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Taman Negara National Park

Written on: Wednesday April 16th, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

My time spent in Taman Negara National Park and the stop-over town of Jerantut was spent mostly in the friendly company of three Mexican travelers. Ariadna and Adriana I had shared my ride down from Kota Bharu on the Jungle Railway with, and then Jaime, a Mexican now living in San Diego, who was travelling on his own I ran in to in the middle of Jerantut while he was searching for somewhere to stay, and I was trying to top up on my anti-malarial drugs. Another one of those crazy coincidences that the only Mexicans I had met on my travels are the three I meet in the same town, that aren?t even travelling together or knowing each other before coming to South East Asia.


The four of us soon became quite the quartet, me attempting to pick up on some Spanish in preparation for my future trip to South America perhaps, and them putting me to shame with their varied and well spoken American English. Along with Hannah, a German girl, we travelled in to the centre of Taman Negara, one of the oldest rainforests on the Earth, thought to be over 130 million years old, one of the few to remain unscathed from any volcanic eruptions of any of the past ice ages.


With all this recent rainforest experience I?ve been having I?m starting to become quite acquainted with jungle life. This was a good thing on this trip as sadly our guide, a nice young guy named Juan, was nowhere near as knowledgeable as Mr A from Khao Yai, or any of the other guides I?d previously learnt from, and as such I found myself stopping and recognising sounds and tracks in the jungle more so than Juan did. Juan even confided in us that he?d never seen a monkey or an elephant in the park despite us finding much dung and footprints, and even latching on to a tiger?s tracks. Our first night of a three day trek through the less visited parts of the jungle did however involve us having an uninvited visitor join us. We camped down in a big ceiling cave, Juan cooked us up a much needed chicken curry, and soon after with just a few candles illuminating the dark hollows of the cave we bedded down. I awoke to some scraping and rustling somewhere close ahead of where I was lying on the cave floor. As quietly as possible I pulled my flashlight from my pocket and aimed it in to the centre of the cave before turning it on. Two and a half metres ahead of me, not phased in the slightest by my putting him in the spotlight was a hungry civet cat enjoying the left-overs of our curry. His bright marbled eyes glowed brightly in my torch light as he briefly glanced at me to inquire why I had decided to wake up. I took the hint, turning off my light, placing my head back on the solid cave ground and allowing the civet to enjoy his supper.


Despite the torrential downpour that rained down on the forest that night the ground wasn?t as slippy or as wet as what we had expected it would be. The undergrowth incredibly lapped up the water in record time making our 9km trek that day reasonably problem free. The only problems we had were crossing the small streams circulating through the jungle and the plethora of leeches that with the rainfall had decided to rear their ugly heads. I must say I almost felt a little left out at not being leeched in either Khao Yai or Khao Sok National Park, as everybody else was. I got my just desert this day when a family of three all managed to somehow latch on to the same area of my ankle and no wrenching or flicking from me or Juan would stop them digging their teeth in and extracting all the blood they could take. At least now I was in the leech club.


One of those coincidental moments that seem to occur all too often happened once again whilst in the middle of the jungle. It was just after lunch on our second day of trekking when we stopped off at one of the hides, which overlooks a salt-lick where sometimes the animals congregate. We climbed the stairs and must have been there no longer than 3 minutes when in strolls Dutch, tissue litterer Daan that I had travelled for a while around Burma with. The area we were in couldn?t have been more isolated, yet here he was, one of the two people out of the hundreds I have met that I really didn?t care to see again. At least he wasn?t blowing his nose all the time.


Our second night we spent staying in an Orang Asli village, one of the tribes living in Malaysia. The hut we had, despite the amount of tourism this village receives, being in the heart of the National Park, was sparser than the ones I had stayed in in Burma. On top of this there were 5 of us sleeping in it and about 20 million ants, one of which Ariana agreed to eat. An extremely uncomfortable and restless night, spent sporadically rotating from sleeping on one?s front, to one side, to lying on the back, to the other side, before back to the front, as if being turned on a spit-roast preceded our tribal training the following morning where we were taught that old boy-scout trick of making fire with a couple of bits of wood and the art of blow pipe hunting. Not your average morning in Bedfont, Middlesex that?s for sure.


We later that day headed back to Jerantut by boat up the river where myself and the Mexicans embarked on watching the entire series of Heroes on my laptop and where they persuaded me to join them in going to Cherating, a small town on the east coast the next day, instead of my originally planned destination of the island of Pulau Tioman.


From Kara on Apr 22nd, 2008

I wish I had done that side of Malaysia instead of Georgetown. So jealous!