagine I’d be able to complete a hike much easier if not for the extra weight on my back, but honestly, I consider it good training, and it’s comforting to know I have most of the essentials on me.

Bukit Kutu

A 3hr up + 2hr down hike through thick jungle to the peak of Bukit Kutu (1100m). Great view at the top, although not on the day we climbed (it was cloudy).

DISCLAIMER: This post was written in 2012. Information may be out of date!

Location: Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor, Malaysia.
Start point: 3.572510N, 101.738128E ~300m a.s.l.
Summit: 3.543263N, 101.719998E 1103m a.s.l.
Difficulty: Moderate. No technical skills required, just a fair amount of stamina. The trail is not very steep, but it goes on for a fair amount of distance. Trail is easy to follow but has a fair number of obstacles (branches, fallen trees, etc.)

Date climbed: Thu 2 Aug 2012

View my post on my 2nd climb to Bukit Kutu (more details, photos, etc.)

Bukit Kutu is technically classified as a hill, but is higher than Mount (Gunung) Datuk which I climbed previously, probably due to its proximity to Fraser’s Hill, which stands even higher at over 1200m. While the name “Kutu” means head lice, I found no lice along the way. It is probably more likely that the name is a shortening of “Bukit Sekutu” which it has also been called in the past.

The drive from Petaling Jaya took about an hour and a half (North-South highway exiting at Bukit Beruntung, passing through Rasa and Kuala Kubu Bharu towards Fraser’s Hill, and then turning into Kg. Pertak). We drove along a narrow gravel road as far as the first bridge crossing, where there was some space at the side of the road to park about 4 cars. One can take a short walk down to the river, which would likely be an ideal picnic/recreational spot. On this particular day, we decided not to do so and to immediately begin our hike up Bukit Kutu.

From the start point, we crossed a total of 3 rivers and 3 streams. The hike through all these was on relatively flat ground. The first 2 rivers were crossed with bridges. The second bridge was broken (and has been broken for quite a while, as I understand), but was still easily crossed without any contact with the water. There are two forks in the path at which we kept right. (Going left at one of the forks apparently goes on to a waterfall, but I have not been there)

For the 3rd river, one can either take off your shoes & socks, and walk across (depth is less than 2ft/60cm), or try to leap from stone to stone (which one of my friends did successfully without getting wet). Keep in mind that if you do this, you may end up slipping into the water and getting your shoes wet. A stick can provide extra stability while crossing. The water was clear and refreshing, but as usual, don’t drink any water without treating/filtering it!


The 3rd river


The 3rd river from the other side

The next 3 streams can all be crossed with shoes on. Just test rocks before placing your weight on them, otherwise you may end up slipping and getting your feet wet – something you definitely would not enjoy with a whole climb ahead of you.

Somewhere around the last stream we walked through an area filled with many fruits such as durian, mangosteen, jackfruit and rambutan.


Durians!

After passing the streams, the trail gradually became steeper, although never as steep as Gunung Datuk is. Traction was limited as the path was sloping, although there are enough tree roots which form natural steps. The trail was abundant with bamboo.

After a while, we reached checkpoint 4 (not sure where CP1, 2, 3 were), and then CP5, which was where we encountered the famous huge boulders. From here, the trail became slower to traverse as there were many fallen trees and bamboo lying across the trail.


Checkpoint 4


Checkpoint 5

Near the summit, we came across the abandoned British outpost, where a chimney remained.


Chimney?

We rested here for a few minutes before climbing up to the summit via ladders. The summit is a small boulder on which you can probably fit, at the most, 5 people. Beware of a wasps nest which is on the underside of the first boulder! (still there as of August 2012) The last thing you would want is to be stung all the way up here. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side on the day we climbed, so we couldn’t see much. However, we managed to catch glimpses of the Sungai Selangor Dam, which we drove by on our way. On the plus side, the temperature was very cool and there was a strong breeze. The top provides a 360 degree view of the surrounding area.


View of Sg. Selangor dam from the summit

Total ascent time was 3.5hours, although it can be climbed in a much shorter time. We just decided to take a relaxed climb as we were in no hurry. We spent 40 minutes at the summit before beginning our 2 hour descent back to the car.

Extra Notes:

  • While Bukit Kutu has been known for leeches, we didn’t see any on this particular day, probably because it hadn’t been raining for a while.
  • I brought 2 liters of my homemade isotonic drink. This was just enough to last me through the climb, although I sweat a lot more than most people.

GPS Details

View my MUCH MORE detailed Bukit Kutu trail map post

Download GPX, KMZ (Google Earth)
View on EveryTrail (interactive map)

Total distance: 6.72 km (4.2 mi)
Total time: 3:24:06
Moving time: 1:52:19
Average speed: 1.97 km/h (1.2 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 3.59 km/h (2.2 mi/h)
Max speed: 14.96 km/h (9.3 mi/h)
Max elevation: 1103 m (3620 ft)
Min elevation: 287 m (941 ft)
Elevation gain: 905 m (2970 ft)

Download GPX, KMZ (Google Earth)
View on EveryTrail (interactive map)

Gunung Datuk

A 2 hour climb up the 714m mountain in Rembau, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.

DISCLAIMER: This post was written in 2012. Information may be out of date!

Gunung Datuk a.k.a. Gunung Datok

Location: Rembau, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.
Start point: 2.54344N, 102.169E 100m a.s.l.
End point: 2.550878N, 102.18251E 714m a.s.l.
Difficulty: For a person with regular exercise, fairly easy. No special skills needed, however, good as a first proper climb after attempting something like Gasing/Saga/Broga Hill. Trail is very clear from start to end.

Date climbed: Tue 24 July 2012

I climbed Gunung Datuk with 5 other friends. It took us just under 2 hours to drive from PJ to the start point. There is proper parking and facilities available at the start point. Climbing fees are said to be RM5/person but the people in charge of registration were not there on the day of our climb. Instead, a phone number was left at the registration booth (013-236-4443) which we called to inform them that we were climbing.

The start of the trail is to the right of the signpost.

Gunung Datuk entrance. Photo by MC.

We walked down the concrete paved path (downhill) and crossed the bridge, and started our ascent where the arrow is shown at ~10am. On this particular day, the stream was pretty small due to lack of rain.

Bridge & stream crossing. Photo by LYK

However, as shown in the next photo, the water levels can be much higher in rainy seasons, resulting in a miniature “waterfall” (if you can call it so!).

Tiny waterfall. Photo taken on 2nd trip – 2012.11.12

The first 30 minutes of the climb is quite steep, and can be tiring. Along the way, we passed by the famous tree with huge buttresses.

Tree with huge buttresses. Photo taken on 2nd trip – 2012.11.12

I imagine that anyone not used to climbing may find themselves exhausted, but the steepness only carried on as far as the first (broken) rest hut, after which the slopes became more gradual.

First (proper) rest stop – a broken hut

Eventually, we reached a few big boulders and a campsite. At the campsite, we climbed 3 sets of ladders to get up to the top of the boulders, which marked the end of our climb.

First set of ladders. Photo by MC.
Second ladder. Photo by MC.
Third & final set of ladders. Photo by MC.

The top is not actually the peak of Gunung Datuk, which is said to be 884m a.s.l., but is the best viewing point. Elevation is ~714m. The top is a great place to eat your lunch with a nice breeze, although it can be really hot if the sun is out (bring a cap or hat!). On this particular day, however, the sky was very grey and hazy, meaning that we couldn’t see that far. Because of that, here’s a panorama I took during my 2nd trip to Gunung Datuk in November 2012, which gave us much better views.

Sitting on the edge. Photo by LYK.

Descending took about an hour, and we were back in PJ before 4.30pm. All in all, a good half day climb and a good way to get out of the city and get some fresh mountain air.

GPS Details (from start to summit)

(These details are from my 2nd climb in November 2012)

Download GPXKMZ (Google Earth)
View on EveryTrail (interactive map)

Duration: 2 hours 11 minutes
Length: 2.8km
Average Speed: 1.3km/h
Max elevation: 714m
Min elevation: 99m
Vertical Up: 709m
Vertical Down: 96m

Preparation

Ascent time ~2hrs (First 30 mins of the climb are challenging as it’s pretty steep. After that, it gets easier.)
Descent time ~1hr+

Notes

  • RM5 entrance fee if there’s someone there
  • There are toilet facilities at the base
  • Poor/decent phone coverage (there’s reception at the summit and at some points along the trail)
  • In case of bad weather, injuries, etc., always be prepared for potential delays.
  • CHECK your shoes before so you don’t end up with broken shoes on the climb, which can be miserable
  • There are some leeches at Datuk, especially if the ground is wet

Essential Items

  • 2 Liters water (isotonic recommended)
  • snacks/lunch
  • hiking shoes (good grip)
  • Raincoat/poncho
  • Plastic/waterproof bags for electronics in case of rain
  • Whistle (& small flashlight highly recommended)

Recommended Items

  • Cap/Hat (if sunny, summit is completely exposed)
  • Tissue paper
  • Insect repellent
  • Hiking stick
  • Extra T-shirt
  • Salt (for isotonic drinks / leeches / etc.)
  • Wristwatch
  • Small hand towel
  • Emergency Gear: Knife, flashlight/headlamp, 1st aid kit, rope/cord, etc.

To leave in car

  • Extra drinking water (1L suggested)
  • Change of clothes/towel
  • TWO (2) large plastic bags, one for dirty shoes, one for dirty clothes
  • If required, something to sit on in the car (plastic bag, newspaper, etc.)
  • Clean slippers/sandals

(See my personal packing list here)

FreeNAS: Simultaneous AFP/CIFS shares done neatly

Learn how to hide Mac OS specific files from being displayed to a Windows client when using simultaneous AFP and Samba/CIFS shares.

In many networks these days, you’ll probably have more than just Windows or Mac OS clients. If you regularly exchange data between Mac OS and Windows/Linux using a flash drive and have hidden files enabled, you may notice a bunch of .DS_Store folders and other various files beginning with a dot. Personally, I find it somewhat annoying that Mac OS litters whole file systems with these files (In the same way, I also hate those thumbs.db files Windows generates)

In a unified file server which serves multiple operating systems, we ideally want each client to have a good experience browsing for files. We don’t want Windows users to be bogged down in a mess of files they have no clue about, and we don’t want them accidentally deleting files which may be important to the Mac OS experience.

There are no adjustments which need to be made on your AFP shares, since only Mac OS clients access those shares and know what to do with these files. However, these files should be hidden on CIFS shares. Here’s how you do it in FreeNAS 8 (The solution applies to anyone using CIFS, not just in FreeNAS):

1. Navigate to your CIFS share and press edit

2. Find “Auxilary Parameters at the bottom”

3. Enter the following text in the box

veto files = /Temporary Items/.DS_Store/.AppleDB/.TemporaryItems/.AppleDouble/.bin/.AppleDesktop/Network Trash Folder/.Spotlight/.Trashes/.fseventd/
delete veto files = yes
hide dot files = yes

Vetoing a file will render it completely invisible to anyone accessing the share. It differs from hidden files in that hidden files are hidden on the client side, but vetoed files are hidden on the server side even before the list of files is sent to the client.

The first line veto files specifies a list of file names to veto, each entry separated by a ‘/’, and you can also use wildcards (‘*’ and ‘?’) to specify multiple files with a single pattern.

delete veto files” allows CIFS to delete any vetoed files within a directory when that said directory is deleted. If this is not set to ‘yes’, deleting a directory could fail.

hide dot files” is optional, but simply sets all files beginning with a dot (which are hidden files in Mac OS and Linux) with a hidden flag.

4. Restart CIFS from your Services tab

If all is well, browsing your shares from all computers should now be a pleasant experience!

If you’re ever in doubt, or if you want to find out what other options can be entered, do check out the smb.conf documentation.

Observing With NASA: Remotely controlled telescopes which YOU can use!

There is no doubt that the sky is an amazing piece of art. When you look up at the sky in a clear and dark location, the sight of hundreds of stars can literally take one’s breath away. What’s amazing is that in the spaces between the stars and planets lurk more things than you can imagine – nebulae, galaxies, even more stars, and who knows what else which has yet to be discovered!

Have you ever wanted to use a telescope or take photos of celestial objects, but never had access to one? Find out more about Harvard’s Observing With Nasa (OWN), a website which allows you access to remotely controlled robotic telescopes, and see what kind of photos you can produce!

Introduction

(You can skip this section if you’re impatient, although it must be said that [amateur] astronomy is generally not for the impatient!)

There is no doubt that the sky is an amazing piece of art. When you look up at the sky in a clear and dark location, the sight of hundreds of stars can literally take one’s breath away. What’s amazing is that in the spaces between the stars and planets lurk more things than you can imagine – nebulae, galaxies, even more stars, and who knows what else which has yet to be discovered! Of course, this is when you should break out the telescope, but alas, most people have many obstacles to deal with. Things such as city light glare, bad weather, lack of a telescope, lack of knowledge regarding the skies, and lack of time are just a small part of a long list. However, if you have ever had the chance to look through a telescope at the majestic Jupiter or Orion Nebula (to name two out of millions!), you will no doubt want to share the exciting sights with your friends.

Recently, I became interested with all things up in the heavens, and took a course in Celestial Navigation. It was here that I got my first sights through a good telescope, and spent a great many long nights enduring the cold nights and waiting for the right moment to catch a glimpse of star clusters, planets, and galaxies. While I wish my friends would have the same opportunity, I know that not everyone will have access to a nice telescope, nor have the time nor effort to spend.

Observing with NASA (OWN)

Without further ado, here’s the link: http://mo-www.harvard.edu/OWN/

Thanks to some people (including my professor who taught me Celestial Navigation) who realized that telescopes were not something easily accessible to most people, they set up a number of remotely controlled robotic telescopes which can be controlled over the internet. Now, anyone who has an email address can submit a request online so that one of the telescopes will snap a photo of a celestial object (the list of available objects are predefined)

Thus, if you wanted to observe Jupiter, you could simply submit in a request for Jupiter, and your photo will be taken! It’s a great start in learning how telescopes work and in observing the sky. Of course, the results may not be what you expect–for instance, there may have been a cloudy sky when the telescope took your photo. Or more likely, you’d be disappointed with the results which don’t look like those you see on NASA’s websites.

Now, you could simply live with those results, or you could go on and learn a bit of image processing. The difference between an unprocessed image and a processed one is massive, although it does require quite a bit of work!

Here’s an example of what a single unprocessed* image from the telescope may look like:


*Even this image is not completely ‘unprocessed’–its levels have been adjusted appropriately

Doesn’t look too good, does it? (Actually, I find that even unprocessed, the photo is amazing–since you’re looking at a whole other galaxy, TWO in fact!) However, with perseverance, you can stack multiple images on top of one another, and do a bit more processing. To me, this is a very rewarding experience–taking something which was invisible in the sky and seeing its beauty. Here’s the same object after processing:


Whirlpool Galaxy (M51a), two interacting galaxies

Of course, don’t expect it to compare to a photo taken by NASA using the Hubble telescope!

(Link to full photo hosted on Wikipedia. WARNING: VERY LARGE PHOTO – 71MB in size!!!)

The point is–you can take and create your OWN photos! So, if you’re someone who’s always wanted to take some photos of celestial objects in the sky but never had the chance to do so, here’s your opportunity! So enjoy, and may you discover wonderful things in the sky above!

Some of my photos

Here are some of the photos I’ve processed using OWN, in addition to the Whirlpool galaxy shown above. Keep in mind that many of these are the result of many photos taken over a whole month!

Andromeda Galaxy (M31), our closest galactic neighbor:

Sculptor Galaxy (NGC253), also known as the “silver coin”

The Sun, the nearest star. Of interest are the black sunspots.