The Oldest Rainforest in the World


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Asia » Malaysia » Pahang » Taman Negara National Park
December 16th 2005
Published: December 24th 2005EDIT THIS ENTRY

Rain forestRain forestRain forest

A RAIN forest
Russell - So we arrive in Taman Nagara to experience what nature has to offer. This is the oldest rainforest in the world having not changed significantly for an estimated 130 million years. I have tried to comprehend just how long that is but the best my brain can come up with is "That's very old!" which doesn't quite cover it. This landscape would have been familiar to the dinosaurs!

We started with a quick trek to the canopy walkway which is suspended in the jungle 25 meters in the air, going through the tops of the trees. It was an absolutely amazing experience, if a little scary as the walkway was actually constructed from aluminium ladders with a plank on them. The jungle is so dense you can't actually see very far apart from a few breaks across the river but you could feel that the jungle was alive. The closest we got to seeing any wildlife was a train of ants that were making their way to the top of the canopy up one of the trees the walkway was connected to. Fortunately these were relatively small ants compared to some we saw which were the size of
Big TreeBig TreeBig Tree

Very old tree!
small dogs. OK maybe not that big, but they were big!

After the exhilaration of the walkway we decided to walk on to a viewing platform a little further into the jungle. Unfortunately our sense of direction is terrible so we ended up walking back to the resort at the edge of the jungle! A little disappointed we headed for the activities board to see what we could do next. At the board another couple were checking out their options. As virtually all the activities required a minimum of four people they weren't able to do much either. After some quick maths we realised that 2 and 2 does actually make four so we picked an activity together and paid up the money for a trip to the waterfalls deep in the jungle. They were advertised as a natural Jacuzzi and swimming was an option. A quick trip back across the river to our hotel to change and we arranged to meet our new friends at the floating restaurant by the river taxi jetty. As we left to go up to the hotel I asked Lins whether she had asked their names. No, me either! When we got back
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Don't look down!
to the restaurant it appears that they had had the same conversation as they introduced themselves the moment we arrived. They were Alan and Kirstin. Alan is from Scotland and Kirstin from South Africa.

We caught the boat and headed off. Well I say boat though maybe that’s a bit grand. It was a wooden half tube with an outboard motor on the back. It sat so low in the water that the slightest twist splashed water in and there were plenty of twists. The water is really shallow in places and the pilot showed some amazing skill in finding the deepest parts to get us through. As we skated along with the wind in our hair and the jungle flashing past it was fantastic. We slowed at one point so that we could see a large lizard sunning itself on a log. Kingfishers and swallows were darting around the river and the most beautiful dragon flies of all colours were flying alongside as if we were standing still. The butterflies are uncountable and huge. Everything in this jungle seems huge.

When we arrived at the landing we were a little wet with water coming in from overboard but we shook ourselves dry and followed the guide into the jungle. A 15 minute walk brought us to the waterfall that was gushing with some force down the hill. It is the wet season at the moment and it looked far angrier than its pretty impressive promotion shots back at the resort. "Would you like your picture taken swimming?" a fellow tourist who had arrived at the same time asked. "What, for the newspaper photo?" I asked. I think it would be worth a lot of money to have the photos of the travellers being swept away.

"Is it safe to swim?" I asked the guide. "If you are good swimmer" he answered a bit cryptically. Well I consider myself a good swimmer so kit off and in I jump. OK, in I carefully creep down to the edge and put a toe in the water. The water was quite warm but was a funny red colour which Lins explained was natural iodine. Well at least I won't go septic so I slipped in for a swim. Seconds later from a rocky outcrop the guide comes plunging in. It is 5m deep he claimed so no chance of hurting yourself. Well the gauntlet had been thrown down so I had to have a go. I have to say that no-one else had yet come near the water and all the other tourists were looking on in interest. I got to the top of the outcrop which was only about 15 foot above the river but looked a lot further from up there. My first instinct was to walk back down but my vanity kicked in and I just jumped. I never came close to hitting the bottom and the only bad bit was the water that went up my nose and down my throat causing me to come to the surface coughing and spluttering. It was great. Lins and Kirstin joined me in the water and slowly other tourists did the same. We weren't in the full flow of the waterfall but in a calmer area around the side but frankly no-one was mad enough to try for a Jacuzzi! Alan refused to get in at all, but as Kirstin explained "he is a Scot, and they are not good with water"!

After a nice swim we got out to have our lunch when the first spots
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A natural Jacuzzi
of rain started. We all got changed quickly and headed for the boats. When we arrived at the boats the rain was hammering it down. Think of the wettest day in Wales and increase the volume of water by a factor of 10. The boats sped on and the rain came full force into our faces. There was no lid on this boat and simply no cover. You just got wet. By the time we reached back to the resort every part of us was wet, including my camera which had been kept in it's case, in a waterproof bag and had actually misted up on the lens. We limped back to the hotel to get changed for a second time that day. The rain went on all day so we stayed in to watch it for the rest of the day before heading for dinner in the evening when it had slacked off.

At our table on the floating restaurant we were able to watch the river surge by, trying to take the restaurant with it. In Britain the concept of a floating restaurant is a bit different. Sure, it is on the river but it is held
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Swimming in river
firmly in place with stakes and stuff. These restaurants aren't. They are tied by some rope and the electric cable which rests in the water most of the time. The restaurant is constantly moving and the planks of wood used as a walkway are always being swept away as the river feels like it. And there is no barrier between your table and the river so best to keep a look out for trees coming down river etc. Just after we arrived Alan and Kirstin arrived and we chastised them for following us. They said they were coming for dinner then going across the river for a beer. That was our plan too! So we arranged to meet them when they finished dinner and hailed a river taxi to the resort across the river. To hail a river taxi at night you simply ask the waiter for a cab who gets a big torch out and swings it in the direction of the taxi rank. Seconds later out of the gloom a taxi arrives, no lights or anything.

The reason we were crossing the river for a beer is that the area is a dry area as it is
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The traffic can be murder
quite staunchly Muslim. The only place where beer is served (legally) is the resort in the park, which is across the river from the main town where we staying. When we arrived we went to the bar and asked for the beer menu and our jaw dropped. The thing about restricting supply, as any scholar of economics will tell you, is that the price goes up. We ordered the cheapest beer on the menu, a draught Tiger which turned up in a half pint glass, normal for SE Asia. They were 16 Ringit each! That’s 2.60 GBP or 5.20GBP a pint!!!! We have been used to getting beer for less than a pound a pint so this was a bit of a shock. When Alan and Kirstin turned up we forewarned them and they beat a heady retreat to the other (illegal) bar.

The next day we got up to find it raining again. Well this is a rainforest so what can you expect. We had decided to trek to the top of one of the local mountains in the forest so we could get a bit of a birds eye view. The map showed that it was 3km
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Russell brings the sfaety message to the Jungle. I was very thirsty!
(about 2 miles) to the top and then another 3km to another checkpoint after that. We decided we see how we went. The rain was falling fast so despite our rain coats we were soaked in no time. In fact I took my coat off in the end as although it was raining it was also very hot and I was creating my own rainforest of sweat inside my coat! We walked along the paths which went up and down ravines, across streams, over fallen trees and through the undergrowth. It was without doubt hard going. You just don't realise how hard it is to trek in the heat of the jungle, even on open paths. I guess it doesn't help that I never actually made it to the gym before we left home but we'll skate over that bit. A while in we came to a junction in the path with no sign post. Lins thought this might be where we need to head for the top of the hill but my countryman’s sense told me you didn't leave the path if there wasn't a signpost and we stuck to path. In hindsight the fact that Lins has trekked for 9 days through this jungle before perhaps meant I should have listened a bit more as after another hour of treking we hadn't found the turning for the hill and we had clearly walked much further than 2 miles. Exhausted, soaked and hot we decided that a 130 million year old jungle had beaten us and we headed back for home.

Lindsay - you decided. Not me! I just went along with you. Gratefully. But I wasn't beaten.

Russell - When we got back to the hotel we were wet, muddy and tired. We had very few clothes left so we decided some laundry was needed. Our hotel had a sign up offering laundry service though it was very expensive. Rather than charging by the kg they charged per item! Well we needed clothes so we picked out what we needed and Lins took it down to reception. "Sorry no laundry today, it raining" Well this a rainforest, it rains every day so Lins came back a bit annoyed. I offered to go find another place but there wasn't one. The person at the mini market pointed me back to the hotel and when I told them that they wouldn't clean them because it was raining she shrugged her shoulders. Really these people have satellite TV, internet and X boxes but they don't have a tumble drier despite living in a rainforest?? Personally I think they saw us coming back covered in mud and decided they simply didn't want to clean them. We simply had to buy a bin bag to put our washing and hope we could find somewhere in Singapore.

The next day we needed to get to Jerantut to catch our 2am train to Singapore. This should have given us a whole day in the park but as there is only one boat a day out of the park at 2pm we decided to leave then. We went to buy the tickets and dismayed to find that there no boats going and they would be taking us by car instead. We asked if they could pick us from the hotel instead of the jetty which they agreed to do and we headed off for lunch and to do some interneting. At 1:45pm we went back to hotel to find the boat man there. There was a boat going now but we must hurry with all our luggage to the jetty. He sped off ahead and I assumed he was getting a car but no we were led along a dirt track and through the woods to the jetty. As Lins' bag has wheels and we hadn't had time to set it up for straps I had to carry it on my head, which frankly hurt. I think there's a knack to it as the locals in Vietnam made it look so easy. We boarded the boat and set off for another glide through forest. And it started to rain! This boat did have a roof of sorts but no sides so the rain just came rushing in. Lins' coat was stuck under all the bags as the boat guy had stacked everything on top of it so we had to cower under mine and try not to get too wet. The boat ride was 2 hours long so you can imagine just how wet we were when we finally got there. "There" wasn't Jerantut, but a short bus ride got us there, where we stowed our stuff at a hostel and had a 9 hour wait for the train. We were hoping to get a sleeping carriage on the train but they were sold out (Tip for travellers: you can book ahead for berths on Malaysia trains through their website and get an e-ticket).

There really isn't anything in Jerantut except a KFC, so there isn't much to say. Eventually we were heading for the train and on to Singapore. The journey was uneventful as everyone was asleep, so we slept too.

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