I promised an old hiking friend to go on a mountain pioneering trip at Gunung Lipat Sanggul, Terengganu. It is the 16th highest mountain in Terengganu. Having turned down previous invitation to hike together two years ago, I agreed to go despite my back to back travelling from Kerala to Palembang to see the total solar eclipse.
Barely two days in Kuala Lumpur, I was already in a car heading to Kemaman, a town on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia with two new friends, Cikgu Ros and Roy. Thank goodness, I was not driving. I slept soundly throughout the trip to Kemaman for the much needed post-travel recovery.
Here I met the line-up of the Gunung Lipat Sanggul :- Fendi Equinne (Organizer), Roy (Chef), Mad, Shahril, Kak Dhila, Uncle & Din (the so-called old hiking friend) and Cikgu Ros. These were the people whom I would be spending my waking hours with for the 4 days 3 nights trip to Gunung Lipat Sanggul. As soon as the food rations distributed, backpacks repacked and our hired 4×4 arrived, we were brought to a nearby stall for a local breakfast. Then a quick procedure at Balai Polis Air Puteh, Kemaman was made, just in case we needed to call for emergency.
Although Gunung Lipat Sanggul is not a popular mountain bagged by mountaineers and not as high as other mountains, the distance is commendable! The 4×4 ride took us 2-3 hours for an approximately 35km route to reach the starting point. My 4×4 ride was in air-conditioned Pajero, meanwhile, the other group rode in a Perodua Kembara pimped as a 4×4 vehicle. Aris, the 4×4 guide, told us even a Kancil could be heavily pimped into a 4×4 heavy machine.
We followed past loggers’ trail and loggers’ lodgings and came to a halt in an area, in which, logs were felled. Our first mission was to find the shortest route to the starting point. When Aris told us he could not penetrate further, I began to worry about my stamina. My biggest worry was whether I would be able to survive the 4D3N trip without causing troubles to anyone. We were lucky enough when Awang, a 4×4 driver attached to the licensed logging company, offered to drop us near the viable starting point. I had a feeling that he knew the trail, which was lined with boundary markers between Terengganu and Pahang because some of the logs had been tagged. We reached the Starting Point at 2 pm. GPS Coordinate for Starting Point: (WA 549892 467270)
[Tips: 2016 is the best time to hike Gunung Lipat Sanggul because the logging trail makes the mountain accessible to reach.]
We started trekking at 3.30pm with a hope to reach the summit of Gunung Lipat Sanggul. For the first 1 hour, I was in total confusion. We ascended the steep surface with the front liners making a marked trail for us to pass. I told myself it was way too extreme for my aging body. But there was no turning back. At least, not the option I had left at that particular time. The trees grew wild, at times rubbed against my hand socks or stretched to hit my face. I sweat profusely; my clothes drained wet. The only pioneering, in my opinion, was during the first 244m climb from the starting point to reach the clearly marked ridge.
Once we reached the mountain ridge, the trail became more tolerable until the trail climbed more steeply. We rested frequently to drink in gasping gulps and chat with one another. A bottle after another, sharing the drinks with rest of the team. When we climbed the neverending switchbacks, I started to question my decision to climb this mountain. Din and I walked in silence; each coaxing our own feeling. At times, I heaved sighs or let out small shrieks to de-stress. Many a time, I tried to divert my attention from the switchbacks by counting my steps before taking a short break. I forbid myself from looking up as I kept thrusting forward. Knowing we would not be able to make it to the summit during the daylight, we made a clearing on the trail by 7.30 pm to open a Felda, where we spread the groundsheets and pitched the fly.
GPS Check Point CP1 Permatang (WA 549661, 468643) – Camp Site
Total walking distance for Day 1: 2.04km
We left Check Point CP1 Permatang at 10.30am and Roy accidentally found Last Water Point at GPS (WA 549531, 469007), some 433m (30 mins) from our campsite at CP1. The natural spring came in three-tiers, to which, we formed our own version of a piping system. Thank goodness for the spring water for I did not dare drink from the natural lake situated after the summit.
At approximately 1.15 pm, we reached the peak of Gunung Lipat Sanggul, Terengganu. GPS Coordinate: (WA 549138, 469430).
After posing for some pictures, we proceeded to the Danau Sanggul, a natural pond formed due to landslides that block the outflow of the water. Danau Sanggul stands at 900m elevation. The size of Danau Sanggul is less than 2 acres. Hiking during one of the driest months of the year, we note that the only outflow, apart from seepage and evaporation, is a small outflow that connects the pond with the river believed to be Sungai Cherul. The journey from the peak of Gunung Lipat Sanggul took at least 3.5 hours. The GPS Coordinate for Danau Lipat Sanggul is (WA 548650, 470443). When we taught we were done ascending, the ridge brought us down and then, climbing up, up and up the switchbacks.
We reached Danau Sanggul at 5 pm. First, we checked out the Danau Sanggul itself. Stagnant water retention with trees covered by the water, it evoked a sense of mystery. It looked to me like a perfect shooting scene for a horror movie. We still had plenty of time as the other guys from the trip recceed the nearby waterfall. It had to be somewhere near for the sound of gushing streams was loud and clear.
The sky turned dark and the rain poured heavily. We took shelter under the temporary fly. There was no better time to enjoy mangga pauh (mango) dipped with a condiment of chilli sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Condiment recipe is courtesy of Kak Dhila, all the way from Parit Buntar. A bowl of Maggi noodle and a cup of tea completed our tea break session. We started collecting the rain water to boil as drinking water. To us, the rain water is many times safer than the pond water.
At nightfall, we gathered in the main tent waiting for our dinner. We had kerabu mangga, daging masak kunyit and sayur kubis for dinner. The dinner was sumptuous, thanks to Roy. Because we camped near Danau Sanggul, the amphibian presence was inevitable. Once in awhile, small size frogs visited our tent. The night was spent chatting with rolls of laughter sending animals scurrying to safety. When I gulped a cup of tea, I commented the tea tasting perfect. Minutes later I was told that a misfortunate frog jumped into the teapot and died the frog way. In our Malay language, we called it, “mati katak“. So, the perfect tea I drank was a “Katak, oh Katak” flavoured tea! I didn’t die the frog way that night. I didn’t feel sick. I survived.
I was assigned to do dishwashing throughout the trip. First thing in the morning, I picked my way through the trees to Danau Sanggul to rinse the dishes. Din washed the dishes, I took turns to rinse. Sitting on the giant log surfacing the water, I swirled water into the dishes and flung them into the bush next to me. Each time I dipped my feet in the pond, I tensed, as though a ghostly presence would topple me down into the water. In the morning, the pond covered with tall trees is engulfed in thick mist.
The plan for the day was to explore Danau Sanggul and go to the waterfall. As we were still taking our own sweet time doing the dishes, some of the hikers were already on their exploration. We had to find the answer why and how the pond was formed at such a high elevation. Though we are not qualified academicians, our finding will only be an observatory. They found the landslides and a small stream connecting the pond and the river. The pond was rich with aquatic plants, frogs, spiders, tadpoles and dragonflies.
We also discovered a huge area covered with tropical pitcher plants.
15 minutes from our campsite, we proceeded to the waterfall. I was eager to test Go Pro Dome Port accessories for the first time. We went to see the upstream and spotted a narrow canal leading to what looks like a hidden canyon. The waterfall is known as Hulu Sg Bakar.
To reach the largest pool of water, we had to climb down the boulders. The boulders were slippery. Knowing a slip would cause me to lose my balance completely, I meandered carefully. Unfortunately, I lost my balance still and slid down the boulder into one of the pools. The splash of the water when I hit the rocky bottom shocked almost everyone. But I covered the pain with waves of laughter.
At the end of the waterfall is another waterfall that drops into the ravine. We did not dare to go any nearer.
After we finished swimming and bathing, we walked to the campsite for lunch and packing. We planned to trek in reverse and camp out after the peak of Lipat Sanggul so that we did not have to rush on our last day.
They decided to camp out at an uneven area full of pokok kor, an area I dubbed as “wonderland” for its resemblance to Alice in the Wonderland’s adventures. They used the kor leaves as ground protection, which is obviously not a clever idea if the tent was built on a hilly area. We ended up removing the kor leaves. The slipping down did not stop, we had to re-adjust our positions throughout the night. To lessen the slippery mode, I levelled the ground with my backpack. So, half of my body, waist down, was placed on top of my backpack. Anything for a sound sleep.
Pictures to remember.
We started trekking at 10 am. Most ascends did not ring any bell. I started to question, did we climb the steep hill yesterday? How did I manage to climb that? My phone battery was dying, my Go Pro still had one full battery. We made use of the Go Pro as we made detours to take in the views.
We reached the Starting Point slightly after 4.30 pm to find the route we took to climb Gunung Lipat Sanggul in ruins. Upon reaching, there was a Caterpillar Forest Machines ready for another round of logging. I asked the worker, Pakcik Osman, if I could join him for a joy ride. He invited me in and the rest followed suit. Until then, I did not have any logging experience. The machine worked like a monster from seemingly easy three point turns to dragging the huge size logs. The whole operation for one round of logging took less than 40 minutes to complete. When asked how many logs capable of being felled in a day, he answered between 12 to 13 logs.
After thanking him, we packed our bags into the 4×4 and started our journey back to Kemaman town. However, one of the 4×4, the pimped Kembara had its clutch damaged. So, arrangements were made for the loggers’ 4×4 to send us to Felda Sg Cherul. I spared myself from the horrendous ride on the loggers’ 4×4 by remaining in Aris’ comfy Pajero. Air-conditioned and all. All in all, it was a fun outing in the jungle after so long.