Kemensah hike

When I think of Kemensah in Ampang I imagine Bukit Tabur. The Kemensah trail is different. Rather than hike up  and along the country’s longest quartz ridge, it wanders its foothills through forests, small fruit orchards and an  orang asli village, providing a different vantage point of this enigmatic landmark.

As a kid, my brother had an aquarium, and when it needed fish or sand we would head towards the zoo, into the Kemensah hills to the very source of the Klang river. It’s what I remember of Kemensah, a sleepy hollow on the edge of the bright lights and big city of KL.

In the last 30 years, Kemensah has changed. It still feels like rural Malaysia, but parts of its forest have been cleared for million dollar homes and apartments, scenic spots by its river have been claimed by entrepreneurs to build budget chalets for rent, and patches of land have been annexed by small holders to plant fruit trees. For a very long time I didn’t even know there was an orang asli settlement. Relocated here in 1963, when the site of their original home was cleared for development, sadly their land still remains in dispute and the chance of history repeating itself doesn’t seem outside of the realms of possibility.

It was here that the KL Hiking crew met, at the bottom of the tarmac road that leads up to the Temuan settlement. Our route would loop up around the hills and valleys that surround it, through the village back to our starting point.

We would navigate a variety of terrain, each underlining the competing commercial interests of Kemensah’s residents and Selangor Government.

Occasionally sharing the trail with mountain bikers, we’d walk an undulating circuit up and downhill through forest and farms, under canopy, through tall grasses and out in the open, with brief views of Bukit Tabur and the Klang Gates Dam, and the beautiful green of Taman Negeri Selangor as it rushed towards the Pahang border.

Leafy trail, sandy path, wide red earth road, well furrowed ATV route, we trod them all. They would crisscross confusingly, junctions splitting off into multiple directions. This was reason enough to bring a GPS device. Sadly I forgot to change the batteries on mine so all I carried was dead weight. These pictures and descriptions are the best I can do to retrace my steps.

8.05am: Rather than take the obvious tarmac road up to the Temuan village, the journey begins to the left of it, up a less obvious grassy trail and quickly passing though some scrub before entering into the jungle.

8.12am: Within 5 minutes we are gingerly picking our way across some recently cut bushes to go from leafy jungle path to well furrowed ATV track.

8.20am:  By keeping to the left we re-enter dense foliage. It’s a steady climb uphill from here with inclines of around 30 to 45 degrees.
8.35am:  With is bolderous rocks, this ridge provides a landmark. In fact I remember passing here on a separate occasion, from the other side, on the way up Tabur X. But that’s another story….

Heading up and over, for the next 5 minutes our walk is almost entirely downhill.
There are a few obstacles to surmount, like this tangle of branches and leaves which must have been brought down in a recent storm.
8.40am: Our sloping trail eventually meets up with a wider flatter path at a T-junction. We turn right and are immediately faced with a fork in the road.
We take the path to the left.
Narrow at first, it soon widens into a series of small open areas.
8.50am: The culmination of this is a recently cleared ridge. Bukit Tabur is to our left. To our right, the tangle of brush eventually fans out through orchards and eventually into virgin forest as far as the eye can see.
Bukit Tabur.
Forest as far as the eye can see.
We head up now, passing a row of farm houses.

8.55am: On the other side the trail descends in the direction of  the fruit orchards.
It’s only once we’re over this crest that we glimpse a view of the Klang Gates Dam. It’s a different perspective from what I’m used to and appears closer than ever.

9am: We come to a crossroads now and continue straight ahead. This path eventually loops around to the right taking us back here 1 1/2 hours later.

9.15am: We skirting past the perimeter of Selangor state park’s permanent forest reserve.  Entrance is prohibited and so I would assume is littering, not that that stopped anyone….

We come to another T-junction, and take a right.
9.20am: A little further along is a pond with a cottage at its end. A wide earthen road winds upwards and provides us with a view of Bukit Tabur in the distance.
9.30am: At the top of this hill where limes and chilies are planted, we veer left. Out in the distance, beyond the rolling hills, endless forest stretches out to our right bordered by the mighty Titiwangsa mountain range.
Not long after we’re back at the crossroads. and head straight (left if you’re arriving at the crossroads for the first time).
The narrow path that follows is bordered on either side by tall grass. As we duck in, it starts spitting, but fortunately it’s just a short shower.

9.40am: The following junction is easy to miss but thanks to trail markers we spot it and enter a small path on the left, dense with undergrowth it widens as it descends down through the forest.

9.50am: The river takes me by surprise. It’s quiet and assuming. It’s also the source of the Klang River (Sungai Klang) that meets with Sungai Gombak at Masjid Jamek forming the muddy confluence from which KL derives its name. Rather than cross it we follow the trail alongside it (to its left).
At the T-junction just ahead of the river we turn right and head upwards.
Our path intersects with an ATV trail and we take another right here, again heading up. Another junction (one I neglect to photograph) looms a little later. Forking wider to the right, we head straight this time.
10.10am: At this point our trail momentarily transforms into a dry stream bed.
Just a trickle of water remains.
Then familiar signs of ATVs again.
10.15: At this junction we keep to the right up the steeper of the two trails.

10.30am: Look familiar? We’re back here again. To the right is the route we came down on our first approach (at 8.40am). We took the the first left then. This time we take the right . Fortunately the trail markers have been updated accordingly and we don’t repeat the same route to end up on an infinite loop around Kemensah. That would be horrible….
Of the two right paths, we enter the unlikely smaller one.
It was so overgrown that we began second guessing ourselves at this point but the trail markers don’t lie.
On farmed land now, our path gradually descended lower into the valley.
10.40pm: Two paths converged here. I wondered if it was the wider of the two paths earlier meeting up with our narrower one. We continued along the smaller of the two into the rubber plantation.
The trees here are young unlike the ones we encounter earlier which are older and no longer tapped.
Sap flowing from this rubber tree is collected and eventually processed into latex.
10.45am: Our trail ends here just above the Temuan village. We wander through it past the houses and community hall, and children playing outside. Don’t forget to smile and be friendly!
The path winds around the village field where cattle graze on lush grass the widens into a tarmac road. A group of children run past me; a girl has a terrapin in a bucket of water,  something she found in the river perhaps? I hope it’s a pet….
10 minutes along this road and by 11am we’re back to where we gathered this morning, 3 hours before.

Time and distance 3 hours and approximately 10km.

Facilities Parking is available at RM5/car. You can wash up in the river.

Getting there Turn off the MRR2 at the zoo into Jalan Taman Zooview. Keep on it. You’ll pass Kampung Kemensah, which consists of small clusters of homes and stalls.  At a fishing pool the road splits onto two. Take the left, passing  Chalet Rimba Jinbara. Just beyond a left turn up towards the Temuan village is a designated parking area. Park here.

Coordinates 3.225286,101.780330

To learn more about the Temuan village in Kampung Kemensah,  the indigenous Temuan that live there, and the challenges they face, click Hati.my

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