Ramadan was getting near and we haven’t had our hiking trip this year. So, we made a quick decision to hike Gunung Arong the following week. We simply fix a day in the week about 6 days away. After lunch, I went to the Risk Analysis Laboratory and made the announcement to the graduate students, “we are going for a hike to Gunung Arong and everybody is invited to join”. A couple of them seemed interested, the rest were unsure. Then after explaining what to expect, 5 students decided to join. Then I remembered the Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Lab downstairs, and asked them to inform Walid and his brother Bahador. I thought they might want to join, and I was correct and the number became 7.
Accommodations and climbing permit were arranged by Lyana and Maria. These days, the authority charges RM150 for the climbing permit. In all my previous trips, there were no such thing. Not expensive for big group, but it will be too much if you climb alone. Nevertheless, I saw some improvements made on the track. They have added some wooden structures at the summit, iron railings and ropes at dangerous slopes. These were not available in my previous trip in 2009. The trail was also better with clear markings showing the direction. So, you don’t really need a guide especially if have hiked the trail before. However, I think the fees is simply too much and the hastle to register in person in Mersing Forestry Department is uncalled for.
Departure from Skudai
Just before departure, my PhD student from Yemen, Ali decided not to come along. Finally the group was 13 (4 UTM staff: AA, TATA, MWA, Adnan, 6 graduate students: Mohamed-Sudan, Taha-Iraq, Goke-Nigeria, Saeed-Nigeria, Walid-Iran, Bahador-Iran, my son Amin and Adnan’s sons Amar and Amir Hamzah). We departed in 3 cars, passing through a winding road towards Mersing and reached the Gorek Bay Chalet around 7 pm.
After looking at the booked accommodation, we negotiated for bigger rooms. The manager agreed. However, since the rooms were not immediately available, we decided to go for dinner. The destination was Kg. Air Papan Laut and we stopped at a small mosque in the village for our maghrib & isyak prayer.
Dinner at Air Papan Laut
It was a long wait as we decided to go with “masakan panas”. With multinational students, taking the orders were already confusing, and it was funny to watch. In the end, only after I finished my dinner Walid got his Nasi Goreng Ayam Kunyit, and Goke said, “next time go with the professors, just follow what they ordered”. Haha,… quite true, we all got our food earliest. Then we settled for the night.
Breakfast at Penyabong
After fajr prayer, we went for breakfast at Penyabong jetty. It was a delicious nasi dagang, a delicacy that couldn’t be swallowed by Walid. He was looking for bread and lucky enough we had some in the car, haha… Then came Nasi Lemak and we had a good additional breakfast, getting prepared for the hike. Well, the portions we small.
IHE Hike – gunung Arong 2014
We didn’t have a guide and I have forgotten how to get to the starting point at the foot of Gunung Arong. By asking few people along the way, we got to the entrance, where we stopped for a stretching session, led by Bahador the karate master.
Then we start moving into the forest towards the foot of the mountain, where there’s a small waterfall (that didn’t fall due to low water level). From there the journey uphill began.
The first half an hour or so was quite challenging for a novice. Then it got much easier.
The best part of the trails was that it has lots to offer, for those who enjoys learning new things. We found Tongkat Ali, beautiful orchids as well as many other species of tropical plants. The one that attracted my attention was Kembang Semangkok. I was surprised to learn that it was a huge tree. For those who do not know, Kembang semangkok has a cooling effect. It can be purchased at a Chinese medicine shop. I remember seeing how by dipping it into a bowl of water, the “nut” swell as if to fill up the town, thus explained its name which can be translated as “swelling to fill up a bowl”. So, as usual, Adnan came for the explanation. Yes the tree is big.
After about 45 minutes, we were all sweating and it was time for a longer break. Only 10 minute or so. Otherwise, the breaks were limited to 3 minutes.
We reached the summit in about an hour and a half. I think it was quite fast considering many hadn’t been hiking. Well,… they do not have mountain near Khartoum.
The park management had built a hut at the summit. I thought it would be very nice to camp there for the night. But then, you need to bring enough water supply.
The Journey Downhill
As usual, the journey down was easy for most people, but for some, it was tougher. Some might loose balance and fell. some might have problem with their knees.
The best part of Gunung Arong was that, you end your descend straight to the beach. Naturally, we took a break, ate our packed lunch and jumped into the sea.
After spending some time enjoying the clear water – swimming competition, lessons etc – we decided to call it a day. Walking by the long strech of the beautiful beach, we finally reached the chalet around pm, just as it was planned, alhamdulillah.
It was a short trip that was organized in ad-hoc manner, stealing time time from busy schedule. After all, Ramadan was very near and in the following week, I was scheduled for a week trip to Korea. It was nevertheless a good trip, and we’ll do it again in future.