Mount Berembun (Cameron Highlands)
Mount Berembun (elevation : 1840m) is one of the more interesting mountains to climb in Cameron Highlands as there are plenty of trails (most of which are shown in the image below) to choose from that start at different points around town. The fact that it is also the closest summit to one of the only camping spots that is readily available in this area, Sungai Pauh Campsite (also known as the Forestry Department campsite), makes it especially convenient for hikers.Before we go on, please jot down the numbers that are listed below. If you do see any suspicious behaviour when out hiking, encounter things like traps and snares, or even see protected animals or their parts that are sold as either collectibles, pets, or for (so-called) medicine, then please do not hesitate to contact the wildlife crime hotline. Be sure to try and document it as best you can with photos or video without putting yourself in danger, and take note of the details: descriptions of those who are involved, as well as when and where it took place.
"The Wildlife Crime Hotline, managed by the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT), provides YOU an avenue to report offences involving endangered wildlife in Malaysia. We protect the identity of all informants, only key info of the reports are forwarded to the authorities."
I just want to cover trail erosion briefly since (on this occasion) I was there not as a guide for a hike, but for trail restoration. The biggest issue with hiking, in my opinion at least, is the impact that hikers leave when both camping and hiking. This is why I am firm advocate of the 'Leave No Trace' (LNT) ethos and feel that absolutely everyone who spends their time in the wilderness should be responsible enough to abide by the LNT principles. We all need to work together to protect nature and ensure that it is left in a better state than it was originally found.Erosion is something that occurs naturally and is a process when 'permanent fixtures' such as soil and rock are worn away by water flow and wind. Unfortunately the traffic that trails get also contributes to trail erosion. When this erosion is left unchecked, the trails and the surrounding environment can be left severely damaged. Water that begins to flow through a channel for instance, begins to cut through the soil, deepening the channel in the process and ultimately causing riles and gullies. More water begins to accumulate and as the water volume starts to build up, so does the velocity and energy of the flow. This can cause significant damage as the surface runoff of water can also wash away the nutrition-dense and fertile topsoil, without which little plant life is possible.
The high elevations and relatively low temperatures of Cameron Highlands brings about a persistent fog that surrounds the rainforest, reducing the sunlight that reaches the canopy which in turn drops the rates of evapotranspiration. Because of this, the water retention in these 'cloud forests' is very high as the fog ends up condensing on the leaves, which then drips down to the ground. Epiphytes abound in conditions like this. They grow on other organisms such as on the trunks of trees, but unlike parasites, they obtain their nutrients and water from the air instead of through their hosts.
Unfortunately, because cloud forests depend so heavily on the climate, these delicate ecosystems are strongly affected by climate change. The 'heating up' and 'drying out' of these temperate zones will inevitably lead to the death of epiphytes, and an overall decline in the biodiversity of these areas.
As you walk along the path, you may occasionally see stalks protruding from the moss that look almost like bean sprouts. These are the stalks of mature sporophytes and they support something called a 'sporangium' that both produces and stores spores for reproduction. The release of these spores then gives rise to new gametophyte plants. The gametophytes produce male and female gametes that then go on to form the zygote, which in turn becomes a newly emerging sporophyte.
Other plants such as ferns also produce sporangia but they are instead located in 'nodules' that are arranged in lines along the leaf edges, something that veteran hikers are probably quite familiar with. The immature sporangia has the appearance of bumps or green 'bubbles', whereas the colour tends to change to orange-brown once mature. Spikemoss (Selaginella spp.) on the other hand, are neither moss nor fern. Instead of producing stalks or nodes, these plants produces something called a 'strobilus' which is a hardened tip at the end of their leaves that functions similarly to spores.
One of the larger epiphytic ferns that you are likely to encounter is the birds nest fern (
The plan was to head up to the summit via trail 5 and to head back down via trail 7, both starting and ending at the MARDI Agro-Technology Park. To get to the trail heads for both 5 & 7, we kept left once we entered the MARDI gate and walked up the hilly road. The trail head for trail 7 lay almost straight ahead alongside the Camellia apartments but we needed to swing left instead to get to the trail head for trail 5.
The trail took us up some steps and through some lettuce patches (Lactuca sativa) before curving right to plunge into the jungle. The trail here was completely covered in a tunnel of undergrowth, a tunnel that was not quite covered by a canopy but rather of sides that closed in overhead. The area here was still devoid of moss as the elevation (elevation : 1450m) was relatively low. Epiphytes began to appear however, after passing some incongruous poles and a gradual climb approximately 600 metres in, but the trail erosion also became more apparent as roots that lined the trail became more exposed. Deep trenches left behind by water channels were also far more common here. Our group took our time and restored as much as we could with the resources that we had before continuing on.
We were stopped by a large fallen tree almost one kilometre into the trail and were forced to make a slight diversion off to the left. It was quite apparent that others before us had done the same as the trail was beginning to widen here, basically another form of trail erosion. The trail leveled somewhat soon after just before making a little climb to the top of a little hill and descending back down to the 1.3km mark. The path veered north from here as it began to make its way up to the shelter junction.
Just before we reached the junction however, we encountered another obstacle--another fallen tree trunk. This tree trunk was much smaller than the previous one so we spent some time cutting through the exposed branches and doing our best to clear the trail and minimise potential hazards. The shelter junction lay within sight just ahead, with the trail continuing straight to trail 3, left to trail 6, and the summit of Mount Berembun approximately an hour away to the right.
After a short rest at the shelter, we continued on down the right turning with the trail first dipping down into a small valley before climbing back up the shoulder. The incline here was a gradual climb for the first 300 metres before becoming a lot steeper around the 2km mark. This first climb was a fairly short one (approximately 100 metres or so) as the trail leveled off for a bit before climbing once again 2.4km in. The summit of Mount Berembun (elevation : 1840m) was reached 700 metres later (3.1km mark) and after passing two small clearings.
Just beyond the triangulation point lay a small opening in the canopy that presented us with a glimpse [cover photo] of the other mountains that lay to the north-west. There were two distinctive peaks: Mount Brinchang (elevation : 2031m) on the right with its jumble of communication towers rising up to the sky; and the triangular peak of Mount Irau (elevation : 2110m) behind and to the left.
Continuing straight along the trail from the summit brought us on to trail 7. The descent took us through ubiquitous fronds and ferns, with a backdrop of bamboo shoots (Tribe : Bambuseae) that were so straight that they seemed to have burst from the ground. We made our way down almost directly due south at first but the trail veered westward soon after. The trail continued to descend down the slopes of the mountain, only broken by a clearing at the 3.85km mark, and gradually began to level out approximately 4.4km in, just 700 metres from MARDI, where we began.
As we approached the end, the moss began to melt away and the path closed in for a bit before dropping and swerving right into the strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa) farm at the end. Edging the hill brought us around to the back of the apartments and down the back road of MARDI Agro-Technology Park.
Suunto Movescount Stats
Bright and early the next morning, we began walking to the Sam Poh Temple from the Sungai Pauh campsite. The trail head for trail 2 lies at the end of a long flight of steps that is located just at the side of this temple.
We realised soon after reaching the trail head that the trail that lay just beyond was to be quite capricious, as it began with a steep ascent and was followed by a quick descent. The jungle closed in and the trail narrowed as it undulated up and down the slopes, sometimes gently, sometimes quite steeply, at least for the first 300 metres or so. Right after that, the trail descended down to a stream (350 metres in), before ascending once again.
The trail began climbing once again before swinging off the the left as it reached the top of a hill, before switch-backing almost immediately after, swinging us around almost 180-degrees to head west instead. The trail descended down once again to another river and immediately began to ascend up the slopes again, once again heading southwards. Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) jumped from tree to tree directly above our heads, almost as if to show off their speed and masterful dexterity way up in the dizzying heights of the upper canopy.
All those grand, fast movements up above was a stark contrast to the tiny, slow, and very alien-like world that lay beneath our feet. This could not have been encapsulated more than by what we saw shortly after—the highly unusual trilobite beetle (Platerodrilus paradoxus). These heavily-armoured beetles look very wide when seen from above but are only a sliver when seen from the side. They seem even stranger once one notices their tiny, out-of-proportion heads at the end of their body. This head also turns out to be fully retractable which gives them the ability to tuck it away under their 'prothorax' whenever they are alarmed!
Trilobite beetles, along with all other net-winged beetles (Family: Lycidae), also display a very large and remarkably pronounced physical difference (be it colour, shape, or size) between the males and the females—a phenomenon known as 'sexual dimorphism'. The females can grow up to 80mm long, whereas the males are almost 10 times smaller!
The next climb brought us up to the first junction, where trail 3 branched off and continued on to the right and back to the golf course. We took the left branch instead (which was technically still part of trail 3) and began our descent down to the river (1.4km mark) before plunging back into the jungle, still heading south. The second junction was reached at the 1.64km mark, where the right branch would have taken us to the shelter junction and from there trail 5 (heading west). Taking the left branch, on the other hand, would keep us going south-easterly, and directly towards the summit of Mount Berembun.
Shortly after, we reached the point where trail 3 & 6 merged, which was the junction just east of the shelter junction on the main map. The junction would be very hard to spot coming from the other direction, as the trail we were on just ended at a large tree that had a huge web of intricate roots splayed about. On the other side of the tree however, just slightly below, lay the other two branches of the trail: the right branch heading west to the shelter junction, and the left branch heading south-east to the summit.
The trail continued on, growing steeper the closer it got to the summit. Eventually we arrived at the two clearings and the summit right after. After a short rest, we continued down trail 7 once again, first heading south and then swerving west after 100 metres or so. One thing I seemed to notice this time around was an almost sudden change around the 3.5km mark when the forest vegetation seemed to transform into shrubs. The trees seemed less grand and everything seemed to become less green and less saturated. Before we knew it, we had reached MARDI Agro-Technology Park.
Getting to the trail head of trail 4 from MARDI Agro-Technology Park was fairly straightforward. We walked along the main road (Persiaran Dayang Indah) after turning right at the MARDI gates, heading back to the town of Tanah Rata. We then crossed in to the Tanah Rata Park on our right, and followed the signs that pointed to 'Parit Falls' and 'Path 4'.
Trail 4 (also known as the Parit Jungle Walk) was a very wide path that was paved with red bricks that get fairly slippery when wet. The trail itself ran alongside a river (on the right) with the Cameron Highlands Government Quarters just beyond. The trail brings you to the 'Parit Falls Park' shortly after, and keeping left after crossing the bridge will keep you on trail 4. The Sungai Pauh Campsite (Forestry Department) lies several hundred metres after the bridge. There is also a branch in the trail that cuts off to the right and leads up to trail 6. But turning left at the junction of trail 6 will also bring you back to the campsite.
The walk along trail 4 to complete the outer loop, from the gates of MARDI to the campsite took just under an hour.