Climbing Gunung Datuk is well worth the effort. It is quite a strenuous physical effort (at least for a middle-aged guy like me!) but at the top, once the path emerges from the thick jungle, hikers are rewarded with excellent views and a cooling breeze.
This mountain (Mount Datuk) goes by many names and spellings. On road signs it is sometimes spelt Gunung Dato' or Datok. Some maps show it as Gunung Rembau or Gunung Datuk Rembau.
The information board at the start of the trail explains the background to the name Datuk. It seems the mountain was named after Dato' Perpatih Nan Sebatang who in 1372 organized a gathering of leaders here to elect the future Dato' Lembaga (clan chief).
Datuks in those days must have been a fit bunch of guys!
Gunung Datuk is 884m high (2900ft), making it slightly higher than nearby Gunung Angsi which is around 22km away. On my list of Malaysia's Highest 300 Mountains Datuk comes in at number 220 meaning that it is a relatively minor peak but the highest one in Negeri Sembilan state on my list.
The starting point of the climb is probably less than 80m above sea level meaning that the actual height climbed is a solid 800m or so.
The distance covered is 4.6km each way as the bird flies meaning that the actual distance covered is probably considerably longer (sorry I did not measure it!).
It normally takes about 2 hours to reach the top and somewhat less coming down.
The path is pretty well defined all the way except at the very beginning. My sons and I managed to miss the start of the trail and spent half an hour floundering about in the jungle before we returned to the proper starting point.
Strips of red and white or yellow plastic tape are tied round branches periodically to let you know you are on the right track.
From the car park you descend a path to a stream, cross the bridge and find the correct trail (this is where we were initially lost).
The trail starts to climb immediately and the first hour or so is a fairly brutal ascent over twisted tree roots, rocks and dirt.
You will pass a wrecked gazebo with only the roof remaining intact. It appeared that the legs have been eaten away by termites and we saw a huge termite mound not far away.
We could hear apes whooping away and occasionally glimpsed them high in the tree tops.
Down at feet level were various insects, including a giant red Malaysian centipede (about 6 inches long and very fast moving) and what looked like monster wood-lice which rolled into a ball when disturbed.
We did not encounter any leeches but there has been a prolonged dry season this year. There are probably some after rain.
There were plenty of unusual looking mushrooms and fungus growth feasting on rotting trees.
After a while the path becomes slightly less steep and you might feel a refreshing breeze which is a welcome relief from the draining humidity. (Bring plenty of water/drinks with you. We had 1.5 liters each and it was only just enough.)
Eventually (it seems longer than 2 hours) you arrive at an open area beneath the summit which is presumably used as a campsite.
From here a number of steel ladders enable you to climb up the massive boulders which dominate the peak of the mountain. The ladders look a bit unsafe but they were not as scary as I feared.
On the summit you can rest on the flat boulders, enjoy the magnificent views and feel the cooling breeze. You are supposed to be able to see the Straits of Malacca on a clear day but it was partly hazy on our visit.
Look out for a footstep-shaped impression in one of the boulders which is said to have been made by the legendary Malaysian hero, Hang Tuah.
Coming back down is easier on the heart but hard work for the knees and leg muscles.
We enjoyed the hike which was short but strenuous. If you are wondering which to climb, Gunung Angsi or Gunung Datuk, I would recommend Datuk for its superior views.
If you are coming from Kuala Lumpur, exit the North-South Expressway at Exit 223.
At the T-junction after the toll, turn left.
You will reach a round-about where you should turn right (3 o'clock exit) sign posted towards Rembau. From Rembau town you will see signposts directing you to Hutan Lipur Gunung Datuk (or Dato') which will take you along route N111. After 15km or so you will see a turning to the left pointing to Gunung Datuk. After a short drive through a rubber estate you will arrive at the Gunung Datuk base camp where you can park your car.
You need to register at the office and pay fees.
The friendly guy at the office told us that we were the only climbers that day (a Wednesday) but that it gets busy at weekends. I try not to be the first person of the day on the trail because of the spider webs (see my Mountain Climbing Tips) but there was no other choice that day.
The office and the park is open from 7am to 6pm.
Fees are as follows:
Climbing Fee RM5 per person
Camping Fee RM 3 per tent
Tent Hire (holds 4 people) RM5 per tent
The flat space just below the summit looked quite good for camping although there are no facilities apart from a very rustic toilet. I noticed that someone had sprinkled yellow rat or snake poison around the circumference of the camp site so perhaps there is a rodent or serpent problem at night. If campers would take their rubbish back down with them rather than trying to burn it the problem might be improved.
-less than 20 people RM60
-25-50 people RM120
-more than 50 people RM180
It is not necessary to employ a guide and we were not offered one.
Chalet Rental RM50 per night or RM30 for a half day.
Rubber Tapping RM2 per person.
If you want to call the office (Koperasi Gunung Datuk Rembau Berhad) their number is 606-4381046 and email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Enquiries can also be directed to the Negeri Sembilan Forestry Department in Seremban on tel 606-6014000.
Forestry Dept website: www.forestry.gov.my
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