Published: July 19th 2012July 19th 2012
After the Perhentian Islands I headed further south to Taman Negara national park. This has a reputation as the oldest untouched rainforest on earth and is home to animals such as the Asian elephant, Tigers and Leopards. As well as a plethora of birds, snakes, monkeys and insects. I took the train from a nearby city which cost 5 pounds and landed me a short bus journey away from Taman Negara; the views from the train were inspiring, constantly zigging past huge rivers and mountain highways. Similarly the bus journey had some awesome views, endless forests and palm tree fields made the trip in a small van barely noticeable.
Upon arriving at Taman Negara I checked into a dorm for 10 ringgit and went to meet my German friend, the town is very small and didn’t have internet access the whole time I was there. Most tourists eat on small riverboat restaurants which are picturesque and fairly cheap, however even cheaper are the local night markets and restaurants; it’s very easy to find a good meal for 1 pound or less in Taman Negara. The village is set on an elevated platform looking over the river and parts of the rainforest, a 20p boat ride would take you to the start of the rainforest where trekking begins. The view of the river and the forest is quaint but nice, there are few tourists and the riverboat restaurants only add to the culture of the village. I can’t imagine why Taman Negara doesn’t attract more attention because it was one of my favourite Malaysian spots and very very cheap.
The next day me and my German friend gathered some supplies, rented a sleeping bag and headed into the rainforest, our goal was to make it to some caves to spend the night. The tour guide had drawn us a map, showing two separate routes to the cave, an easy route and a hard route, he told us that it would be more fun to take the hard route and return by the easy one. They differed two hours in time however the easy route was a longer distance by kilometre. After a few hours trekking the hard way I could see why we hadn’t seen another human being. The route was so repetitive it was frustrating, up a hill, down a hill, up a hill, down a hill, river, up a hill, down a hill. It took us 6 and a half hours and we only had one 30 minute break which we spent swimming in a river. When we stopped trekking to swim in the river it suddenly hit me that we were covered by jungle, it seemed impossible that we were in the home of tigers and elephants, we were at least 6 hours from any other human and that gave me a very tranquil feeling with a touch of worry.
After 6 and half hours we came to a cabin, this was mapped out as a possible sleeping point, we were both drenched in sweat and feeling worn out and decided to give up on the two extra hour walk to the caves. The cabin was elevated and had a viewing platform, there were wooden bunk beds and it seemed a worthy spot to spend the night. My German friend had brought a small bottle of petrol to start a fire, he thought this would save us time, he lit a small pile of leaves and sticks and then poured petrol onto the flame….I knew something bad would come of this and was outside with my fingers in my ears. Within seconds the cabin was on fire and he was scrambling with a broom to cull the blaze, I was worried because my iphone was in the cabin and almost attempted a daring rescue but thought better of it. After a few minutes the fire was out and using a lighter we made a real fire, cooked our noodles and watched for animals. For a few hours all we saw was monkeys and birds, this wasn’t disappointing as I hadn’t expected to see anything bigger.
I forgot to mention for anyone going to Taman Negara…..LEECHES! I maybe picked off 100 leeches a day, my feet were constantly bleeding, they are unstoppable….my only advice would be to wear long trousers tucked into thick socks….there is no other way to stop these demonic creatures. They feasted on me, I had to empty my shoes of blood every 20 minutes when we stopped walking, it was horrible.
Now that I’ve vented about leeches, after a few hours we went to sleep and throughout the night the animals were going crazy, the sounds were ridiculous….it was much louder than I had expected but it was bare able because I was so tired, I awoke in the middle of the night to something moving in the room, it was loud and at first I thought it was a monkey feasting on our pot noodles and chocolate bars. I shouted to my German friend who switched on a torch and before I knew it there was almost 30 rats running in every direction. After the initial shock we learned to live with the rats and in the morning, depressed and drained, we trekked home (the easy way)…. For hours I walked on auto pilot imagining the taste of a sprite, it was my happy place. After four hours we arrived at camp and sat enjoying a mountain dew on a small step. The next day we both left Taman Negara for KL. Although a small and missable place in Malaysia, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys camping and wildlife.