The lure of Mount Santubong

Walking through the jungle on Mount Santubong. Photo credit: Ian Vong - file pic

by Mary Margaret

ON WEDNESDAY evening, November 11, 2018, Ian Vong, an avid hiking fan who has climbed most of the peaks around Kuching, spoke about hiking Mount Santubong.

He, like many others, has fallen under the spell of this magical and mystical mountain, and he enthralled hikers and non-hikers alike as he shared about his and his team of three’s challenge: to climb all seven peaks. We clambered along with them through pictures, videos, and words.

The task on October 27 and 28 of this year was to walk an approximate 36km-long route through extremely challenging terrain in about less than two days. The team succeeded and in turn raised funds to support the work of Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch. They were supported by hiking clubs in Kuching.

Mount Santubong from earliest times, has stood like a sentinel acting as a lure and guardian to seafarers; and continues to lure in trekkers from around the world. In 1998 the upper slopes of Santubong officially became Santubong National Park and the headquarters is only a short distance from the resorts that line the Santubong Peninsular.

Several trails wind through the lower slopes of the mountain which is enveloped by stands of Mixed Dipterocarp or kerangas/ tropical heath forests. (Kerangas is an Iban word to describe land that will not grow rice.) And most people, myself included, keep to the known trails.

But not Ian nor his team or fellow hikers in the BJV Hiking Club; for them the challenge is to plough into the unknown and push through unmarked forest.

The team started the ‘walk’ before dawn heading up to Summit 1, the prime attraction of the mountain. They then pushed down and up through the day and night until they reached Summit 7 at Tanjung Sipang Lighthouse. From there they clambered along beaches littered with gigantic and small boulders and perhaps sand on the final leg of their trek.

A scenic view of the ocean from Mount Santubong. Photo credit: Ian Vong

The rugged terrain can be explained through geology. Dr Hans Hazebroek, in August 2014, during a geology walk along the trails of Santubong explained the complex geological processes in layman’s terms.

Santubong is a coastal sandstone mountain that seems to have literally risen out of the sea. As the ocean crust dove under pushing up continental rocks; Santubong rose. There are places where the mountain has slumped almost vertically and intrusive rocks are visible. Sandstone is marked where ancient oceans created ripple. Geology can explain the creation, and this knowledge enhances our wonder at the breath-taking scenes so much admired by Ian and anyone who has scaled up the summits or hiked along the trails.

Santubong is a mountain of mystery. The majestic mountain and its towering forests reach out to all who pass by. It entices us to see its beauty first hand. To do this one must actually walk along the trail, clamber over boulders and step into streams. Buzzing insects and if you are lucky, brightly coloured birds, which might make an appearance, are just part of the experience that cannot be achieved by whizzing above the tree tops.

Article and photos courtesy of the Malaysian Nature Society—Kuching Branch.

— DayakDaily