One of the many activities we were looking forward to on our South East Asian journey was the beautiful hikes and trails we would complete along
the way. We are both nature lovers and enjoy pushing ourselves to our physical limits, so we compiled a list of all the hikes listed as ‘moderate’ or ‘for beginners’ in Malaysia to inspire us. One of said hikes was Bukit Saga, a three-hour loop hike that takes you to the summit and the Apeh Waterfalls. There were two options to this hike; one being a longer journey with less of an incline, and the other the converse of this. We chose to do both; one going up, the other going down, just as many online forums suggested. So begins our journey into the wilderness.
Getting to the Trailhead
Sounds like an uninteresting part of the story, however this story is unlike most other hiking stories for many reasons as you’ll soon discover. Due to us moving around in SE Asia quite a lot for the first part of our travels, we didn’t bother getting a local sim card. It seems this was a mistake, but there’s WIFI in many places so it wasn’t a huge deal. Uber is an absolute blessing out here due to its low cost and easy use, so we booked an Uber from our hostel to the trailhead. It seems that Uber’s countdown in Malaysia leaves something to be desired, as a 13-minute wait was more like 25, however we were greeted by a very friendly driver who spoke basic English. He confirmed the address with us, and off we went. It took around 20 minutes to get there as expected, but upon arrival we couldn’t see the entrance anywhere. The Uber driver asked if we were there to hike Bukit Saga, and that he’d drive us around the corner to the entrance. When we got to the signposted trailhead, we were faced with a huge construction site. Upon seeing this, our driver escaped down the road as fast as he could. ‘BYEEEEE’ he shouted, driving full speed away.
We were greeted by two bemused non-English speaking construction workers who explained using gestures that the entrance had moved due to the construction. They pointed ‘that way’, so off we trekked. Luckily, I had the infamous maps.me app on my phone, which works without internet and shows all the roads and paths in the country of the map you pre-download, plus your location within it. We walked down some quaint little streets past locals giving us strange looks as we waddled around with our hiking bags and climbing shoes. As much as we loved walking in the scorching heat down the same roads over and over, it started getting frustrating, so we decided to turn on our mobile data just for the day so that we could look online at the forums to see where the temporary trailhead was. Just as I did this (costing me £4.99 per day), Ben spotted the entrance!
To the summit
So began our extremely upright hike, which turned out to be more mountain climbing than hiking. Regardless, we arrived as planned at various resting spots where we shared small talk with some local hikers, Ben (creepily) took some up-close photos of a few bemused hikers who just wanted a moment’s rest, refilled our Water-to-go bottles (highly recommended!) and found out we were approximately 30 minutes from the waterfalls so off
we went. So far it had been a continuous incline, so we were delighted when the ground began to even out and we could give our legs a break. Unfortunately for us, our trail started doing a sudden decline instead and we found ourselves at an abandoned camp by a stream filled with the world’s ugliest fish. As we looked around we realised that the only way out of this creek was by doing an almost vertical clamber up the other side of the stream. Oh, the joys!
We came to a fork in the path, which led to either the waterfalls or the summit. We chose to visit the summit first as the path continued round to the waterfalls anyway. Four hours later (not kidding), we arrived at the summit. Sweaty, tired and 30lbs lighter, we chilled at what looked like a children’s camp that had makeshift gym equipment, hammocks, tables and chairs, old cleaning equipment, games, hula hoops, a pair of pants and not a single good view, before heading towards the waterfalls.
To the Waterfalls
To our dismay, the path on the map was even longer than the path we had just used to get to the summit, so our will to continue was slowly decreasing. Finally we experienced some luck, as the paths evened out and became horizontal again, for five minutes at least. It took two hours to reach the waterfalls, and we stripped as fast as we could and jumped in. Without a soul in sight, we spent a good hour bathing in, jumping in and standing under the waterfalls and all the unfortunate events that occurred to get there were washed away.
Finding the exit
Due to our very long journey so far, we weren’t particularly willing to go back the way we came, so we made our way to the closest exit following the path on maps.me. It all seemed to be going so well when we noticed our location on the app was slightly off the path. We decided to trust the path and keep going, which was possibly the worst idea we have ever come up with. As we swerved left and right down large, gravelly paths, we accepted that we were utterly and completely lost. Ahead of us was the biggest decline we had seen yet, but on gravel instead of through trees. This meant there was nothing to hold on to, nothing to stop us falling and still no sign of the exit. Yay! By this point we had started to crack – we were so hungry, so tired and so desperate for signs of life that we reached our breaking point and had a minor meltdown. Then, out of nowhere, we saw a dog bounding through the grass ahead of us. We picked up speed and headed towards it, and as if our prayers had been answered, the owner of the dog appeared and told us we were just twenty seconds from an exit. The final moments were interesting, as the dog owner had failed to tell us that we’d be spending those final twenty seconds walking down the biggest and steepest staircase that’s ever existed, but WE MADE IT OUT ALIVE! With no clue as to where we were, we thanked our mobile data for allowing us to order an Uber from our current location. When we finally arrived at our hostel, we ate food too fast and slept for a solid thirteen hours. A huge shout out to Water-to-go for their amazing filter bottles of which we wouldn’t have survived this ordeal without!
I think it’s safe to say, the next time we go on a three-hour hike, we should probably look up the route before starting it, and we should probably pack food, JUST in case it takes nine hours again. We now have very toned bums and our legs were beyond repair for a few days (especially as we hiked a waterfall the next day by accident but that’s another story), but it was an experience to say the least. Thumbs up for exercise!