Friday, December 13, 2019

Exploration to the Tegora Antimony Mine Trail and River Trek at Kampung Puak, Bau


Before I shared with you my hiking adventure to the Tegora Antimony Mine and River Trek at Kampung Puak, let me share with you on what I manage to study about this historcal place in Bau. 

HISTORY ABOUT TEGORA ANTIMONY MINE

The arrival of James Brooke, an English adventurer to Sarawak was in 1839. 
Brookesailed to Sarawak after having leared that the Brunei prince was favorably dispoed to the British and the district had valuable antinomy ore. 

Brooke helped Hashim (Brunei sultan's uncle and Prime Minister, Pengiran Muda Hashim) suppress the uprising and in return for this assistance, and a modest annual payment, was bestowed the title Rajah of Sarawak in 1841. (1)

Tegora Mercury Mine is loacated in Kampung Puak, near the Bungoh Range area at Sarawak, Borneo. It was operated by The Borneo Company in the 1800's and ceased production in 1895. It was re-opened during WW2 by the Japanese. (2)

Antimony and cinnabar where the company's two other important mineral monopolies. 
Most of the antimony in Sarawak was located in the same mineralized belt of country that included the gold workings at Jambusan and Busa whle cinnabar (mercury sulphide) was worked at Tegora, Gading and Gambang. 

The antimony was largely worked out by the early twentieth century while cinnabar/quicksilver was abandoned at the end of nineteenth century. 

The profits that accrued to the Borneo Company were enormous. In the case of antimony, between 1870 and 1916, the Company's antimony export were valued at $1,905,031. 

Between 1870 - 1899, Sarawak become the leading exporter of antimony and quicksilver to the European market (3)

During the peak period of antimony production, the Borneo Company also built a mercury melting plant near Buso town. Excess antinomy ore from Tegora and several other mines from around the Jambusan area was sent to Buso in wagons via a horse-drawn tram line which met at a junction called “Simpang Kuda” (horse junction). (4) 

(1) source - https://www.jstor.org/stable/312912, Page.66. The Babbling Brookes: Economic Change in Sarawak 1841 - 1941, by Amarjit Kaur
(2)source - https://www.aditnow.co.uk/Mines/Tegora-Cinnabar-Mine-Smelt-Mill_16828/

(3) source - https://www.jstor.org/stable/312912, Page.76. The Babbling Brookes: Economic Change in Sarawak 1841 - 1941, by Amarjit Kaur

(4) source - https://www.newsarawaktribune.com.my/a-history-of-two-brooke-bazaars/

HIKING EXPERIENCE TO TEGORA ANTIMONY MINE AND THE FLOODED PUAK RIVER



My friend Ian Vong wanted to explore the Bungo Range area, he been to the place before, and are kind enough to bring me along with him to visit the place from a different route. His intention is to look for a shorter routes to the range area.

On that Sunday morning, we meet the rest of the team at the MJC coffee shop at 6am, and depart after finished breakfast. It took us around 45 minutes to reach Kampung Puak, as according to Ian, this will be the nearest village to reach Bungo Range National Park.

We parked our car in front of the house of Mr. Jinang (a retired government servant), upon meeting him, he shared with us his plan to develop this area into a eco-friendly hiking place for public.

We started our trek from a low elevation, walked pass beautiful paddy field, and then into the forest. I saw carpets of pitcher plants line parts of the Tegora trail. 

We have to cross the Puak River to continue with our trek, and its the monsoon now, after crossing the river, I was thinking if it rain in the evening, the water lever will rise, we might have problem crossing this river.

Anyway, we continue with our journey. 10 minutes after the Puak river, there is a small farm hut. With dry firewood, and simple hammock bed made by gunny bag. 

The trail condition, very muddy, which reminds me on my hike to Bukit Kasut at Niah National Park, very muddy trail also. The Tegora trail has a lot of leeches as well, as I've been bitten by this little monster few time on my wrist, my tie, and legs. I'm wearing short pants, so its easy to become target. But most of the bites comes after my hike during the river flooding time, which I will tell you later. 

Two hours into the hike, when I was about to cross a stream, I notice there is an old rusty steel plate hanging between the small stream. I was curious on why the local villages would bring a heavy steel plate and put it here. Then fifteen minutes later, I saw two wagon wheels blending together with the trees and soil. Till then I just notice that it was a object from world war two. 

At first I have no idea that this is the old antimony mine site, I only knew it after my hike, and saw Ian posted on his site. 

Along the way, I manage to spot a few more object. And one of it even have Japanese word "ヌンコ" which read as Nunko. No meaning behind the word, as it might be a name of a brand or a person name. 

Three hours into the hike, I saw a National Park yellow signboard nailed on the tree. This might be the border of the Bungo Range National Park. I also saw old trail marks on the tree. 

From this point onward, we start to gain elevation. Starting from around 33 meter up to 431 meter above sea level. The highest we need to go will be around 950 meter above sea level.

From 11:30am to 02:00pm, I check my GPS and we are still in the 350 meter range, very slow progress. And we are already 6 hours into our hike. Ian asked if we were to continue, and the team all agree to proceed on. 

I think we are moving to slow, so I told Ian about this, and then we decided to turn back to the village before heavy rain, and while we still have day light. 

We start our descending by following the river, and heavy downpour start not long after our descend. It was easy when trekking along the river, but when we come to a point that the thick vegetation blocking the way, we have to get into the jungle again and try to get back to the trail we used this morning. From here its a bit challenge for some of our friends as its muddy, and need some amount of energy to ascend up and navigate between the thick vegetation.

Ian is in front leading us to get back to the trail, while I'm the sweeper at the last of the group to make sure no one left behind. We are all soaking wet, and due to the heavy downpour, I notice the leeches are extremely active, as I been attack by leeched every now and then. The good thing its I discover it early, before they can really start to suck my blood. 

The trails flooded with water to ankle level. Most of the part because its mud, so my shoes easily get stuck in the mud, I have to constantly pull them out 😅. Not a pleasant to hike on muddy trail. Not long before we reach the river bank, we will need to cross the Puak river, I look left, and my gosh, there is no way we are able to cross this river, because the water level rises few time it was, and the water current looks very rushing. 

At around 6pm, we made it to the Puak river bank, Ian tried to cross the river by tie a rattan around his body, and we pull him at the river bank, but due to the strong rushing current, no way for him to cross. Then me and him, we start to trek further up, in hope that we can find a small tributary area, where the water its less rushing, but no avail. When trekking further up, I was in the water for a while, and the leeches also take this opportunity to give me a few big kiss. 

I only notice it after I felt itchy on both side of my back shoulder, I use my hand to touch my shoulder, and I manage to catch one leech each on my left and right shoulder. I have sensitive skins, and heal very slow from leech bite, this few months I have to endure the itchiness. 

I counted, it starts to rain at 2pm, and the water level rise until 6pm. If we waited for few hours, maybe we can cross the river after the water subside. All of us went back to the farm hut because we are not able to cross the river. At the hut, Ian and I also tried to cross the Puak river from there, but fail, because the water current its still very rushing. 

We waited for about two hours, and our team members its kind enough to share the food that they bring. Luckily the hut have dry firewood, so my friend start the fire, the smoke manage to chase away the mosquito. Ants also came into the hut seeking for shelter because its still drizzling outside. 

At around 8pm, Ian suddenly propose instead of waiting in the hut, why not trek along the Puak river, as it might lead us to another villages, and we can seek for assistant there if we manage to reach to other village. So we all agree, and get ready for the long trek to the unknown. 

Just as we reach to the same river bank of the Puak river, I saw the water level subside a little, and we tried to cross the river again. The water its still rushing, but its manageable. So for the guys, we form a line cross the river, and helped the girls to cross the river first. 

At last we manage to get everyone cross the river in one peace, and I'm glad that I didn't get sweep away by the current. While soaking my body in the water, again, I've got a few leeches bite again this time around my stomach and leg area. 

From that point onward, its another 2 1/2 hour trek out and reach the village. It was dark, still drizzle a little. All I can think of that time was my little girl back home, if she is able to fall asleep without me holding her. I speed up my step, but in the same time, wait for the rest of the members behind. 

The trail was still very muddy, and my shoes still get stuck occasionally. I think I will need to get a good hiking shoes after this (I'm wearing Kampung Addidas). 

Manage to finally reach the village at around 10:12pm, I quickly change to a dry clothes, start my car, and drive home to see my wife and children. But to my surprise, after I reach home, all of them are asleep already. So I then take my time to clean my stuff up slowly and went to bed after a cup of hot drink. 

It was a good hike overall, and would like to join the hike to the Bungo Range again and reach the summit next round. Till then, have a nice day ahead my dear reader.

Kampung Puak, early morning mist

Trail head at the Kampung Puak, Bau
Passed by beautiful paddy field

Muddy trail


So many pitcher plant, so small and cute


crossing a small stream with crystal clear water

The Puak river, if this water rises, we will have difficulty on crossing this river


A farm hut, build next to the Puak river

They have some clothes, firewood, and old kettle inside the hut
Gonocephalus liogaster (Gonocephalus liogaster) at the tree, and it bite my friend's finger, because he accidentally touch it. 


A look inside the pitcher plant
the cup of the pitcher plant
crossing small stream again
A dragon fly, almost the size of my hand

Why there is steel plate in the middle of the jungle?
 Object from the WWII, looks like a wagon wheel
Slowly blend in together with nature



some kind of engine carpriter looking object


very rusty looking object


Japanese word "ヌンコ" which read as Nunko
Mounted on two wooden base with nuts

the wheel of the mine cart


This might be the boundary of the Bugoh Range National Park

Old marking left behind, might be the national park ranger that scale the border
BN flag.....
tree form by multiple veins


There are sign of human at the height of 300m ++


Trying to get a better route to ascend
Due to time limit, decided to river trek back to the village



The Bungoh Range behind us

Many red color rocks
Thick vegetation ahead, need to go into the jungle and get back to the old route
Started to rain
Heavy downpour, and water begins to flow into stream and river
Water level starts to rise
The heavy downpour keep on going for two hours
Many Leeches bit me
Discovered more object left by the Tegora mine workers
Muddy trail flooded with water at ankle height

crossing the stream with rushing water

Reached the river bank of Puak River, tried to cross, but water current to strong
Back to the farm hut, stayed there and hope the water will subside soon.
Start the fire with the existing firewood in the hut, many thanks to the farmers for this
After waited for more than 2 hours, decided to start trek back to the river again 
Farmer bring this steel wheel back to their hut
Water level subside a bit, and manage to cross the river with the less rushing water, and reach back to the village at around 10pm that night. 


TRAIL DETAILS
Distance: 14.5km (one way)
Moving Time: 6 hrs 53 mis
Ascent: 416 m

MY HIKING VIDEO TO TEGORAK MINE TRAIL