Wide View from the Peak of Gunung Tahan
Story by Lily Ho, Puchong
On a usual night, a hiking friend paid a visit to our home and talked about his sad love story and some of the incidents happened in Gunung Tahan. But then, all of a sudden, he encouraged us to do Gunung Tahan, which is way beyond our dreams. Since childhood, I’ve heard a lot of hikers talk about Taman Negara, wild lives, and Gunung Tahan, which I’ve never have the fascination to do. One needs a very good strength/stamina to carry a big backpack by herself, which is something that is beyond me.
Yet with the encouragement given, we started to prepare the trip from planning the date, contacting the forestry office, inviting friends around, discussing gear to be brought (ladies are only carrying approximately 6-8kg, while gentlemen carry all the heavy stuff from tents, sheets, and rations) at approximately 18kg.
In a nutshell, this was a lady VIP trip.
The total pax in joining this trip are 19 from different groups from hiking, marathoning, and cycling backgrounds. The trip is fixed on the Labour Day based on 4D3N from Merapoh-Tahan-Merapoh with administration charges as below:
Merapoh Forestry Office : 09-9150214
Collection Fees (RM150/pax)
Entry Permit : RM1/pax
Camera license : RM5/unit
Camp Site : RM1/pax/night
Guide : RM950/12 pax (Sg Relau-G Tahan-Sg Relau)
4WD : RM24/pax
Insurance: subject to Forestry Office
Trekking trail layout and profile
TAnd then this was the itinerary:
Day 1 (28/4/2016)
Trail condition – 80% flat
Crossed River – 4 times
Weather – hot
Distance : 13.5km
4.30am : meeting point at Karak McD
7.30am : reach Kuala Lipis and take breakfast
10.00am : lodge report at Balai Polis Merapoh
10.15am : registration in Sg Relau Office & open bag for officer checking
11.00am : briefing conducted by officer, group photo & 4WD (13km) to Kuala Juram
12.30pm : lunch & final briefing conducted by guide
1.00pm : group photo & start hiking
1.10pm : crossing River 1, 2, 3 & 4
2.30pm : reached Kuala Luis
3.30pm : reached Lata Luis
5.00pm : reached Kem Kor, set up tent, bathing & dinner
Day 2 (29/4/2016)
Trail condition – 80% steep
Crossed River – 1 time
Weather – hot
Distance : 16km
7.00am : wake up, prepared breakfast & packed lunch for camp Botak consumption
8.30am : check gear & water, and starts trek ascend
9.00am : reached Kem Permatang
11.30pm : lunch time at Kem Kubang & refill water (300m away), very steep trail
12.30pm : start climb
1.30pm : reached Kem Belumut
3.00pm : reached False Peak
4.30pm : reached Kem Bonsai
6.00pm : reach camp Botak, setup Tent & cooking dinner
Day 3 (30/4/2016)
Trail condition to summit – 80% mild steep
Weather – hot
Distance to summit : 2.5km
6.00am : wake up and starts summit
6.30am : summited Peak
8.00am : descend back to Camp Botak
10.30am : descend from Kem Botak
3.30pm : refill water at Kem Kubang
6.00pm : reach Camp Kor, setup tent, bath & dinner
Day 4 (1/5/2016)
Weather – hot
7.00am : wake up, breakfast & pack
8.00am : descend from Kem Kor
11.00am : reach Kuala Juram
11.30am : 4WD pick up
12.00pm : Reached Sg Relau office, officer checked to ensure all items brought in were brought out
On the First Day, we set our meeting point at MdD restaurant @ Karak Highway at 4.30am so that we can enjoy our breakfast at Kuala Lipis at 7.30am. It is our first time reaching the small town of Kuala Lipis. tThe impression of this town is populated mostly by Chinese and there is reliance on a river.
There’s a hawker centre in the middle of the town. So we ordered wantan mee, which tasted good with a cup of milo – also take away economic rice being our lunch in the forest later. Very soon we set out to Merapoh, which was estimated to be reached an hour later, as we are required to lodge report personally before reaching the Sungai Relau Forestry Office as a matter of procedure.
Luckily enough our guide, namely Zul, is already waiting us at Pasar Merapoh. The rest of the members drive into the Forestry Office to do bag checking first.
Balai Polis Merapoh
Lodge report in process…
Sungai Relau Forestry Office’s entrance
Itemised & declarations of what to bring in the process
Made payment… the officer is friendly
Briefing conducted by officer of the rules & regulations to be abided.
Gunung Tahan has an adopted strict procedure for waste control where every individual hiker is responsible to bring out their own left-over inclusive gas, plastics, batteries, etc. We are required to open our bag to register each and every item to be brought in, and then our items are checked again when return from the Gunung. If something is missing, then there will be a fine imposed.
This is a good practice where nature is guarded, to which I found that every camp is well maintained with minor nature damage only. I was also required to make payment to the officer for the necessary payments with receipt. Overall the officers are friendly and approachable. At 11.00am, a briefing is conducted by the officer, which basically is done to advise us to appreciate the nature and protect the wild animals – and be responsible to or own rubbish.
After a group photo taken, we started to load our bags onto 2 units of 4WDs prepared for us, and drove to Kuala Juram at 13km.
On the way, as we are all excited about the trip, our driver gave an emergency break with a swift movement to left at a very vast speed to avoid killing a 2 foot cobra lie in the middle of the road. That was a wake-up call!
Soon after, we reached Kuala Juram at 12.30pm, so the decision was made to take lunch before starting the trek in the jungle. Before the trek started, another guide (1 guide watch over 12 pax, we have 2 guides in our team) gave us the final briefing. It seems that they are really concerned about personal safety and environmental protection – both good things.
At 1.00pm sharp, we started our hike, but only after a group photo before the hanging bridge. For the first day, the trail condition is basically 80% flat. There are 4 rivers which need to be crossed. When we were crossing the first river, Zul told me the location where a hiker’s body from Singapore was hanging. I was quiet for a while and prayed to God to have good weathers during these few days.
The first 3 rivers are easy to cross in beautiful weather. The last was not as Kuala Luis has rocks which are slippery due to moss and the water level could be reached until waist. The route from Kuala Luis onwards is steep. While on the way, Zul pointed to us the Kor plants which we can see everywhere (except for Kem Kor).
We took a 15 minutes rest at a nearby waterfall before reaching Lata Luis. The water here tastes sweet in nature. At 5.00pm, we have finally reached Kem Kor. We were so happy and felt released when saw the iconic tangki. However, much to our surprise, Kem Kor is filled and packed with different groups of hiking people with their set up tents already. I was a bit disappointed because the brief by the officer that the maximum number of people in the forests is only 48 pax, but here the number of people was easily double that!
With tiredness, we just chose a little space at the far end of Kem Kor to set up our tent, bath, and cooked dinner. During the dinner time, our guide give us another briefing for the next day’s itinerary. And we are happy with our 13.5km work-out today. Our gentleman all sleep under the fly sheet and they did not really sleep much due to night long lightning and thundering. While as to myself, sorry I have to say I sleep like a pig to be ready for the second tough day!
12.30pm Final briefing conducted by our Guide, Mann
1.00pm Group photo at Kuala Juram @ 309m
Plant Kor with leaves in big size
2.30pm reached Kuala Luis @ 306m
3.30pm reached Lata Luis@ 558m
4.00pm rest in a waterfall before reaching Kem Kor
1st Day : 80% flat, 20% steep
1st Day : 80% flat, 20% steep
5.00pm reached Kem Kor @ 750m
Gentleman set up tent for the team
Ladies enjoy bathing, chatting & relaxing
On the second day, we woke up at 7.00am to prepare ourselves. The leader was kind enough to wake up earlier than the members to cook breakfast and the packed away lunch to be consumed later at noon. So what we need to do is to put our Tupperware together for the cook to allot lunch food for us.
At 8.30am, upon crossing a river, we start our journey by climbing an 80% ascend. Our bag is fully filled with water, as the guide briefed us that he is not sure whether there are water points in between due to hot weather. Today will be the most challenging day from Kem Kor to Kem Botak. And Kit Yuen had made his move a little faster in order to get a better space for the comrades to rest later at night. Since it is a long ascending day, we decide to walk at our own pace.
At 9.00am, we reached Kem Permatang at 874m. The feeling is not bad, as we are here about half an hour later. The day is too long for us, so we can only cut our goal into pieces and achieve them one by one.
2nd Day : 80% steep, 20% flat
9.00am reached Kem Permatang @ 874m
The next camp targeted to be reached shall be Kem Kubang, to which some of the slope is about 90 degrees. So let’s move, will see. Along the route, there are different groups walking together with us, and a lot of them are seniors. Their pace is equally fast. They sing, chat, and even encourage us. Really salute their spirits!
We rest twice in between before reaching Kem Kubang at 1,406m at 11.30am. A lot of members ran out of water when reached this Kem due to the tough journey, but there is a water point which is quite steep and 300m away from Kem Kubang. So Yong and Ah Lok, the two gentlemen, decide to collect water for the team. We felt so touched since without the water, we would have problems reaching Kem Botak.
After settling with lunch, refilling water, and resting about an hour, we start our climbing again to Kem Belumut at 1,493m. The route from Kem Kubang to Kem Belumut is relatively easy, not steep, so it only took us half an hour to reach. It’s an empty area where loggings are cut away.
Route from Kem Permatang to Kem Kubang is very steep, some steepness are almost 90 degree
11.30am reached Kem Kubang @ 1406m
Water point (300m away) from Kem Kubang
1.30pm reached Kem Belumut @ 1490m
1.30pm reached Kem Belumut @ 1490m
The trail from Kem Belumut to the False Peak is another challenging one after all the steepness just climbed. The trail condition is moss-covered and wet, with many floating roots covering the trail. So we have to pay extra caution when crossing over the root to avoid falling. After a long climb with these challenges, we started to lose our minds just a bit!
At 3.00pm, we finally reached the False Peak and walk ‘on’ the mountain. No more underpass trees in the dimness for long hours. We are very excited to have the sun shining on us. Especially when we saw the ‘iconic Bonsai tree’ which is a ‘must have’ location to take pictures, where a lot of hikers put a lot of different ‘gaya’ posture on this tree. I tried to climb, but slipped, and tried again, and slipped again, so just forget about it lah!
3.00pm reached False Peak
Route from False Peak to Kem Bonsai is mild descend
We took a long rest at the False Peak because we mistakenly thought that we had reached Kem Bonsai. So technically we are quite ahead of the schedule. The trail from False Peak to Kem Bonsai is a little bit of a descent. We were so happy, and slowed down our walk, started joking around, until we saw the signage of ‘Kem Bonsai’ at 4.30pm.
There was still a long way to go!! Coincidently, a guide tried to cheer us up by saying that we still had plenty of time to rest as there was no tree covering from this trail onwards. To avoid being sunburned, we can actually take some time to enjoy view around, waiting until the weather turned into windy before starting our final walk. While we are resting, one of our members started to feel ill, so we decided to walk slowly with her.
We are lucky as the weather is breezing, so we also purposely slow down our pace to take photos, look around, and let our gentlemen to set up tents before our arrival. Due to the different geography, there are no impressive mossy forests from what we saw in Gunung Ulu Sepat or Gunung Yong Yap.
At 6.00pm, we have finally reached Kem Botak at a total distance of 16km from Kem Kor. The temperature at Kem Botak is a bit cool and windy. Well done to all of us! After a bath from a nearby water point, we had our dinner, rest early, and ready for the summit day the next early morning!
4.30pm reached Kem Bonsai @ 1705m
Route started ‘botak’ with no higher tree covering
Misty route to Kem Botak – feels like paradise
Layers over with layers of mountains, with the little pitcher plants in yellow colour
6.00pm reached Kem Botak @ 1943m
tent set up activities
Bath, cook, brush teeth with this water source @ Kem Botak
Enjoy our dinner in celebration
On the summit (third) day, we gear up at 6am with light weight, as the way to peak is expected to take half an hour only with mild steepened. To our surprise, our team member who had fallen sick heavily yesterday insisted to summit together with us! Everyone is so excited as we walk at a fast pace to catch the first light of the dawn.
At 6.30am, we have finally walked up to the flat land, which is about 2.5km from Kem Botak, but it is not the peak yet. Kit Yuen was still leading us and with every bush passed in the dark, our hearts became more excited and exhilarated. Are we there yet? Where is the peak signage? We do not want to miss a single light!
When we finally saw the signage, all of us shouted in joy, and Kit Yuen brought us to one good angle to get some fantastic sunrise photos. Wow! We all are lucky enough to have a very beautiful weather with clouds.
3rd day – summit day
Beautiful sunrise in the clouds
CEO & Leader
Memorable Group Photo at the Peak of Gunung Tahan
Watching the clouds at the peak, I celebrate myself in a minute of silence, thanking God we made it. So the gang celebratde and took loads of memorable videos and pictures from yoga, kungfu, plus all kinds of funny photos, until one hour later, where it is time to say goodbye with Tahan Peak. So we reluctantly descend back to Kem Botak.
Highest toilet in Peninsula Malaysia
Enjoy the panoramic view
At Kem Botak, the members started to unpack gears and tent upon taking breakfast, and Kit Yuen also cooked lunch for us to be consumed on the way as today is another long day to descend back to Kem Kor. At 10.30am, the temperature is heating with the Sun on top our head. We all escape away from Kem Botak like a rat. To descend a deep vertical, we find our gentlemen that are carrying the heavy big bags are struggling hard.
With much drenched in sweat, like McHiker said, “How much ascent, how much descent.” We finally reached Kem Kor at 6.00pm.
Unpacking @ Kem Botak
Group photo before descending from Kem Botak to Kem Kor
The final (fourth) day, the crew woke up at 7.00am, took breaky, unpacked, and started to descend from Kem Kor. The way home is always so fast, even if there is no amount of sadness, because we must return to where we come from. We tried to buy time in the lovely Tahan by bathing and soaking in the river for awhile, but still we have to go back to Kuala Juram. The 4WD picked us at 11.00am, some Q & A questionnaires to be answered, and then we are back to the Sungai Relau office at 12.00pm. When reached, the officer checked on each of our bags one by one to ensure all items brought in were carried out.
Soaking in the river
Back to Kuala Juram with precious memories
We made it as a team
Time to go back with 4WD1
Time to go back with 4WD2
Celebrating our summit with certificate of achievement
On Labour Day 2016, I summited Gunung Tahan via Merapoh in beautiful weather with a group of great hiking buddies for a total distance of 62km. A mountain that I never expected to be reached. One thing I personally appreciated about Gunung Tahan is the way they control waste and rubbish. It reminds us to preserve the beauty of nature, which starts when we do our part. Not sure when we will come back, but one day, we will back via Kuala Tahan, to appreciate her beauty once more!!