Our journey began at the town of Lasah where we took a 4WD drive along a bumpy terrain with mostly uncompleted road and dirt terrain with 2 river crossings in between. It was scorching hot seated in the back. Took us 2.5 hours before we reached Kampong Lerlar, where a small community of the original aborigines of Malaysia – also known as Orang Asli, lived.
This community is comprised of 50 huts and has a population of 250 people. Kampong Lerlar is headed by its penghulu, or village head, Asu Busu.
Though there is a hint of technological advancement here because each household was fitted with a satellite dish outside the house, most of the houses I took a peek into did not have a television set installed. Most, in fact, were mainly bare. Their way of living was pretty primitive as well since the community’s water source was connected from a pipe to the river.
In Kampong Lerlar, the community grows their own vegetation and serves as cooks and porters to the occasional hikers like us who are looking forward to climb G7 Gunung Ulu Sepat (2161masl). It’s the first stop for what turns out to be an amazing adventure.
A 4 hours hike away and 1,000 meters higher lies Kampong Lengweng, which also serves as the Base Camp for Gunung Ulu Sepat. Climbers will usually spend the night here before attempting to make the summit the next morning. The entire kampong (village) consists of 3 main huts with 1 smaller one used as the kitchen area.
There used to be a settlement here a decade ago before everyone moved to the lower village at Kampong Lerlar. According to our guide Uncle Ming, only 2 elderly Orang Asli remained at Kampong Lengweng out of nostalgic reasons and self-sufficiency.
It is that self-sufficiency that inspires travelers who journey here. Toiling in the hot sun, sweat beading down his forehead, Achik lovingly tends to his tapioca crops. His hands deep in the cool soil, he inspects each leaf to make sure of the health of his livelihood. He lives off the land and is deeply connected with his home and how he subsists from day to day.
Achik isn’t the only one sweating from his labors of self-sufficiency. His family and friends – they too are people of the mountains, related to nature in the closest sense possible. They wake to the sound of birds and fall asleep listening to the call of insects and the nocturnal inhabitants. The valleys and the rivers are their daily scenery as they spend their days performing hard labor to survive.
Villages dot the mountains and the original Malaysian aborigines still live in their huts, at peace with the mountains that they share with so many visitors.
Gunung Ulu Sepat is the seventh highest mountain in Peninsula Malaysia, standing at 7,089 feet. It is located along the Titiwangsa Mountain Range and holds a place on the G12 summits where Malaysia’s highest ones are listed. The rainfall here happens quite frequently and although it makes for a muddy trek, it helps to provide life to the stunning plants and flowers along the thick foliage-covered trails.
Along the trek, you will run into the Orang Asli village, so it is a good idea to bring along used clothing to donate to the local people in exchange for sharing their beautiful community with you. You can also help support the local village by hiring individuals as your guide or porter on the mountain. They typically charge 100 RM for their services and 30 RM for food.
Just taking a moment to explore the villages is an interesting aside from the hike. You will be able to witness their primitive way of living as they source water from the river and grow mostly all of their own food.
Coming prepared for this hike is key to your success. You’ll want to have everything you need to be comfortable, safe, and still have an enjoyable journey. The trail is long and challenging, so make sure that your fitness is up to par before embarking on this trek. Some necessary items for this trip will be a raincoat, jacket, torch or headlamp, sleeping bag or mat. The hiking trail takes about 2-3 days so think wisely about your water supply. Bring enough to last you between water refill points. A strong and sturdy backpack is also a good idea to bring along as you will have much to carry.
If you are an experienced hiker looking for a challenge paired with beautiful scenery and up front culture, a trek on Gunung Ulus Sepat may make the perfect journey for you. Grab your hiking books and get ready to take a glimpse into the lives of some amazing local people.
Life can be simple, yet still enjoyable. There is a certain pleasure in knowing that humanity and nature can still function in complete harmony. Trekkers get a glimpse of this every time they make their way to the summit of a mountain or find a hidden gem in a forest that has been lost for generations.
Men like Achick inspire us not because they work hard or have found a way to co-exist daily with nature. They inspire us because they are completely content with their circumstances of life. Even with people seeking new travelled paths on a regular basis, there is no thought to the technological trappings that others feel they need.
There is just peace.
Catch the highlights of this trip on Youtube