GBB (CUS Connection) - Day 1


Ascent from Pos Balar

The day began with an arduous five-hour long journey from Kuala Betis in the back of a 4WD vehicle. The destination was a small village called Dakoh that was located within the Temiar settlement known as Pos Balar. The journey first took us deep inside palm oil estates along deeply rutted mud roads, and then into overgrown areas of fern and bamboo. Low-lying vines and branches arched over the road and occasionally created tunnels of vegetation that the vehicle trundled through. Crested serpent eagles (Spilornis cheela) screeched from above, their distinct white bands seen from below as they rode the thermal currents looking for prey. The screeches always drew my gaze, and that momentary lapse in concentration often exposed my face to a good whip from a passing branch.

We stopped just before the bridge, and the curious locals of Pos Balar came out of their homes in droves to watch us as we went about our business. Pos Balar is a critical location for those who enjoy venturing off the beaten trail. The settlement lies in between two peaks, and is located right in the middle of the off-road circuit known as the 'Monsoon Circuit'. The settlement also functions as the location for food drops for those who hike the Titiwangsa v3 trail and who require extra rations. It was almost 15:00 by the time we were done with our lunch, and so we repacked our backpacks quickly before setting off for the trailhead.

The start of the trailhead at Pos Balar

The clear trail made its way westward and ran parallel to the river. Ferns of all types and sizes and their tall fiddlehead-topped stalks lined the sides of the trail. The brown of mud had melted away and had given way to an omnipresent green that was occasionally interrupted by splashes of vibrant purple as senduduk flowers (Melastoma malabathricum) peeped out of the dense foliage.

We eventually arrived at a river and the suspension bridge that spanned it. From there, the path was relatively straightforward, at least until the junction that was located 3.3 kilometres into the trail. We took the right turn there and the sounds of the river that had accompanied us for the last few kilometres faded away. It was late afternoon by then, as the bulk of the day had been spent just getting to the trailhead. The sunlight was soft and the rays of light that cut through the canopy came in at a low angle. The twittering and the occasional squawks of birds were still heard, but by then their intensity had already begun to dwindle.

the bridge after pos dakoh

The suspension bridge

Tunnels of bamboo then began to appear along the trail and everything seemed to be dialed up a notch--things became sharper, more slippery, more tricky--and reminded me very much of the bamboo sections that we had to hike through the first time I climbed Mount Yong Yap many years ago. Not too long after at the 6.1km mark, we arrived at 'Kem Tanpa Nama', the campsite without a name. The campsite was small and quaint, and the soothing sounds of the tiny cascades from the river that ran along next to it imbued the air. It was a perfect place to stop for a short rest.

senduduk flower

Senduduk flower (Melastoma malabathricum)


Ubiquitous mushrooms

Next : GBB (CUS Connection) - Day 1 (Part 2)


Wild Ginger

We seemed to enter the domain of wild ginger from then on. The plants came in all shapes and sizes and were so different from one another that untrained eyes would never have supposed that they were even remotely related. Despite this amazing diversity, they were all from the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), the family whose type genus includes the ginger that almost everyone in the world is familiar with--Zingiber officinale (Malay: Halia).

One of the most striking species' of wild ginger that we happened upon were the rounded pinecone-like stalks of black gingerwort (Zingiber spectabile) (Malay: Tepus tanah). The bracts that surrounded the stalks came in a yellow or red hue that depended on the age of the bloom. Occasionally we would even spot a short-lived flower that emerged from one of these bracts. The long yellow stamen stalks and conspicuous bulbils of pendulous globba ginger (Globba pendula) (Malay: Meroyan Air), a type of wild ginger that shares the same sub-family as gingerworts (Zingiberoideae), were also scattered along the sides of the trail. Some believe that this ginger can be used to treat stomach complaints and can be used as post-childbirth protective medicine.


The orchid-like flower of black gingerwort (Zingiber spectabile); the yellow flower of pendulous globba ginger (Globba pendula)

Another wild ginger that we frequently encountered were the strange red bracts of spindle ginger (Hornstedtia scyphifera). The bracts that we saw were all tightly closed and not a single flower was seen emerging from them. However, all of them were suspended above the ground and were supported by stilt roots.

spindle ginger

The bracts of spindle ginger (Hornstedtia scyphifera) on stilt roots

The other red splashes that we saw scattered around the forest floor turned out to be the flowers of earth ginger (Etlingera coccinea) (Malay: Tuhau), another ginger from the Alpinioideae sub-family. The name 'coccinea' actually refers to its striking red colour, a colour that normally means that the flower is pollinated by birds. Its long tubular flowers mean that the nectar can only be accessed by birds with long thin beaks, such as those that make up the Nectariniidae family, namely sunbirds and spiderhunters. If the tubular flowers still prove to be too long for the beaks, some of these birds will simply puncture the base of the flower and sip the nectar from the side instead.

earth ginger

The flower of earth ginger (Etlingera coccinea)

It began to get dark rather quickly not too long after. We carried on nonetheless, with our headlamps standing by, as we were keen to reach the next campsite, which was 'Kem Rata Air'. The colours were quickly fading away as dusk stretched out a blanket of monochrome about us. Simultaneously, a chorus of croaks and chirps from frogs and other nocturnal critters erupted from the vegetation around us, seemingly growing louder in waves and as if coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

It began to rain very heavily just minutes after we reached 'Kem Rata Air', which was much larger than 'Kem Tanpa Nama'. The rain left everything drenched, but we were rather unperturbed by this as we knew that a hot meal of pasta and a good night's rest lay just in store for us--that is, once we had everything set up and had changed into dry clothes!

Route Playback

Suunto Movescount Stats


Download file: GBB (CUS Connection) - Day 1.gpx

Next : GBB (CUS Connection) Day 2 - Rata Air to Huhuhu Camp