With the happy prospect of a long weekend to mark the end of Ramadhan, my friend Helen and I, decided to hike up Gunung Pulai (Mount Pulai) one Saturday morning.
Located 45km to the north of Johor Bahru, this 650m-high “mountain” in Johor has one of the most magnificent primary rainforests in Malaysia. Besides being a haven for flora and fauna, the waterfall and the road to the peak serves as an attraction for nearby residents to enjoy a quick dip or get a good workout.
Mount Pulai is accessible from a village called Kampung Sri Gunung Pulai. We drove all the way up until we arrived at a closed gate. We parked the car nearby for a fee of RM1.00, made our way through an entrance by the side of the gate and proceeded the rest of the way on foot. This road was shut down to traffic some ten years ago after a landslide occurred, killing three village boys who were washed away by the earth, mud and stones. Their bodies were never found.
About 10 minutes into the walk, we came across the archway to the defunct recreation forest. At this point, the road split into two, giving us the choice to continue following the road up (easier but longer way) or taking the scenic but more difficult route by cutting across the rocky stream to the waterfall.
We decided on the tarred road that goes on for 4.8km, taking us from 70m to 650m above sea level.
Along the way, we heard many natural sounds coming from critters of the forest. We encountered many butterflies and birds, including some wild monkeys on the treetops.
Everyone that we passed appeared to be in the best of spirits. There were families with young children, couples, students and even the elderly. It didn’t matter that we were strangers. We would nod, greet and smile at each other, and encourage one another forward. Not far now. Just a little bit more to go. Not longer that 15 minutes. Jia you! (literally meaning “add oil” in Mandarin)
Reaching the top of Gunung Pulai was supposed to have taken only two hours. However, things never seem to go smoothly for me. I began to develop severe muscular leg cramps after the 3.8km stretch. The excruciating pain extended from my toes all the way up to my hips and we were forced to take intermittent breaks until the cramps went away.
There are 3 telecommunications towers at the top, two on the summit, and one a little lower down. The topmost tower is off-limits. However, the air is cool and fresh, and there are some beautiful views of the rainforest below.
The future survival of this recreational forest in unfortunately under threat. With no proper conservation or a structured management programme in place, it is only a matter of time that this magnificent rainforest with its delicate ecosystem will suffer from encroachments like quarrying, illegal logging, hunting and littering.
I am happy to have met a nice gentleman who told us that there are actually two different gateways to the rainforest. He gave us very clear directions for the route with the waterfall.
Then there was the elderly gentleman whom we met near the summit of Mount Pulai. I was cringing with pain from muscular cramps in my left leg. He showed me how to stand with both feet firmly on the ground, knees slightly bent while taking in deep breaths from the stomach area to ease the pressure on the leg muscles.
A little further down the road, another “regular” who was standing on the sidelines told us to walk backwards on our downward hike to ease the strain on our legs.
I finally reached the base 5 hours later with the support of Helen, who helped carry my camera bag most of the time during our way down.
I am looking forward to our next trip there.