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.
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! ;)
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.
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