“We’re gonna have to do something more challenging”. That is what I heard from my friend when we completed the Endau Rompin Trip many months ago. Everything started when one of us suggested to visit mossy forest at Gunung Irau. Most of the girls in my group still thought mossy forest is just a walk in the park. I did many research and readings on the hike but I hate to disappoint them because the hike could take up to 7 hours to complete. One good thing though, by looking at the photos from those bloggers, I would love to be able to take photograph at the famous and mysterious Gunung Irau and Mossy Forest myself.

Mossy forest was closed for few months starting the end of 2014 by the authority. The mossy had been over exposed to damages and degraded by the uncontrolled flow of hikers entering the forest. Things went out of control when one of the tabloid bloggers put the forest in limelight. I still remember when I was a kid the images of the untouched forest still vivid in my mind until  the production crew for Puteri Gunung Ledang film cut the trees for the sake of filming. So, I wonder how it looked like now given the raising popularity of the forest. I have high hopes that the forest is still preserved or at least recovered from the damage.

Starting this year (2016), all visitors need to get permit in order to enter the mossy forest and hike Gunung Irau. The process in getting the permit is quite tedious. RM5 is charged for each visitor and we had to do at most 2 weeks in advance. The payment shall be made through money order and should include a letter in Bahasa Malaysia referring our intention. A week before our hike, we received a letter from the authority approving our permits. The rules were also spelled out clearly. (link to apply for the permit: Pahang Forestry Department)

Then the day was here. 16 of us with different background and experience in hiking began our hike at Gunung Irau at 730am. The team leader for this trip had assigned people for specific roles. So everything had been pre planned. I was not worried. I thought it was gonna be a breezy one. However, the night before, we did not have a good rest as we were busy packing for lunch. Moreover, we arrived late at Imperial Crown (accomodation in Brinchang) from Kuala Lumpur. I was definitely very tired after spending whole day in the office and drove for 4 hours from Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands (check direction to gunung irau and mossy forest). With few precious hours of sleep, we made our way up to the entrance early in the morning before sunrise. After much needed stretches and warm up, we were greeted by 3 authorities asking for the permits. They were quite strict as there were so many other hiking groups did not enter the forest yet, probably they came without permits. It seemed like we were the first to enter the trek.

Sleepy but ready
At the Brinchang Peak
The beginning

It was foggy and very humid. The sleepiness was still there so I had to be careful with the slippery ground.  The leader decided to put the slowest at the front to ensure all of us go at the same pace. This gave me time to enjoy the moment and took many pictures. It was really mysterious. The trees and shadows had a spooky vibe and I almost thought that there was someone hiding behind the shadow. It was so quiet like a calm before the storm. The ground felt hollow. I believed we were trekking on organic matters (dead leafs) trapped by the the roots. Not enough time to become soil so it was less compacted.

The first part of the hike is quite easy
Mysterious forest

Sun began to appear and the environment seemed less gloomy. Our mood had also lighten up from the shy sun rays. The mossy forest which was greyish now looked greener and the moss was glowing green. The trek was quite easy plus we were trekking down hill. I remember from my readings that there were three peaks along the trek. First is Brinchang, followed by Anak Irau and finally the main Gunung Irau Peak. Apparently we were now trekking down from Brinchang Peak. I keep reminding my friends in front of me that we had to hike up after this, so we had to be mentally prepared.

We began to descend Brinchang Peak
Hiking up. The journey begun

So, I was right. We finally began hiking up Anak Irau when the sun shone brightly. The trail was getting more difficult with tree roots that we had to hang and step on. As we went up higher, the roots were getting larger and more complicated. We had to rest at few places because for moderate hikers, this might not be a straight forward one. So, while waiting and taking piss, I was caught mesmerized by the view of this root complexes.

Gold and greenish moss at the tree roots and barks. The color was slightly enhanced
False trek

There were false trails that let you enter a chamber-like feature. The chamber was surrounded by the trees and the floor was formed by dead leaves and roots. It was getting challenging and the slow pace made it even tougher. But we went as a group so we should reach Gunung Irau peak as a group. There were few places where we had to technically climb. Luckily there was a rope attached to the roots to make the climb easier. In between roots, the soil was muddy. The muddy soil made the roots slippery. We had to be extra careful or else we could fall causing some difficulties if there was injury. That is why good and right shoes are important.

Secret hideout

There it was, Anak Irau Peak. It felt good to reach this point. Unfortunately, there was no clear view. I did not spend much time taking pictures here other than group selfies. I quickly took the shadiest spot and ate the pre pack tuna sandwich.

Anak Irau Peak. Second peak that we conquered on the same day
The limited view from Anak Irau
All happy and fresh

Another 1 km to go and we would reach the main peak of Gunung Irau. 1 km sounded close but it didn’t seem as close as you might think. After a short rest, we continued the journey. This time around the group got disbanded but I wasstill loyally trekking at the last spot. The weather got cloudier occasionally and fogs blanketing us too. The trek was slightly easier than Anak Irau but still muddy. There was also a vertical wall that might slow down the movement. Fellow hikers who came later had already begun passing us.

The trail going up to Irau Peak
The roots
We have to climb few times. Gloves are recommended

When we passed the difficult part,  we encountered views that made you blinked twice to be sure that you are not in some fairy tale lands. It was so enchanting. When the occasional fogs disappear, the moss glowed like small green diamonds. I took a detour at few places where it led to secret chambers. It looked like a congregating room for the trees. It was so mysterious.

The tunnel that leads to the real mossy forest
Mossy forest
Lights penetrated the trees
The chamber but in the picture it doesn’t look like one. I am not sure why

We finally reached the peak…I was slightly disappointed with the lack of view at the peak but we had been served with beautiful trail along the way. ‘Please don’t complain’ I reminded myself. At the peak, I ate another sandwich which turned out to be another tuna sandwich. I wished it was eggs because we did pack for both. How unfortunate. Many more hikers were arriving at the peak. If we were to stay longer, there will be no more place for other people to rest.

Finally, at Irau Peak
The view from Irau Peak
The red team. The most good looking bunch

After a short lunch and many photographs, we decide to leave the peak a 12pm, about 1 hour after our arrivals. What is waiting on the way down? We do not have clues but I believe the way down will be even more challenging. In many cases of hiking the descent is always the hardest. Remember Anak Irau Peak and Brinchang? Yes, we need to climb them again.

To be continued…

Part II