A wimba way a wimba way

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April 17th 2008
Published: April 17th 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

The bed was a raised platform of hard, widely spaced wooden slats. Ours was one of eight and they were all located in a concrete room about ten meters square, the roof was wood and tin and in one corner was the toilet. The toilet was filthy with mud and crawling with insects, the shower, such as it was, was fed from a tank in the roof and leaked, sending a constant stream of water down the concrete steps that grew mould, moss and harboured whole colony's of ants. One wall of this concrete box had a four meter slit in it which served as a window and the only means to view the outside world (it was here that we were forced to spend most of our time) and the whole structure was raised five meters off the ground on thin concrete legs. In the jungle,the mighty jungle, Scott and Anny slept for three nights. A wimba way a wimba way a wimba way a wimba way.....

To reach the Taman Nagara national park we did the following: short boat ride from Satun in Thailand round the corner to Kuala Perlis in Malaysia. We brushed through immigration as easily as a cobweb in the jungle, realised Kuala Perlis was a very dull town and hopped on an eight hour overnight bus to Kota Bahru, "The Islamic City". We only stayed here a day but found it to be very pleasant. Early the next morning we took a taxi to the train station and and boarded "The Jungle Train" to take us deep into the heart of Peninsular Malaysia. The journey was long (eight hours) but exceptionally beautiful and very, very cheap (15 Ringgit or about $5). We arrived in Jerantut, booked our travel for the next day and got a good nights sleep. In the morning we had a bus to the river and then an amazing two hour ride up stream to the park headquarters at Kuala Tahan. Just on this journey alone we saw Macaques, Bee-eaters, Eagles, Kingfishers that flew past like neon exocet missiles and a small flock of enormous Rhinoceros Hornbill's.

The boat dropped us at one of the floating restaurants where we were given an introductory speech and were made aware of the various tours on offer but as we planned to see the jungle independently we quickly snuck out and went to find accommodation. We found a pretty grotty place pretty cheap and then got a ferry across to park headquarters where we signed in. We then set off to climb Bukit Teresek. The walk was only a measly 5km but with the heat and the oppressive humidity we were seriously tested and were made aware of the challenges that lat ahead. From the top we could see great swathes of virgin rain forest below us stretching to the horizon,climbing hills and carpeting valley's.

The next day we set off into the jungle proper. At seven in the morning I shouldered the rucksack and realised that this was going to be a very tough days walking. The pack was full to bursting with supplies, Anny even had to wear the green shoulder bag, carry a plastic bag of bread and find hands for the solitary bottle of water. Our supplies were mostly tins so the weight of the bag was considerable. Anyway, we set off along the trail and very soon saw our first animal, a large Monitor Lizard. We had seen many of these before but it seemed a good omen none the less. Just a few moments later and we were blessed with our second sighting, this one a little more special. From almost under my feet ran a mouse deer to then pause obligingly before disappearing into the undergrowth. This beautiful creature is only eight inches high but has all the characteristics of a full size deer. Very cool, very cute and apparently quite a rare sighting.

Until now I had never been in a rain forest proper and consequently all my information about them had been gained vicariously. I was not fully prepared for how tough an environment they are. The heat was well in the mid thirties and the humidity around ninety percent; the slightest exertion instantly bought me out in a full body sweat and after half an hour every item of clothing was utterly drenched! The path, though following a river, would not stay flat. The main river was fed by smaller tributary streams that shot of tangentially into the jungle. Every hundred yards our path would drop, twenty meters or so, to cross one of these streams. We then had to clamber up the other bank over a messy tangle of roots and creepers to reach the path again. Even the relatively flat stretches between streams were not easy; at one step we would have to climb over a huge fallen tree, the next we would have to duck under another,then a huge sticky bog would have to be negotiated before dropping down to the river to do the whole thing again. We only had 12km to cover on this first day and in the end we covered the distance in an exhausting, but respectable, eight hours (including an hour for breakfast and the same for lunch).

Talking of food even though we had to carry all the food we were to eat for four days we still managed to eat really well. Cold sausage hotdogs with cheese, tomato and chilli sauce, sardine and tomato sarnies, crackers with tuna, cream cheese and tomato's, a piece of fruit with every meal, several carrots, Oreo's (for Anny's chocolate cravings), crisps, bombay mix, cakes and sweeties! Food was amazing, drinking less so. We only had one 1.5ltr bottle of drinking water. There was no way we could carry all the water we needed for four days so we were forced to fill the bottle from streams and then purify it with Iodine. This seemed to work as I feel no ill affects but it did turn the water yellow and make it taste of piss! As we were exerting ourselves we each had to drink several litres of this rank brew a day. Not nice.

So we finally made the first hide, Bumbun Kumbang. We took our boots and socks off and we were, well Anny was, horrified to find a cluster of fat Leeches happily sucking at our ankles! Upon getting naked we found more on our torso and legs. We flicked them off and then bled for a couple of hours. Leeches have an anti-coagulant in their saliva to enable them to better feed from us, the consequence being that once removed the small wound Will piss blood for several hours! We sat down, ate dinner and looked through the slit to see if any animals would come to the natural salt lick that the hide faced.

It is called a salt lick but in actual fact, natural or otherwise, it is actually minerals that are left/deposited there and it is these that the animals come to eat. It mostly attracts large herbivores and unguents who find it hard to get the requisite amount of these minerals in their diets of leaves. Sure enough, after dark we saw a Guar (a large unguent with white legs and huge horns). we were able to see this as sharing the hide with us was a group and two guides, one of the guides had a spot light and it was with this that we illuminated the animals. We also saw a civet, which looks much like a small big cat but isn't, apparently! An American guy also had some bins which made bird watching a pleasure and through these I was able to observe Sultan Tits, Racquet-tailed Drongo and some more Rhinoceros Hornbill's. It was a shame to share the hide but handy to have use of the equipment. The worst thing being that one of this group made off with Anny's I-pod.

The sounds of the jungle in the evening and morning literally had to be heard to be believed. As dusk/dawn approached the Cicada's would get going, then other insects, each with their own distinct sounds, would join in. My favourite, and by far the loudest, was an unknown insect that sounded exactly like an angle grinder - only louder! Then a whole chorus of frogs would enter the fay and belch their throats out and when joined by the amazing calls of Gibbon's, the strange shrieks of birds and the hooting of owls there were more individual noises than members of an orchestra. Although very loud I found the jungle sounds to be deeply soporific, which is just as well as we were sleeping on hard wooden beds with nothing more than a cotton liner bag for comfort.

The next day was a rest day which we spent taking smaller walks into the forest. It was nice to be able to walk unencumbered by the pack and to spend time looking closely at the incredible surroundings. The rain forest is a huge environment. The park itself covers 4343 sq km. and is over 130 million years old, reckoned to be the oldest in the world. The park has never been logged or exploited so remains a mass of primary, virgin forest. These figures are pretty impressive but the jungle itself is pretty spectacular up close. Trees soar to over 60 meters high, surging upwards to try and gain the light,supporting themselves with huge buttress roots over ten meters wide. Huge Epiphytes (parasitic air plants) can be seen growing half way up these trees, some ten meters wide, whilst vines thicker than my leg tangled round branches and hung like ropes from the canopy. Smaller giant trees filled in the gaps under the canopy and even though very little light reached the ground there was still a mass of vegetation here. Plants with leaves as big as umbrella's, palms with huge hooks and spikes, fallen trees and creepers.

Amongst and in the leaf litter on the floor could be seen many insects, amongst them ants over an inch long and giant centipedes that measured almost ten inches! Even all this was super sized it still seemed to me, at times, to be a very small environment. At any one time I could barely see ten meters into the jungle, such was the mass of vegetation and the lack of light. In four days I only saw further than this on a handful of occasions. Birds and animals could constantly be heard yet sightings were very rare. In fact the only way I ever saw anything, monkeys for example, was if they happened to move, or jump from branch to branch when I was near. I saw plenty of Elephant poo but one of these creatures could have been standing still not ten yards away and I never would have seen it. To think a Tiger, Panther or leopard could have been that close was truly humbling and it was all this that shrank my world and made me feel an exceptionally small part of a huge,pristine environment.

The next day we had a 10 km. walk to the next hide, Bumbun Tabing. The pack was a little lighter for this day so the walk was comparatively easier. We did get lost at one point. The trail we were following suddenly disappeared, just like that. We hunted around for ages but in the end, not wanting to take any risks, we turned despondently round to make our way back to the hide in preparation to repeat the first days walk. Ten minutes later we realised our mistake when coming to a three way split in the rail and after establishing from which direction we had originally come (very hard when all looks so alike) we set off, back on the right track. Bumbun Tabing was in a gorgeous location, we saw wild boar, macaques but,as we had no torch,little else. On the last day the trail we needed climbed Bukit Teresek again. Even early in the morning and with a much reduced load this proved a killer climb,relentless steps of over a foot kept coming for what seemed like much longer than before. This proved to be the case as upon reaching the top we realised we had not been here before, even though we thought we had four days previously! Not so,upon descending we found what we previously believed to be the summit some 100 yards lower! The view from the top was amazing. When we reached the summit the mist was so thick that all we could see were a few trees looming like ghosts out of the cloud. As we sat down to catch our breath the sun burnt the mist away, seemingly drawing back a curtain of cloud to reveal the endless stretch of forest below us. Very special indeed.

Our final exertion was to be the canopy walkway. This is a rope and wire,thin suspension bridge hung 60 meters above the ground between some of the forest's giants. Once up there the thing moves like a bugger and I must admit to legs of jelly! It gave an amazing insight into life in the canopy and although I'm often compared to a Monkey, having now experienced their world I realise I'm just not built for it! And that was that, a short hours walk back to park headquarters and a short boat trip across the river and we were back in a semblance of civilisation (Kuala Tahan being only a small village). It was the strangeness of this environment, and the reaction of people there, that made us take a close look at ourselves. To save weight we had entered the jungle with a single pair of trousers and only two t-shirts each. Our clothes were sticky and clinging to us with sweat, stained all over with mud, food and huge patches of blood, our boots were caked in mud, our hand's, arm's and face's smeared with grime and you don't want to know what four days of sweat, mud and blood smells like - neither it seemed did anyone else as we were given allot of space by the people we passed!! Boat trip out to Jerantut and a SHOWER and HOT MEAL! Such an amazing four days, truly memorable. A wimba way, a wimba way.....

We are now in Kuala Lumpa. It is very cool. Modern in places, mucky and asian in others. The main problem is that upon going to a camera shop to burn three months of photo's to disk the c!#*s in the shop managed to loose half of them, including some of the best ones from the last week. My apologies. I have to say that I got pretty angry and it was only Anny's calming voice and the presence of CCTV that stopped me lumping the little shit!!

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8th March 2011

Thank you
Dear Scott, I would like to thank you for your interesting write up of your visit to Taman Negara. Your paragraph on one of the salt lick hide was exceptionally concise and I have used it in my academic research on salt lick with reference to your website. The chapter has been accepted and appeared in the WASJ 2010. You can get a copy of the chapter (Tourist Characteristics at Tabing Salt Lick) at this link http://www.idosi.org/wasj/wasj10(10)2010.htm Thank you so much Best rdgs from Malaysia Ang

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