Review - Bukit Pelindung Escapade
I found out about this trail from Meor’s Dailymile entry. Again, this reinforces the fact that such opportunities are available when one seeks it out, but if oblivions are at large, gajah depan mata pun tak nampak. And while Kuantan is a beautiful place to live in, I share a special connection to this birthplace of mine. Traffic is easy and their drivers are not annoying, a lot of beautiful beaches, mee calong, keropok and fresh seafood off Tanjung Api and Beserah market.
Therefore, a short getaway was welcomed, and with anticipation of this Bukit Pelindung that Meor has gotten all prepped up, almost exclusively. I was quite sure its regular patrons, mostly elderly making their morning rounds does not blog about it. Quite understandable, the younger regulars in Bukit Pelindung are mostly MTBers as documented in few youtubes.
It’s the monsoon season, and the morning I spent tossing around looking at the rain outside was futile. I needed to see this trail Meor talked about for months, but I was trying to stay away from any cold. In my aunt’s kitchen, I could smell nasi lemak boiling and the sound of dried chilli paste being fried with belacan.
Tak boleh jadi ni…
Thanks to a skill I almost perfected over years of late morning runs, I grabbed my running bag by the door, reached for the keys and phone, and went out. At least my wife knows where I’d be going.
The location of the RV area into Bukit Pelindung is not apparent, so if coming from Beserah/Kuantan area into Teluk Chempedak, look out for Sekolah Afzan on your right (after Sekolah Menengah Teknik), and the entry is on your left where you’d see lots of bungalows, and a road leading up to a hill where you’ll see an apartment on your left after these houses. Lots of cars are usually parked by the roadside. But by the time I reached the parking area at the foot of Bukit Pelindung, it was drizzling and no one was there. Don’t be afraid when you are greeted by many dogs howling.
Going up, almost immediately I hit face first on a steep incline. I decided to walk up after a bad case of lower back pulls on Friday. Walking/running up the tarmac road, which leads to Telekom towers and their cool-weather office at the top of the hill, is taxing, like going up the Steroid Hill, times 3 – as the road meanders up and up and up into a seemingly never ending climbs.
But the climb is littered with awesome collection of forestry plantings with Meranti, Mempening, Merang, Balau, Keruing etc etc, and deep gorges below that dips just next to the walkway. With no railings, this is a place kids may need to be watched closely. And the road has a lot of resting benches by the roadside to rest, almost at every 100m. I had to turn off my music, and listen to the raindrops falling on the leaves, and the sound of the faunas. Thick fog descended upon me at times, and it was pretty cold, considering I went up in my skimpy running shorts and Salomon’s drifit.
The view on top of Bukit Pelindung is a bit of a let down, as I expected to see Kuantan’s skyline and rolling beaches from Teluk Chempedak into Pantai Batu Hitam, but the reserve jungle is still thick and high, all I could see were ferns, trees, and few telecommunication towers strutting beyond the fogs like Alton Towers in winter. The road ends at the Telekom office (must be one hell of an office), and it is road down to the start.
I imagine it would be a cool and quick dash down, even with my Ghost and slippery tarmac, I’d be down in 15 minutes tops. But some 100m from the towers, there lies a secret detour into a trail. The walking track of 1.88km from that point into the Teluk Chempedak beach itself has a 220m elevation on descent. I stood there for a few minutes, weighing my options. By then, there were some 5 walkers plying the tarmac, few motorbikes and 2 trucks from Telekom revving up between the last half hour. I wondered what I would encounter in the trails, but it did not register anything as my heart was urging me to jump in.
‘Try for 15mins’, my brain said. ‘If you don’t like it, turn back’. Ok, sounds like a plan.
So I swiftly entered into a trail, wet and water puddles everywhere. The rain has stopped, and the fog disappeared, but I cannot make out of anything beyond 5metres to my side. Even the tarmac quickly disappeared once I entered the trail. The only sign of civilization along the trail is the seats provided for walkers to rest and soak in the experience.
So I went. The first view was a steep climb on a staircase, into a hut. Then, the trail gets deeper, and I forgot the 15minutes curfew as I dashed ahead into a rolling trail. Although the trail was wet, but it was not super slippery as the trail base is sand. But sometimes coming down boulders and heavy roots would impose danger of sliding down butt first. But the trail is quiet and serene, and air is crisp. There were not a lot of sounds except for the twigs and leaves, but enough to keep me alert for incoming danger. The eyes kept looking down for snakes, and I was forever worrying for wild boars, after seeing their fresh dugs just outside the trail.
One time, the Sony automatically plays a Coldplay where Chris Martin was almost talking in his hit ‘Fix You’, I jolted with surprise as it sounded as if somebody/thing whispered into my ears from my back. Seriously creepy.
I think halfway down, the trail started to branch out into many smaller trails. Evidently enough, when it’s a place for MTBers, there are bound to have many technical alternatives, which made me doubt certain tracks. But in the end I maintained my strides on the big trail, and kept moving. There were times when I encountered bushes thrown against the main trail, even tree trunks that fell across from all the rain this season, but the trail is wide enough to read, so it was ok.
But like the Dream Trail, running alone is not so ideal. I was out of my comfort zone, especially not knowing the trail at all, and where I would end up. The only guy who knows about the trail is Meor, who was nursing his pregnant wife in TTDI, and whether I’d see anyone running the trail at all. The trails are similar, albeit remote to my liking, but it allows you to be aware of your footing and the surrounding. And the Bukit Pelindung trail has a lot of dips where you could fly down off the boulders and hills, or hurl yourself up if coming from Teluk Chempedak.
Not long, I encountered a marked area, possibly recently used for a MTB event. And the trail was becoming more confusing with many new additional trails branching out which made me try some of those, backtracked and ahead. In the end, it is safe to be on the main trail.
However, I did not bring any water and fuel (rookie mistake), and tackling the hills sapped me out very quickly. But by then, I could already hear a splashing beach below me, and within 15 minutes, a small window ahead draws a curtain and reveals the breathtaking beach at Teluk Chempedak (although, the sea was like a whirpool). And that was it, Teluk Chempedak in your face.
The trail is a short one, no doubt, but the enough element of fun and fear was adequate, given trying it for the first time. I would think that on my next trip to Bukit Pelindung, I’d have to chart a longer route. From the beach, I ran up into the road, and towards Taman Teruntum, in high hopes to thread the sandy beach to Taman Gelora, and back. However, even in low tide, my run abruptly stopped as the beach is not runnable between Teruntum and Gelora, so I headed back to the carpark (along Jalan Alor Akar, etc) in full monsoon rain (even hard rain without thunders are always welcomed). Overall distance was perhaps 8k-10k, and my cold sweat made the most of it coming down Bukit Pelindung.
|I missed this Road Safety Awareness campaign when I was a kid!|
|The beach at Taman Teruntum - looking towards Taman Gelora beach|
|Back to civilisation|
|Nik Fahusnaza having a field day at a free range|
|Imagine Kapas - Marang... seram!|
Short and sweet.
Although not the same I could muster when sitting at the dining table for breakfast with sambal ikan bilis staring back at me. But life is like that. You win some, you lose some. When balance is what I was looking for, a short, intense run with family getaway together is always a winning strategy.
So, the Bukit Pelindung in one of the top ten list of to-do things in Kuantan now. Until the next trip!