Mar 25, 2010
Gunung Bintang (Mount Star) (1862 m/6,144 ft March 19-21 2010 )is located on the border of Kedah/Perak near Kulim. The gathering point is at Sungai Sedim Waterfall or Sungai Sedim Forest Recreation Park. This is the highest mountain east of Penang Island. To reach Sungai Sedim Forest Recreation Park from Kuala Lumpur via the North-South Expressway exiting the toll at Bukit Merah to Selama. Alternatively it would be better to exit the toll at Alor Pongsu to Selama.
Sungai Sedim Forest Recreation Park has many attractions including the The Tree Top Walk or Canopy walk which is over 900 metres long and highest point at 50 metres. White water rafting is available here and it offers two packages. The most challenging being 6 hours ride from Level 1 to Level 4. Level 1 being easy to Level 5 which is considered too difficult or impossible. Other activities include mountain biking and team building events. In fact TV3 Explore Race final was held here in 2006.
Our journey started from KL and stopping in Sungkai at 1.30pm to meet up with another 5 friends to have lunch. The distance from KL to Sedim park is around 450 km and its better to take breaks during the long drive. After lunch we stop in Ipoh to have Ipoh famous white coffee and tea and finally dinner in Selama. While getting ready to eat in Selama the local council decided to fog the town and thus we had to stall our dinner awhile later. Guided by our GPS we pass through Mahang town and then towards Karangan town. Turn right before Karangan town and arriving at Sedim Park around 8.30pm. There was scattered showers and the ground was wet. Another group had camped at the trail head to Gunung Bintang. Sedim Park guide offered us accommodation in the wooden chalets back at the Park for RM$30 per chalet (max 6, comfortable for 4). We quickly took the offer as tomorrow will be a tough day ahead and after the many hours of driving this offer we couldn't resists. With bathing facilities it felt like 5 star and after refreshing ourselves, KC brought out the red bean desert for everyone to enjoy. We place an order for 20 'nasi lemak' at 60cents a pack for tomorrows breakfast. We chattered awhile before we repack our backpacks for tomorrow's trek and slept around 11.30pm.
Sleeping in the chalet was comfortable but it gets chilly and cold after midnight. 7.00 am rise and shine to have Sungai Pelek 'charcoal' bake bun for breakfast with 'teh O'. The 'nasi lemak' we ordered didn't arrive on time until much later at the start of the in trail. After packing we parked our cars near our chalets and were ferried by Toyota 4wd to join with the rest of the group (total 24 pax). The 4wd trail takes about 15 mins or 1 hour by foot to reach the headtrail. 3 4wd were use to ferry all of us and finally to begin our trek at 10.00am. Our next stop was a Campsite 1 which is currently under construction to build a hall with other smaller gazebos beside the waterfall. The head trail begins with a fairly flat gradient through what looks like a old logging trail with occasional bamboo grove overhanging the trail. And along the trail you will notice wild ginger flowers (reddish in color) and elephant droppings. The height here is around 1200 ft above sea level. Leeches are 'seen' along the trail and what's not 'seen' may have already started biting you. Along the way I rested a few time leaving my backpack on the ground and later found 1 leach already had its fill near my belly and the other at the back. They probably came up via the backpack. At around 11.40 am we reach Campsite 1 which a slow trek would require about 2.5 hours. We stop for a short snack and rested at the waterfall while others took pictures.
The trail to Campsite 2 is a gradual steep climb of about 3000 ft with occasional short downhill. One good thing is that the trails are well kept (by guides) and clean. From here onwards it gets tougher and with little sleep from last night we had to take more short stops to rejuvenate our strength. Along the way 'Siow Lee' from Serdang, Selangor was busy pointing out the many various wild orchids. Finally we reach Campsite 2 at around 3.15pm, the clouds looks menacingly dark even though we read in newspapers that Northern Malaysia was dry. My knees aches, it was injured three weeks ago and looks like it haven't recovered. Michael reach the campsite much earlier and 'book' a good spot to set up tent and cooking area. As usual we put up our tents and emptied our backpack contents into the tent and wrap up the backpack in big black garbage bag. This was shown to us years ago by a regular camper from Malacca (Chee Eng Pow). Keeping your backpack in garbage you can either tied it to a tree for safety and dry instead of keeping it in your tent which will definitely "smell". And of course more space in your tent means more comfort. Water source is about 50 m downhill (steep) and the guides told us that the water is crystal clear and icy cold even fishes cannot survive here. Not believing we went down to take a bath and collect water. Mark his words the water here is really icy cold. On second thought a sponge bath sounds more warm. I had the 'pleasure' to carry 10 liters of water uphill and its tiring. KC was already preparing hot water to make tea and a quick 'instant noodle' to satisfy our hunger which everyone quickly finish. And after that 'power nap' but KC was excited because she is preparing "all in one" dinner called Herbal Fish Vegetable Soup serve with hot piping rice. Sounds Delicious? What took about an hour of preparation was consumed in less than 15 mins. 7.00pm still bright but from a distance dark clouds gathered with the sound of rumbling thunder. Chit chat time... till about 9.00pm and it started to rain so..... crawl into tent to sleep. "listen to the rhythm of the falling rain.... pitter patter pitter patter..wouuuh woh..." nice song.
Wake up 7.00am KC went out to prepare our simple breakfast Fish Porridge (getting very fishy) while the rest started packing their stuff. The weather is fine and fresh from last nights rain. Today's trek to the peak will take about a "slow" 2 hours or a "fast" 1 hour. Just bring enough drinking water and snacks in a small backpack. We left campsite 2 at around 8.15 am. The ascend up is gradually steep again with a few downhills and our first stop was at the Bonsai Garden (8.35 am). The trees here takes up many slanting shapes and sizes as with most mountains due to strong winds and cold weather. There was tree with its bark almost completely strip off on one side possibly due to bears or even big cats. I call this the "scratching pole" for these big four legged friends. Next stop is at Gunung Bintang Kecil (9.20 am Mount Small Star) again taking many photographs and it is noticed from the last stop that there are many species of wild orchids with some of them blooming. Gunung Bintang is another half and hour away. All the way the trek is clean and wide, no climbing involved and this mountain is popular with trekkers from Penang Island. Finally we reach Gunung Bintang around 9.55 am. On a clear cloudless day you can catch a glimpse of Penang famous Komtar Tower and Penang Island but it was not to be as today it is cloudy and misty. Spending time here to relax to take more photos. There are small communication poles with solar charged batteries located around the peak. Most of them damaged by elephants. According to the guides, usually a small herd of elephants would normally arrive from Grik from June onwards for food. And on seeing this man made structure like the communication pole or the signboards they will destroy them. Amazing! And when they go back to Grik they will usually leave behind a young bull elephant to guard the area (outpost guard). Interesting! Now for some hot milo prepare by KC (the ever willing cook) to go with cakes and biscuits. After enjoying the mountainous view its time to descend. My injured knee starts complaining but still have to walk. Returning back to the camp takes a shorter time and more opportunity to take photos. Once we reach Campsite 2, a final pack up took about 20 min and reach Campsite 1 around 1.30 pm. Stop here for a quick lunch and to soothe our sore legs in the cool water of the waterfall. The weather turns for the worse with menacing dark clouds circling above. Left Campsite 1 around 1.40 pm and it started pouring. All along the trail it became slippery downhill from the rain water flow off. This time leeches were having a '24 person' high tea with enough for a second round. Finally reaching our head trail around 3.15 pm. By this time our muscles really ached because of walking in the rain with the muscle cooling down fast. At the 4wd gathering point everyone was inspecting for leeches and was especially found on most juicy part of the body. By the time everyone was ferried to the Sedim Recreation Park it was around 4.30 pm.
Since it is a Sunday the park was filled with visitors. Bath time at the river but be careful since it rained heavily and you will never know when the river would suddenly rise. Left the Sedim Recreation Park around 5.00pm for Nibong Tebal to have sea food especially the "Tu Boo Sung" in hokkien means small octopus and mini sweet & sour sting rays. Since it's the last day of the school holidays we took an extra hour to reach home with the heavy traffic.