Climbing down holding roots of the trees
The degrading of the moss
Moss covered trees
The writer (third from right) and his trekking mates

While challenging, the Mossy Forest of Gunung Brinchang offers an enchanting trail, writes Vemanna Appannah

THE forest is damp, dark and gloomy. It can be spooky at times. It feels like someone is whispering into your ears but when you turn around, there isn’t anyone. Then, at certain times, the gloomy forest makes you think there is someone hiding behind the moss-covered trees.

This sounds like the Fangorn Forest of the Lord Of The Rings.This is Mossy Forest of Gunung Brinchang in Cameron Highlands, Pahang. And instead of Gandalf or Saruman, I am with my trekking mates.

Mossy Forest is a lush spread under a huge canopy of trees. The branches of these tall trees are almost knit together, allowing just enough of an opening for sunlight to pierce through. You can catch glimpses of the green mountainous surroundings in some places. The view is awe-inspiring.

Cameron Highlands was sunny a week earlier but it rained two days before our expedition. This had us worried about the conditions as trekking in the rain would make our expedition even more difficult. It would force us to walk on slippery and muddy trails in the rain. Mossy Forest has enough challenges on its own.

The climate on the mountain is always changing. Intermittently the weather gets cloudy, with fog.

THE TRIPLETS

There are three peaks along the trek. The trek starts from Gunung Brincang, heading towards Baby Irau before ending at Gunung Irau which stands 2,110m above sea level.

Trekking Gunung Irau is never easy. The approximate 2.5km one-way trail is never smooth, it requires great effort and caution. Most parts of the trail, you will be walking among tree roots that are intertwined.

The surface of the Mossy Forest is spongy and muddy. Every footing keeps you alert, you wouldn’t want to make any mistakes on the uneven trail of spongy moss on slippery earth.

The wet tree roots are also slippery and can cause a trekker to slip and fall easily. Our guide says some falls have been nasty. Trekkers have slipped and fallen, with one foot caught between curled tree roots and have ended up with a broken leg. Rescue teamshad to be summoned to carry the trekkers out.

The one-way trail to the Gunung Irau peak may take four hours.

However, on the day we hit the trek, we are safe from the rain, making the difficult trek bearable. The 5km-round trek takes us a good 10 hours. This includes a few breaks, photo stops and some sightseeing.

We are quite lucky to have a bright sunny day except for the last two hours when it starts to rain. The rain is not heavy but enough to get us wet. We have our raincoats ready.

We are all covered with mud and dirt by the end of the trek. The trail forces us to be on ourfours — working every muscle. There is a lot of vertical climbing. To pass through the trail, we have to hold tightly to protruding roots, pull our body upwards or slide on our backs going downhill.

At this point, we feel as though the trees are alive and giving us a hand by way of their roots and branches. What did I say about the forest resembling the fictional Fangorn Forest? Do elfs exist? We have a good time trekking Mossy Forest, experiencing its treasures.

SAVE AND PROTECT

To protect the flora and fauna of Mossy Forest,only trek along the designated trail. We shouldn’t pull at the moss, jump on it or sit on it. The Pahang State Forestry Department has takenmeasures for the rehabilitation of the forest.

Irresponsible trekkers have caused damage. The forest has also become a favourite spot for pre-wedding photo shoots. In order to get better shots, the bride and groom-to-be and photographers climb on fresh green moss for better angles. These irresponsible acts also cause damage.

It takes many years for the moss to grow. Be a responsible trekker, as much as you enjoy trekking the forest, take good care of it.

Gunung Brincang and Gunung Irau were temporarily closed to the public from October 2015 until mid-2016 for maintenance work on the boardwalk and to allow the delicate ecosystem to recover.

There is a rising popularity among visitors and trekkers to the forest. Its famous fairy tale setting attracts many to catch the spectacular sights. As a result, the repeated trampling has damaged the moss.

Trekking Gunung Irau is now regulated. The forest is closed between November to January, the rainy season.

Mossy Forest, Gunung Irau is a permanent forest reserve. Trekking Gunung Irau requires a permitfrom Pahang State Forestry Department. Only 100 permits are issued in a day. Applicationscan be made to the Forestry Department.

It is important to make proper trekking arrangements. Our expedition was handled by Eco Cameron Highlands Travel & Tours which helped to obtain the trekking permit (RM10 per person), arrange a 4WD transfer (RM30 per person) and an experienced guide (RM300 per guide).

Mossy Forest is a way to experienceour very own Fangorn Forest of The Lord Of The Rings. In the movie, the forest was severely damaged during the War of the Ring by the forces of Saruman. Hopefully we don’tcome to that. Let’s be more responsible, learn about ecosystem, and love and preserve nature.

TRAVEL TIPS

1. It is important to start the trek early to avoid exiting the forest in the dark. Hiking Gunung Irau is from moderate to hard.

2. Relatively good physical fitness and a strong mind are important to trek the rough, uneven, muddy and damp trail.

3. A minimum of two litres of water is essential to keep hydrated.

4. Take packed food like fried noodles, nasi lemak or buns.

5. Wear proper trekking clothes, including trekking shoes with good grip. Be prepared to see your shoes caked in mud. 6. Besides water and packed food,carry basic first aid, raincoat and a torch.

7. Always walk ina group. Never walk or wander alone.

8. Always check on the weather!

Pictures contributed by all hikers.

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