// Bukit Batu

Facts

Elevation: 2,040 m (6,693 ft) Prominence: 1,574 m
Ribu category: Google MarkerSpesial Province: Sarawak (Malaysia)
Google Earth: kml Other names:
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Photos

Bukit BatuNext »
Bukit Batu - Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)Bukit Batu – Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)
Bukit Batu – Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)
Bukit Batu - Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)Bukit Batu – Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)
Bukit Batu – Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)
Bukit Batu - Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)Bukit Batu – Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)
Bukit Batu – Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)
Bukit Batu - Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)Bukit Batu – Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)
Bukit Batu – Burning to make way for more oil palms near the Bakun junction (copyright Dan Quinn / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) September 2014)

View a slideshow in our Picasaweb gallery

Bagging It!

Bukit Batu was first summited in December 2014 by a team including nepenthes (pitcher plant) expert Alastair Robinson. There are very occasional researcher trips to the Hose mountain range, presumably via remote logging roads from Kapit.

Practicalities

Getting there The two main towns in the immense Batang Rejang region are Belaga and Kapit. Belaga is accessible by daily 4WD from Bintulu (4 hours, call Daniel Levoh to reserve a seat) or by boat from Kapit when the water level is high enough. Kapit is just 3 hours by boat from Sibu and there are several boat each day. In a straight line, Belaga is considerably closer to the highpoint of Bukit Batu than Kapit, but according to one source, logging roads from Kapit are the best bet of reaching the foothills of the Pegunungan Hose (Hose mountain range).
Accommodation In laid-back Belaga, Daniel Levoh’s guesthouse is the obvious place to stay. There are several adequate hotels in the unattractive and industrial town of Kapit and the New Rejang Inn gets the best reviews at present.
Permits You may be required to obtain a permit from the Resident’s Office 2km out of Kapit if you enter from the Sibu direction and especially if you continue up the Batang Baleh river which looks like a likely route towards the foothills of the range. In reality it is unlikely you will be asked to present your paperwork, but for those spending several days in this remote area it may be worth getting your permit.
Water sources Unknown, assume none.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm): bintulu

Location

Origins and Meaning

Literally ‘rock hill’ in Malay and Indonesian.

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Trip Reports and Comments

One entry for “Bukit Batu”

  1. avatar

    I made countless enquiries about this mysterious mountain range several months before arriving in the area. Very few had ever been there, and the few who had actually had conducted wildlife expeditions to the range remained rather tight-lipped about all of the logistics but did find it implausible that anyone had reached the true summit before. It certainly isn’t a mountain that many, or any, local hiking clubs visit.

    One adventure company manager was very interested in joining me on this, with a view to offering a new itinerary to his clients. This was excellent news, as the lack of information and supreme remoteness meant that the costs of just getting to the base of the mountain would prove expensive and time-consuming. Even at this early stage, this range always seemed to be the one that I would have the lowest chance of actually getting to the top of.

    A number of weeks prior to the planned expedition dates, the adventure company manager got back in touch to say he was quite busy and would be sending a colleague in his place. And then, following on from that, it turned out his colleague might not be able to make it either. And then the correspondence stopped and that was the end of that and it was obvious I would be alone on this one.

    Daniel Levoh of Belaga was very helpful with his emails, even if he couldn’t help me with the actual task of finding anyone who had hiked in the range. He suggested maybe staying in a Kayan longhouse near Bakun Dam but I was needing something more concrete such ashe number of endemic species that may have been lost is impossible to ascertain.

    I arranged with Daniel to be picked up in Bintulu for the 4WD journey to Belaga. This journey was a real eye-opener, with large areas of land being burnt in order to make way for palm oil plantations. Once off the main Bintulu-Miri road and onto the 100km-plus Bakun Dam road, the scale of logging and palm oil industries became sadly apparent, despite the backdrop of attractive hills. The air was filled with smoke and large areas of forest graveyard lined the modern highway to the controversial dam itself. There is a lot of money being made here.

    It was around this time that pitcher plant expert Alastair Robinson got in touch to say he had been to the Hose range on more than one occasion and the way to get there was via logging roads near Kapit. Just a few weeks later in December 2014, Alastair was part of a research team who were probably the first to have reached the true summit of Bukit Batu.

    7 kilometres before Bakun Dam is the right turn to Belaga, a further 34 rollercoasterish kilometres. Much more scenic now, with many small mountain ridges in all directions. I wasn’t feeling great – toothache and a bit of a cold.

    First impressions of Belaga were very positive – it seemed clean and cared for and relaxed, although quite frankly most towns would seem nice after the totally unremarkable Bintulu. The population of Belaga is around 4000, according to Daniel Levoh, the very friendly owner of the homestay. His wifi signal is surprisingly good too for such a remote town. Three German girls were staying too so it was fun to have a good chat after a few days of conversational solitude.

    I took a walk down to the riverside, as the sky turned a lovely shade of red. The only food you’ll find in Belaga is fairly basic, but it does the job. I checked my GPS and found that Belaga was just 70m above sea level and that Bukit Batu peak was over 50km in a straight line from the town (south). As Daniel’s wife smoked local tobacco roll-ups (no additives) we sipped on some rice wine which takes apparently 6 weeks from start to finish to produce. Downstairs a barbecue was starting, with local wild pig as the meat of the day. We then got started on a bottle of ‘35% ginseng whiskey’ – another local treat that most people found hard to swallow!

    Given that an approach to the mountain range via the Bakun Dam appeared the only obvious route to take from this side, and that such an approach would likely require various permits, I decided to head to the more probably starting point of Kapit, but not before I had at least gotten a glimpse of the range from here.

    I asked Daniel about a viewpoint in the vacinity and he knew exactly what I was looking for. Indeed, a Czech guy had had a similar request some time ago and he had taken him to a spot on the old Belaga-Bintulu road now unused. That would be the trip for tomorrow, and given it was only 10km or so out of town, it could be done fairly easily.

    Unfortunately, though, there was no possibility of an ‘ojek’ or motorbike taxi to this place, despite the short distance. This was apparently because the road is too rough. Indeed it was, as I soon found out, but it cost me 250 Ringgit for a short drive to the viewpoint and back – very expensive indeed. Unfortunately the weather was poor when we arrived and although we could glimpse Belaga a few hundred metres below, there was no chance of seeing Bukit Batu in the distance. Whether or not is can be seen from there is uncertain, though it is roughly the right direction to be looking in.

    At this time I was following the Scottish Independence debate with great interest – just a few days til the vote itself. The next day I had breakfast and boarded another boat at 7.30am to Kapit. This boat service is daily, but relies on the water level being high enough in the Batang Rejang. Cost of a ticket was 50 ringgit and it took 4 hours total to Kapit although it takes 5 coming the other way as it’s upstream.

    After several minor stops at hamlets in very remote areas we approached the infamous Pelagus Rapids, a stretch of fast-moving water with boulder at awkward places. It’s not easy to navigate and accidents have occurred here, more recently in 2013 when one of the local boats was overloaded with passengers. We were lucky, but you can see why British colonial governors and more recently Malaysian authorities have use explosives to remove some of the more tricky rocks to create a safer passage along the river.

    At one beautiful moment, two hornbills flew high above us crossing from one side of the river to the other. The forest appeared in reasonable condition until we neared Kapit when either side transformed into an empty wasteland after logging.

    Kapit itself was a very industrial and uninspiring place and nobody I asked could help me on the question on getting to Bukit Batu.

    The onward journey was from Kapit to Sibu in a similar boat, but this time not one you could stick your head out of to take photographs or admire the view. It was 3 hours to Sibu on one of several daily services (25 Ringgit per person).

    Despite what the Lonely Planet guidebook suggests, it is not easy to purchase onward tickets for the boat service from Sibu to Kuching until the morning of departure. I stayed in the pleasant Li Hua hotel which had a decent restaurant but was totally uninpressed by the city itself. Heavy rains lasted several hours that evening.

    The ferry to Kuching leaves daily at 11.30am and takes about 5 hours which is significantly faster and more interesting than taking the bus. Best purchase your ticket early the morning of travel, especially if you want a seat in the small air-conditioned section (55 Ringgit). Note that the ferry may leave a couple of minutes early and that the air-con is set very high to ‘arctic’ levels. The speed of the boat is impressive and after a couple of hours of cutting round mangrove islands and logging warehouses we were out on the open sea heading straight over to Kuching. I sat outside for almost the whole 5 hours although it was very hazy indeed.

    Posted by Dan | January 11, 2015, 23:07

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