Square peg in a round hole at Gunung Gading
I’m not an adventure freak or an adrenaline junkie. But I am one of those who love to explore and visit some place new.
So during one of my off days I drove my 12-year-old Kembara to Lundu and eventually found my way to Gunung Gading National Park.
My journey took roughly two hours’ drive from Kuching city. After passing through the quiet coastal town of Lundu, the junction to Gunung Gading National Park was hard to be missed thanks to the helpful road signs stating how many meters till the park’s junction.
Constituted on 1 August 1983 in accordance with Sarawak National Park Ordinance, Gunung Gading National Park covers an area of 4196 hectares.
Like any other national parks, the park was gazetted to protect the forest and the wildlife for future generations. Activities such as hunting, fishing, gathering jungle produce or logging is strictly forbidden.
I’ve heard Gunung Gading National Park is the place to be in Sarawak to watch the world’s biggest flower to bloom. The Rafflesia is only found in Southeast Asia and only in sub-montane hilly forests.
This rare flower has a short flowering period. With good planning and handful of luck, visitors can catch Rafflesia blooming. But it is highly advice to check with the park in advance for the blooming.
You have to agree with me that one of the most clichés saying when you visit any national parks in this world is, ‘Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints’.
So I wasn’t surprised when that was the first thing I read on the map given by the park ranger once I registered.
Gunung Gading National Park offers three trekking trails, every trail is colour coded. The waterfall trail follows a river and passes seven waterfalls. Not all waterfalls are accessible and only Waterfalls 1, 3 and 7 are signposted. The waterfall trail takes one and half hour till the seventh waterfall. This trail is marked in red and white.
Gunung Gading summit trail is the climb to the summit where a British army camp during the 1960s communist insurgency was located. Marked with yellow and red paint, the trail is estimated to take 3 to 4 hours from the park HQ.
The final trail, furthest of them all is Batu Berkubu. Stripped from its former purpose as a communist base camp during the insurgency, now it is another tourist attraction in the park. It is actually a huge rock surrounded by trees with a cave-like sheltering area. Taking about five and half hours from park HQ or two hours from Gunung Gading summit, the trail is marked with red and blue colours.
Since the Rafflesia wasn’t blooming when I visited the park, I decided on the waterfall trail.
According to Sarawak Forestry Corporation’s website, the trail was supposed to be ‘the easiest and shortest trail in the park’. Boy, was I fooled.
For the record, the trail is not difficult if you’re physically fit. But if your daily exercise only includes less than a minute walk from your parked car to your office like me, it was agony.
Plus, the fact that I was wearing flip flops worth RM7 from Super Save trekking up a steep and wet trail clearly showed I wasn’t fully prepared for my trekking.
Between my heavy panting somehow I did not forget to natural beauty around me. The park is reported to be home to animals such as wild boars, monkeys and squirrels. (Thankfully, I did not encounter any of these animals). But I did see a giant centipede crawling on the cemented trail which I almost stepped on.
Proper signs of description were put next to significance species of vegetation along the trail to educate visitors on the different types of plants there. This would be great help for any botanists that visit this national park.
I was all thumbs during the half-hour of trekking. In the end, I just settled with Waterfall 1, the nearest waterfall from the main trail.
The fruit of conservation efforts at Gunung Gading National Park were seen in the unpolluted crystal clear water of the waterfall. I was impressed with the park because through my short trek and there was no single piece of rubbish in sight around the waterfall.
Only two hours’ drive from Kuching, Gunung Gading National Park is one of the best places Mother Nature could offer for nature enthusiasts that dreaded long journey from the city.
If you want to take a dip in the waterfall all by yourself, it is a good idea to visit the park during weekdays.
But visiting Gunung Gading National Park without seeing the Rafflesia is like visiting Paris without taking a photo of Eiffel Tower in the background.
So I made up my mind; as long as my 12-year-old Kembara was still running and until my body was fit as a fiddle, I will come again to the Gunung Gading National Park for the Rafflesia. And not forgetting the five-hour trek to Batu Berkubu.
Next time, however, I would definitely leave my RM7 flip flops behind and vow not to be a square peg in a round hole at Gunung Gading.