Tracing back the legendary Mount Ledang trail
Mount Ophir sunrise [Photo courtesy of my mountain buddy, Johny Low]
"For one prince to marry the daughter of another prince ? even other Rajas do that. What I desire is a bride such as no other Raja possesses that is the girl I wish to marry. I desire to ask for the hand of the fairy princess of Gunung Ledang." These are words of the vain Sultan Mansur Shah in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay History), who has the highest desire to have a wife who shall surpass the wife of any prince in the world. The Fairy Princess of Gunung Ledang (Mount Orphir) makes her home in the cavernous cave on the summit of the mountain, delicately adorned with silk and gold. She is slim, stunningly beautiful with graceful movement that accentuated every curve of her lithe body. Pires' Suma Oriental added to the local folklore when he said: "the enchanted queen in the hill of Malacca called Gulom Leydam (Gunung Ledang) - where they are only women, and they have no men, and that they are got with child by others who go there to trade and then leave, and others are made pregnant by the wind..." The Princess's Guardian Dang Raya Rani, one of the four beautiful fairies and also a princess herself had set an impossible conditions for the Sultan as a dowry for the hands of the princess. "And for a betrothal gift, let there be seven trays of mosquito hearts; seven trays of the hearts of mites; a vat of water from dried areca nuts; a vat of the tears of virgin maidens; a cup of the Raja's blood; and a cup of his son's blood". The cruel Sultan agrees to the dowry and severely oppresses his people for his own quest. Not even father and son blood relationship holds his madness to get what his heart desires. He almost plunge the blade of his 'keris' to kill for a cup of his son's blood when the fairy princess appears and swears that she will never marry a man who is so cruel to the extend of murdering his own blood. Eventually, legend has it that the Fairy Princess wed Nakhoda Ragam, a seafarer. One day, the princess was sewing when her husband came to surprise her by tickling the Princess's ribs. Startled in an outburst, she stabbed her husband with the needle, killing him immediately. Heart-broken, she made a grave decision to return to Gunung Ledang and vowed never to set eyes on another man. Ragam's boat crushed in a storm and the debris of the wreck became the six islands of Malacca. The boat's kitchen became Pulau Hanyut, the cake tray, Pulau Nangka, the water-jar, Pulau Undan, the incense-burner, Pulau Serimbun, then hen-coop, Pulau Burong and the honeymoon cabin of the couple became Pulau Besar. It was a thrill and opportunity to trace back the steps of the Fairy Princess on a weekend. Together with mountain ghosts, we traveled to Tangkak town in Johor the night before. The mosquitoes infested room at a friend's factory barely gave us a chance to get a good sleep. We had breakfast at a local coffee shop called 'Nanyang', an old generation shop that one hardly find nowadays in the city, with marble tables and wooden chairs. Coffee addicts gulped down their morning ecstasy and others pumped down few plates of delicious toasted and steamed bread, splattered with enriched 'kaya' and butter. The Ledang trail starts from Gunung Ledang resort, near Sagil village - close to Malacca/Johor border. Another way of reaching the summit is through Asahan trail in Malacca, an easier route in comparative. We started off by walking on paved road besides the river leading towards few staircases till an open gate, where the real pumping began. We passed by checkpoint 1 and 2, a camping site before entering Kolam Anak Gajah (Baby Elephant Pool). Adjourning trail from there took us to the beautiful Twin Falls (1900ft). We took some time refueling energy and taking photos here or rather more of an excuse to rest longer. Perhaps where I stood then, near the water edge could have been the enchanted place where the Fairy Princess and her guardians have their playful dips in the evenings. Yellow soil terrain followed after Twin Falls, leading to another stream - in fact three streams as the name puts it, Sungai Segi Tiga (Triangle River). The forest all of the sudden became huge when I looked up and aware of my surrounding. At the left corner, a giant tree grew atop of a huge rock - almost peculiar amongst other tropical trees, its leafs - so green so healthy. Beyond was a tougher terrain - rocky, steep and sweat soaking trail. We rattled along, most of the time indulged in singing to deter our concentration from looking up the endless trail till we came upon Gua Kambing (Goat Cave), the first of the three Ophir obstacles. A small cave to maneuver through, almost a vertical cliff about one storey high with fixed ropes. As easy as a snake gliding, I squeezed through without problem. After the cave, precipitous terrain was next - rugged with style, challenging with pleasure. Sturdy trees with roots poking out embanked both sides - where I turned turtle occasionally. At times I thought I heard fizzled sound in the thick forest. Maybe 'the Benua' (native people) whom Tun Mamat (one of the warrior sent by the cruel Sultan) defeated in the battle were not wholly vanquished. And with their magic arts, had used it to transform themselves from human form into tigers, lizards, crocodiles, birds and other animals. With that, I sped up fast - like a stimulant drug taking effect. The huge rock face challenge queued before us, steep cliff of about four storeys high. Not a difficult task, in fact it was easy and fun. One just needs to hold on the rope while maintaining maximum friction between legs and the cliff face. In front was a little bonsai garden, at the edge of the cliff called Banzai. Botak Hil at 3650 ft, another camping site before the summit came into view next. There were two paths, one straight ahead and another known as the expert way on the right with more rock climbing obstacles. Two mountain ghosts had long gone from our sight and so we went straight ahead for our last hour challenge. Muddy and very steep, it was my bizarre favorite bit of the climb. The foliage gave an opening soon, presenting an open ground in front. I saw a group of people coming down the huge boulders. It was not eccentric to get in a climbing jam in the mountains of Malaysia certainly. The summit was just beyond the boulders, they said. At the same time, a cloud of mist sets in - blowing our sweaty muddy body. And there, a flat ground revealed the summit of Gunung Ledang at 4187ft. Wide and flat, mystical and lovely, I could get a panoramic view of Segamat and Jementak town of Johor, and the historical Malacca. A dream lake down below with nearby paddy fields adorning it. As the Malay history mentions: "singing bamboos that birds on the wing stopped to listen to and every creature that heard it was enchanted...", I had reached the Fairy Princess enchanting and rustic abode. Tracing back the legendary Mount Ledang trail.