Human Mud Pies on MOUNT IRAU

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Flag of Malaysia  , Pahang,
Sunday, September 16, 2012

I've heard and read so much about the beautiful mossy forest on Mount Irau, but dang, no one said anything about the mud!! More on this later...

FR, Kamal, Yong and I took off to Cameron Highlands during the Malaysia Day weekend. The traffic jam into Brinchang was hellish! It was a Saturday and there was a night market going on; the on-off rain was of no help either. Humans and vehicles cramped the narrow streets, giving it a carnival-like atmosphere. But we had expected worst, so none of us made too much fuss that we had to park the car a few hundred meters away from our hotel.

After checking in, the next agenda was FOOD! There's this thing about cold weather - you tend to get hungry all the time! Earlier on our way up to Brinchang, we'd stopped over at Bala's Chalet in Tanah Rata for its famous tea and scones, which was by the way, exceptionally delicious. But not long after we left the place, we were drafting the menu for dinner! And to think we had just left Tanah Rata 30 minutes earlier...well, add another hour to that for the time we got stuck in the crawl into Brinchang. And trust those enterprising Cameron-ians to lay out the perfect bait for us lowland hungry souls: STEAMBOAT!! There are restaurants everywhere, with at least three right below our hotel!! So, bring on that double-soup pot of steaming Tom Yam and Chicken broth filled to the brim with prawns, fish balls, fish cakes, crab-sticks, mushrooms, leafy veggies, tofu and all the wonderful add-ons. Aah... such gastronomical decadence! We ate like there's no tomorrow.

Now back to the mud. It was raining when we set out around half past seven for the drive up the base of the mountain, deep into the BOH tea plantations just outside Brinchang town. We made our way up slowly along the very narrow and winding estate road (fit for light vehicles), occasionally pulling up by the side to give way to speeding oncoming trucks and 4WDs. The gloomy sky seemed determined to dampen our spirits when it brought more rain as we reached the base point. There were already dozens of trekkers taking shelter under a gazebo erected nearby. The four of us stayed in the car, debating whether to push on or turn back. It wasnt a difficult decision to make, really. We have come this far, might as well go all the way.

The starting point was a breeze. We were led up and down a set of boardwalk and sturdy wooden steps a good 200 metres into the forest. Reality hit when we came upon the first obstacle: Thick. Ankle-deep. Icky. Squishy. Muddy. Peat Bog! It was like walking into a booby trap, and that was only the beginning! At every second step, there'll be one lying across the path. Too small to drown in, but too wide to jump across, so like it or not, we plonked right through 'em. Bear Grylls would've been proud! These 'booby traps' made the hike doubly tiring. By the time we got to Mini Irau (false peak), a small clearing at 2,032m, I was turned into a human mud pie, from head to toe! Thankfully by then, the rain has stopped and despite the gloomy weather, it was not too cold. After a brief stop, we pushed on. From here, it's a steep descent deeper into the forest and the trail winds back steeply upwards for about an hour, leading to the summit.

The view from the peak was uninspiring, sad to say, as the clouds obscured the skyline of the Blue Mountain Range. We took a well-deserved break in between the mandatory "We were Here" poses in front of the camera.

We doubled back the same trail, but by this time, all of us were no longer "mud-shy" - as Kamal put it. I was beginning to tire, and lagged behind considerably. FR, the trusted hiking companion that he is, kept company. The end of the trail seemed endless and at the rate we were going, things were not looking too good.  I was already mentally preparing myself to face the possibilty of spending the night in the forest...damn, I forgot the headlamp! But God was Kind and Merciful... No sooner after I spoke my mind out loud, FR turned around to me and said, "I can see the stairs". Phew.

Veni, vidi, vici Mount Irau!

If you're going:
1. Check the weather forecast - chances are it'll be WET!
2. Bring along spare clothes, and rubbish bags for the muddied clothes and hiking boots
3. Forget the insect repellant - not a single mosquito and no leeches!
4. Bring at least 1.5 litres H2O
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