Climbing Bukit Tabur East
“Touch is a reciprocal action, a gesture of exchange with the world. To make an impression is also to receive one, and the soles of our feet, shaped by the surfaces they press upon, are landscapes themselves with their own worn channels and roving lines.”
– Robert Macfarlane –
It had just gone 5h30 when I donned my gloves and switched my head torch on. The trail led into the rainforest at a steep angle, and almost immediately my heart started pounding from exertion. Hundreds of little bugs were drawn to the silvery beam of light that showed the way, and I spat and spluttered with every step, as they found their way down my throat.
When I looked for interesting things do in Kuala Lumpur, the words “exhilarating sunrise hike” immediately caught my attention. It was a no brainer. I love hiking. I love sunrises. I love experiences that are slightly off the beaten track. And as I was planning to do a lot of eating while in KL, I thought that engaging in a physical activity would be the perfect counterweight. I glanced at the reviews which were full of praise for Casey who led these hikes, but neglected to do any in-depth reading or further research. I didn’t even pay attention to where I would be hiking. The fact that the reward was a 360 ° view of the surroundings, which included a breathtaking view of KL, was enough for me to sign up.
It turned out that it was a good thing I didn’t read too much about hiking Bukit Tabur East (also known as Misty Hill), as I don’t think I would have signed up if I knew that it involved climbing as well. But so much of what we do and experience depends on the state of our minds, and on that January morning my ‘ignorance’ was definitely ‘bliss’. I did what I usually do in these situations, and simply focused on each step and breath. Casey gently adjusted his pace to mine, chattered away, cautioned at tricky spots, and generally made me feel as if climbing Bukit Tabur was more like a gentle stroll than a tough hike. I felt grateful for my regular Yin Yoga practice, which has taught me to acknowledge a challenge, accept it, and relax into it.
At every stop where we could catch a glimpse of the flickering lights of KL, and enjoy the gift of a cooling breeze, I was glad I didn’t know what was coming. A bit like life really. If we know which challenges await us in advance, we will be overwhelmed by a kaleidoscope of emotions and fears that will incapacitate us.
When we reached the final challenge, I didn’t allow myself any time to think. The almost sheer rock wall with ropes dangling from it could easily have awakened that horrible little voice that so often tell me what can go wrong. Or worse still. I could have allowed my mind to play on my fears and perceived limitations. Instead I focused on Casey’s voice, made sure every foot was secure and steady before I pushed up, and before long I was standing on what felt, in that moment, like the top of the world. In front of me KL was a mass of blinking lights. Towards the east the sky was starting to split in two. And behind me the Klang Gates Dam shimmered in the growing light. I felt elated and charmed. And grateful that I didn’t know what I was letting myself into, as it turned out to be the highlight of my trip.
** Although research is an integral part of travelling, I think it is good to steer away from obsessively reading reviews. They often tend to create unrealistic expectations, and the one thing I’ve learned to avoid when I travel is to steer clear of expectations, because one is bound to be disappointed. Not having any expectations has almost always resulted in a sense of awe and wonder, and on those occasions when experiences have failed to enchant me, they were simply filed in my emotional folder as ‘interesting’.
** It took us 3 hours from when we left, until we returned to the car. The return path is much shorter, and takes only about 30 minutes, but it is steep, and can be very slippery if it has rained.
** There are a couple of different trails, including Bukit Tabur West and East, but although the trail to the Western peak is easier, the views are said to be not nearly as good as from the Eastern peak.
# Hike with a guide who knows the area. (I highly recommend Casey. Find him on the With Locals platform.)
# Wear proper hiking shoes.
# Take a head torch if you start in the dark.
# Wear gloves to increase your grip and protect your hands.
# Take plenty of water. Even when you hike early in the day, you will sweat a lot, and can easily dehydrate.
# Hike in the morning to avoid the heat, and on a week day to avoid the weekend crowds.
# Avoid hiking after it has rained, as the trail will become muddy and slippery.
# Pay attention to your surroundings! It is a challenging hike, and there have been a number of fatalities.
Visited: January 2019