GBB (CUS Connection) - Day 3

The Mossy Forest

We began to slow down two hours into the hike (approximately 2 kilometres in), not because of the difficulty of the terrain or an unexpected injury, but because that was when we entered the mossy forest. The condensation of the moisture that lingered in the air left dew clinging to spider webs, which made the webs look like intricate strings of small pearls. The ubiquitous moss and other fuzzy epiphytes were completely laden with dew, and the drops accumulated and merged together, eventually dripping down to the soft humus-filled forest floor below. A maze of dark branches wound their way upwards and looked like tendrils that were grasping for the sky.

Mossy forest

Mossy forest

Here is a 360-degree panorama of the mossy forest in Mount Irau:

About three kilometres in, the trail began the final long ascent to the peak of Mount Bilah (elevation : 2077m), which was 200 metres higher up and a kilometre further along the trail. We reached the junction to the peak around 13:45 after 3.5 hours of walking, and laid down our heavy backpacks before scampering up the last few metres to the peak itself.

Pitcher Plants

The peak was completely surrounded by blood red pitcher plants (Nepenthes sanguinea) that hung low from their pendulous tendrils, with some that were as large as 30 centimetres in length! The name 'sanguinea' actually means 'blood red', although most of the specimens that we encountered were of such a deep red that they appeared purple. I also spotted a few black variants of the same species, which were less speckled than their counterparts and had a peristome that was black instead of purple.

pitcher plants

A blood red pitcher plant (Nepenthes sanguinea)

The cups of these insectivores are hollow and contain a sweet syrup that first attracts insects, and then both drowns and dissolves them in order to be absorbed into the plant. The water is occasionally consumed by old world monkeys (Family : Cercopithecidae), as well as both the lesser apes (Family : Hylobatidae) and the great apes (Family : Hominidae). This is the reason why the plant has been given the name 'periuk kera' in Malay, which literally means 'monkey pot'.

pitcher plants

The black variants of Nepenthes sanguinea on a bed of moss (Macromitrium sp.). Note that one of them is missing its lid

We spent about 20 minutes or so at the peak and then went back down to the junction to put our backpacks back on. From there we made the half an hour descent to the stream that ran along the saddle between the peaks.

Next : GBB (CUS Connection) - Day 3 (Part 3)