Just as I’m reading that Scottish doctors are prescribing nature walks to a treat chronic illness, a doctor’s desire to help his patients here in Malaysia has resulted in a series of short trails in Nilai that have been embraced by all, young, old, healthy and recovering.
Nestled behind Taman Desa Melati in Bandar Baru Nilai, Melati Hill is a neighbourhood trail that is amply sign-posted and so well utilised by the local community, that it has its own hashtag (#melatihikers) and a lost and found.
Dreamed up 7 years ago by neurosurgeon Dr Johari Aziz, Bukit Melati remained relatively under the radar, gaining wider popularity with beginner hikers after access to Broga Hilll was temporally closed in mid-2017. Today its varied terrain and choice of paths makes it popular with all levels of ramblers and runners looking for a quick workout, while the presence of stalls selling refreshments and pre-loved hiking gear transforms its foothill with a festive atmosphere on weekends.
Jalan BBN 11/4 is where all 4 trailheads including a tarred road are located but the main trailhead begins to the left of Na Du Gong Temple. Leads up towards Centipede, Monkey, Cobra and Mosquito Hills, each was designed by the good doctor to be of different lengths and levels of difficulty so that he could recommend them to different patients at different stages of their recovery.
KL Hiking would be plying the Eagle Hill trail, located (if you’re facing the temple) at the far right end of the road. A relatively new addition, we’d use it to get to Cobra Hill before descending towards the exit at the opposite (far left) end of the road.
Unlike many Malaysian trails, Eagle Hill trail begins on a flat before heading down through a grove of tall palms, reason enough for me to like this trail already.
On the other side of it, a crenelated plateau of worn rock reminded me of my own neighbourhood trail at Bukit Puchong. Exposed to the elements, it proffered a view over Bandar Baru Nilai across the highway to the mist-shrouded Mantin Hills in the distance – a scenic start to the day.
Circumnavigating the edge of the barren plain, we made for the treeline and ducked into an old palm oil plantation. No longer cultivated, it was overgrown with ferns. Its red clay trail, in contrast, was smooth and compact from frequent use, and in my haste I slipped, landed on my butt and grazed my hands and arm. Ouch.
Ignoring the “Out” and “Exit” signs, our route led down to the first of two stagnant pools of water before winding its way back up past a small temple and rest area.
Apart from where we eventually exited, this was the only place I saw rubbish strewn on the ground. I suspect that the bin had been tossed by monkeys or pushed over by wild boar. There were lots of signs of the hogs left behind in the soft, wet mud. Without any natural predators in the green that remained to control their numbers, they could proliferate unchecked. Melati Hill is bordered by housing estates, a school and Nilai University with further land clearing visible.
Our trail skimmed the perimeter fence of the institute, then climbed up and down away from it, before a hillock, laid with wooden steps, eventually met with it again.
The second pool came into sight minutes later, after which junction loomed ahead. Confronted with a choice: straight ahead to Monkey, Mosquito and Cobra Hills, or right along the Rope Trail, we went right following the trail markers along the zig-zagging line. Palms towered high above us and rustling heard overhead revealed the presence of long tailed macaques perched in the fronds. No count the ripe palm oil fruits provided them with a steady source of food.
Surprisingly demanding, we heaved a sigh of relief when we reached the top of the rise. A flat section gave us the chance to douse our burning calves but it wasn’t long before they were on fire again.
Were it not designed by a doctor I would have assumed that the section that followed was engineered by a sadist. Rather than a direct route to the peak or one that coiled around the hill, our trail cruelly twisted up and down. Each time we ascended towards the summit, the trail plunged back down again. The combination of gradient and treacherously traction-free ground also meant that we were reliant on the rope to get around safely. I didn’t bring gloves but they would have come in handy.
Our final push was up a short rock face, and then we had arrived at Cobra Hill, named not because it was the lair of some venomous serpent but because of its mercilessly meandering trail.
Sweating profusely despite it only being 9.30am, Hafiza and I glugged down fluids, I took a bite out of a breakfast bar, and both of us peered between the shrubbery to glimpse KLIA’s air traffic control tower and watch planes take off.
When it was time to go, rather than follow the “Out” sign located directly ahead of where we entered the flat open peak, we followed the trail markers located to our left. Proceeding downhill, our trail synched up with the way out and within 15 minutes we were at the bottom of the hill where it met with the tarmac road.
Taking just over 1 1/2 hours, our workout had been short and rigorous, and was capped off with fresh fruit juice from one of the stalls and laughter and conversation with our hosts Alex, Mazlin, Chan and Eric and other KL Hiking buddies. A morning of exercise, whole foods and bonding, I’m pretty sure this holistic approach to wellness would be just what the doctor would have ordered.
7.50am Enter Eagle Hill trailhead
8am View point
8.10am First pool
8.30am 2nd pool
8.35am Rope Hill junction
9.05am Arrive at Cobra Hill
9.15am Leave Cobra Hill
9.30am Exit trailhead
Altitude Not more than 350 metres.
Time and distance 1 1/2 hours. Approximately 5km.
Rating Easy to Moderate. There are short but fierce uphill sections and it can get pretty hot and humid. Start early and take your time.
Tip You will need to rely on the rope especially during the rainy season when the train is especially slippery, so as much as I try not to rely on gloves, you will benefit from having them. Bring them.
Facilities There are free to use public toilets and even showers but the smell did leave something to be desired. On weekends, the main trailhead is a mini morning market selling fresh coconut water, pressed guava juice, fruit as well as food and sometimes pre-loved hiking gear.
Parking No allocated parking so find a spot along Jalan BBN 11/4, where the trailheads are situated.
GPS coordinates 2.816115, 101.7640686
All images taken on my Canon G15.