26.06.2008 - 27.06.2008 30 °C
I took a local bus from Jerantut to Kuala Tahan next morning. Ironically, the roads to Taman Negara, Malaysia's National Park, were lined with palm oil plantations. Oil is squeezed from the palm fruits and used for energy and many other products. Palm oil plantation owners are millionaires in the eyes of most local people.
After checking in a private chalet, I crossed river Tembeling and stopped by the Department of Wildlife to register my stay. Then started to walk on the well-indicated trails to the popular attraction of the park, the Canopy Walkway. The park also built hides where people can stay over and watch animals at night. Walking on the canopy, I cannot help but compare it with the ziplines and treehouses high in the jungle from the Gibbon Experience in northern Laos.
It took me almost 40 minutes to hike up Bukit Teresik (354m) where magnificent views of the jungle can be seen on the summit and 15 minutes to get the self-timer function of my new Canon G9 working. I laid down for a power nap and absorbed every bit of sound from the jungle residents. Once back down, another hour of trekking through mud and dense jungle took me to Limpon Simpon, an area where water was so clear that an utter welcomed me by showing off his swimming skill from far. Back to the resort, a family of wild hog ventured out for dinner.
My night activity was river safari. Using a torch, my guide, spotted deers, owls and utters, in the dark canopy lighted up by a few fireflies here and there. 'Tigers had been spotted', he said, 'when they come out to the river for a drink, but very very rarely.'
Next morning, I visited Gua Telinga, a very narrow cave with a huge bat populations. Crawling with our hands and legs in bat dungs, we got up close and personal with these very cute mammals. Luckily, there were no snakes around.
On our way back to the boat, we passed by an aborigine village, called Orang Asli, in Malay. These are subsistent people living in the jungle for hundreds of years. Although government nowaday give land and provide education to the children, many of them still lead a very simple life, except accepting income from the tourists. Back to Kuala Tahan, trying desperately to avoid the strong sun, I learned to play Camroon, the national game with wooden pegs played with fingers, with the local guides, until my fingers hurt.
I woke up early to drizzles, anticipating the 2 day trekking on the Keniam Trail in the north of Taman Negara. My group includes people from America, France, Australia, Belgium and of course Holland. The trail was not difficult but very muddy. We slipped and slided our way through in many parts. Leeches took the opportunities for a buffet of tourists' fresh blood donation. Never sweat so much in my life, I was constantly soaked over the 5 hours trek (8 km)on the first day, until a highly anticipated wash in a small stream close to a large cave where we stayed overnight. Needless to say, most of us were exhausted and choked down the delicious chicken curry, mackerel soup and rice prepared by our guides. I slept away in Bob Marley's music, dreaming about seeing wild elephants that night since there were lots of elephant dungs at the entrance of the cave.
Suddenly, pots and pans were falling on the ground. In the middle of the night, a civet cat sneaked into our cave noisily and finished our leftover rice in the pot. The thief were not shy at all. He kept eating on its 'stage' with spotlight shining on him, then slowing walked away after 5 minute pretending nothing had ever happened although everyone was woken up by his noisy intrusion.
Waking up in natural cave was refreshening, although my back need a little adjusting afterward. We had toasts with jams and coconut butter, milo and nescafe for breakfast and headed out for another day of trekking in the jungle. The trail today involved more ups and downs but was equally muddy. We carefully jumped through old tree roots, dense vegetations, fallen tree trucks and shallow streams. After another 8 km, we are all relieved at the sight of our destination and the sound of our pickup boat. All I want was a cold shower.