Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cave of Darkness II (2008)

Fancy staying here overnight?

In the heart of the cave system

The cave system is 300 million years old!

Kept telling myself I was walking in history

The info reads: Gua Kelam II is among the many natural caves at Wang Mu Forest Reserve (FR) that was mined for tin. These caves had large amount of casiterite or tin ore deposited in them over many thousands of years. Small time miners among the local Malays started mining tin in the area for many hundreds of years. It was not until the arrival of the Chinese and Western miners in the early 20th century before mining took a turn for the big time.

Perlis is the only place in the world where tin was mined extensively from natural caves. Although the output of tin was no more than 5% of the national output even at its peak, the caves here were attractive to miners due to the sheer concentration of tin ore. If a lucky miner finds a rich pocket casiterite in one of the caves, he would be a millionaire overnight! This opportunity to be an instant millionaire drove many people to explore caves at Wang Mu FR to great depths!

Today, many of these caves have been abandoned while some are now flooded. Remnants of past mining activities can still be found in caves like Gua Kelam II. Over these 100 years, people have worked, lived and even died in these cave mines. There are many stories about mining that awaits to be told but are in danger of being lost if no effort is made to extract and record these oral history.

The mined caves of Wang Mu is part of the nation's rich heritage and Gua Kelam II is a fine example of an interesting and unique facet of Malaysia's mining heritage. It is currently being protected by the Perlis state government as part of the larger Perlis State Park managed by the Perlis State Forestry Department.

Unique formations

One of the massive chambers

As you can see, photography is a challenge inside the cave system as the construction is still ongoing. Hence, lack of lights and proper walkway.

This short road trip around the state with my friends was an eyeopener. Whoever says that the smallest and most northern state of Malaysia, which was once a part of Thailand, has nothing much to offer should pay Perlis a visit and see for yourself.

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