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Tamen Negara - I'm an engineer, get me out of here.

MALAYSIA | Tuesday, 1 May 2012 | Views [1845]

View from the canopy

View from the canopy

I'd arranged a trip to Tamen Negara National Park through a travel agent in Kuala Lumpur for a not unreasonable RM840 (about 170) for 2 nights and 3 days. Tamen Negara means literally "National Park" in Malay and is a protected rainforest in Central Malaysia, about 6 hours from Kuala Lumpur.

Haven't had much sleep since I've been in Kuala Lumpur and had to get myself up quite forcefully for the hotel pickup to Tamen Negara. Things got off to a pretty good start with a visit to Deerland, being slightly misnamed as there were plenty of other animal. A bit children oriented, but the deer and rabbit feeding was still fun. This was followed by a visit to a sanctuary, where Elephants have been re-homed mainly due to conflicts with humans. It's really sad to hear about the loss of habitat that forces the elephants to go into the plantations in search of food. My photo opportunity with a baby elephant:

For such a young country, Malaysia has an absolutely amazing road infrastructure, both intra-city and intercity. All of this contributing to a thankfully comfortable 4 hour ride to my final destination. I'm staying in the rustic town of Kuala Tahan, just across from the park itself, separated from the park by the muddy river of Tembeling.

Lunch and dinner has been provided as part of the package at Mamachop, a floating restuarant on the river. Small boats regularly ply their trade on the river ferrying passengers from one siide of the river and back. As these boats speed past or bump into the restuarant, it causes the whole structure to rock. This, combined with eating, makes me feel slightly seasick. By dinner the next night, I'd managed to get used to the motion.

After dinner, the first of the forest activities is the Night Jungle Walk with a guide. The guide mentioned that there were tigers, panthers and elephants in the forest, which sounded quite exciting except that night time sightings are extremely rare. Not much for the guide to point out to the tour group except the odd insect and some information about plants. The Malaysian seem obsessed with any plants that are sex related. Just as we're finishing the tour, the lightening that I'd been seeing brought a little bit of drama. 

The heavens opens and the rains poured down, forcing us to take shelter in  a nearby viewing platform, which thankfully was only a minute walk away. The platform overlooks a forest clearing were animals come to drink during the night. Altough we can't actually see the animals. We can see their eyes reflecting back the flashlight. It's quite eerie have eyes staring back at you! After about 30 minutes, the rain became lighter and the guide made the call to make an attempt to get us all back to our hotels. At some point. we hear a loud snapping sound, and the guide shouts out to us to run. Supressing my natural urge to ask "Why?", I ran with the group, off the walkway and into a clearing in the trees. Apparently the guide thought the sound was an elephant. As we stood getting drenched by the rain, I thought it was an over-reaction to a bit of noise.

Thoroughly soak through, I'm back at my hotel room and I go to close the curtains. Suddenly, I feel a a sharp pain in my hand and I'm in agony for the next 30 seconds or so. At first I thought, I'd gotten an electric shock till I took a closer look at my hand and realised, I'd been stung. Here's the little £$%^ that stung me. I think it was a hornet:

I had to go to the clinic to get some anti-histamines. The ony saving grace is that the Chlorpheniramine made me drowsy and I managed to get a good nights sleep. My hand before and after the anti-histamines:


First thing in the morning, the tour group heads off for the first activity of the day, the canopy walk. I'm still quite drowsy from the anti-histamines. Other than that, there's not ill effect from the sting and I haven't turned into some kind of hornet themed super human. When we arrive, it turns out that part of the walk has been closed off. My dreams of walking the world's longest canopy, dashed. Now it's only going to be a 350m walk instead of 550. Situated 45m above ground level are walkways made of ropes and planks. Going by looks alone, the walkways do not inspire confidence. After just one try, you forget about the height, the swaying walkways and start to enjoy the great views.

Next up is a climb to Bukit Teresek, a 330m hill. The trail was pretty easy until the foot of the hill when it becomes quite steep. The only thing I could remember from this trek was the leeches that attached themselves onto some of the group members. The little things are bloody everywhere, on boots, socks. I don't even understand how one managed to crawl to the top of someone's calf. With the walk over, we head back to the floating restaurant for lunch and a 2 hour break.

I chose go backk to the hotel to take a quick nap for my 2 hour break. Then I forgot to set my alarm and overslept. Luckily, the tour group waited for me. I was only 5 minutes late! The two activities were done together, shooting the rapids and a visit to an indigenous tribe that live in the park. Shooting the rapids apparently means whizzing all around the River Tmbeling at trying to get the passengers wet. I was soaked through, all the way to my Calvin Kleins. The ride then takes us to the tribe's village. They're known as "Orang Asli", literally original people and take rustic living to the extreme. The guide tells us that village number roughly roughly 80. Over 1000 Orang Asli are spread in groups across the par. The tribe generally stays in one area until either food sources being exhausted or a tribe member's death. 

This dude shows us how to make a fire (they actually use lighters now, the cheaters).

And finally, everyone got to try out the blowguns which the tribe still use for hunting. It wasn't that hard, but then they made it easy for us by having a target on 15m away. The tribe also make mini blowguns as souvenir. If I wasn't resolved to carry only one backpack, I'd have bought one for fun and to use on my many enemies.

It's been a fun filled 2 days in the park and I hope to visit again. Next time I'd like to try staying in the rainforest itself.

One last thing. We arrived back in Kuala Lumpur in the midst of a political demonstration, which had just been broken up with tear gas. The gas must have been fired some time ago since all I felt was a very unpleasant burning sensation in my throat. Apparently demonstrations have been going on for some time and will continue till the next month. You have been warned!

Tags: hospital, malaysia, misadventures, night trekking, park, tamen negara, wildlife


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