Friday, 31 March 2017

Extreme Benum Dayhike (via Lata Berembun) in 24 Hours


Assembling a team

If you have not heard of Gunung Benum, I’m sure you have heard of Lata Berembun, the famous waterfall located in Sg. Ruan, Raub. Every year around durian season, KL-ites will visit this waterfall, and some companies and schools even conduct their teambuilding here, due to its proximity from KL/Selangor. After all, it’s less than 2hours drive from Gombak toll. Despite being a Raubian myself, I had yet to visit this waterfall, simply because no one among my friends had ever planned such a trip, and the fact that I couldn’t swim deter me from ever feeling excited about waterfall. But hiking a mountain? Well, that is an entirely different story. 

Having lived in Raub for 18 years, I was oblivious to the fact that the mountain I passed by every time on my way from Raub to Bentong is the 10th highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia, and the trail head lies just at Lata Berembun (the mountain is also accessible from Jerantut). Being someone who is always up to challenge, I was interested to hike this mountain someday, but was also discouraged by the fact that there is no clean water source, as I was told. The only drinkable water source after Lata Berembun is at Kem Tikus, but it is ‘teh o’-like. This mean if I were to attempt to climb this mountain, I would need to carry at least 3L of water, or more if I were to camp there. “Not my cup of tea”, I once thought. 

Cut to February 2017, when Chin decided to organise a day hike to Benum in August. Since he had yet to conquered this mountain, he had decided to survey the trail beforehand. Tagging along this hiking trip is Sebastian, Uncle Mak, Bobby, Callchun and Eunice, and after much persuading from Eunice, I finally decided to join them. Instead of putting the mountain into my bucket list, isn’t it better to just grab the chance and climb it when given the opportunity? 

Action always beats intention

Update 2018: Please note that the water at Kem Tikus is not recommended for drinking. Not only that it's "teh-o" like, it is still water (not running river water), and so risks of contamination is very high. It is therefore recommended to get your water supply from Lata Berembun waterfall. 

Getting there

Since it was a last-minute decision to hike Benum, flight ticket was rather expensive, hence I decided to take bus instead. I reached TBS at 2am on Saturday morning and Chin was there to pick me up. We then drove to McDonald's Petronas Taman Melati to meet up with the rest of the team, before departing to Bentong for early breakfast. We reached Bentong town in less than an hour since it was still early and the highway was smooth like butter. 

Breakfast - Shu Shi Fen @ Bentong
We had our breakfast at the famous Bentong’s Shu Shi Fen, which literally translates as 'tree dung’ noodle. Tree dung is a term used by the locals to refer to latex. The stall was named such a way as majority of its customers back in the olden days were rubber tapper who work at midnight. Although the stall now caters to customers from all walks of life, it continues to be known as “Shu Shi Fen”, the identity it has taken on for decades. The stall offers beehoon, mee, glutinous rice, and side dishes like fried wanton, fried beancurd skin, fish balls and curry and is open from 8pm to 8am. To find this place, just google or waze “Jalan Pasar, 28700 Bentong, Pahang”

Although Eunice had bought me some onigiri and prepared bread to go along with the 'bakwa' I sponsored, we decided to also pack glutinous rice for lunch as well. After all, it’s a mountain we are new to and we do not know how long we will be stuck inside, so it’s a safer bet to bring extra food, just in case. 

Arriving on a 4wd (Photo credit: Chin)
We continued our journey after breakfast and reached Sg. Chalit’s BH Petrol at 5.30am. It’s approximately 30-40minutes drive from Bentong town. We were supposed to meet with the 4wd driver at 6am, and since we were ahead of time, we took a much-needed nap in the car. At 6am, the 4wd arrived and after loading the truck with our bags, we proceeded to the trail head. It was a very bumpy ride towards Lata Berembun, and surprisingly I enjoyed it a lot, albeit having to duck every now and then to avoid tree branches. After a one-hour bumpy ride, we finally reached Lata Berembun. It’s approximately 200m away from the campsite and after unloading our belongings and bidding goodbye to the driver, we walked towards the campsite to set up our tent.  



The plan is to conquer the summit in a day and to return to the campsite by night fall, where we would spend a night, hence having Sunday morning for Lata Berembun waterfall, before heading back to KL. 

Lata Berembun waterfall (Photo credit: Chin)


The challenge begins

Done setting up tent, ready to go (Photo credit: Uncle Mak)
Leaving our spare clothes and food ration (for dinner) in the tent we set up, we leave at 8am to start our descent. However, since it’s everyone’s first time there, we got a little lost trying to find the trail at the beginning. Benum is not a popular hiking destination among hikers despite its proximity to KL and Selangor, due to its water source problem. Therefore, the trail was not very clear unlike other popular mountains frequently weekly (if not daily). We (or rather leader Chin doing the hard work) wasted 45 minutes trying to search for the trail and finally found it across the river. 

At the trail head while Chin and Sebastian looked for the trail (Photo credit: Eunice)


One thing to note though, is that there are many leeches at the trail head, waiting to prey on your feet, so you should be prepared for this and apply necessary ointment/medication to prevent leeches, if desired. Callchun and Bobby both were well prepared with some ointment and spray which was said to be extremely effective to prevent leeches and I managed to get some sprays on my legs, hence successfully safeguarded my feet. However, the guys weren’t so lucky as their feet became a feast party to the leeches. 

River crossing (Photo credit: Chin)
Crossing the river, one by one (Photo credit: Chin)
After crossing the river, we began ascending towards Kem Tikus. Chin led the way with Sebastian and Uncle following closely behind them, while Eunice and I stayed in the middle and Callchun and Bobby had our back covered. The way towards Kem Tikus is an ascent all the way up with rather steep escalation, which got me by surprise. If this is the way it is going to be, a camping trip would be very exhausting, with such heavy load on your back (and carrying water for drinking and cooking). I was glad we didn’t have to camp anyway up there, be it the peak or Kem Tikus.  

Wefie wefie all the way (Photo credit: Mak)
Lunch time (Photo credit: Eunice)

My signature pouty mouth pose (Photo credit: Uncle Mak)

After 3 hours of climb, we stop at one of the false peak for lunch break.  The weather was great that day as it wasn’t sunny, but as with any other day in Malaysia’s weather, it was stuffy and I decided to take off my arm sleeves. After all, the track is mostly covered by trees and I won’t be exposed to the sun directly. I didn’t finish my lunch in that 10-15 minutes break as I was still feeling full from breakfast and it’s still early. I kept the remaining half of my glutinous rice for fuelling up later along the way, and continue my ascent towards Kem Tikus, making only short stops for photo taking, whenever I see pitcher plants 

Note: when you start to see pitcher plants, it’s a sign that you are nearing Kem Tikus, so keep going and don’t give up





Never ending false peaks

I finally reached Kem Tikus at 12.40pm, where I was greeted by the three gentlemen (Chin, Sebastian and Uncle Mak) who reached earlier, with Eunice, Callchun and Bobby closely right behind me. The small campsite was occupied by a group of Malay hikers led by a guide called Anastatia (Ana). They had ascended the day before and the members (sans the leader) had already left Kem Tikus towards the peak and they would return to spend a night here later that night, before making their way back to Lata Berembun the following day. 

Reached Kem Tikus (Photo credit: Chin)
Yay! Halfway mark (Photo credit: Uncle Mak)

Chin’s initial plan is to ascend via Kem Tikus to the peak and descend back to Lata Berembun via Kem Bulat (a different trail which is shorter). However, after talking to Ana, and evaluating the time needed for all of us to reach the summit, he suggested to change the plan and return via the same way (Kem Tikus) instead. This is because it would be dark when we descend via Kem Bukat after summiting and it is safer to follow the same way down instead since we had paper marking. Better longer hike, than a dangerous night hike, huh? We all agreed to the change of plan. 

Whatever we do, safety comes first. Safety is first, safety is always


With Ana (Photo credit: Chin)
After some rests and photos at Kem Tikus, we left to continue our ascent at 1pm. Bobby who was sleep deprived and was not in a good condition, decided to stay and wait for us at Kem Tikus instead. Since Ana is there to wait for the team, he’s got company and we left him there without worries. The trail from Kem Tikus onwards is very different from earlier. Not only that it is steeper, there are also way too many false peaks. Rumour has it that there are 35 false peaks in total, and Ana who had been here for several occasions commented earlier that she counted as much as 22 false peaks from Kem Tikus to the summit. This means that we would need to go up and down 20-30 times, to get to the summit. That’s not only physically exhausting, but mental killing as well. I initially tried to count the number of false peaks, but it got too demotivating after several false peaks that I eventually gave up counting. 

Who's the ghost behind us? (Photo credit: Chin)
We first stayed in the pack and waited for each other at every false peak before continuing our hike, but after some time, Chin started to get worried of our progress. At that rate we would reach the peak pretty late and would be hiking in the dark for longer than we expected. We finally decided to move at our own pace but to always stay alert. Sebastian was the fastest and he sped off in time, once he started moving at his own pace. After some time, I also overtook Eunice and went off following Sebastian, but he was too fast that he’s nowhere to be seen. Chin, albeit being the fastest among all of us had taken his time to hike along Eunice and Uncle Mak, while Callchun who was sleep deprived took a nap while we went ahead first. I was hiking alone for more than an hour, before I started to feel panic and worried that I had taken the wrong way. I kept shouting our signal, over and over again, hoping to hear from the frontline (Sebastian) or from behind me (the rest) but no avail. Just as decided to turn around to search for the rest, Chin emerged and I felt a great relief. I was not lost, and I’m finally not alone! LOL.

Resting on a rock (photo credit: Chin)
Having photography enthusiasts hiking alongside you is such a bless, ‘cos I get to have some nice photos taken. Not to mention that Eunice, the wefie queen wasn’t around to take some wefie, and I was too lazy to dig my phone out from my backpack. I should really get a waist pouch for my phone. Next hike, perhaps. I was also glad to have Chin with me for about an hour, as the trail was such a mood killer, as we hiked up and down multiple false peaks. Imagine hiking up long steep trail that is almost 60-70 degree, only to reach a false peak each time, and greeted with the view of another one of two peaks right in front of you, but the trail ahead is going downwards. 

There is no shortcut to any place worth going

That was what we gone through that day, for at least 20-ish times. Life’s like a roller coaster ride, no doubt, at least when you hike a mountain like this. Thankfully, I still managed to perk up at the sight of pitcher plants as we go higher and higher up, with some of them even bigger and longer than my face. 

Look... it's longer than my face! (Photo credit: Chin)
We reached Periuk around 3.30pm and per Chin’s estimate, it’s about 1 to 1.5 hour away to the peak from here, so after taking some photos (research for him, memories for me), we continued our journey, and after 30 minutes later, we met Sebastian who was taking a break. Turned out, he had felt lonely and demotivated with the never ending false peak, and had planned to make a u turn if none of us turned up by 4.30pm. He had waited there for almost 40 minutes while taking some rest. He was also worried that the peak’s still far away since the Malay group who went several hours ahead of us, had yet to come back. After Chin assured us that we should not be too far away from the peak (judging by our elevation as indicated on his Garmin watch), the three of us moved together, while making occasional short breaks along the way (I was getting tired).

Periuk (pot) and Cerek (kettle) (Photo credit: Chin)
Wefie with Chin (Photo credit: Chin)

Peak… finally!

Eventually, I started to slowed down due to exhaustion and at some point, decided to urge to boys to go ahead first and to signal me once they reach the summit. It seemed to me that we were about 2-3 false peaks away and I was hoping that I was right and I would be motivated to move forward if I had heard them calling out for me from the summit. Following the paper marking left by Chin, I slowly dragged myself going up and down one false peak then another, until I finally heard some noises. I called out to the source of the voice, asking if I’m nearing the peak. I heard noises responding to me and it sounded like more than 2 persons. Uh-huh! That must be the Malay hikers. With greater motivation, I held my breath and raced (okay, more like walking at a faster pace) up the peak. As I reached the peak, Sebastian was there filming me with his GoPro and Chin was standing aside, chatting with the Malay hikers. Finally… I made it! 

Three idiots? (photo credit: Chin)
Photo credit: Chin

Mossy

It was 5.25pm, and Sebastian had reached 10 minutes before me, while Chin made it up to the peak at around 5pm. Like… seriously, what do you guys eat to be this fast? Being out of breath, we sat there for a little while, while enjoying the beautiful scenery. The signboard is just several steps away, so after getting enough rest, we head towards the signage for photos. As we are 2107m high, there are mossy everywhere, it’s breathtaking!


With Leader Chin (Photo credit: Chin)
With cheeky boy Sebastian (Photo credit: Chin)
At the peak of Benum (Photo credit: Chin)
We continue to rest at the open ground area after our photo session, in order to rejuvenate ourselves. It was already late and we would need to hike in the dark later, so we thought it would be wiser to recharge ourselves before descending. While we were up there, we heard some noises from below, and had a gut feeling that it would be Uncle Mak who is summiting. But being too tired to respond, we didn’t call out to him, believing he would continue to make his way up here. As the Malay group began to descend, someone emerged from the bushes, and we were expecting to see Uncle Mak, only to be surprised - it was Callchun who made it up to the peak!

Opening champagne (Photo credit: Sebastian)
Turned up, Callchun caught up to Eunice, then Uncle Mak after he had gotten his much-needed nap. Similar to me earlier, Uncle Mak had been hiking all by himself for some time and had been unsure whether he is too far behind. He made a u-turn thinking he wouldn’t stand a chance to make it to the peak, and met Callchun. Well, that’s what never ending false peaks do to people. They kill your motivation! Believing that they are not that far from the summit, Callchun encouraged Uncle Mak and Eunice to continue hiking, and try their very best, only to make a u-turn shall they bump into us who returned from the peak. They continued to hike until a point when Uncle Mak and Eunice decided to give up. Not willing to give up so easily, Callchun continued by his own, while the two of them waited on the side of the track, while making tea and recharging their depleted energy. It was such a pity, since they were not too far from the peak. Probably another 20 minutes or so?
         
Many life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up

Since Callchun is here, Sebastian took out the champagne (actually, just a sparkling wine) he had in his bag, and we head back to the signage for some celebratory toast. It was already 6.30pm by the time we were done, and after taking some more photos, we decided to make our descent. It’s gonna be harder to hike in the dark and it’s better to meet up with the team as soon as possible. As we descended halfway, we bumped into Uncle Mak and Eunice who were ascending to the summit. Turned out, the Malay hikers who were on their way back to Kem Tikus had passed by them and shared that it’s only a mere 20 minutes away from the peak, urging them to keep going. That’s the way it is! *fist bump*



Chin had offered to lead them up, while the rest of us took a rest at where they rested earlier. Sebastian, Callchun and I sat down and had our tea and refreshment, while applying muscle cream to our feet. It was a tiring hike, and we took the opportunity to rest.

A night at Kem Tikus

When the trio returned 30-40 minutes later, and we took out our head lights and prepared to return to Kem Tikus. Although every one of us have different pace, we decided to stick together since the sun is setting and it would be dangerous to hike alone in the dark. Our way back to Kem Tikus ain’t easy since we need to go through 20-ish false peaks again. Never ending ups and downs, just like how we came in the morning, but in reversed order. 

What goes up must come down

As the sky turned dark, I began to have problem with my eye sight and since we had hiked for about 12 hours, Uncle Mak who is the most senior among us began to feel exhausted. With the two of us dragging the team down, we only reach Periuk at 10.30pm, the time we expect to have reach Kem Tikus. We took multiple short breaks at almost every false peaks after Periuk, in order to rest, and by the time we reached Kem Tikus, it was already half an hour past midnight.    

Bobby was thrilled to finally saw us after 12 hours. Ana’s group which we had overtook along the way had yet to reach, but Ana had prepared us dinner, knowing we would be starving. After assuring us that she really had extra food for us, she passed us the black pepper chicken rice which she cooked to perfection. She even offered part of her fly ground for us to spend a night. In the end, we decided to sleep there for few hours, before returning to Lata Berembun. We woke up at 4am, and after downing some hot Milo, we packed our bags and gears and left Kem Tikus. Ana and her teammate were still asleep at that time, so we left without saying goodbye. I’m sorry Ana, for leaving without saying goodbye, and thanks for your kindness. I hope that good karma will come your way. 

 Do good and good will come to you

Descending like a zombie to Lata Berembun

It was 4:50am when we left Kem Tikus and the sky was still pitch dark. With our head lights on, we slowly made our way towards Lata Berembun. Uncle Mak who had gotten some sleep had recovered his energy, but I was still struggling to see properly in the dark. Well, it’s not that my vision is poorly impaired in the dark, but I had a hard time gauging the condition of the trail, hence I had no confidence to descend fast. We were therefore split into two group. Callchun and Bobby had descended earlier in order to reach the campsite first, where they could cook some soup for everyone. The rest of us moved in a pack with Chin leading the way while Sebastian got our back covered. I was feeling guilty for dragging the team down as I was extremely slow hiking in the dark. 

But once the sun began to rise, I could finally see better. As the sky cleared up, I turned off my head lights, and began to dash off. Chin and Uncle Mak who was ahead of me was surprised that I became a totally different person in the day and at night. Well, there’s always two sides to a coin, right? *wink* Finally, at 8.30am, we reached the river. Yay! That means we were still 15 minutes away to be able to still call this hike a day hike, since it’s only a quick 5-10 minutes walk to Lata Berembun campsite. Mission accomplish? *grin*

Yay, reached trailhead (Photo credit: Sebastian)

Goodbye Benum, once is probably enough

As soon as I reached the campsite, I quickly head over to the waterfall to clean my shoes and feet. I then went to the tent to grab my shampoo and shower gel, so that I would clean up myself at the waterfall. When I’m finally done, I went back to the tent to change my clothes and pack my belongings. Only then did I realised that I was bitten by leeches. Yucks! I managed to avoid leeches during the hike, only to be bitten by them when I’m cleaning myself at the waterfall… *heartbroken*
After getting rid of the leeches, I helped Eunice to dismantle the tent and to pack everything up. We then went to drink the seaweed soup prepared by Callchun and Bobby. The guys who had gotten ready way earlier (girls always take longer), were already lying on the hut and hammock, to get their nap. 

Group photo at waterfall (Photo credit: Sebastian)
As scheduled, our 4wd arrived to pick us up at 11am, and after taking a group photo at the waterfall and 4wd, we bid farewell to this mountain. Another one hour of bumpy ride, and we were finally out. We were dropped at the petrol station where our cars were parked. We then drove to Bukit Tinggi for lunch before returning to KL. Sebastian then dropped me at the airport, while on his way back to Melaka. I boarded the flight back to Senai Airport (JB) and took the shuttle bus to JB sentral, where I crossed over to Singapore. 





Epilogue

This is by far, my toughest day hike ever. We completed the hike in 23hours 50minutes, just 10minutes to 24 hours. This includes 4 hours of sleep at Kem Tikus. It was a necessary change in our plan, and I was glad we didn’t insist on hiking down in that condition. We were also lucky to have not encounter any rain during our hike, although Bobby did mention that it rained at Kem Tikus. Hmmmm, does my raining jinx still apply then? 

Although being my toughest day hike so far, it’s a hike I glad I joined. It wouldn’t have been enjoyable if I were to hike this mountain in a big group. What’s tough isn’t the steepness of the trail but the never ending false peaks which were such a mood killer. I couldn’t imagine anyone doing this solo, and I was relieved that Chin actually didn’t end up surveying this mountain on this own, although I’m pretty sure it would be easy cake to him. 

It was a long way to the peak and an equally long one to come back down. But the journey was made less lonely and more enjoyable, simply because I was surrounded with some amazing companions. After all…

No road is long with good company

Thanks guys! See you all next hike :)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thank you for reading all the way till the end. Too much info and you just want a summarised itinerary but too lazy to scroll back up? Well, here’s a summary I’ve drafted up for you. Hope it helps you with your planning.

Itinerary:

**Disclaimer: Below are my timing according to my speed. So please take it with a grain of salt, as everyone is different. Have fun climbing the 10th highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia! *wink*

Day Hike (4/3/2017)
Total distance travelled: 24km (one river crossing)
0315 - depart from KL
0400 - breakfast at Bentong
0530 - reach Sg Chalit's BH Petrol
0615 - 4wd ride to Lata Berembun
0715 - reach Lata Berembun, set up tent
0845 - ascend from trail head, one river crossing
1130 - 10mins lunch break
1240 - reach Kem Tikus
1300 - leave Kem Tikus
1530 - reach Periuk
1725 - reach Benum peak
1830 - descend from peak
1850 - 30mins tea break
1920 - continue descend to Kem Tikus
2230 - reach Periuk
0030 - reach Kem Tikus, dinner, sleep
0450 - leave Kem Tikus
0840 - reach Lata Berembun trail head, wash up, pack
1100 - 4wd pick up
1230 - return to KL


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


-Thanks for reading-


Related Articles

9 comments:

  1. read through, good as a references.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading! Enjoy your hike *wink*

      Delete
  2. One of the best precise and detailed blog content for a mountain i'm going to try on 6th october!! thanks a lot cat! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No worries. Thanks for the compliment and happy hiking. May you be blessed with good weather that day, Enjoy the hike, and good luck, my friend!

      Delete
  3. A good write up on your Benum trip. We have tried submitting Mount Benum on a day hike but failed. Here is my blog, https://vincetham.tk/2019/01/25/mount-benom-g10/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry to hear about your experience. But fret not! The mountain is always there and you will be back stronger. Wishing you a smooth journey for your next attempt! :)

      Delete
  4. Hi, do u have the contact number of the 4wd driver? thanks alot!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, unfortunately I don't as it was contacted by my guide friend

      Delete
  5. I impressed with your article. Tq for sharing amazing place. Keep on updating
    For more beautiful places visit:
    Island
    Angkor Wat
    Top Tourist Places
    Best Temples

    Places To see In Angkor Watt
    Thing to do in Siem Reap
    Summer vaction

    ReplyDelete

Powered by Blogger.