Hiking Gunung Ulu Sepat is no walk in the park. Standing as the 7th highest mountain (2161 masl) in Peninsula Malaysia , the terrain to the top can be treacherous amongst mud and thick vegetation. Hikers carefully climb over rivers, balance on logs and try to keep themselves warm in the late evenings. Wilderness isn’t all they face, they must learn to get along as a team and to be understanding of the people they meet in local villages along the way.
The hikers all set out on the path for different reasons. Maybe to test their own physical fitness, prove that they can finish something that they started or to take an opportunity to get close to nature. Despite what got them on the trail, when they reach their goal, they have all learned lessons that will affect them once they return to their lives. When we asked some of these hikers what lessons really stood out to them, here’s how they responded.
It’s all about preparing for the unexpected
Catherine shared that by expecting the unexpected, it made her prepare well for the trip by imagining worse case scenarios – running out of water, freezing to death, not being able to continue with the journey due to poor fitness, too heavy of a load, poor weather etc. Once you are well prepared mentally and physically, you can cope with almost anything that comes along the way. Huijuan believes that there are always ways to tackle the unexpected. When you are not sure of which way to go, look left and right. Follow the path that has the least obstacles ahead. Anticipate the unexpected when you choose a path with no footprint. Be ready to run for your life.
It’s about the equipment
Mel recounted that this was her first hike in almost 20 years and while she enjoys being surrounded by nature, she has almost forgotten how challenging it can be. She realized better preparation; more leg and load training, hiking gear and having a more positive mentality will help for the trip.
Invest in a good sleep system, John offered. Get an inflatable sleeping pad and a sleeping bag with at least 10 degree rating. This will give everyone a cozy comfortable good night’s sleep.
Ian and Nick agree. Have proper and correct equipment for different terrain. Wear waterproof socks to keep feet dry after splashing through the rivers.
It’s about having a sense of humor
Gordon jokingly said that next time, he would bring a girl so he would have to stick close and keep to her pace. In all seriousness, he thinks that hiking is a great time to build a relationship. Hassan also kept things on the lighter side with his inside joke from the trail. His lesson learned was: Don’t shit with the “bomb” squad:) no names! Never “bomb” on the trail…you never know who will come running down at a blazing speed. And Angie also looked to humour in how she described her lessons from the hike saying: “Elephants can climb mountains. Has anyone said that yet? Actually elephant also refers to big sized people like us, not just the real elephant.”
It’s about the people
Manfred explained that the people around him were the ones who gave him the support and motivation he needed. He said: I learnt that climbing together in a group is great motivation, especially for those who climb at a slower pace. They find it demoralizing when faster ones start heading down while they are still pushing hard to go up. Sucan agreed by saying that in the toughest time, kindness can come from anyone, friends or even complete strangers. There is no shyness or shame, no strong or weak, together we share with and care for each other, enjoy all the expected and unexpected moments says Teck Ling, driving home the point even more.
It’s about believing in Yourself
By having a “Never Give up Spirit,” Francis believes you can accomplish your goals. Kas was even surprised by what the trail taught and came away with this realization: Thoughts had me thinking that it would be a nasty trek with river crossings and the need to have a couple of nights in a village hut. It turned out that river crossings were very enjoyable and appreciated during the long agony of the trek. I was loving it most when we had the chance to go deep-in for our ‘shower’ after trekking and it was easy to adapt to the hut stay even though I was with 23 people squeezing sleeping bags to sleeping bags. Everyone having the “Don’t complain, just do!” spirit made the whole journey less difficult. And Alice left us with this beautiful piece of self-realization; I have not conquered Ulu Sepat. The Gunung is always there. Every trip I only conquer myself.
It’s about doing your research
It’s important to know what you’re getting into and to best prepare yourself for what lies ahead. Wan Ming advises to be prepared for the torturing and bouncing 2.5hr 4wd ride. Have necessary protection for rain or shine, splashing mud, backside ache. Zali also gives advice based on the importance for many to know that minimizing total backpack weight to be carried up is vital as it will burden oneself when climbing steep climbs.
It’s about respecting Nature
AK put it perfectly when saying; always respect the mountain and be prepared as every time it will present a different face with a different challenge regardless how many times one has climbed it.
It’s about seeing the bigger picture
Hanyu and Pei Hua recognize that the forest is more than a hike, it is a place for you to let your burdens go. Juliet appreciates what she has learned from her journey. She feels that it’s the journey that teaches us lessons about our destination. Teamwork, friendship, motivation, care & share, never say die attitude and to pack light. Keion chimes in with an insight that the summit is never more important than the well being of a loved one, showing that sometimes there are more important things in life.
While each person’s answer here is different, they all have an underlying spirit that is similar. Go to the mountain, let it work on you and come out with new and creative insights. What will be the next thing that teaches you a lesson?
Malaysia Unlimited – G7 Gunung Ulu Spepat was organised by Adventures Unlimited (Malaysia Unlimited) and supported by the Singapore Adventurous Nature Lovers’ meetup group. Interested in joining our organised meetups? Please subscribe to our events here