Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kuala Lumpur's Hidden Fall: Apeh Hill Waterfall

Apeh Hill, 4th June 2011, First time I have gone to this place famous for weekend hikers of all ages in Kuala Lumpur. Located within Taman Saga in Ampang, it apparently hides one of the closest waterfalls to Kuala Lumpur and true to its nature, the trail head itself can be quite difficult to find among the hive of housing estates if you are not a local yourself. :p

If you are equipped with a GPS, look for Jalan Saga 28 in Ampang, this should lead you straight to a metal ladder taking you up to the trail that leads up to Saga Hill. If you are not equipped and need directions, then it gets pretty ‘messy’. ;) But here goes…

Starting from the MRR2, take the exit out into Jalan Kuari. Road signs should be quite distinct as it is one of the main arteries leading into the Cheras ‘hive’. Drive along Jalan Kuari passing about 3 traffic lighted junctions before you reach the first roundabout. Take the 3 o’clock turn into Jalan Mawar 15. Proceed down the road until you reach the 2nd roundabout where you’ll have to take the turn at 12 o’clock going into Jalan Bunga Melati 8. Keep going until you reach a traffic lighted T-junction. Turn right and head down Jalan Teratai 1/2 until you see another traffic light not far away. Take a left and you’ll be on Jalan Teratai 1/1. You’ll have to go almost to the end of the road before you find the turning into Jalan Melur on your right. Take the next right and you’ll be on Jalan Saga 5. Drive all the way down the length of the road and it will connect with Jalan Saga 29. Turn right. Proceed down this road until you can make a left turn whereby you’ll now be on Jalan Saga 22. There will be a small mound on your right where you’ll see a kindergarten and play ground of some sort. Most visitors to the hike would park here and continue down the road on foot to the start point, otherwise you can drive straight down and you’ll finally hit Jalan Saga 28 with the metal ladder spanning a drain leading up the trail head.

The metal ladder on Jalan Saga 28, marking the starting point of our hike to Apeh Hill Waterfall...

We reached the start point after parking our cars in the surrounding housing estate at about 10am, a little bit late by most standards, no thanks to the maze we have to weave through to get to the site. As usual, we have had breakfast at a local mamak stall to charge up our batteries before we went. The ‘car park’ on the small mound by Jalan Saga 22 was filled to the brim and we could see groups of people already coming back from their early morning hike. Some of these people are surprisingly elderly, deceptively masking the actual difficulty of this particular hike!

For this expedition, we have Aurelius leading the pack with our trusty trail blazer Dennis showing us the way. Our resident troublemaker and ‘renowned’ filmmaker, Linus Chung was on stage as well, although thankfully, we had Carol to temper his sometimes suicidal tendencies. Others in the group included veteran hikers Chris Kok and Sum as well as newcomers Tracy Loh, Pey Chern, Sean Shienrun, Jady Ong and Sum’s younger brother. We even have a ‘mat salleh’ tagging along courtesy of Mr. Linus Chung.
The jungle canopy on the slopes of Saga Hill

After the ladder, we passed some small shelters housing stalls set up by enterprising people selling drinks and refreshments to tired hikers. Just starting the hike, we skipped these for the time being, passing some large ponds on the right. Immediately, Saga Hill loomed overhead starting with a trail of cement steps to lead the way up.

There are actually 3 trails going up to Saga Hill, labeled track A, B and C. Track B is the longest, followed by track C, while track A offers the most shortest and direct route up to Saga Hill. The trail branch can be reached shortly after the flight of cement steps end, there are plenty of signs posted on trees to show the way. Somehow, our group missed the signs and following Aurelius, we ended up on trail C. The hike up on this trail was surprisingly tough, the route rising at inclinations of between 30o to 45o!

Certain parts of the climb requires the use of ropes... it's that steep!

It was a real test of endurance which took its toll on Aurelius and a few others. We paused a few times for them to catch up. A little bit more than an hour later, we reached the summit of Saga Hill, crowned by the characteristic triangle constructed of metal sheets and surrounded by what looked like a camp site.
The Saga Hill Camp Site...

Surprisingly, there were a lot of people at this site and even more surprisingly, there were a few stone ‘bar-bells’ lying about!
Hmmm... thinking... barbells on the floor... should I 'curl'? ;)

We stayed here a while, admiring the view of the valley below and catching our breath. It was getting close to noon before we decide on our next move. Aurelius made the decision not to continue to the falls which was originally our destination for this expedition, citing time constraints for his subsequent activities. ;) Linus on the other hand was adamant on heading straight to the waterfall. Yours truly, who organized the trip chose to side Linus. And so the bulk of the group continued down the track from the Saga Hill summit following the clearly marked trail to the waterfall. Aurelius, Tracy and Chris went down the hill to ‘await’ our return. ;)

The trail from Saga Hill to the waterfall was unexpectedly long. Told by some hikers to be about 45 minutes long it took almost another hour to get there! It started rather easy enough on a flat plane before the trail rises up to another hill, which I believe to be Apeh Hill. Then it goes down where we were unexpectedly attacked by stinging wasps from some hive close to the track! Sean, Sum and our resident mat Salleh were stung while the rest got away unscathed. We continued down, clambering over a couple of fallen tree trunks and passing yet another wasp hive (this time prominently placed on the base of a tree stump right on the track) before reaching the foot of the hill where a stream passes through.

We were one hour into the hike from the hill and it looked very clearly that we will have difficulty returning back to the trail head where Aurelius was waiting for us. We didn’t know how far the waterfall was here and after all that hiking and dodging wasps, some of us were rather reluctant to just give up and turn back. Once again, Linus offered to scout ahead, telling us to give him 15 minutes for him to return with good news. In the meantime, Carol and Jady ‘attended’ to Sum who was groaning and moaning about the stinger embedded on his head by extracting it.

15 minutes passed and there was no Linus in sight. Dennis and I started to get restless and told the others that we would go ahead to find him. It didn’t take long before we spotted the long haired dude balancing himself over a series of logs, heading back to us. Reassuringly, he told us the falls weren’t that far from where we were.

Unfortunately, there was no hand phone signal at this point to contact our ‘kungfu’ panda waiting at the trail head. So we risked his ‘wrath’ by going ahead… balancing ourselves on the logs before getting our feet wet at another stream.
Another stream to cross before we reach our goal!

The elusive falls lay just beyond the stream over some flat ground at a small depression.
The approach to Apeh Hill Waterfall...

...with what looked like Genghis Khan's Mongol horde camped below... ;)

The number of people there however took us by surprise. There were more than 30 people there setting up camp by the falls, a large number of them rather ‘elderly’, going about their business drying up clothing and cooking, no… FRYING of all things, YONG TAU FOO!
Cooking YONG TAU FOO in the jungle?! I want one too! ;)

Indeed, it looked like home away from home for these people with kids running around the place well. We doubted these people hauled up all their tents, stoves, cooking oil, sacks of rice and others via the way we went and suspected that they probably came from the other reputedly ‘closed’ route outside Jalan Wangsa 1/6.

The falls itself consists of a wall of water tumbling over a precipice wide enough for 4 or 5 people to stand side by side.
Searching for inner peace... ;)

The pool beneath wasn’t big or deep enough to swim in. The water was however, refreshingly cool and after waiting for the ‘residents’ to have their turn at the falls, it was time for us to move in.

We took turns to enjoy the ‘rewards’ of our labors.
Mat Salleh, Sum and myself... ;)

Group Photo at the Falls...

At length, some of us chatted with the camp people all the while stealing a ‘sniff’ at the tasty smell of fried yong tau foo.

Around 2pm, we packed up and head back, moving quickly in the hope of avoiding the possible rain brought down by the threatening clouds overhead. We reached the trail head via track A only to be informed via sms that Aurelius, Chris and Tracy had gone home. ;)
Clambering down the slope with ropes via track A, it's even more steeper than track C though definitely shorter...

Taking in Dennis into my car, we went to Ampang’s famous Yong Tau Foo for lunch, the lingering smell of the dish fried in the jungle imparting to us subliminally the destination to quench our hunger.
Subliminal message! Where else to get good Yong Tau Foo other than in Ampang? ;)

Overall, despite the surprising toughness of the trail and unexpected extension of time to the expedition, we generally enjoyed ourselves. Aurelius, despite fuming at our ‘tardiness’ still managed to participate in our next expedition and we all can safely notch off yet another waterfall conquered in yet another corner of Klang Valley! Onward! ;)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lepak at Lepok Waterfall, Ulu Langat

Saturday, 18th June 2011, Another day another hike to yet another fall in the pristine countryside! :D This round, we have chosen to revisit Lepok waterfall in Hulu Langat, although this is the first time I am blogging about it. ;)

My last trip to Lepok, 15th August 2010

I have actually visited this waterfall a year before in 2010 on a previous expedition, finding this waterfall unique with it's fair sized ‘slide’ for you to zip down into a pool of water at the bottom. Of course, this is without neglecting the extra advantage of having a nicely paved road leading to a fairly reasonable car park at the start of the trail leaving me with hardly a worry about damaging my ‘ride’ which has become quite a concern for me these days if I end up having to provide 'transport' for our trips. ;)

The team met up at 730am in TTDI’s Devi’s Corner for breakfast, 11 brave souls mustering for this expedition consisting of our courageous founder (and kungfu panda), Aurelius Teo, seasoned hikers; Aaron Chung, Carol, Eu Jin, Yee Wei, Cheah; newcomers; Shienrun, Pey Chern, Choy Foong, Clay and last but not least yours truly well. After loading up our carbohydrates, we set off for Ulu Langat, traveling along the network of highways that crisscross the Klang Valley to first reach Phoenix Plaza in Cheras. From there, we went through the toll leading towards Kajang, immediately veering to the left and following the signboards pointing to Kampung Batu 9 and Pangsun. Here is where the scene changes from the affluent neighborhoods of TTDI to the familiar kampung environs of rural Malaysia.

A single carriage trunk road leads the way towards sleepy hamlet of Pangsun, unusually busy with large multi-axled lorries plying the route but also not without the characteristic SLOW drivers enjoying their Saturday morning drive in their clanky, old, battered, rusty Proton Iswaras, seemingly all too oblivious to the procession of vehicles trailing behind. Oh well... :p

Fortunately, as we neared the fork that takes us away from the main road leading towards Pangsun, the traffic thins out significantly leaving us with clear roads ahead. At this point, the sound of the flowing river running alongside the road begins to fills the ears. In this rural paradise, crystal clear waters flow over polished river rocks, the sun’s gentle morning rays giving the water an added silver sparkle. Do yourself a favor by winding down the windows, allowing the fresh mist drenched air fills your lungs which is a mostly certainly refreshing experience! ;)

About 3km from Pangsun, we found the fork, a signboard with the words ‘Asli Adventure Camp, Sungai Lepoh’ confirming the prompts from my ‘not-so-trusty’ GPS unit. ;) The narrow but otherwise very good conditioned paved road goes on for another 2km passing small wooden houses and other adventure camps before we finally arrived at the farthest point our cars can take us, a wide open space just beneath a large arch leading to the ‘Asli Adventure Camp’ itself.

You can park your cars on the graveled sides here. Depending on ‘luck’ you might be approached by someone to pay a RM2 fee for parking. We paid for it the first time we were here, although this time there was no one in sight. We alighted our car and prepared to move on by foot but not before we witnessed this huge group of scouts marching in file in the general direction of our final destination! I called out to one of them to ask and was told that indeed, Lepok waterfall was going to be their destination although not before they head up to a ‘hill’ first. Looks like it’s not going to be lonely weekend hike for us after all, eh? ;)

We set off after the scouts, right after we took our customary group photos. Unfortunately, we did not have any of our ‘professional’ DSLR wielding photographers in our group, and with Aurelius appearing to have long since retired from his usual role of being our chief ‘cam-whore’, we have to make do with Eu Jin’s IPhone and my trusty Nokia N97 to make up the shortfall instead. :p
Trail Tracker's Traditional Pre-trip Group Photo! :D

Leaving the car park at 9:50am, we moved down the track alongside the river having to cross a shallow stream almost immediately, in the process getting our feet wet.
Getting our feet wet...

The 2km track to Lepok is oriented generally on a north-south axis so if you kept on heading ‘north’ you should be fine. The next stream was spanned by a rickety wooden bridge, which we reached after passing through an open area surrounded by tall ‘lalang’ grass, beyond which the jungle path truly commences.
Traversing over a rickety wooden bridge... march on!

The trail inclines upwards for a few hundred meters, with deep gouges made by motorcycle tyres in the laterite soil ushering us onwards.
First rise of the trail... fairly decent ;)

Durian orchards dot the left and the right of the trail after this incline, the place all these motorcycles have been plying up and down the trail from and to. We passed a small reed hut on the right along the way, a landmark to confirm that we were on the right track before reaching a clearing in the jungle where we met a fork in the trail.
The Hut in the middle of the durian farm... the last time I was here, there was a man selling durians by the 'longgok'... this time, nobody :p

The clearing in the jungle. Watch for the familiar white and red striped ribbons. They lead the way to the falls...

We took the trail to the right where those white and red striped ribbons now appear on the branches of surrounding trees. After this point comes the first and only ‘challenge’ of the trail, a long steep slope that we have to negotiate...
The most challenging part of the hike! The scramble up a long rather steep slope...

The climb slowed our pace a little but overall we didn't encounter any problems although on the way back from the falls, we did encounter quite a number of hikers pausing for breath along the slope, the ‘challenge’ appearing to be too ‘much’ to bear for some… ;)
Along the slope, there were a few tree trunks that straddle across, requiring a little 'heave-ho' to clear...

After clambering up the slope for about 30 minutes, a large metal pipe will appear on your left leading up to what appeared to be a disused ‘dam’, akin to what you might have encountered above Kem Lolo on the Nuang Trail, though in worse condition.

An abandoned 'house' can be seen just at the side of the ‘dam’, also reminding me of a similar construct at Kem Lolo Dam, making it another notable landmark on the trail.
Landmark! ;) An abandoned 'house' by the remains of a 'dam'... a rather (haunting) place to spend the night... :p

We pressed on, skirting along the side of the river, clearing over some boulders along the way. By now, the din of cascading water can be heard through the sounds of the jungle; we are close. ;) 2 hours after we started, we finally arrived at Lepok to discover that it was JAM PACKED with over 30 people bathing in the waterfall! ;)
Civilization finding it's way into the jungle! The look of dismay on Aaron's face describes it all! ;)

They were not the scouts we had encountered earlier but actually members from another group. A few small tents were also pitched at the side, the inhabitants of one burning a pile of twigs and dried leaves to create smoke, perhaps to chase off the irritating sweat bees that begin to buzz around us the moment we arrived. We placed our bags down and waited for about 15 minutes, long enough for the large group to take their leave. ;)
The waterfall is ours! For now... ;)

Once the coast was clear, most of us waded into the falls proper. Courtesy of having the back of my heel chewed off by an escalator one week before in Klang Bukit Tinggi’s Jaya Jusco, I had to reluctantly sit out this round of having a satisfying waterfall bath. :p :( Of those that went in, only Aaron decided to try his luck with the 'slide'. Yee Wei, who has previously did the same decide to sit the slide out.
Carol sitting out a chance to dip in the icy cool waters...

Not surprisingly, the water was icy cold. The depth was deep enough to swim while still low enough for a grown adult to stand on his feet to clear the water. The strength of the cascade at the foot of the fall was not overwhelming yet still good enough to give you a good 'massage' if you were to stand right under it.
City beauties wading into the pool... ;)

A picture is never complete without a beautiful lady at your side... ;)

We hung around the waterfall till 1245pm, the heat of the afternoon sun barely affecting us, shielded as we were from the overhead cloud cover and surrounding trees. It was our empty bellies that urged us to make tracks back to civilization. We returned to the car park by 2pm, as usual, the journey down a lot easier than the journey up.

Some of us washed by the flowing stream near the car park while a rest went into the Asli Adventure Camp to ‘commandeer’ their more civilized facilities. It is still a private ownership however, so it is recommended for you to ‘ask’ when you use their facilities if you see anyone there.

Our customary Trail Tracker lunch extravaganza was held at our regular haunt for trips to this area, Hulu Langat town’s famous Langat Seafood Restaurant and Beer Garden. Located within Hulu Langat town itself, it could be accessed by turning left at the traffic light junction at the center of town on the single road leading out from Pangsun into Jalan Sungai Tekali. From here, you’ll have to cross over a bridge before huge signboards of the restaurant can be seen on the right. Turn into the small road following the directions on the board and watch for the second one that shows the way to the restaurant itself. Do watch out for those menacing unmarked ‘bumps’ on the road especially for those cars with low clearances (mine included), otherwise be prepare for some heartbreaking thumps! :p
At the Ulu Langat Seafood Restaurant and Beer House... never try to disturb Yee Wei when he is eating his food... Grrrr... Woof! :p

A satisfyingly filling meal of egg fu yong, kung po style mantis prawns, green vegetables, kampung chicken in herbal sauce, crowned by nothing less than their signature pork knuckles was served to satiate our hunger.
Their signature dish! Pork Knuckles! Yum...

Once our tanks are ‘filled’, we commenced our final journey home… ending yet another memorable hike to one more of our pristine waterfalls in this quiet pocket of Selangor! :D Until then, this is Eddie Tuen, signing off... ;)