Sunday, November 27, 2016

Jipp's World: The Salt Trail - Into The Depths of Crocker Range

The Salt Trail – I grew up listening to my mother talking about it. Her story of how she as a child had to tag along behind her parents and a group of others to walk for days from her remote village in the far corner of Tambunan all the way to Tamparuli on the West coast of Sabah just to buy salt. It never failed to fascinate me every time.

She told me how she would usually be assigned to carry some of the food supply. She’d cry because it felt so heavy on her back and sometimes she’d get bitten by ants and all kind of insects along the way. They had to walk across mountains and hills and deep valleys through thick and dense forest. They’d stop whenever they felt like stopping usually when it was too dark to continue walking. They’d set up their temporary tents, usually by stacking banana leaves on tree branches under which they would take a nap before continuing walking the next day. I never get bored of listening to her stories about the Salt Trail as it is now known.

The idea of doing the salt trail had always been in my wish list for such a long time but it only got materialized when my application for 2-weeks Christmas and New Year holidays was surprisingly approved by my management. I hastily contacted my friend Frankie to ask if he could get a few more others to join. The rest as they say – is history. Heh.

We started our trek from the starting point in Tikolod on the Tambunan side, and walked all the way to a place called Kionob on the Penampang side where we stayed overnight before trekking on to a village called Terian – but not before crossing through a beautiful village called Buayan – to spend another night before continuing on to our last stop at Inobong Sub-station.

The trek between Tikolod and Kionob was quite a tough one for us especially for the fact that we didn’t hire any porter so we had to carry ourselves all the necessities to survive through 2 nights in the deep forest.  The forest really is so beautiful. It is so lush and green and mystical and mysterious that it quickly made me realize how blessed this land called Sabah is and that most of its beauty lies deep in its pristine forests. After all the forest that we trekked across is part of the Crocker Range which is a declared National Park.

I like to believe that it is a secondary forest though – a leftover of extensive logging activities in the past, just like most other forests in Sabah so it was a no surprise then that we didn’t even come across any wild animals. The only wildlife that we came across was a snake – probably a cobra, a very poisonous one according to the guide – and I almost freaked out when I spotted it because it was so close to being stepped on by one of my trekking buddies. Seriously, it could have been fatal. Phew.

But of course, the very first challenge that we came upon was the existence of so many leeches along the way. They’d crawl all over and they were almost impossible to avoid. We’d stop every now and then to take them out because who knows how much of our blood would be sucked out of our system if we let them suck for too long. The thing is, they tend to be very itchy and they’d bleed so profusely, leaving my skin with ugly scars that would stay there for weeks if not months (I’ve still got them now!).

One of my favorite things while trekking the Salt Trail was the food. I mean, we all know that food is tastier in a jungle but even more so if it is the right food that you eat. My trekking buddy Din really looked into that by bringing those kinds of food that really boost the appetite when eaten in the deep forest. The likes of fried salted fish, grilled wild boar meat, those foods that really really open the gate of appetite especially when eating in a jungle.