Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve and The Forbidden Waterfall, Puchong

First REAL hike for the year 2012 and boy was it an experience!

The past few months of rain has sort of placed a dampener to my hiking activities but with the end of the rainy season, it’s now time to dust off my good old hiking boots and gear up for more adventure in the wilds!

Initially, I had thought of inaugurating my 2012 hiking itinerary by paying a visit to my somewhat regular haunt, Lata Kedongdong, but a suggestion from Dennis to spend the Sunday exploring this new place called Ayer Itam Forest Reserve diverted me there instead.

Ayer Itam Forest Reserve? Where is it you might ask… Judging from the name, one might expect it to be somewhere far north on the island of Penang. In reality, it is rather surprising that it is located in Puchong, Selangor, right smack center in one of the busiest housing development, Klang Valley has to offer! And to think that this place harbors a waterfall as well, makes me wonder, how did we all miss such a place?
The lure of a cool running stream always gets me ;)

Well, there is a catch though. This place is OFFICIALLY DILARANG (RESTRICTED) and anybody that goes in is ‘technically’ trespassing. :p However, this has not really stopped the hordes of local residents plying through its jungle tracks as we discovered when we were on the track.

Getting There

After a quick breakfast at Kayu Nasi Kandar in Pusat Bandar Puchong, we head off down Lebuh Puri towards Columbia Asia Hospital. At the first traffic light after the hospital, we turned left. Moving down Persiaran Puteri a little bit, we turned left again into Laman Puteri 1. Driving pass a row of apartments, we turned right into Persiaran Bukit, where you’ll find two rows of shop houses on your left and more low cost apartments on your right. If you come during the weekends, you should find a lot of cars parked along the side of the road, the starting point is just behind the apartment blocks pass a large monsoon drain.
Group photo! Just before the start of the hike! ;)

The Hike

Walking up the trail, you’ll find lots of local people plying up and down, families, kids, young people, uncles and aunties. Most of them are very courteous, greeting you ‘good morning’ as you pass them. The trail is pretty well marked, certain sections strewn with those familiar ‘hazard’ red and white striped ribbons and the occasional pieces of white paper strips along the side. If you are still doubtful though, just follow the crowd. ;)
Climbing up to the first clearing, the people here are all very courteous... :D

After about 5 minutes of hiking up a slope, we reached an open area where you can find a good view of the housing developments around the area. It could be pretty hot up here in the mid morning as there are no trees around to provide shade. Here is also where the trail branches a bit although if you take either way, it will bring you full circle to this very same place.
Waypoint. This clearing can really be very hot in the afternoon...

We followed the majority of the hikers, turning left, taking in the cool relief of jungle shade. There were a few other branches on the main trail, deceptively luring first timers away, but if you were to follow the markings and the crowd, you should be on the right track.
Not all 'trash' are bad. This one is intended to 'guide' you onto the right track...

At length we reached another clearing, although this time with much welcomed shade. It took about half an hour to reach here from the starting point. It seems to be also a significant resting point, as a lot of other hikers were congregating here when we arrived.

Now here is the tricky part. Around the edge of the clearing, at the time of this writing, we could see this track that had twigs, branches and ribbons placed across. This is the trail to the much talked about waterfall with the blue pool. It is also the entrance into FORBIDDEN land because you are more likely going to bump into UPM students and guards who aren’t going to be in a welcoming mood when they see you.
This path beyond leads you to a land of guards and unhappy students, enter at your own risk!

Considering the stressful reception we got at the waterfall, I would at this point in time not recommend the reader to venture beyond this line. To do so would be at your own risk. :p

Nevertheless, for the benefit of the readers, I would relate what happened next as we circumvent the obstruction and went down the trail.

The FORBIDDEN Trail

The trail started descending almost immediately and continued doing so until we hit what looked like a dirt road. Overall it took another 25-30 minutes to reach the road from the start of the trail. Along the way, we found ourselves walking alongside cool forest-like ferns and even crossed over a rather large fallen log with the deceptively welcoming words ‘WATERFALL’ spray painted along its length.
Interesting to find cold weather ferns on the trail...

A deceptively 'welcoming' sign on a fallen log...

At the dirt road, we turned left, walking a few meters before we see two LARGE signs on the right. Underlining the ‘forbiddeness’ of the place we are in, they blared out the penalties of aside from trespassing, illegal logging, fish bombing, hunting and what not, along with the various jail terms and fines imposed for each act.

These two signs are also the landmark for the trail that will lead you directly to the blue pool and waterfall, located not less than 5 minutes down. :p

On arrival, we saw 3 other people swimming in its clear waters, a group of 5 exiting the way we came in. If we thought we were in luck having avoided the guards so far, think again. Not even 5 minutes after laying our bags down, I noticed 2 uniformed UPM guards pointing digital cameras in our general direction, obviously taking photos.
Beautiful yet forbidding (sounds like a girl I once tried to date)... :p

One of them then approached us and despite my best keeping the lowest profile possible, chose to talk to me! Rats! :p

Not surprisingly, he explained that we were trespassing government property and said we shouldn’t be here. After a bit of haggling, he then produced a piece of paper with an aptly titled, ‘Senarai Nama Orang Yang Memasuki Kawasan Tanpa Permit’ (List of Names of People Entering the Area without a Permit), and told us to put in our names and identification card number.

Despite me bargaining with them that we’d gladly leave immediately, he still insisted on us filling up the form, giving the very well rehearsed excuse that he is only doing ‘his job’.

After doing the necessary, we were told to group together for a rather unwelcomed group photo before they left.

Having already given our names and left alone, we thought we could at least still take a dip in the pool. That was when 3 students suddenly appeared and again, not more than 5 minutes after the guards left! They berated one of my friends closest to them, my ears catching the words, ‘trespassing’, ‘doing research’ and quite distressingly ‘polis’ a number of times. If it is not clear enough already, it is surely clear now. WE ARE NOT WELCOMED HERE.

The students left, seemingly without doing anything else other than to nag at us. Considering the timing, it was quite likely that they were somehow either waiting of expecting people to be at the pool ready to pounce. :p (Also the fact that it’s a weekend morning, sort of narrows down the timing when these ‘predators’ can catch us unwelcomed ‘prey’ at their watering hole. :p)

So without waiting to see whether an air strike will be called down on us, we packed our stuff and leave, heading back the way we came in.

We bumped into another group, one of whom was an unexpected friend I met in a party the year before. A local resident and frequent visitor to the trail (and the waterfall), he too told me that since the beginning of the year (2012), enforcement of the ‘forbiddenness’ has increased and he too was intercepted by guards at the pool asking him to provide his particulars as well the last time he was there.

At length, we reached the shaded clearing where we started our little ‘misadventure’, greeted by another group of tired hikers, whom from the looks of it appear to be mostly local residents. Met by queries, we told them basically the track to the waterfall was ‘FORBIDDEN’ and that guards are there waiting for us if you try.

Return

We rested for a few minutes, continuing down the trail we left off earlier. After descending down a slope, we reached a nice quiet little stream with clear water, where we took another pause to freshen up. By this time, the sun was reaching its zenith, although the heat couldn’t quite reach us in the cooling shade.

A beautiful stream, a good place to rest and take a breather to enjoy the surroundings...

We moved on, passing another LARGE signboard with cartoons showing all those illegal things we should not be doing in here. There was also this fallen concrete post with the name of the place, ‘Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve’ etched on it, the first in this place I’ve seen.
A highway of ants rushing over a fallen log...

Just beyond it was another dirt road. We turned left with the knowledge that we’ll be heading back to the earlier open clearing close to the trail head.

The heat of the afternoon sun bored down on us as we arrived back at the clearing, despite the presence of a slight breeze. We thus, did not tarry long here, quickly heading back to the car park.

On reaching the car park, we had one more chance to meet another local predator of the more venomous kind, a black COBRA! Fortunately it was lurking a good distance away in the monsoon drain in front of the apartments. We left it alone and by the look of it’s extended hood, we better.

Ssssss... watch out, unlike the other 'predators', this one can kill you in one bite! :p

Customary post trip group photo done, we moved on to fill our bellies!

In conclusion, the circuit itself (minus the hike to the waterfall) is rather pleasant with a mixture of ascending and descending tracks. Not very challenging as what you’d find in Apeh Hill but good enough for a new hiker to experience the various terrains of a typical hike. There are rumours that UPM might finally take action and totally forbid the local residents from even going on this trail altogether, which would be a great shame, because like Apeh Hill, this place serves as a good place for the people around to exercise and experience nature, not that the people here don’t behave. In fact, throughout the hike, the place is rather clean and pristine with hardly a hint of rubbish.

As for the waterfall hike itself, I’d recommend you miss this one. The stress of being harassed by hidden guards waiting in ambush and berating students is not worth it considering there are other places that offer similar if not better swims, hikes or views. This is not to mention on the very real threat that some smart guy at the UPM office deciding to ‘generate’ the university some additional income by actually USING those ICs and names to impose the RM10,000 fine for trespassing.

What a shame... :(

It is still a shame though; that this waterfall is cordoned off by the authorities for it is really a very welcomed relief from the monotony of the concrete jungle we so daily face. Well as the saying goes, ‘so near and yet so far’… until next time, Happy New Year! :D

19 comments:

  1. Hi, just curious, on what day you went there, weekend or weekday ? Did u get fine or just given a warning ?

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  2. Hi Anon,

    Hope you have not yet gone to find out for yourself ;). We went on a Sunday and we were spotted by the guards around 9am. It's the 'HOT' period for visitation so you can be sure there will be a higher chance of being detected. They asked us to fill up forms with columns for name and IC. It's up to you to fill it up properly ;). They have NO AUTHORITY to ask to see your IC. Only the polis (and officers with proper 'kad kuasa') can do that.

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  3. Hi there...

    Your story on AYER Hitam Forest Reserve was interesting. TQ.

    You should understand that Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve is gazetted as the FOREST RESERVE. The government collaborating with UPM for research, education and protection on the ecology and biodiversity. That's why this forest is NOT opened to public and PROHIBITED to enter the forest illegally, even if you want to enjoy the NATURE.

    If you can see, surrounding area was the housing area. It was NOT a good scenery for those who LOVE nature. If you love nature, please DON'T say something bad to the guards or people who did their job. They did their job because they were asked to as to protect the forest from people disturbance. Oh yes, one of the damage of the forest was caused by the human, which disturbs its ecology. The developers outside still 'hungry' to get the area of AHFR and they are still trying. I do not mean to be rude, so sorry if you feel bad with my words. You of all people should understand that.

    I suggest you to check on the classification of forest types which opened to local people. If there is term "HUTAN LIPUR", then you can enjoy the nature there.

    Best wishes

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  4. Anon,

    Thank you for your comments. Between the interests of the local residents, nature lovers, hikers, students and UPM authorities... let us all hope that YB Teresa Kok can find an amicable solution beneficial to all in negotiations with the authorities.

    The matter has been brought to her attention after the STAR recently reported that guards have now been posted at the car park forbidding people from entering.

    The park is Selangor land leased out to UPM in the 1990s for 80 years.

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  5. Hey thanks for the info! If it wasn't because of this post, we would have been lost in the woods today. However, the waterfall seems darker than your photo, it's not green but still crystal clear at end. Maybe because we went there on the evening.

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  6. Good write up, although I must say that you need to stress more on the prohibition of this forest reserve.

    I mean, if you're looking for a good place to swim, if you're looking for an adventure,please by all means go to the waterfalls which are open to public like the ones in Langat, Hulu Yam, or better yet just drive up to Pahang. The whole of Puchong used to be a very serene and secluded jungle with beautiful trees and waterfalls, but now all are lost thanks to us irresponsible human beings.

    This is certainly not a way to respect mother nature..we wouldnt want to lose this piece of jungle at the heart of Puchong, would we..?

    If any of the readers are thinking of going there to have fun and have a good picnic/bbq in this forest, just start by imagining yourself in the guards' and the UPM students' shoes- with your research materials being disrupted by unlawful visitors of the forest. Everyone who end up here were always disappointed with the 'mini waterfall' being too small to enjoy. For God's sake, turn around and drive to Sg Gabai / Chamang Falls instead.

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  7. It is very strange to know that there are people who actually searches for blogs of places that they do not want themselves or others to go... o_O Strange indeed...

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  8. Not all 'trash' are bad. This one is intended to 'guide' you onto the right track..
    nevertheless, a 'trash' is always a trash. it is not suppose to be there. what a lame justification from from a so called HHH!

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  9. if there is a beautiful placed, people on earth deserved to see with their own naked eyes. if that place, that waterfall is prohibitted to swim, at least people can see the waterfall, the clear blue water with their own eye. people is not the owner of the earth, but their scenery is created for everyone =)

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  10. Dulu Bukit Broga sangat cantik sebelum jadi popular di dalam Facebook, fikirkan kesan yang akan berlaku pada AHFR ini :)

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  11. Bukit Broga is a Shame now...

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  12. I managed to reach and take a few dips into the forbidden pool recently...and I agree with most of you...we should leave this place alone unless you want it to suffer the fate of sg chongkak, bkt belacan etc. Even with such guarded security, we can see trashes littered shamelessly by these so called nature-lover visitors..

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  13. Just would like to know if its safe to hike here in the evening say around 6-7PM? I am staying nearby and have heard so much about it. Hence, I thought of checking it out myself. Any information will be much appreciated. Cheers

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    1. It's quite safe. I always hike around 6pm when I am busy for the day but try not to go in by 7pm unless you are well prepared with torchlight and have others to accompany you. By the way, it takes around 1 hour for the short path. :)

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  14. I visited this place in the late 80's. What you see now is a fraction of what it used to be. I agree nature (bestowed to us my god) shouldn't be barred. However, after seeing the way my fellow bothers and sisters behave at waterfalls, I feel ashamed that they don't see the consequences leaving their trash behind. The gorgeous public fall in hulu langat is now a home to broken glass, dirty diapers, burnt charcoal, nasi lemak wrappers and.more. Some even have the cheek to wash their cars!
    Once again I disagree with UPM but I also don't have confidence in "people" visiting this place. I bet you, there.will leave trash behind!

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  15. Jus to add on some latest info for 2014 for whoever may read this comment luckily..hehe I went into the blue lagoon today around 12pm..was bum into 2 upm students..they r giving us info to find the blue lagoon and wish us luck for dont bum into the ranger as they said a week b4 there r a group of trespass hikers get fine 10k each (not sure is true or not) but we decided to take our own risk to witness the beauty of nature with our bare eyes..yes it is weekday and totally without any1 but us..I took a good swim for 5mins and left regretfully because worry of rangers pop out anytime..it was stunning pure blue and greeny water! Worth the risk but pls dont left any rubbish behind=) good it is forbidden so the water r not polluted..but bad we hav to trespass:(

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  16. For the sake of research and preservation, why cant you people abide rules and regulatios. The sign clearly says forbidden and yet some irresponsibble people ignore it. And what can Theresa Kok do?

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  17. What to mention,
    A lost in morning tracking and thought in a luck follow a group in searching blue lagoon.

    However, now end up in balai and waiting for procedure. Anyone kena cought and what needed to be released?

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  18. I'm appalled by people who would trespass this place despite numerous warnings and potentially spoil UPM students ongoing research in the waterfall area. These are mostly forestry and environmental science research works that will hopefully contribute to solutions for environmental preservation and conservation in the long run.

    Seriously, most of these trespassers are educated and call themselves nature lovers, etc. BUT I don't see anything of that sort. Environmental preservation is more than just NOT throwing rubbish.

    Sickening behaviour and attitude. I don't mince my words.

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