The game of gasing or spinning a top is a very traditional game popular in South-East Asia, and more so among the kampung folks of yesteryear. The game is mainly played by kids yet adults indulge in this favourite challenge to pit their skills against each other. The focus is to have one’s top spinning longest. In looking at the tops spinning at incredible speed, some have claimed to feel the dizzy spells associated with staring at it.
Whilst getting into a dizzy state is rare, a few of us that hiked at Bukit Gasing found ourselves in a tailspin getting about the hill. The parking was situated a short walk from the entrance and was accessible and fuss free; ample parking lots were available, but this was a weekday.
A welcome sign and well-maintained, coloured map to Bukit Gasing greeted us at the entrance. Upon stepping into a trail, we noticed that the trail received the attention of ‘hill helpers’, and we concluded that there is likely a dedicated group of volunteers that spent time in ensuring the hill was regularly tended to. There is a downside to this for the avid hiker – a well-tended trail and forest presents no challenge. In many respects, we felt that same way though we did not fall into the categories of an experienced nor a novice hiker. As we manoeuvred further, along to our left was a footpath with pebbles on slabs. This was for the daring folks that took off their shoes and walked calmly, but we like to think they did so more painfully, getting through or struggling through the pain barriers to anatomically knead the 200,000 nerve endings in the sole of their feet. Good luck to them but we shied away from this torturous exercise, and continued on the flat path.
We reached a crossroads in which direction to take in going uphill one way or staying on the well-manicured trail. We opted for the latter. As we moved deeper into the secondary forest, we noticed some signs a distance away. And that reminded me of the incidents of early May 2017. For those that might have forgotten or are unaware, a few hundred trees in Bukit Gasing at that time were partly sawn out and were felled by vandals or mischief-makers. The Friends of Bukit Gasing (FoBG) community group that looked after the forest were concerned as partially sawn out trees can pose a danger if they fell onto hikers and walkers. Since then, more rangers, FoBG volunteers and hikers have been keeping close watch on possible acts of vandalism. And we urge you as well to continue doing this as we make every effort to keep the forest from destruction.
As we trailed uphill, without knowing where we were heading (we planned to go about this without formal directions to see where the trails would take us), we found many exposed ground roots that meandered into many directions. It is necessary for hikers not to get their feet lodged in the roots as that will cause imbalance and possibly a fall. The help of a rope attached along the trees helped us in our climb. Once again, we noticed how nicely managed the forest floor is as we ascended.
The climb became steeper and we eventually found ourselves at a concrete wall! The climb up and over the wall was most challenging! We had to literally roll over onto the top of the wall after getting one foot up. That was quite hilarious because we realised how inflexible our bodies are!
Standing on the concrete floor, we were extremely surprised by what we saw. Against the backdrop of a high wall, there were amazing statues splashed in a washed white but discoloured due to the effects of the sun, rain and probably pollution. The statues were supported by an open concrete shell that may have housed more statues or religious offerings. Peeling out between the carefully spaced out shells were shrubs searching for the bright sunshine. Overgrown shrubs also covered parts of the concrete floor. There was a spectacular sight with the views of parts of Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and high rise dwellings. On a clear day, we believe we could have seen further.
Further along the concrete walkway, there was also a weather-beaten notice: Lost Dog. We hope the owners had been reunited with Bella, the name of the dog. There were many banana trees down in the jungle from our higher position on the concrete walkway. There seemed to be an abundance of bananas waiting ripening. Along the route as it became narrower, we found what we most disliked. We had to bear witness to the ugly behaviour of humans that littered the environment as plastic mineral water bottles were thrown about. We urge all hikers and walkers to care for our world we live in. Turning left, we found a staircase with overgrown shrubs on both sides as we crept up. A tired looking fence trailed up and we passed a towering communications steel structure. When we reached the uppermost part, we thrilled to see another spectacular find, the Sivan Temple. One of the interesting things about ‘blindly going into a hike without much research’ is stumbling upon places of interest. And it was serene and most wonderful up in the temple grounds. We were careful not to tread into a given area where the removal of footwear is mandatory. We noticed a very large patch of the grounds had mounds of rubble and loose concrete pieces. And found out that the previous temple had been demolished due to the danger of it collapsing, and causing a landslide. We saw some devotees visiting the temple and hurling coconut pieces into a large concrete enclosure. They also fed the eager monkeys with the coconut pieces. A couple of monkeys were bold enough to be up, close and almost personal with us.
After some respite, we trailed down from a different direction and looked to find our way out. We walked along a wide jungle path and again, it was noticeable we were receiving the benefits of a safe trek for the path was tidy and cared for. As we seemed to descend, we found a small insignificant stream, one that a hiker could easily cross without the need for waterproof trail shoes. One significant bit about our hike was that we did not see any signs directing us. And at this point, we realised we were displaced (some prefer to term it as lost). But surely we will not be lost in some small hill? Wrong again as we walked in a few directions, not knowing where we were. The itch of reaching toward our mobile phone was drawing closer but we strained not to do that, instead thinking of how we can get out of this spin we were in; much like the gasing.
We saw a bridge and a large stream, and this Indiana Jones precarious-looking wooden structure plus the ‘river of crocodiles’ will be covered in a subsequent article. We met an elderly gentleman that told us to follow a given route. And as we tried to trail out, we hit a few roadblocks – moving like the gasing - until a lady with a lovely looking doggie pointed us in the direction to the exit.
The hike was highly interesting yet it was one that with an unplanned intervention, we could have found ourselves going round and round. After all, it was a quiet weekday and there were not many people we passed.
It is highly unlikely you will get lost aside from going round, but the army of mosquitoes is something you need to be prepared for. Bring along your insect repellent and be ready to do battle with the airborne critters.