KUCHING: Locals might be more familiar with Mount Singai or Mount Serapi as a hot hiking spot but Mount Jagoi or Bung Jagoi, as it is known in the Bidayuh language, is a perfect spot for beginners to hike or jungle trek.
I took the opportunity to spend my Saturday in a rather meaningful way by going hiking with more than 20 students from SMK Sungai Tapang, the first International Baccalaureate school in Malaysia, as a volunteer for their Girls Brigade outing at this lesser known mountain near the Sarawak-Kalimantan border.
Located just 45 minutes away by car from Kuching city, this sandstone hill is 360 meters high and takes about an hour or two to reach the summit depending on the hiker’s pace.
It is located between Kampong Serasot and Kampong Duyoh, so starting from any of these villages is possible to reach the peak.
Mount Jagoi has been turned into a heritage and conservation area by Jagoi Area Development Committee to preserve the cultural heritage, natural attractions, biodiversity and ecosystem within the 500ha community forest.
The journey to Kampung Duyoh, where we started our hike, was scenic enough as we were treated to lush greeneries and paddy fields. One will come across one of Kuching’s attractions, Fairy Caves, when on the way to Mount Jagoi.
Upon arriving, register at the information centre and take a toilet break before starting the hike as it will be a while before one reaches another restroom during the journey.
Entering the trail to the peak, the students were treated to fresh air from the bamboo filled rainforest and clean water from the mountain.
There are only few stretches of concrete steps along the trail so hikers have to tread with care as they make their journey up the steep hill.
The rest of the trail consists of wooden board trails and some are covered with the roots of trees. Beware of moss-covered roots and vines as it gets slippery from morning dew or rain.
Several rest stops are available along the way to enable hikers to catch their breath and enjoy the panoramic view halfway up the mountain.
The students walked at a leisurely pace as they enjoyed learning about plant species along the way from the wooden boards with plant names nailed on the trees.
An hour into the hike, the students passed a herbal garden off the main trail.
With aching muscles and joints, students and volunteers climbed the last concrete steps, which was almost a steep 90-degree climb before reaching the Bidayuh Longhouse located near the peak.
This was the first ancestral Bidayuh village of the Jagoi Bidayuhs in Bau District. The tribes used to live on the hill in Kampong Jagoi Gunong.
However, as the population and need for more agriculture space grew; most villagers migrated down to the surrounding foothill and formed eight villages which are now known as Bogag, Duyoh, Plaman Bu’ow, Serasot, Serikin, Sibobog, Skibang and Stass in Sarawak as well as five villages in Indonesia namely, Babang, Kindau, Sejaro, Belida’ and Take’.
Once a lively population of 34 longhouses, the village now has the ruins of 13 longhouses, a ceremonial centre consisting of a Baruk or Skull house and Gawai house. Vines and creepers are slowly engulfing several wooden houses, giving it a hauntingly beautiful vibe like time stood still for the village.
Only one family is still living at the Bung Jagoi village, being the caretaker or guardian of the village. They appreciate company whenever hikers take a rest at their house. The Baruk still contains several human skulls from long ago and are placed there as a remembrance to their heritage.
It took another 20 to 30 minutes to reach the summit of Mount Jagoi where we were rewarded with the breathtaking view of nearby mountains and Kampung Serasot. Rest and snack for as long as you want at the top before making your way down again. Wash off the fatigue and dirt after climbing at a waterfall near the foot of the mountain.
Although this mountain is suitable for beginners, people with health problems are advised to take extra precautions and hike at their own pace as it is a steep climb.
That said, just enjoy what nature has to offer and head away from the city one weekend for a healthy and refreshing hike.