WHAT started out as a plan to be healthier and strengthen their bond with family and friends has now turned into a stately mission for a band of hikers in Kuching, Sarawak.
Fuelled by a passion for the outdoors, the group, who call themselves BJV Hikers, started promoting ecotourism and supporting rural communities nationwide.
With the belief that there are many people who share the interest of getting closer to nature, BJV registered the club officially and used various platforms to push their agenda of promoting their activities.
Club president Bong Chung Chok revealed it all began three years ago when he and a few friends started hiking to keep themselves occupied and bond with their families.
“Hiking is family bonding time for me. I usually bring my wife and four children to hike during weekends,” said Bong, in his 50s.
This was how he met Lim Geok Hua, 46, Sim Chit Kiang, 41, and Chai Ken Hua, 30.
For Lim, health and fitness were the main reasons why he started hiking, while Sim and Chai began hitting the trails to discover new places.
They may have started for different reasons, but now, they walk together with a mission to promote hiking across the state and even help out visiting groups through their Facebook account, “BJV Hiking Club”.
The group has grown bigger by word of mouth, and with more than 2,000 followers on social media, they now play “ambassador” roles. They also engaged Sadong Jaya assemblyman Aidel Lariwoo as their adviser.
“We noticed many were interested in hiking, however, they were unsure where to start; the location, safety aspects and what to prepare.
“This is why we decided to invite those interested to join us during weekends via social media.
“Each trip, we will have about 30 to 40 people joining us and ensure we stick to a safe limit. Safety is priority,” he said.
Though most trips are considered weekend outings, Bong said they do not neglect safety aspects.
“We will ask about the health of each participant, brief them before the hike and prepare hiking tools and emergency necessities,” he said.
On their list now are more than 20 hiking trails in the Sematan, Serian and Padawan areas. Each trip can take anywhere from two to 10 hours.
The group has set a target of 40 trails and some have even extended their trips outside, such as a recent trip to Mount Kinabalu in Kundasang, Sabah, Santubong in Damai and a trip to Gunung Mulu National Park in Miri, due soon.
Bong said some trips might be easier and there were also those that were tough.
“The toughest trail so far was in Kampung Kiding. It was a 21km jungle trail which took us 10 hours,” he said.
He said the reward is the sense of achievement they get as a group.
They have also hiked popular locations such as the Sampuant Waterfall, Kampung Assum Waterfall and Mancar Bambur Waterfall.
The group has taken it upon themselves to promote such locations to their friends or anyone who shares a common interest in hiking.
“There are many places hinterland and on our shores awaiting to be discovered, especially by the younger generation.
“The first hike may be tough, but the breathtaking scenery, the fun of hiking and the bond we strengthen along the way is all worth it.”
Bong said hiking had made many BJV Hikers healthier, enabled them to make new friends and support rural communities they meet along the way.
“This is what ecotourism is all about; making people appreciate what nature has to offer and, at the same time, allow the guardians to earn from it, particularly the rural communities.
“To us, this is our mission.”