Gua Tempurung

'Dark Secrets' awaits at Gua Tempurung
Gua Tempurung, the name itself conjures up images of mystery and intrigue that promises visitors a look into its deep dark secrets. Like Aladdin's cave, Gua Tempurung has its own treasure trove of brilliant fishes living free in the river that flows at the base of the hills, rare ferns, and birds, which normally nest in caves and cliff surfaces also abound. The subterranean stream that meanders under the limestone hills is a special attraction in itself. When rain comes, the stream turns into a churning river of froth that rewards visitors with a taste of Indiana Jones-style adventure trekking. The cave follows a direct course through a mountain range called Gunung Gajah-Tempurung, which is south of Ipoh towards Gopeng and Kampar.

Gua Tempurung is the largest limestone cave in Peninsular Malaysia stretches for 1.9 kilometres and is made up of five huge domes. Each dome has different formations of stalagmites and stalactites as well as differing temperatures, water levels, content of limestone and marble.

One of the larger cave systems which is found in the scenic limestone hills of Perak, Gua Tempurung impresses with the beauty of its majestic columns of marble inside its huge caverns honeycombed with smaller caves, of different dimensions.

Walkways have been built within some parts of the caves making it easy for visitors to have a leisurely stroll while taking in the sights of the beautiful underground waterfalls and the pendant stalactites hanging from the roof stalagmites.

Look closely at the rocks and you will find closed communities of microscopic life-forms many of which depend on food brought in by bats and birds to the cave.

There are scorpions, fish, snakes and small insects hidden in small niches, but are only visible to the more alert visitors.

Each cave carries its own legends, and Gua Tempurung is no exception. Many believe the cave was used as a hideout for terrorists during World War II and the Emergency. It is said that Lee Meng, the notorious communist courier, once used the cave as a hideout. The fact that his name appears on one of the walls deep inside the cave certainly seems to support this story.

Another story speaks of the cave being used by the Japanese as a prison during their occupation of Malaya. This is made more evident by the existence of a gate-like structure made of horizontal steel bars.

The cave is divided into several sections, with the lower cave passage called the Molesworth Allen Tunnel, named in honour of the botanists, Betty Molesworth Allen.

At the end of this tunnel, the cave opens up to Alam Cavern, the largest of the three major caverns, which is more than 130 metres in width and towers 72 metres high.

In Tin Miners' Cavern, the cave splits into two levels, the upper about eight metres above the stream and bearing the scars of early alluvial activity, while the lower passage follows the stream.

The Gergasi Cavern is the last of the cave sections. It is named Gergasi because it holds a huge column, which is some 15 metres in height and 17 metres in length. The column stands sentinel- like at the end of the chamber, like a giant genie guarding its treasure.

At the end of the trip visitors are rewarded with a rainbow of colour from sunshine reflected off the cave walls.

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