11 March

Gunung Tok Nenek is situated near the Perak-Kelantan border. But you need to drive through some part of Cameron Highlands and then start off in Loging, Kelantan. Previously I would only join trips that are organized by familiar hiking groups like Ipoh Climbers but they don’t make that many trips nowadays or the ones that I actually want to to join so I can’t really depend on them. That’s why from now on I’ll just join some random group whenever I want to hike a mountain or another. The one that I joined for Tok Nenek was organized by PERSI (Persatuan Rekreasi in UiTM Perak). The lead of the club does such trip as a part of club activity with the guidance from S.O.S company. S.O.S is known to organize very affordable trips to many mountains around Malaysia and they were quite fancy too. But to me, as much as I’d like to go to all of those trips, my time and resources are limited so I had to choose properly the one that suit my schedule. I was torn between getting a rest and completing my final project and keep going with the trips. Since I have commitment, I can’t simply hop onto a four-wheel drive vehicle and climb this mountain cause these trips usually take 3 days or more. There’s risk to be taken and big matters to consider.

And as always we left UiTM really late, nearly 8pm towards the Simpang Pulai-Cameron Highlands. We stopped at a restaurant for dinner. At around 11:00 pm we finally arrived in Lojing which is situated next to Cameron Highlands. Since they’re at the same high altitude you can imagine the freezing cold temperature that I had to endure. Must be below 18°C at that time at the Lojing mosque. I got like an hour an a half of sleep before Subuh prayer was called and a few minutes more of shut eye after that. At around 6 we were already handing out rations to members of the hike, all 26 of us while the lead cooked lunch. The 4WD vehicles arrived an hour later and we boarded them to get to the trailhead which is about 40 minutes from the mosque to the trailhead near an orang asli settlement. We found several orang asli kids playing near us and watching us curiously. Although I’m sure they’ve got used to all the hikers walking through their village route the mountain.

After a little briefing we started our journey through the village. The first part of the journal was pretty straight forward with gradual climb to the first camp. We crossed a lot of streams that day, at least 7 or 8 if I’m not mistaken. “alamak, aku silap kasut” as always I usually wear my sport shoes when doing outdoor activity. I do not owned “kasut toreh getah” or whatever. So, I need to crossed the stream with my sweet pinky peach Nike. HAHAHAHA. 

No words can describe the conditions of the walkway. Since it rained the night before, our path was muddy and slippery much of the way. I always stepped on the piping which is the supply pipe to orang asli village to avoid from dirtied my shoes. Our guide started to grumble how we’re never going to reach the summit on time if I keep doing that. While I’d like to be pissed off at him, it occurred to me that he might be right. There’s going to be a dozen more stream to cross tomorrow and it’s not really practical for me to be extra protective on my shoes every time. Plus I’ll probably slow down everybody and myself if I insist. So I swallowed my pride and wade through the muddy paths and water like everybody else. 

Remember how I always become tired and grumpy whenever I don’t get enough sleep or food before a hike? Well this one was not any different. Obviously since I didn’t pack any rice the night before, I only had a couple of breads and biscuits. Apart from that did I mention I barely had enough sleep on the way to Lojing? Yes I could probably doze off in the bus but sitting at the back , I had trouble sleeping. In the end I didn’t get to sleep much until we reached the Lojing mosque. Naturally I was extra tired after a few hours stay up doing extra assignments but not as tired as the last time when I submitted the tender. 

Usually I would be in the middle of the pack if not at front but my ego took a beating that day when I didn’t have the drive to walk as fast I normally could. Still the first day’s hike was quite challenging because there was a lot of crouching to do with all the bamboo plants criss-crossing our paths. There were several parts of the trail where we had to crawl on all four commando-like with mud all over your clothes, hand and face in between the bamboo trees. Not that I’m complaining or anything but that’s what made me extra fatigued on the first day.

Our base camp was named Kem Agas or sand flies camp if I’m not mistaken. They were not kidding about the sand flies though, it didn’t take me long to get my first taste of the itchy sand flies bite. And they were merciless. I got bitten during the day and especially at night, non-stop all the time. Arghhhhh. To make matter worse, we were sleeping under a fly sheet so the sand flies were virtually having a feast on us throughout our stay. I can clearly see the tiny terror hanging under our fly sheet ready to pounce on us. How I’d wish I’d brought my own tent or something. But I didn’t so even after putting up some extra coverage. I get bitten all over my body from my leg to my neck. I consider the sand flies as part of the challenge of climbing Tok Nenek although I swear I’d carry my own tent whenever I read about sand flies at our hike. . It was freezing cold that night and I didn’t had much sleep first because of the sand flies .It’s no fun I tell you.

Sand flies and shorts apart, everything else was fine and dandy with my hike. Tikah was a pretty good cook and we had several good meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We packed ample food everyday before our journey so everybody had enough to eat throughout the hike. On the first night I slept early due to my fatigue, sand flies or not. We started off rather late at half past 8:00 and didn’t reach the summit until well after 1:00. Unlike the previous day, I was fresh and ready for the day hike to the summit. Hiking light does has it advantages because I can walk and climb faster and I didn’t get exhausted too quickly without those excess load. So it was little surprise that I was amongest the first in the bunch to reach the peak instead of making up the rear like the day before. Climbing to the summit of Tok Nenek felt a lot like Tabur minus the rocky parts. One thing that’s special about Tok Nenek is the mossy forest that’s more numerous and beautiful than Irau found just before the peak.
The top of the mountain is similar to others where you are surrounded by tree shrubs. There’s a patch of clearing where you can take a peak of the surrounding. We had our packed lunch and then proceed with the customary photography session with the guys. To be honest I was feeling a bit awkward taking pictures with strangers plus without a proper hijab. It’s no surprise that most of my post pictures on Instagram don’t have me in it except for one which I edited to cover my neck. The ascent took about 5 hours and the descent another 4 hours. 

The next morning, we had breakfast and by 7 o’clock cleared our camp for the return hike. We stopped for lunch somewhere at Kem Sungai Y and suddenly rain, walking in the pouring rain after enjoyed a meal. If you think walking in the jungle at night is hard, wait until you do it in the pouring rain while crossing a dozen streams. Since it rained, our path was muddy and slippery much of the way. Still I managed to walk and keep up with the leading pack.  There’s strong current is no easy feet. There’s always the danger of being swept away by the water. I managed to get myself safely but not before bumping my head into a few tree branches along the way. I thought the rain would stop after a while and then reached orang asli village about an hour before sunset. The pickup truck arrived a little while later and I was freezing off for the final 40 minutes of the trip to the Loging mosque. Bus had already waited for us at Loging Mosque.After cleaning up and praying at the mosque, we said our goodbyes and make our way back shortly after that, we going back to UiTM.

On the way back to UiTM, bus driver dropped us at RTC Gopeng to have our dinner treats together. I don’t know what’s so special about the RTC Gopeng or who picked it but the food tasted rather ordinary. We arrived UiTM nearly 1am. It was late at night and needless to say I was exhausted and sleepy. Had to sing myself awake for much of the journey.

This Tok Nenek single trip is memorable to me in a number of ways. First since I had crush on someone during the trips. I had to hike with a wet feet and sand and pebbles in my shoes until I had blisters all over. Then there’s the horrible sand flies leaving itchy rashes all over my body. It took me a week to recover from that. Even took an MC the day after the hike. Last but not least, I finally took a dump in the bushes for the very first time. Gross I know, but it’s an important milestone for me. Lucky for me it happened near a river so I had no problem cleaning up afterwards. Since I started hiking I have always wondered when that day will come. It finally happened during this Tok Nenek trip.

I learned some very valuable lessons from my Tok Nenek trip. Although I’ve read about sand flies at Tok Nenek, I didn’t know they’re going to cause so much pain to me. Next time I will come prepared with a tent or at least ample amount of mosquito coils. Next, bring some spare clothes! I know I survived Tabur with only one pair of pants but I can’t always be lucky like that. Shit does happen and having an extra foods with you could really come handy. I know I always wanted to pack light but from now on, I’ll make sure I have more foods in my backpack just in case. And as always I made tons of new friends. Complete strangers who quickly become good friends. Gunung Tok Nenek could be amongst the toughest mountains that I’ve attempted so far. Not so much for difficulty in height or steepness but the other challenges that come with it. If you're planning to climb this mountain next, I would recommend that you bring your own tent or at least lots of mosquito coils. Pack extra clothes in case shit happens. And remember the return 4WD journey at night is very cold so get your sweater ready. My trip lasted 4 days and 3 night for the single mountain. Some people also prefer to do 3 mountains at once - Yong Yap, Bubu & Tok Nenek which are situated next to each other. That trip is much more challenging and you'll need to have a really good stamina and endurance to climb all 3 mountains in the short span of 3 days. Not to mention the horrid sand flies. Maybe someday I'll do the trans YYBTN trip.

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