My last trip aboard was probably 13 weeks ago. I miss traveling and all the fuzz, buzz, anticipation, psych and gratification and memories that bundle along with it, and occasionally a jet-lag. Now that the internal borders in my country is open, I feel like a bear awakening from a long winter's hibernation. I am hungry, curious, and eager to discover/rediscover my backyard!
Gunung Datuk, a mountain in Rembau Negri Sembilan, 1 half-hour away from Kuala Lumpur can be a brisk but steep hike with glorious views of the Straits of Melacca and the Rembau plains, and the mountain range of Negri Sembilan.
Starting point: car park area of Gunung Datuk Recreational Forest
Hike Duration: 5 hours..... could be 6 hours if you are planning on a picnic up at the peak
End Hike: Backtrack
Hike Difficulty: 3/5 although some part is rather steep! A hiking stick can help especially on descend and during rainy weather.
Scenery Rewards: 3/5
What to bring
1. Basic first aid ...... in this new normal, hand-sanitizers too!
2. Walking stick
3. Raincoat and Poncho ( you will be able to find them at any convenience store or Daiso shops for about RM6.00) it is best to have them with you trust me!
4. Head-Torch, if you start before 7am
5. At least 2l of water, pack lunch, snack
6. Change of clothes..... never know when it pours!
7. Good pair of hiking shoes is absolutely necessary
8. Gloves, in the jungle you never know what you touch or grab on to that may create a reaction to your skin.
9. Check the weather forecast
10. A GOOD ADVENTURE SPIRIT
Note: Due to the pandemic, the forestry department has advise to keep every group to 20 hikers, with proper social distancing in the WILD at place! The trailhead officially opens at 8.00am, and if you have not purchase your entry tickets, you might want to wait for the booth to open.
Cross the stream and up the metal staircase to the booth. Register yourself and climb. The first part of the hike is hardcore. Steep gradient ascent on rocks with the help of rope. Although I find the trunks of trees more helpful but please be very careful with the thorny palm trees that can piers through your skin!!
Tip: Just as you enter on the right side there are 2 Merbau trees that stands about 40-50m tall, so majestic and huge! A little further in there is another mother of a Merbau, although fallen, but the tree trunk still intact and shows how strong the wood is against the termites which roam aplenty in the jungle. It is believed that if you are lost in the jungle, knock on the merbau trunk as it will reverberate and travel afar. Try kicking it at different spots!
Very soon after you have pass the first check point, you will arrive at the 'stairway to heaven'. It is arduous and steep and rocky and becomes a scene of Modor form LOTR in low light, and turns into a waterfall when it rains!
The hike up is rather straight forward, one way up and down! You will pass several boulders and soon after around 45 minutes, you will reach a clearance. This will be the peak of Gunung Datuk. To your left, there will be another flight of metal stairs that will lead you to the real peak at 884m with that magnificent view!
Worth taking note, legend has it that Hang Tuah, a legendary Malay warrior has left his footprint on the huge boulder on Gunung Datuk! It is right at the edge so beware if you want to compare the size of your foot with his!! There are several indentations on the rock, you can imagine which one belonged to him!
As we were caught in the rain hiking up, most of us who did not bring a raincoat were drenched, while the others, wet! There were some strong winds at the peak and many of us were chattering and begging for a cup of hot drink! Luckily, we had supply in our group and it was the most satisfying hot drink in a long while..... or you could store your alcohol fix in your hip flask and roll down the mountain incoherently!
Flora & Fauna
Gunung Datuk is situated in the state of Negri Sembilan, in a county in Rembau. The name is believed to be derived from the many Merbau trees at the foothills of the mountain. In 2019 this tree was officially declared as the national tree of Malaysia.
It took us about 3 hours to complete the very slippery, muddy, gooey, rocky descend. After the downpour, the earth had turned into a muddy, sticky, yellow-brownish mix that had no grip but is as slippery as an eel! It is times like this when the use of the hiking stick is gratifying!
After the very muddy part....the rocky part was just as slippery and wet. Just take it slow on the descend!
There is a public toilet where you could shower and freshen up at the entrance after the mud fight you had!!
Hungry as Bear
A grueling hike like this one definitely entitles a feast, unfortunately by 1400 in a small town as Rembau, most restaurants were sold out. However, from a good tip, we managed to try out this popular dumpling 'pau' shop, renowned for its PETAI PAU.
Petai (bitter bean) is an indigenous bean that grows in the jungle. To have this bean cooked in balacan (shrimp paste) chili in a pau is a major mismatch you would think.... until you taste it! Don't miss it!
Along the trunk road leading out to the highway, there will be many makeshift stores selling the fruits of the season. It happens that June/July is the durian season.....it is truly rewarding to stop and burry those fingers into that King of Fruit for they are finger-licking good!
This forest reserve is especially popular among the Negeri Sembilan, Melaka hikers especially during the weekends. If you are coming from Kuala Lumpur, it is always advisable to embark early, so that parking and trail up to the mountain is less congested. As the trail is rather straight forward, I see many hikers peaking at 7am to enjoy the sunrise!
However, due to the pandemic and the recent relax to the 'Movement Control Order', the forest reserve is only officially open from 8am. I believe if you purchased the permit a day before, you could start before the opening time.
This time My Back to Nature hiking club organize the permits for us and we are truly grateful for the convenience and the trouble they went through and also their efforts to develop this sport! As we are still adjusting to the new normal in this period of the pandemic, we try out best to keep social distancing, temperature check, no sharing/ touching as much as we can!
Alternatively, go check out the vlog of Gunung Datuk..... on a sunny day from an aerial view
“The cliche is that life is a mountain. You go up, reach the top and then go down.” – Jeanne Moreau
Date visited: 21st June 2020 Happy Father's Day