Our cars took a turn into a windy lane running through what appears to be the outlines of shrubs. It’s hard to tell in the darkness of the early morning. A tingle of excitement stirred us awake from our lethargic state.
When we mulled the prospect of climbing Gunung Datuk in Negeri Sembilan a few days ago, it seemed like a great idea. A good morning’s exercise up a 880m summit sounded good enough to stretch the muscles but not too daunting to attempt. But when it came to getting out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, our willpower must have dwindled a little.
After a few minutes of winding through the narrow lane, the road inclined and led to a parking lot. Our gang of six hopped out our cars, and looked around the darkness, not sure of what to expect. It was 5.30 in the morning and the plan was to reach the peak of Gunung Datuk by sunrise.
We quickly strapped on our headlamps, made some quick adjustments to our shoelaces and made haste towards the start of the trek. The start of the climb was a steep incline through a tangle of tree roots. Certain sections were rocky and had ropes tied from tree to tree to help climbers pull their weight up with every big step. We were thankful we had the use of headlamps, keeping our hands free to grab onto branches, rocks and ropes – whichever within our grasp.
After about an hour, we reached a clearing. Nope, it wasn’t the peak yet, just empty grounds for hikers to take a breather. There were markers along the way for altitude information, unfortunately most of the signages have gone through wear and tear in the outdoors and you’re left guessing how far along the trek you’ve hiked. If you brought along snacks, this is a good time to chomp on a few while saying hello to other fellow hikers. I had taken along my Coleman hydration backpack which has a tube extending out of the bag and handily over my shoulder, making it a lot easier to sip on water when needed. It was probably one of my best Christmas gifts, given by a friend who was returning from abroad.
We continued in high spirits, but a loud whooshing sound through the forest canopy sent chills down my spine. Was it the sound of rain pouring onto the tree tops? Nooo.. we’ve come this far. Or at least it feels like we have, we couldn’t tell for sure with most of the signages missing words and numbers. We continued to listen closely to the strong whooshing sounds, the leaves were rustling but there were no water droplets. It turned out to be just very strong wind, which swayed
the tree branches and its leaves in its path.
We’ve hiked for almost two hours and the day has started to break. The foliage had started thinning, a sign that we’re near the peak. With much less of the forest, we can now feel the full force of the wind running through our hair. Also, the rays of light meant we could now see the beautiful lush green surrounding us.
Finally we saw a sign that confirmed we were almost at the peak, save for a few more boulders. This was the final ascent. It definitely looked challenging, with steel ladders bolted on to the boulders to help you ascent. Furthermore, the wind was getting really forceful, I could feel my mobile phone about to ‘fly away’ as I held it up, trying to capture the panoramic beauty.
Taking a few minutes to mentally psyche ourselves up, the actual climb up the ladder was not as scary as it looked. All you need was careful patience, one step at a time, and we soon found ourselves standing atop the highest boulder. The feeling of accomplishment and the scenery was a deserving gift. However since the wind was really strong that day, we were squinting because sand around the boulders was getting blown into our eyes. It wasn’t long before we had to bid goodbye to the beautiful scenery and descend, so we could escape the strong gusts of wind.
Now that we were descending the mountain in daylight, I noticed a lot more detail in the trees and even insects crawling about. All these escaped our sight previously in our dark ascend. The trees stood tall and magnificent, and the roots meandered around the forest ground, fashioning a twisted series of ‘steps’ in the ground. Having slightly weak knees, it did help to have a hiking pole when descending to take the pressure of my knee joints.
After 2 hours, we made it all the way down, proud of our accomplishment for the day. For those who are interested in the climb, the complete ascent and descent should take you around 3 to 5 hours, depending on how fit you are. An average level of fitness is required if you would like to do this climb, and it’s best to have shoes with good grip as well so you don’t slip on your descend. Do also remember headlamps if you are planning to climb before sunrise. Hutan Lipur Gunung
Datuk’s location is available on the Waze navigation app.