Monday, 30 May 2016

4287 Langkawi's Gunung Raya Rainforest Steps

Standing close to 900 meter above sea level, Gunung Raya is the highest point on Langkawi or Mount Raya translated in English. I have seen a topography map which stated the peak of this hill is at 881 meter. At this level of height, Raya would normally be considered as a hill or "Bukit" in Malay language. 

What most visitors, locals or foreigners alike, are aware about the nicely laid tarred road that takes one right up to the peak.
Tarred road to the summit of Gunung Raya
However, what most of them didn't know is a flight of thousand steps that lead towards close to the summit. This method of reaching the top definitely consumes much longer time and energy.  According to the info board, it is 4,287 steps. 

Info board with some graffiti 
For countless number of times that I have been on these steps and yet I always lost count on the number of steps as I was reaching the top. You just have to trust the info board then.
Flight of 4287 steps in Langkawi's rainforest, Gunung Raya
I cannot recall the last time I ascended to the top even though I have done that many times. Most of the other times, I would only ascend up to 2000++ steps and then head back because it takes quite a substantial amount of time looking for birds and wondering around.
Dense rainforest of Langkawi. There are calls of birds and insects and yet it is not easy to spot.
On this day, 13 January 2016, I decided to ascend up to 3000 steps. I had to take it easy due to my plantar faciistis which has been annoying me since July 2015. This chronic pain came right after I have recovered from my sprained knee. On my way up, I was distracted by bird calls. Spend half an hour wandering around and and I only got one blur shot of a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha perched high up on the canopy. 
A cropped image of a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha perched high up on the canopy
After not having physically trained for a long time, I thought I would be panting like mad when I reached 3000. Surprisingly, I wasn't. The next desire came in. Though my heels were starting to ache, I decided to push on till the top. The last flight of one thousand steps is the top killer.
Start of the last flight of one thousand steps to the top
When is this going to end??
At 4020. You will find yourself looking down quite often to check which number of step you are on.
These steps are located inside a recreational park known as Lubok Semilang. This park is very well known to the locals particularly on Fridays and Saturdays. The location of this park is next to MARDI fruit farm. Entrance is free (at this moment in time).

I was told that these steps were build in the early 2000 and they are still in good condition up till now. Every now and then, there will be fallen trees that will block the pathway. You can still walk around the fallen tree to continue your journey. There were damaged sections and railings caused by fallen trees that have been repaired. The repair work comes in only when it is necessary. 
A fallen tree on the path of these steps

There are some people who are keen in jungle trekking and are put-off with the fact that this trail is man-made steps. Being a hiking enthusiast myself, I find this rainforest is equally amazing as walking on actual jungle treks. There are always different encounters and sightings each time I walk on this flight of steps. Fascinating birds, insects, spiders, reptiles, mammals and so many varieties of flora. 
An epiphytic fern sitting on a host tree
A strangler clutching on a huge timber tree
An unidentified remain of a white moth
On my way down, I spotted this little quiet fella. Asian Brown Flycatcher, a winter visitor perched next to the steps
One of my most memorable wildlife encounters on these steps is the crossing of four wild dogs to the left and then not long after, four wild pigs crossed to the right. I find this hilarious. As if the dogs have turned into the wild pigs! Just a wild thought.
When you see the bright lights beyond the canopy, you know you are close to reaching the end of 4,287 steps. 
At this stage, this is where you start running till you finish your last step.
After xxx number of minutes since I started, I was on the road of Gunung Raya. Those super fast and fit will take about less than one hour to finish if one does not stop too often to take photos. The average walking speed will take up about 1 hour and half to two hours. was indeed very hot on that day.
I don't normally do selfies...but for this case, why not? A sense of achievement on this day. Really? 
Views from the top of the steps
You know when you have arrived 
My bum found her way back to her favourite rock in a shaded spot and she was glued on the rock for half an hour. 
Rest and cooling off in the shade
Continue walking on this road until you find a concrete viewing tower and a hotel on the summit.  It will take about 10-15 minutes of walk.
I could hear the Long-tailed macaques close by. And the sight of trash around that area made me felt like this forest is under appreciated.

Time to descend. I was dreading the descend on these steps because my heels were in pain. Every step I took was like ..Ouch..Ouch..Ouch.. the feeling of needles piercing under my feet. 
Long walk down
When I arrived at my favourite spot which I call it as Hard Rock cafe, I realised it was time for lunch. Hard Rock cafe is the midway and my spot to take a break.

My all time favourite snack on the go.
Vanilla Twiggies from Gardenia. My favourite snack for hiking since more than a decade ago. I am so glad to see this snack made it into Langkawi's mini market :)
It is recommended that you carry along some snacks and enough drinking water. Ideally, about 1.5-2L of water. The humidity is high in this forest. And of course, there are no rubbish bins in the forest and so, please carry your trash out.
Some fools left this behind! One of the causes of forest fires during extreme dry season in Langkawi is by a discarded cigarette butt if not extinguished properly.
There are always photos to take away in this rainforest. And there also other stuffs to take away too. Not the stuffs that I like to take away but there are no cleaners working inside here. No thank you to these irresponsible hikers.
If only trash worth as much as gold then there will be no littering everywhere. Here is my way of paying rent to the forest.
The sound of the flowing stream and the noise of the quad bikes are the indicators that you are back in the park. The cool water from the stream is too tempting for me. I dashed towards the edge of the stream, sat on a boulder and took off my shoes. Piiisssssttt...I felt like the heat under my feet has been immediately cool off! Like a hot iron being put in the cold water. What a relief to have my both feet soaked in the nice, cool stream on a hot day!

I took this picture of the stream in Lubok Semilang park while enjoying the cool water.
This is a DIY walk and engaging a local nature guide is not compulsory even though it is a recommended choice to engage one. It is always worth checking the weather condition before you head off. It is not the big rain here that will make you cold and to risk hypothermia, it is the big storm that can rip trees off the ground. Carry sufficient drinking water especially during the dry season. Just remember this, stay on the steps at all times if you are not familiar with the surrounding except when you need to  walk around a big fallen tree.

If you are looking for a nature activity and a non-touristy thing to do on Langkawi, this is one of them! My big hope is in the relevant authorities to remain this place as it is, forever. No further development is needed for Gunung Raya rainforest as it is at its best now. I am truly thankful for these steps!

Here is a short video clip on the sound of cicadas in the forest of Gunung Raya:

Note: This post is based on my personal experience and only offers general information on Gunung Raya steps. It is not to be taken as a complete guide. Remember, you are at your own risk with any DIY rainforest walks in Langkawi.

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