Wilderness explorers return!

Sunday, April 10, 2016
Tanah Rata, Pahang, Malaysia
Today was the day our Wilderness Explorer badges were well and truly reinstated. Dani was feeling much better, my blister was more of a rose petal tapping my foot as opposed to a hot skewer stabbing through my toe so it was time to get properly out and about. We checked the map (the real one in line with the Malaysian forestry Comission not the the one with the false trail numbers from the guesthouse at Wan's) and plumped for trail 10. It seemed and sounded from what we read like a fairly easy trail compared to some of the others up to a peak called Gunung Jasar. How wrong we were.

We made our way up the road from the guesthouse in search of Oli appartments where the trail should start only to find that Oli appartments didn't really exist and that after 30 minutes of walking up and down the main road we had passed the start of the trail several times after having found a local to speak to who pointed us in the right direction . At last we were off treking away from the town and roads. It was a pleasant start. A fairly easy track, well worn with a few fun little steep sections to scramble up. As it climbed a little higher it started to snake it's way up steeper terrain, narrow little cuts to squeeze through here and there that had been cut through the soft sandstone by years of water erosion.

After around half an hour the terrain changed into dense jungle. The fun little steps to scramble up gave way to gnarled tree roots to clamber up and fallen tree trunks to negotiate that blocked the path. We came across a sign where the trail split. To the right it turned into Trail 11 which was closed due to land slides and forrest clearing, sounded a bit ominous really. We continued up trail 10 which became increasingly steep now. It was a full on climb that slowed us down massively. We had to haul ourselves up the natural steps created by the tree roots with both hands at times picking our route carefuly like a climber would so that we didn't end up at point where we would have to back track on ourselves . Narrow ledges were fun to get around as well. You could see that the ground had obviously given way during heavy rain and disapeared down the side of the hill into a jungle oblivion. At times clinging on to moss and roots at the side to make sure we didn't end up with the same fate as the land that was once there. As we neared what we though was the top the humidity really kicked in. Our clothes soaked through clinging to us like a second skin. We stopped regularly to take water in and to try and get some air into our lungs. This was supposed to be an easy trek from what I had read? But it was great fun all the same, a great little adventure out and we still hadn't passed a single soul so far.

Eventually after around 2 hours the jungle gave way and the steep incline leveled out onto sandy loose stone. Another 10 minutes of narrow cut gorges and tall bolders and we reached the top. I would like to tell you about the amazing views out over the hills into the distance, the rolling emerald green fields of tea that we saw and the views down to the small speck like towns and villages below us . But there was non of this. It was early afternoon now and the heat had built up at this point creating a bank of dense cloud all around. Dark ominous rain filled cloud at that. It had been a fun climb up though. More technical and challenging than we had expected.

We rested up for 20 minutes waiting to see what the cloud would do. Soon a few spots of rain started and it was time to move on. We didn't really fancy returning back down the same route, especially if rain was imminent given the steepness of the climb and how slick it would have been trying to descend the steep gnarled leaf covered root trail would have been tricky and I prefer to come down a different route to the one I take up. We had read about a trail down the opposite side which eventually gives way to a level path that loops back round to Tanah Rata. It didn't sound too bad from what we had read so we packed up and headed off over the peak and down into dense jungle again. As we started the climb down the heavens opened and the rain coats came out to play . This is where it got really fun. The gorund beneath us started to spring with each steep step we took down, sometimes at the very edge of steep drop offs. We weren't on firm earth anymore but walking on a dense wet slippery layer of leaves that had built up between the twisted tree roots. Great stuff! Pretty scary at times and this trail was definitely not a well used one. huge tree trunks lay sideways across our path that had to clambered over or a route around found, massively slowing our progress down. It was beautiful as well though. Rain coming down, shafts of sunlight still cracking through the dense foliage from gaps in the clouds off in the distance. Steam rising all around us amongst the jungle and the sound of exotic birds and insects as our theme tune. Every once a while we would spot small hand written signs indicating how long until the jungle broke and the path started. 1.5 hrs.....1hr.....15 mins.....eventually the jungle parted after a particularly steep section and we arrived back on terra firma . Another hour on foot along the back roads and we were back at our gueshouse safe and sound. Tired and aching, muddy and sweaty messes but safe and exhilerated. The whole day along the trail we did not see one other person. Tanah Rata gets very busy on a weekend with people from KL heading up here for a break. You see a lot of people out and about in the town with expensive technical walking gear on. It always looks clean and immaculate though, nicely ironed crisp new khaki coloured full length walking trousers and brand new £300 Northface jackets are everywhere you look. It makes me wonder where these people actually go if anywhere. I returned in a muddy pair of shorts, soaked t-shirt and a battered pair of skate shoes satisfied that we made it through with minimal injuries and incidents.

Compared to the disapointment of the previous days attempt this had been a memorable adventure out. What we though would have been a couple of hours simple treking had turned into a 5 1/2 hour jungle assault course, great fun and very recommended. We have certainly earned our Wilderness adventurer badges back after todays fine efforts.

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