. If this writer has one regret, it's that I did not get my picture taken with him. Oh! To hear him giggle just once more...
But to the rainforest. The main river that drains much of the area and runs past the park headquarters had dropped about thirty feet, a good sign that the forest was navigable, unlike before. We booked a trek with nine other tourists, some who did two days and one night, and others, like us, who did three days and two nights. We went up the river and set out with a guide and a porter, two guys, one crazy and one nice, named Edy and Jacky (their spelling, not mine). It was Edy who took quite a liking to Miss Anna "Conda" Davies. The first day was a five hour hike to a large cave in which we slept. Along the way we explored another cave that was full of three things: bats, guano, and guano beetles. The guano was like a carpet, really soft, slightly moist, probably nice to sleep on save for the fact that it was teeming with little blind beetles. Oh yeah, and Anna slipped and fell in some guano. We laughed. The only other wildlife we really saw on that first day was leeches, and oh my! did we see a lot of those. Skinny little bastards that react to sound and vibrations in the ground. They move surprisingly quick, and often one can't feel it when they bite and start sucking out one's vital fluids. We picked one up as a pet, and wore him on our arms trying to get him to bite
. But he wouldn't. Must have been Murphy's law or something. The one time you actually want
a leech to latch on to you, eh? Finally after about half an hour he took a liking to Andy's forearm, and Andy wore him around for a while until he got good and fat and then passed him off to Michael, who in turn wore him until we reached our sleeping cave. Before bedding down crazy "Edy Loco" seranaded us with the Black Eyed Peas, the Backstreet Boys, and Gloria Gaynor in varying tunes. The cave was no treat to sleep in. We stayed dry, for it pissed it down that night, but the ground was hard (duh) and there were rats running around all night, scampering about, searching for tasty treats. Next day we hiked some more. Andy got more than twenty leeches on his feet. The Davii got, like, one. Andy didn't wear DEET. He also wore sandals. ("The sandals had nothing to do with it, and you know it." -Andy) The second night we stayed in an 'Orang Asli' ('original peoples') village, which was a mixed bag. These people live in thatched huts in the middel of the jungle and hunt with blow darts and procreate like rabbits (judging by the little kid to older person ratio). But the children were quite scared of us, and we were greeted with blank stares from all around despite our smiles and waves. Supposedly we were the fourth group to have visited this particular village since the start of the year, so one would think they would be used to these large, smelly intruders. We met the 'chief,' a smiley old man who helped us eat the meal prepared mostly by Edy (Andy and Anna peeled garlic) and bummed cigarettes off the same, and slept in huts built specially for visitors of our kind in the middle of the village. In the end we really felt more like intruders than guests. The third day consisted of no hiking whatsoever, just learning about the "bushmen" (as Ronald the Dutchman called them) and taking a boat back to park headquarters (and getting soaked and yelling "spring break!" on the way)
So we saw no real wildlife in the jungle, no monkeys and not even very many birds, only tiger paw prints and elephant poop. Things to remember: the jungle is hot, and getting a fire going at night is a difficult task, because, believe it or not, wood laying around in the rainforest is wet. And leeches will detach from your skin if you pull them off with spit-moistened fingers.
Now we are enroute to Ipoh, the third-largest city in Malaysia, to visit a mall and make our own karaoke cd. Karoake is all the rage here in Malaya. We aim to take part, find out what all the fuss is about. After that brief stop it's on to Thailand. We leave behind an amazing country, one that really exceeded our expectations, and one whose people are the nicest we've ever encountered, anywhere. They are excessively friendly and helpful, but never have an ulterior agenda, which is so often a plague in oft-travelled countries. We also leave behind a Muslim nation that taxes alcohol too much, something we are very happy to do. Viva Thailand and cheap booze!
As a group, we travelled from the Perhentian Islands to the rainforest, but Anna just goes from one local boyfriend to the next. Our loyal readers may recall that earlier in our travels in this wonderful coutry we attempted to go trekking in the world's oldest rainforest in Taman Negara national park, which is part of the cordillera central, the (somewhat) mountainous spine that runs north/south through peninsular Malaysia, but got denied due to an unforseen monsoon. Well, we came back. We left the Perhentian Islands and Anna's admirer Jeffry (see picture from last entry) and came straight to the rainforest. Sort of. In order to get there one must take a roundabout route that always goes through the town of Jerantut, a town about which we have complained in the past and compared to El Paso, TX, but actually has two really good things going for it: nighttime food stalls w/ killer cheap food, and a woderfully gay front desk clerk at a hostel that caters well to backpackers of our type