Hiking at Cherok Tokun Hill, Bukit Mertajam (Tokun Hill) has become my regular weekend outing in the last few years. I used to go for leisure walk at Tokun Hill many years back but only seriously went for hiking after I decided to go for Mt Kinabalu Climbing in June 2013. Prior to the adventurous trip to Sabah, I began to train at Tokun Hill for several months and after the successful climb to the peak of Mt Kinabalu, I have developed an indulgence for hiking as a healthy form of exercise and to get fit.
Tokun Hill Recreational Forest or Hutan Lipur Cherok Tokun, with a highest peak of 547 metres above sea level, is accessible from Bukit Mertajam Town via Jalan Kulim and thereafter via Jalan Kolam for a distance of 5 km. The nearest exit from North-South Highway is via the Juru Interchange. The distance from the recreational area at the base up to the Hill Top via the tarred road is about 4.0 km. Hiking via the jungle trails from the base up to the hill top is shorter, about 3.0 km-3.5 km.
There were several incidences of hikers get lost their way while hiking at Tokun Hill involving students, youth, women and retired men. One reported case of two missing women at Tokun Hill in December 2014. See Two women feared missing at Bukit Ceruk Tokkun and the most recent one involved two retired men who lost their way whilst hiking at Tokun Hill and got stranded for 5 hours.
To avoid the risk of getting lost as well as injury while hiking, I like to share my hiking experiences and below are some safety tips that may be helpful for those who wants to go for hiking at Tokun Hill.
Basically, I would classify the visitors of Tokun Hills into 3 categories :-
a) Leisure walkers / amateur hikers
b) Weekend hikers
c) Regular hikers
a) Leisure walkers / amateur hikers
These are mostly families and first time visitors, some of them would walk leisurely along the tarred road with their family members and friends or stroll aimlessly along the stream and jungle trail for a short distance.
These group is the majority of the visitors on weekends, especially morning and afternoon 5pm to 7 pm. Both the parking areas near the main entrance and another one near the base are always full with cars.
b) Weekend Hikers
These group are mostly working people and come to Tokun hill to exercise on weekends or public holiday only.
They are either in a group or alone, with backpack beg and wear proper gear and walking stick.
They are moderately fit and have specific route to trek.Some of them are able to hike up to the peak whilst some may trek up half way, stop and rest at the main rest shed.
Their average time to hike up to the hill top and back is 2 hours – 2.30 hours.
c) Regular Hikers
Mostly are retired men and women. Some of them are elderly persons in the 60s-70s,
They come to hike regularly almost on daily or alternate day basis. They are physically fit, with good endurance and very adaptable to the terrain of the Hill and familiar with the jungle trails. One regular hiker told me , rain or shine, he will come to hike on daily basis and he would feel uneasy and restless if he didn’t come for hiking.
They can hike fast at ease and can reach the hill top and then back to the base for less than one and a half hours.
9 Tips on hiking safely at Tokun Hill
1) Weather – it is best to check the weather condition of the day before you leave home heading towards Tokun Hill. Avoid thunderstorm /raining period as the condition of the jungle trail may be wet and slippery, thus not conducive for hiking. If you still want to go, opt for the tarred road instead of the jungle trail.
2) Ideal time to Hike – most of these incidence of get lost their way whilst hiking is that they went for hiking impulsively with little preparation and started their hike rather late in the afternoon. Best time to go for hiking is in the morning. If you wish to go for hiking in the afternoon, then start your trip early , 2.30 to 3 pm. To start your hiking trip after 5 pm via the jungle trail is considered too late or risky as the weather condition in the rain forest turn dark very quickly after 6 pm.
The regular hikers normally start their trip rather early and some of them could have already come down and left the place by 5 pm.
Another advantage of starting your trip early is that you have better chances of seeking help in case of emergency when get stranded midway from those hikers who are on the way down.
3) Hike in a group – It is always safer to trek up in a group along the jungle trail as the trail is rather quiet and hardly any hikers during week days. There are more hikers using the jungle trail during weekends.
4) Know your hiking trail – in addition to the existing tarred road, there are numerous trails and earth tracks which are rather confusing to hikers. Go for the trails that are widely used by the hikers and avoid trekking into unfamiliar path.
5) Wear proper hiking shoe, knee support and ankle guard if required to safeguard your knee and ankle from injury. As the jungle trail is of uneven steps make up of stones, path full of rocks and boulder and earth track on sloping terrain, a good pair of hiking gear is necessary for a comfortable, safer and enjoyable hiking trip. Hikers can trek up via the jungle trail and come down via the tarred road if the trail is still wet/slippery after rain a night ago.
6) Hiker’s Conduct - Be an environment friendly hiker, keep your foot print to minimal whilst in the forest do not litter.Bring along a refuse beg to keep empty drinking bottle, snack wrapping and food waste.
7)Take proper meal one hour before hiking and bring along one bottle of drinking water and chocolate energy bar if you wish to bring along. Keep your fruits and snacks inside the beg and away from the eyes of the monkeys to avoid being snatched by the monkeys.
Apart from the usual nuisance of mosquitoes, the blood sucker and while trekking and resting , be vigilant on tropical rain forest insects ie leech, centipede, scorpion, ants, bees, snakes etc which can be harmful to hikers. Also watch out for any dead tree branches hanging on the trees.
9) For hikers who wants to go for more challenging hike and training in preparation for mountain climbing, he/she can opt for a shorter but steeper trail to the hill top and carry along a backpack beg with 2kg to 5 kg weight.
If you wish to enquire more about hiking adventure at Tokun Hill, email to tclbm at yahoo dot com . And for ladies who want to know more about hiking through the jungle trail of Tokun Hill, please email to Ms Hor gshor1965 at gmail dot com
Some views of the jungle trails
View of the main rest shed
View of Mengkuang Dam from the hill top rest shed
flora and fauna of Tokun Hill