Tamen Negara

Trip Start Oct 15, 2008
Trip End Nov 14, 2008

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Flag of Malaysia  , Pahang,
Friday, October 24, 2008

Two hours of solid driving through palm tree plantations and towering rain forest and we merely reach the outskirts of the reserve of Tamen Negara!  This place is huge, simply huge, over 4,500sqkm and the world oldest, and everything in it is oversize too.  We turn down the room at the place we are dropped (imagine your neglected garden shed, with a moldy bed and toilet to match... but as the landlord said, 'it comes with aircon'...!), opting for a colorfully painted guest house on the edge of the tiny village of Kuala Tahan, a river crossing from the rain forest reserve.
Ali could barely hide her excitement en route as she promised herself to tackle a 2 day/one night trek in the rain forest... and then struggled even more to hide her disappointment when we are told no guides would attempt an overnighter at the moment as the rains had started and many of the rivers were swollen and too dangerous to cross.  However, just appreciating the area soon satisfied our hunger for the outdoors - we started with a canopy walk (said to be the highest and longest in SE Asia at 50m high and over 400m long) to see the trees from a different view point, followed by a short walk to a view point or two, looking out over the expanse of the rain forest really does make you feel ever so slightly insignificant!  In the afternoon we get talking to a local guide called Arias who convinces us to try rapid shooting in his little outboard-motor powered wooden long boat... half an hour later we are absolutely soaked, having fought with his cousin (Alias) in his boat loaded with holidaying Malays.  Traditional face painting later as we try to dry out and we head for some food, only Malay food on offer here.  Arias also promises to arrange a guide for us for a trek the next day, who we join for a 10km romp (anyone who treks may think this a walk in the park - you try it through rain forests in monsoon season and over 90% humidity!).  Kambang (our native aborigine guide, who's name means beetle) simply streaks off ahead of us as if it really were a walk in the park, although when he sees we have brought a packet of biscuits with us he soon slowed down.  A 1kg frog, instructions as to how to make native viagra from an ominously shaped ants nest, a large fury spider in the backpack, several forded streams, 28 leeches, communication via telephone trees and 9 hours later we have tracked a large river to Kampang's home village where we are invited to a meal with his family when we next visit (having picked some of the ingredients on the way).  The day was topped off by the surreal episode of laying on a bench by the pier watching the clouds, listening to a local strumming his guitar while a huge lightening storm lit the sky, wind whipped the trees and thunder rumbled so loud it made your whole belly wobble!
The following day we are surprised to meet our Spanish friends Victor and George, whom we originally met in the Cameron Highlands.  We quickly agree to join for a trek to a near by cave (we had an idea we should cross the river and turn left...).  We found ourselves having real moments of being mentally lost in the forest, no pollution, no vehicles and no-one else... until you realise you are far from alone as the rain forest is alive with wildlife and you also look down and find you have 12 leeches attached to your legs making you an unwitting blood donor!  It was on this walk we came across what has to be the biggest tree any of us have ever seen, I mean seriously this tree was absolutely colossal, many of our pictures simply do not do the rain forest justice.  We happen across a nomadic Orang Asli village and make our way to the cave, only for Ali to slip on the rocks into a puddle of bat poo!  Slightly muddy and slightly smelly we head for the most expensive beer on the continent, but gratefully downed.
A lazy next day and we bid fair-well to Victor, George, Arias and Alias to take the boat down stream to Jeruntut and on to civilisation, the capital Kuala Lumper (which neither of us can grasp that people all over call it simply 'KL').
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