Thanks to hik­ing, the writer has bet­ter health, tasted ad­ven­ture and savoured na­ture. And, un­like shop­ping malls, peo­ple greet each other on the trail.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ADVENTURE - By V. VI­JAY star2@ thes­tar. com. my

THE year was 2012. At a ripe age of 50, I ven­tured into hik­ing to ward off the ills of ag­ing: blood pres­sure, choles­terol and di­a­betes.

My BP and choles­terol were on the bor­der line ( of be­ing un­healthy) and there was pres­sure from doc­tors to start on med­i­ca­tions. They clas­si­fied me as be­ing in the high risk group since my dad went through a heart by­pass op­er­a­tion.

I was adamant about not want­ing to take drugs to con­trol these life­style dis­eases. My jour­ney be­gan by search­ing for a group which could ac­com­mo­date me as my fit­ness level was sus­pect. It did not take me long to find “KL Hik­ing” ( http:// www. meetup. com/ KLhik­ing). They have the fastest trail run­ners in the coun­try yet they could also ac­com­mo­date slow coaches like me.

Alex Lae­vaert ( who is bet­ter known as “Alex KL Hik­ing”) was the leader of the group, and those who know him will vouch how ac­com­mo­dat­ing he is with peo­ple from all walks of life.

The group was also great. I be­gan this new ad­ven­ture un­der their tute­lage – many freely shared their knowl­edge of the do’s and don’ts in the jun­gle. These in­cluded ba­sics like what type of shoes to use.

My in­ter­est in hik­ing de­vel­oped in 2008 when I was on a three­month as­sign­ment in Kuch­ing, fol­low­ing the Sai Baba Cen­ter there for ser­vice ac­tiv­i­ties in the in­te­rior of Sarawak. I got close to the Ibans and Bi­dayuhs when we stayed overnight with them in the tra­di­tional long­houses.

I also ven­tured out with the Kuch­ing chap­ter of the Malaysian Na­ture So­ci­ety, an­other group of cheer­ful and ex­cit­ing peo­ple. I got per­sonal with na­ture.

And I learned how im­por­tant it was to keep the jun­gle in its pris­tine state.

Fast for­ward to 2012, and I was again tak­ing baby steps into hik­ing, tack­ling small “buk­its” ( hills) around the Klang Val­ley, such as Bukit Gas­ing ( Pe­tal­ing Jaya), Bukit FRIM ( Ke­pong, KL) and Bukit Kutu ( Kuala Kubu Baru, Se­lan­gor).

It was a real tor­ture to my body and this thought al­ways ran in my head: “What am I do­ing here?”. Over time, as my fit­ness im­proved, I could keep pace with the mod­er­ate hik­ers. That’s when I started ven­tur­ing into more chal­leng­ing moun­tains such as Gu­nung Irau ( Cameron High­lands), Gu­nung Bunga Buah ( Gent­ing High­lands), Pine Tree Hill ( Fraser’s Hill), Gu­nung Ra­jah ( Ben­tong, Pa­hang) and Gu­nung Nuang ( Hulu Lan­gat, Se­lan­gor).

Ev­ery trail, ev­ery moun­tain has its own chal­lenges, but I am al­ways will­ing to face it since I en­joy the time in the wild.

One hike which was un­for­get­table was the hike to­wards Gu­nung Ra­jah. It was rain­ing heav­ily and the rivers were all flooded so I did not man­age to get up to the peak. But I learnt a hik­ing les­son: wher­ever there is deeper river cross­ing ( above knee level), due care has to be taken, and it’s im­por­tant to have a rope to hang on to.

When one hikes in the jun­gle in Malaysia, the con­di­tion of the trail can dif­fer with the weather. There may also be fallen trees. Trails can have river cross­ings, por­tions of rock climb­ing, muddy stretches and steep climbs. At some hikes, all of these will come in a pack­age, as in Gu­nung Nuang.

One down­side is that some peo­ple leave garbage, es­pe­cially at wa­ter­falls and camp­ing sites. This leaves a foul smell and at­tracts ro­dents. It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that rat urine can lead to the dan­ger­ous dis­ease of lep­tospiro­sis.

Never leave any­thing in the jun­gle other than your foot­prints and never take any­thing from the jun­gle other than pic­tures. Thank­fully, more and more peo­ple are aware of the need to take care of our nat­u­ral her­itage.

Some Malaysian trails are also fa­mous for leeches and we have also seen snakes. But bear in mind that if we take some ba­sic pre­cau­tions, we should be fine. As for wild an­i­mals, they are res­i­dents of the jun­gle – as long as we are not a threat to them, they will not harm us too.

This is to as­sure doubters that the jun­gles are of­ten much safer than city streets. Af­ter all, when we’re deep in the jun­gle, there are no cases of snatch thefts. The golden rule is to fol­low the trail, never stray from it.

Also, do carry ba­sic safety items, such as a whis­tle, head­lamp, lighter ( for camp­fires), penknife and com­pass.

An­other great plus of hik­ing is that most of the peo­ple you meet, no mat­ter what their age, race or sta­tus, will greet and motivate each other. This can hardly ever be ex­pe­ri­enced when we walk through our city shop­ping malls.

Both my sons have started join­ing me and we hike ei­ther Bukit Gas­ing or Bukit Pu­chong ( Se­lan­gor) on Satur­days. I be­lieve that hik­ing will make them more hardy and alert to face the chal­lenges of life.

Other than the en­joy­ment of na­ture, hik­ing has given me good health. I am much fit­ter than be­fore and, for the last three years, I have not fallen sick. My health has never been bet­ter, no more high blood pres­sure, no more high choles­terol.

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