Sunday, September 4, 2016

Batu Caves

Yee2 picked me and Syria up from the city center at 9am, and we drove north to meet others at Old Town White Coffee (a bit a la Starbucks, or Pret if you're in the UK) for breakfast. We then drove on to Batu Caves, a tourist hot spot. We first stopped in the front office, where we provided our identity cards so that we would be permitted to enter into the non-tourist sections of the limestone outcrop. 

We walked away from the main tourist site, the 140 ft gold statue of Lord Murugan (Hindu god of war) in front of the 272 steps leading up to Temple Cave, and headed in the direction of Ramayana Cave. The Murugan statue was unveiled in 2006 and is the tallest statue of Murugan in the world. 

On the route we pass a 50 ft tall statue of Hanuman (god and an ardent devotee of the god Rama) and then stop just before reaching the Ramayana Cave. At this point we put on our helmets and begin a climb away from the tourists up the side of the limestone cliff, grabbing roots and branches to pull ourselves up, and hoping not to send loose pebbles toward fellow group climbers below!

Inside the cave we find a lot of evidence of other cavers (or temple seekers) who had passed by before. No chambers with good candidate stalagmites however, so we did not stay inside for too long. A good first exercise to get the heart pumping nonetheless!

Returning back to the main tourist area, we decide to climb up the 272 steps to see what all the fuss was about. At the top of the stairs, to the left there is a small pathway that leads to another chamber apart from the main Temple Cave, which is the Dark Cave Conservation Site - the Cave of Life. Here we met Nurul, one of the education officers, who kindly agreed to show us around the show cave area, even though we had not arranged a tour. Nurul told us that she has worked with researchers before, and has even been collecting and measuring daily dripwater weight to monitor the speed of specific drips, along with monitoring the temperature and humidity of the cave twice per day (excellent!) We were not permitted at that time to go deeper into the cave in the adventure caving section, though we were told that there were stalagmites growing in that area. We promised to return with permits (ours for this trip were unfortunately still under review) to investigate this cave further during a future trip.

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