Goodbye 2016! Hello 2017! I may not have gotten to see the fireworks as I was already in bed, but that’s because I had tradition to uphold – my annual New Year’s Day hike. This year it was along beautiful Sungai Pisang.
An easy hike, just short of an hour from car to waterfall, and most of it flat and along the river, I was stoked to be out in the green and splashing through streams on the first day of the year. There with the KL Hiking crew, Akram, one of my other frequent hiking buddies and his friend Tarjinder were along for the ride too.
Unbelievably the last time I saw Akram was a year to the day.
While there was parking closer to the trailhead, we left our vehicles on the side of the old Gombak Road and walked there, down past one jungle retreat after another until we had to duck under a boom gate and down a trail on our left towards the river’s edge. Time to get our feet wet.
We crossed the river and opposite the water plant, made for a set of stairs 10 meters upstream before continuing through the tall grass and ferns. Up ahead the formidable Karak highway towered over us. We made our way along its base until we got to two long unlit twin tunnels.
Above us traffic roared past on it way back into the city or eastwards to Bentong and beyond, oblivious to the adventure unfolding below. I switched on my headlamp and sloshed 50 meters upstream in the dark.
Although only at ankle level, the channel the tunnels created made its current tugged at my feet. Sue walked the strip of concrete that hugs either side of drain. A high school chum and new hiking mate, she had camped at Lata Pisang with another group of KL Hikers on New Year’s Eve and had come out to join today’s hike.
What waited on the other side of our leap of faith into the darkness was quite beautiful – burbling shallows, crystal clear and sandy underfoot, while all around us forest.
The path on the left side of the river was easy to spot. We followed it upstream, crossing the burbling water repeatedly but always staying close by until we came across two signs that read: “Route 1” and “Route 2”.
Route 1 continues on the right of the river (if you’re facing upstream) and takes you to the base of the waterfall. Route 2 which involves a short hill climb that takes you over the river and above the waterfall is to the left. Not one to shy away from a challenge, even a small one, we veered left. 20 minutes later we emerged from between the trees to a camp site, the first of many that surround the top of the falls.
Just beneath us was the river. We crossed it without realising that we were only meters from the fall’s edge. On the other side, we marched through yet another campsite before we came to our own.
It was large, with numerous tents set up, beanbags scattered here and there and a long table laden with food, beyond which was a view I didn’t expect – Lata Sungai Pisang. From between the trees it crashed 25 meters spilling into a clear shallow pool in a set of 3 cascades.
To get there we had to navigate a short but treacherously narrow ledge, at times clinging to the rocks for support. Once there, Akram and Tarj jumped in almost immediately, while I hung back, preferring to take photos and watch as people took turns to meditate and massage their weary muscles under the thunderous flow. As a brave abseiler prepared to bounce his way down the tumble of water, it dawned on me what that rope I had seen earlier was for, not to mark the dangerous edge but for thrill seekers to clip onto before venturing down into the spray.
Rather than go back the way we came, our exit was via Route 1, from the bottom of the falls along a trail that hugged the left side of Sungai Pisang (if following the flow of the river). There were no paper markers this time, just the sounds of far off traffic getting closer to guide us. But within 10 minutes we had come to a large boulder that is a cited landmark, and 15 minutes after that the familiar view of the twin tunnels.
Our hike was short but sweet, and after seeing pictures of this beautiful location, I was thrilled to get to finally experience it for myself.
8.50am Start hike
8.54am Enter trailhead at the end of the road and cross river at water plant
9.00am Arrive at the twin tunnels underneath the highway
9.20am Come to junction with signs marking out Route 1 (to the right) and Route 2 (to the left)
9.40am Emerge at the top of the waterfall
10.45am Leave from base of the falls
10.55am Pass boulder
11.10am Reach twin tunnels
11.30am Back at car
Time 50 minutes to 1 hour via Trek 2 from our parking spot on Jalan Gombak to the top of the falls; 45 to 50 minutes via Trek 1 to the base of the falls.
Rating KL Hiking rates this “Easy to Moderate”. Route 2 has a short uphill climb that takes you to the camping grounds above Lata Pisang, after which you’ll need to descend a steep and narrow ledge to get to the falls’ base. If you’re not up to it or have children in tow, at the intersection take Route 1 which is shorter, flat and follows the river directly to the bottom of the falls.
Facilities If you need to use the bathroom, there are lodges in Kampung Sungai Rumput that will let you use theirs for a small fee of about 50 sen.
Cleanliness Thankfully there’s little to no rubbish along the river, but heavy use by weekenders and campers does tend to concentrate trash at Kampung Sungai Rumput and the camp sites around Lata Pisang. Do your bit by taking home what you carry, or by bringing a plastic bag and picking up what you find.
Getting there Just after the MRR2 turn off onto Karak Highway, exit left bypassing the toll completely. At the junction turn left onto Jalan Sungai Pusu, then continue past the International Islamic School until you come to another junction and take a right. You’re now on the old Gombak Road (Road 68). On weekends the route attracts cyclists so do drive carefully. Your intended destination is Kampung Sungai Rumput, or if you need a landmark, key in The Alangs.
GPS coordinates 3.303184, 101.737389
Parking Park up on the side of the road if there’s space or exit left just 800 meters from the Orang Asli Museum towards The Alangs / Jungle Lodge retreats. There’s a parking fee here, levied by the locals, which differs from RM1 to RM3.