GETTING bitten by leeches while gasping for breath is not what many hikers want. However, it is worth the adventure and excitement to hike up Gunung Perlis, the highest peak in the Perlis State Park.
As we made our climb, we were welcomed by the lush forest and thick undergrowth.
Our guide Asri Md Isa said it should take about six hours to reach the top and return, but we took five hours to reach the peak, which is 733m above sea level.
We needed plenty of rest during the trip, which gave photographer Zainudin Ahad the opportunity to take as many pictures as possible.
My wet shoes attracted more leeches while my new pair of white socks was all red by the time I made my way down.
Asri said I had to bear with the leeches owing to the dampness of the route.
Asri, 29, who was accompanied by his friend, Nor Hisham Jusof, 24, said it was good to allow the leeches to suck away the dirty blood in our body!
He also said that spraying insect repellant on my legs and feet would scare away the leeches but it was too late as I did not bring any along.
Besides negotiating the steep route, we had to climb up big boulders and crawl below huge fallen tree trunks.
We also had to avoid getting injured by the thorns of some plants. We stopped at a stream which has clean and cool water. The surrounding wild colourful flowers were beautiful.
July is the season when the various orchid species are known to bloom and create a sea of colours in the forest here.
When we reached a spot, Asri sat on a stone with the word 'Perlis' inscribed on it, and I asked him how long more we had to go for our journey.
To my surprise, he answered that we had reached the peak.
Asri said the fun in reaching the peak was the tough trail, not the place itself, as the area was a thick jungle that did not have any view.
He said we would be entering Thailand if we had continued our journey into the jungle after the stone.
Earlier, the park’s officer, Aldrich Richard, gave us a briefing before we started from the Wang Burma Campsite.
He said wildlife spotted there included the clouded leopard, civet cat, panther, barking deer, mountain goat and the golden cat. However, it would be difficult to spot these animals.
He said there were also snakes, monkeys and birds but usually they would avoid coming into contact with people.
“In the early morning, the White-Handed Gibbon can be heard singing away. This species is the only gibbon found in the park,” he said, adding that there were 616 species of plants in the park.
Aldrich said “the park is also the country’s only semi-deciduous forest.”
“The park is Peninsular Malay-sia's first trans-frontier protected area, together with Thailand’s Thaleban National Park, which it joins at the border,” he said.