Jungle trekking, snakes and the canopy walkway!
Trip Start Feb 07, 2008
12Trip End Jul 31, 2008
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The journey to Kuala Tahan, the small village which is the entry point into Taman Negara was fairly exciting..took a 3 hour ride on a small wooden boat on a stunning jungle river, flanked by tropical rainforest and sandy banks. Initially things didn't quite go to plan as our rickety transport broke down after only 5 mins, meaning we needed to get towed back to land and take another boat - luckily it didn't happen when we were halfway down the river!!
Upon reaching Kuala Tahan, we were excited to find that our hostel was the most colourfully decorated place in the world and also probably the nicest place we stayed. Each room also comes with its own resident gecko to dispatch any roaming insects.. The village is basically made up of a few small houses, a couple of local shops and a lot of floating barge restaurants on the river.
As soon as we had got settled we booked ourselvcs on a rapid shooting trip - get in an old old wooden ship (even smaller than our transport here), go along some rapids with a nutter boatman who does his best to tip the boat and get everyone soaked - pretty good fun! Also stopped on the way back at a really nice sandy bit to go for a swim but we were all pretty scared of the crocs, river snakes etc so ended up just wading in upto our ankles.
Spent the afternoon at one of the restaurants just chilling, where Sar's milkshake addiction stemmed from (but more of that in the next entry). In the evening we went on a night safari through the jungle - we sat/hung off the back of a truck while a guide sat on top with a spotlight and went looking for whatever we could find..we got off to a good start as we found some wild boar but the rest of the journey was, unfortunately, pretty uneventful. The thrill of travelling through the jungle in the pitch black far exceeded the rewards from viewing any wildlife - the highlight of the trip was when our driver plucked a tiny snake from a tree and let us have a feel.
Before we arrived in Taman Negara we had heard all about the canopy walkway (the longest in the world) and we desperately wanted to do this, along with some serious trekking through the jungle..so the next day we rose early and went to hire a guide for the day to show us how it's done. Our guide, Amir, was an absolute legend and taught us loads about the jungle, the plants, and wildlife - although to be honest most revolved around which leaves and roots produce effects similar to viagra! Of course we asked if he was speaking from experience and were answered with a cheeky smile! First we hit the canopy walkway, which is basically a pretty dodgy bridge made out of wooden planks and some rope that hangs 45 metres high in the middle of the jungle - it was amazing! You feel as though you probably aren't going to plunge to your death, but don't feel completely secure either, so it was pretty exciting.
Next we trekked for ages up a small mountain to see some impressive views, before heading to Lubok Simpon, a gorgeous swimming hole with clear shallow water in the middle of the jungle. Perhaps the highlight of the day was our trip into an 'Orang Asli' settlement. They are the tribe people who live within the jungle, and Amir took us to look around their village and observe how they make fire and catch animals etc. It was amazing to see how they live; eveything is crafted out of wood and leaves, and we spotted some fairly nasty spiders (Sar has learnt not to run in the opposite direction now!) which don't seem to bother them as they all run around barefoot. We were the only ones there at the time so we got some undivided attention from the tribes people - they showed us their hunting weapon, the blowpipe which is a long, hollow tube of bamboo from which they fire poison darts to catch food (mainly monkeys). They show off their skills by firing darts at a target teddy bear suspended about 10 metres away - the local pro hit the teddy square between the eyes everytime! We thought it looked pretty easy and so decided to give it a go, but soon found out that it isn't. At all. We were only shooting at the target from 10 metres away, and missing, but their trained hunters can kill prey from 50 metres away - pretty impressive!
While we were out with Amir he told us the pretty shocking news that a 20 year old tourist somehow got separated from her tour group in the middle of the jungle in early February, and although the police and army have been sent in to find her, she hasn't been seen since. He then told us what most of the locals believe happened which we found really interesting. They believe in the spirits of the jungle, and that it is a powerful place which must be respected at all times. Amir himself, as well as the vast majority of the other guides, says a prayer before he enters the jungle asking for safe passage from the spirits. The belief is that the girl must have disrespected the jungle in some way, eg by throwing rubbish, and that the spirits have taken her as punishment. This all seems pretty far-fetched but people who have been going to the jungle for a lot longer than we have are convinced by it, and there are many stories to back it up. An American woman who got lost there a few years ago has never been found, and apparently several tourists unaware of her disappearance have reported seeing glimpses of a figure matching her description. Scary stuff!!
That evening we had some excitement at the restauarant when a man across the room from us jumped up onto his chair screaming - a baby snake had crawled into the restaurant and around his legs before finding its way up a little tree! The waiter confidently told us that it wasn't dangerous so everyone surged around to take photos, and Sar went all Japanese tourist and stood at the front for ages snapping away - much to Sag's embarrassment! She was pretty much sticking the camera in the snake's face hoping for a good shot when one of the guides found the snake in his book and quietly mentioned that the snake was poisonous and although it was still a baby, probably could have done some damage..even more worryingly, he warned us that the mummy snake may not be far behind - Sar promptly moved her legs onto her chair and we spent the rest of the meal on the lookout!
We left the next morning for the Perhentian Islands - very very very excited, although we were sad to leave the jungle.
Love Sar & Sag xx