Sunday, 24 March 2013

Challenging the Mountain in Dungun

It was a fine evening when we reached Pasir Raja Rest House in Dungun in the state of Terengganu. Terengganu is the state with the longest coastline in Peninsula Malaysia, but in this excursion, I was with a group of ‘mountain-trail runners’ in 2 busloads to the inland parts of the state. All runners were dropped at Hutan Lipur Chemerong (Chemerong Recreational Forest). The runners are encouraged to spend the night by putting up their tents at the campsite provided while the media practitioners (me included) were driven to this Rest House, some 30 kilometres away from the site. I was quite surprised to find a fine accomodation in this remote part of this state. I was later told by the manager that the place used to be the official rest house for the sultan. It consists of 24 air-conditioned rooms including 2 dormitories with double decker beds that can accommodate 40 pax. Siti Salmah of Tourism Malaysia Terengganu and her two assistants were there to welcome us with a hearty refreshments and a short briefing on the upcoming programmes.  We look forward our next itinerary at 5.30pm which was the ATV ride at Chemerong.

Hutan Lipur Chemerong - A well preserved tropical recreational forest.

Tents tents everywhere!
The thunderous sound of offroad motorcycle exhausts were aleady heard about half a kilometre before we reach the Chemerung ATV Offroad Adventure. Located about 6 kms before reaching Hutan Lipur Chemerong, the place, which is open only on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and on public holidays, are apparently very popular among the locals within the Dungun district. It has dirt tracks to cater for both ATV and motocross. For ATV, there are 8 packages/routes offered and the rates ranges from as low as RM30 for fun rides to RM300 for a 5 hour extreme jungle and steep hills ride. For beginners like most of us, the one and a half hour ride was enough to exhilirate us while having fun at the same time, not to mention the aching body afterwards.

The media team having a field day at Chemerong ATV Offroad Adventure track.
By 8pm we were back at Hutan Lipur Chemerong to have our dinner while being entertained by cultural performances of a group called Dendang Anak. The uniqueness of the group was that it performed traditional and ethnic music from all the various states in Malaysia very well while a dance troupe from Sumatera dances to the tune.  I could see that the spectators, local and foreigners alike, were enjoyed by the beautiful performance which was made livelier with jokes cracked in between the numbers by Ustaz Zul, the group leader. I was more amazed when I was told much later that all the group members recruited are former drug addicts, and music is infused as part of the therapy programme. Kudos to Ustaz Zul for his untiring and noble efforts!

Dendang Anak performing for the guests
It was 7.25am the next day and were already at the flag-off site. The place soon turned into a hive of activities, with Milo truck preparing the favourite chocolaty drink, a 100 Plus energy drink booth, a Fire and Rescue personnel packing up and ready to go to the various stations, Department of Civil Defense and Ministry of Health paramedic ambulances setting up their tents and equipment and heyy, there was also free Fitnesse cereal, and I quickly grab one! Well, two actually… What better way to start an eventful day!

The Miloman  in action.

Healthy breakfast for everybody.
681 participants were all set to go at the blow of the air-horn. Dato’ Haji Khalid Yunus, former deputy Information Minister, who is now the President of Persatuan Kembara Negara (National Adventure Association) blew the horn at exactly 8am for the first category. While waiting for the runners to come back, the organiser has lined up a few family activities such as colouring contest and quizzes on tourism with lots of prizes at stake.

Dato' Khalid Yunus blasting the air horn at the flagging off.
1 hour 8 minutes and 5 seconds later, we saw the first runner, Mohamad Amirul Neeza of the Male Junior category coming to the finishing line followed by other runners. The International Male Open category was won by a Kenyan runner, Thomas Kipkosaei with a time of 2.14:10 for the complete distance of 16.1km. Malaysia’s best was Muhaizar Muhammad from the Armed Forces with a time of 2.22:49.

Fancy running along these tracks for 16 kms?
Dato' Khalid Yunus with some of the winners.
I tracked the runners for a short distance but I had to stop when I reach this suspension bridge with a breathtakingly beautiful waterfall streaming underneath. I was told that this was actually the last tier of the Chemerong waterfall. The top tier of the waterfall, with a span of 305 metres, is the highest waterfall in South-East Asia but to get there, one has to be willing to go for a one hour hike up the treacherous mountain trail. I felt the urge to climb up and take some photos but since I was here for this particular event, I had to cancel the idea and go back to the Finish Line, getting myself prepared to welcome the runners back.

The 30 metre suspension bridge adds to the picturesque settings of the waterfall.
Beautiful scenes of streams flowing alongside the runner's trail.
A view from the suspension bridge.
It has been a wonderful trip this time around, more because of my first experience covering an official ‘mountain-trail’ running event organised by Persatuan Kembara Negara. Terengganu International Mount Berembun Challenge is the second venue of a circuit of 4 venues. With a total prize money of RM50,000 at stake, the ‘National Mountain Circuit’ comprises of Gunung Datuk in Negeri Sembilan, Gunung Berembun, Gunung Jerai in Kedah and the last is Gunung Nuang in Selangor and the runner with highest acccumulative points will be named ‘Jaguh Gunung Negara’ (National Mountain Champion). 

Congratulations to Persatuan Kembara Negara for a well organised event.  Whatever it is, I promised myself to come back to Gunung Berembun, probably on my own leisure trip, and capture the magnificent sights of the highest waterfall in South-East Asia. I’ll be back Chemerong!

For more information on National Mountain Circuit Challenge and Terengganu, please visit:

Persatuan Kembara Negara

Tourism of Terengganu

Tourism Malaysia

Chemerong ATV Offroad Adventure

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