Tree huggers of the world unite

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Liana Hostel

Flag of Malaysia  , Pahang,
Monday, August 2, 2010

We had got away with a dorm to ourselves all night which was lovely and we had managed to sleep quite well despite the loud whirring of the decrepit old fan above our heads. So we had arrived at Taman Negara, the oldest rainforest in the world dating back over 130 million years and what the Lonely Planet describes as a '4343 sq km mosquito ridden, leech infested mass of primary rainforest' I had read that excerpt with a little apprehension, I must admit, but it hadn’t totally put us off and so we were here. Apparently the place is notorious for leech bites, everyone that we had spoken to before coming had had one so bearing this in mind the pair of thick tights that I have been carrying around for 5 months without wearing (even in Russia and Mongolia) finally got an airing.  Not just tights but thick black (Andrew Edit - They were actually bright yellow Ethiopian Airlines socks) socks too to tuck my trousers  into as the trekking shoes that I had bought in Sapa had huge holes in the side (for ventilation purposes of course).   I looked ridiculous.  

Today was going to be the day that Andrew, once again, would be forced to face his fear of heights, as we were going to walk ‘the longest jungle canopy in the world’, at 530 m long and 50m high and constructed merely from ropes and ladders understandably we felt that a substantial breakfast was in order, just in case it was to be our, or at least Andrews, last.  We managed to get a table, this time, at one of the restaurants that happened to be full last night.  Andrew ordered an egg and onion Roti Canai again and I tucked in to a pineapple and strawberry pancake (the ‘strawberry’ turned out to be jam...hmmm) and condensed milk coffees again which we now don’t think strange at all. We decided to be making tracks as we wanted to get to the canopy before any of the tour groups turned up which would mean being stuck in a very, very long queue.

From the restaurant we boarded the water taxi that takes you across the river for 1Ringett each and climbed the steps up to the park HQ to get our permits and then hit the trail.  With all my layers on the humidity immediately hit me yet it was a 1.8 km trek to the walkway so we just had to accept that we would be sweaty Betty’s for the day.  Along the trail we came across all types of ‘flora’, the trees were absolutely monstrous with roots that covered the paths with the sole intention (I’m convinced) of trying to trip up weary legs. We came across birds, squirrels and lizards in the undergrowth which excited us every time we heard a rustle as the forest is home to tigers, snakes and boar but alas we weren’t  troubled by any of the latter.  I really got the feeling that we were intruding in to a whole other world that doesn’t belong to us and we shouldn’t be there, the sounds of the forest were beautiful yet so foreign.

After a while we came to the sign for the canopy directing us to the left, for the ascent to the walkway and right to the toilet, it pretty much summed up the way Andrew was feeling at the time probably in either order.  It was a steep climb up the steps and we had to stop a few times as the humidity took its toll but we eventually got there and to no queue which was great.  By this stage Andrew was looking a bit tetchy and I caught him surveying the crude nature of the structure, simply ropes, ladders and wooden planks that was going to suspend us 50m up in the air.  I thought it best to pay the 5 Ringett each and just get him up there so we decided he would go first as he often tells me off for ‘stamping like an elephant’ anyway let alone when we are on a rope ladder which sways, a lot.

It was a great experience to observe the forest from so high up and really get a bird’s eye view.  Andrew did start hugging a tree at one point but I think that was more out of fear than any deep rooted Arborculturalist (the study of trees, I had to look it up) tendencies (pardon the pun).  (Andrew Edit - I actually had a panic attack and was screaming swear words at the top of my voice in particular when we descended a near vertical 10m ladder suspended 40m in the air i was quite frankly shitting myself).
We came down in one piece and spent a few more hours following some of the other trails and taking in some of the hides.  We saw some beautiful butterflies and birds at Bukit Bumbun and countless termite trails that made the most ominous noise as they devoured everything in their path. At some point in the afternoon we emerged from the forest and went back to the restaurant across the river for a snack.  Then we headed back to the hostel for a well needed shower and rest.  We made the decision that aside from doing a 3 day trek in to the rainforest where you sleep in caves with rats nibbling your fingers and bats shitting on your head, which we didn’t have the time for or the inclination, we would take a detour to Kuala Lumpur for a few days before we descended on Cheryl and Siong.  We considered the options whilst the kindly man from the hostel fed us on fruit and banana fritters and decided that it would be easier and cheaper to get a boat and bus than the train, plus I’d wanted to do the boat ride, so we went to Han Travel and saw a lovely lady who let us off with not paying until we got to Jerantut the next day where there was an ATM (surprisingly we were running low on cash again).

We had an early dinner, where incredibly we saw the largest insect that we had seen all day, despite having been in a rainforest, that figures, a huge beetle up on the wall of the restaurant which sat motionless watching all the diners.  Have a look at the picture it was huge!!!  We got back to our dorm to be joined by a girl from Holland who was off on a night hike for a few hours  (we hadn’t bothered as we had been told that the most interesting think to see were spiders and I couldn’t face putting the tights on again).

So that was it our first rainforest experience and not a leech bite in sight.....phew!             
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