SINGAPORE – One day after the relaxing but very rewarding Mt. Panti dayhike, we proceeded to Gunung Ledang in the town of Tangkak, still in Johor but very near the state border with Malacca. This very popular mountain is legendary in Malaysian culture, with perhaps the same significance as Tagalogs have for Mt. Makiling. At 1276m (and with over 1200 m altitude gain), it is also a formidable hike.
After breakfast of nasi ayam, we left the town of Tangkak at around 0730H, and arrived at the Gunung Ledang National Park headquarters just before 0800H. Impressively, as Gunung Ledang is a taman negara (national park), the rangers are very strict and you have to declare everything you’re going to bring up to the mountain – down to the last battery and plastic wrapper – and show them again when you get down, to ensure that Leave No Trace principles are followed – or else get a heavy fine!
We started the trek at 0820H. Rather conveniently, the trail is divided into 8 ‘CPs’ or checkpoints. From the trailhead to until the junction past CP 3, the trail is straightforward and well established, gradually ascending into a forest reminiscent of Mt. Banahaw or Mt. Isarog. CP4 is completely bypassed. Past the junction, a right turn descends to C5, which has a water source is the traditional place for lunch.
From there, the trail gets progressively more challenging and steep, and begins to feature steel ladders – and then the real highlight of the hike: the rock face that one has to negotiate with the aid of ropes.
Past this section, however, the hike is not yet over,with CPs 6 and 7, as well as 8 (the summit itself) still a bit of a distance. The trail this time, however, is considerably easier and does not pose further technical challenges (save for more ladders). Moreover, it offers rewards to the nature lover, like, in my case, a sighting of a group of Rhinoceros hornbills (Buceros rhinoceros) in flight! By 1230H we had reached the summit – after four hours of hiking.
At the summit – which once again reminded me of Banahaw’s Durungawan I – there is a view of the other peaks of the Gunung Ledang range, which is actually at the southern tailend of the much-bigger Titiwangsa Range that extends all the way to Southern Thailand. Had the weather been clearer I’m sure we would have seen the other major mountains of Peninsular Malaysia, but given the time of the year and the recent weather, we already consider ourselves very lucky that it didn’t rain throughout the weekend.
We didn’t stay too long at the summit, mindful that Sunday night will be horrible for crossing back to Singapore. Fortunately, since we took a different route from the summit, we no longer had to go to CP 5 which would have involved an ascent to go back to the junction. The descent, thus, was very straightforward, and it took us less than three hours to return to the trailhead. As a great bonus, we saw the rare slipper orchid endemic to Gunung Ledang – Paphiopdilum barbatum – which our guide claimed to never have seen in the two years he’s been guiding.
True enough the crossing back to SG was quite an ordeal because of so many people, but I wouldn’t trade our hiking weekend in Johor for anything in Singapore! Thanks to this trip my desire to climb the mountains of Malaysia has returned, and I will surely try to add to my 2/12 record of the G12, and, to use a sports metaphor, open my G7 account soon. Thanks, once again, to the SG-based Pinoys who joined us in this memorable adventure – and to Pip Maalihan for organizing!
Note: Some photos are courtesy of Foncy Cunanan.
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