Surviving the Jungle Trail No. 1 – Cameron Highlands
When I looked up the trail systems of the Cameron Highlands (Malaysia), I came across the Jungle Trail no. 1. Not because it is the first on the list, but because there are many different opinions about the difficulty level of this trail. The Jungle Trail No. 1 goes all the way up to the highest peak of the Cameron Highlands and this already convinced me to hike the trail.
Will I survive the Jungle Trail No. 1?
Some people rate the trail easy to moderate, only because the beginning and the end are a bit trickier. Whereas others would comment this statement with: “Easy?! This trail is far from easy!” This made me feel uncertain and even a little scared, because I felt that I am not trained enough to make it up the mountain. The day before the hike, I changed my mind like 20 times. It was crazy. I didn’t even understand why I was so afraid. I knew that I am going to survive it, because many others did before me.
Every beginning is hard – So is the trailhead of the Jungle Trail No. 1
I was still uncertain and nervous on the way to the trailhead. At the same time I was happy to finally go hiking again! The last hike was months ago, so I felt a bit out of shape. As we stayed in Tanah Rata, we had to take a taxi for 12 RM ($3). It didn’t bring us directly to the trailhead, only to the main road junction. So we started walking towards the trailhead – approx. 15 min. The clouds were hanging deep. You couldn’t even see the peak of Mount Brinchang – the highest peak of the Cameron Highlands – the mountain that we were about to climb. In our budget hotel was a huge map of the trails with notes, so that you could find the trailheads easier and also stay on the trail in case the trail markers are missing. This was extremely helpful!
Just weeks ago, a part of the trailhead got washed away from heavy rain (March 2nd, 2017). Thanks to the map and notes, we knew it beforehand, so we didn’t really have to search for the trailhead. However, this doesn’t mean, we had an easy entry. The beginning was already a little challenging. After we got dirty the first time by climbing down the edge of the small stream, we started ascending on the trail.
Let’s do it!
After the difficult entrance, I was motivated and actually enjoyed the first steep part. However, looking back it wasn’t too bad. It’s just the first approx. 1600ft (500m) and it’s feeling steep, because it’s the beginning. Then there is a pretty long part that is super easy to walk. Sometimes there is a little climbing part, where you use the roots for footing, or there are mud pits that you have to jump over or guide around. The trail to the top of Mount Brinchang only ascends 1600ft (500m) and is around 2 miles (3.5 km) long. Sounds easy, right?! But it is not. I am not gonna lie: It is exhausting, but it is not difficult. So there is no reason to wonder about, if you gonna survive it or not. 😉 I don’t know about you, but I love hiking because of the trail itself. I love great views, but I can also enjoy forest or jungle routes, because of the flora. This trail goes through a mossy jungle. You will have the pleasure of seeing the mystic forest, especially if the mountain is covered in clouds. Sometimes you will look up and think “Am I in a fantasy movie now?!”.
The hardest part of the jungle trail
After the easy part, you will go through the hardest section of the Jungle Trail No. 1. From now on you gonna climb more than walk. The mud pits are not only on flat parts, they are also on the steep climbs. So it’s similar to the rice terraces on mountain sides, just without rice plants. You gonna have to stop here and there to think about the safest and easiest way. You gonna pull yourself up on roots and ropes, and meander around branches and trees. This can be an actual challenge! I loved this part the most, because I felt like in a jungle adventure movie. It was amazing! Big rain drops hit my head every now and then. I could feel every muscle in my body. It was exhausting! Occasionally I had to swipe spider webs off my face, which pulled me out of my day dreams. Then you can finally enjoy the first great view!… unless you’re stuck in the clouds like us. However, it made it interesting as well, because the forest got more and more mysterious while ascending to the top.
Along the trail are stone markers, which have numbers on them. As you come closer to the top, the first number will decrease. We noticed that we must be close. The trail leveled out pretty much and then we could see the radio tower.
Mud, mud and more mud
Being used to Hawaiian jungle trails, I thought I knew what a muddy trail means. However, this trail taught me another lesson. The last part was insanely muddy! At this point, it had been raining in the Cameron Highlands for 5 days straight – yeah, we picked a terrible time for our short trip… Anyways, the last leveled part was just one huge mud pit, because of the constant rain. Up until this point, I could manage to keep my shoes somewhat clean. I sunk into mud with the tip or a bit deeper with the whole shoe, but the top was still ok. Then I did my failure. I thought, there was a branch in front of me, but in reality it was just a little mud mound. And all of a sudden half of my left leg was stuck in the black mud. I was so surprised, that it was so deep. Fortunately, my right leg still had grip. I just told myself: “Nate, you’ve got only one chance to safe your shoe, so do it properly!” I curled up my toes as if this would hold onto my shoe and pulled out my foot. The shoe was still on my foot, so we could keep walking. James – behind me – was just laughing and I couldn’t be mad, because my black leg looked pretty funny.
The end of the trail
Once we walked around the fence of the radio station, we reach the end of the trail – the Mount Brinchang view tower. We skipped the beautiful view from top of the tower, because we figured we wouldn’t see anything. So we started walking down the road until we found somebody, who would take us down the road. The road to Brinchang is around 7 miles (11km) long. If you’ve got enough power to walk it all down, go ahead. We were too tired 😉 As you can see I survived the Jungle Trail No. 1 and so you can! I learned that I won’t care too much about descriptions of difficulty levels anymore. So I tell you that you will survive it. Maybe with sore legs, maybe with a different opinion than me, maybe with two black legs. I had a lot of fun on this trail and I felt really good afterwards. However, other people might hate climbing roots and ropes, so they won’t enjoy it as much as we did. Everyone is different.