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Long route home Our trip all the way home, trying to catch no planes and stay on the ground like civilised people. It's taking us via India all the way to Europe from Japan, the furthest of the Far East...

Jungle boogie

MALAYSIA | Thursday, 5 August 2010 | Views [1292] | Comments [4]

Taman Negara

We caught a boat off the Perhentians, then a taxi from Kuala Besut to Tanah Merah, which was viewed with some surprise by our guesthouse's owners, who thought it odd to go to "really the middle of nowhere".  First impressions didn't change that image, everything was shut on account of it being Friday.  We were there of course just to catch the train to the jungle - the 130,000,000 year old Taman Negara, a buzzing, leech-infested forest heaving with life and nature in raw, untamed glory. 

We couldn't even buy our train tickets in Tanah Merah, instead being told to come back the next morning.  Twenty minutes of wandering around the not-very-busy streets, even considering visiting The Colonel for food, brought us to a Chinese place with a typically Malaysian eccentric owner who talked like he was on permanent fast forward.  We gulped down noodles and 7UP and then explored the local supermarkets on a supplies-gathering mission.  We left with a healthy and sustaining selection of pot noodles, nuts, crisps, spicy...things and chocolate paste.  The train turned up the next day at 07:17 as The Internet had said it would, contradicting the ticket lady who said it would be seven o clock.  It seems that ticket people here merely say the hour rather than the minute too, annoying if you catch a 6:55 train!  The train itself was pretty clean and comfy and the scenery was stunning.  A note to Beardy Branson - the trip was just RM18.60 for both of us!

The next stage was Kuala Lipis, where tourist information was shut and buses were late in the day, so we hailed a taxi, folded up two Dutch boys into it to split the cost and zoomed to Kuala Tembeling just in time to dodge the inevitable "no more boats, take my very expensive alternative" chat and jump on the last boat of the day.  Three hours of pleasant voyaging up the river at a leisurely pace watching otters, buffalo and kingfisher was a nice way to end the ten-hour journey from Tanah Merah and a wonderfully atmospheric start to our jungle adventure.

"Welcome to the jungle" was our cliched greeting from the boatmen as we pulled into Kuala Tahan, a tiny village seperated from the national park only by the Tembeling River.  We duly got off, listened to a not so hard sell and set out for a guesthouse, finally ending up at the top of a hill far far away from the river crossing.  After a meal atop a floating restaurant on the river we reconciled ourselves tot eh fact that it was a pretty good hotel after all and the walk wasn't so bad.  The next day we slumbered for a while before heading into the jungle in the middle of the day.  A short walk brought us to monkeys who teased us by staying out of photo range, scrambling around in the treetops.  There was nothing for it - we had to go up to their level, so we climbed up the swaying, creaking jungle canopy walkway, the longest in the world, and strolled between the trees 70m in the air.  Monkeys were not to be seen, but we did spy some nut squirrels dashing about and various birds.  After the exhiliration of the walk we climbed Bukit Teresik, a small hill, and gazed out over the landscape listening to gibbon calls in the distance.  In the evening the clowns at NKS travel served us mediocre food and enrolled us on the 4x4 jungle afari leaving at 22:30 to rumble around a palm plantation with a spotlight.  WE gumbled an groaned about the time, but the experience was magical.  Owls, Loris and faltheaded cats were out and about but the star was a Leopard Cat which was bedazzled by the spotlight but not intimidated and so we saw her for a while before she slipped off to the shadows.  Almost as good as the animals were the giant palms, ecologically destructive but hauntingly beautiful in the moonlit shadows, like overbearing lines of arboreal soldiers with their huge fronds jutting menacingly out in all directions.

After a short sleep, it was time for the real deal, at least for us, a two day trek out to the Kumbon hide and back.  WE set off late and a bit tired and followed the route we'd used the day before for a while, then watched with a mix of frustration and worry as the path descended into root-choked madness and veered sharply up then wickedly straight back down.  Kilometres started taking hours and the path seemed to have no end.  We ran into wild pigs who grunted at us from the bushes and heard monkeys and gibbons above us but still we kep plodding ever on until finally we found the bridge across the river Tahan and suddenly we were only a kilometre away.  Cursing the maddeningly inaccurate maps given to us by the authorities we tramped through the final spiteful lengths and reached our goal, Bumbun Kumbon with the light beginning to fall and the shadows inexorably lengthening.  Safely ensconsing ourselves within, we set up camp, said hello to our fellow wilds-watcher and settled down to watch the show.  Almost immediately, out came a long white streak, gradually revealing itself as a tapir's back.  We watched spellbound as he licked at the salt the hide overlooks before taking fright and bolting.  Anticipation slowly dissipated as we waited in vain to see what had startled the unusual jungle dweller.  The night progressed in a similiar vein as the fireflies came out and we shined our torch on any noise we heard but caught only a glimpse of the tapir again and nothing else, despite there obviously being so much around.

In the morning we were woken by our hidemate who pointed out our friend the tapir yet again feeding in the early morning light before ambling slowly away.  We ate breakfast and headed out on the other trail, which shared the amiguity of distance of its brother but thankfully not the scrambles up and down slope after slope.  We did however, have to take off our shoes to wade through the river early on.  All in all, the walk was much better nd we heard much more, including gibbon who sounded maddeningly close and some very large sounding things in the bushes.  We saw a majestic Giant Hornbill who had wings that sounded more like an airplane than a bird, various lizards and insects and some pheasants.  Pushed down trees were telltale sign of elephants at other points.  Finally trudging out of the jungle was a relief indeed that afternoon and we had a well-deserved hot shower at the hotel followed by an early night so we could catch the Jerantut bus at ten the next morning and go from there onto KL...where we are now, so we're finally up to date!




I have re-written this message many times, as sheer jealousy made early drafts even more curt - afterall, that tree top walk was amongst the main draws of Malaysia before Mabel quietened our plans somewhat, and now your excellent blog is a reminder of prizes not won !
However, while I must admit a few choice words were directed your way while I was reading the above, I've persevered to this remarkably restrained version, as I wanted to espress how much I'm enjoying your blogs. Not only are they a great insight into your adventures, but they give hope that Oli has gotten over the rueing of things not done and that you're both really making the most of the things you have. Which is just as well, as I've a sneaky suspicion that many more delights await and you're writings of such are needed to get us through what passes for summer in this miserable isle!

Writing of forthcoming delights, I learn that you couldn't get a boat over to India, but I imagine you explored all possibilities, so I hope it doesn't bother you unduly. Especially as booking the flight while there means the money goes into the local economy. Also it means more time for high jinks in India, which I, for one, am very much looking forward to reading about..

But enough of such niceties, time for a challenge ! Please post a picture of your leaking faces and melted tongues after trying the hottest curry that your first Indian establishment has to offer...(not that I'm trying to offset my jealousy with your discomfort, you understand....)

  Envious Eric Aug 7, 2010 2:43 AM


Aw, guys, you sound like you're having an amazing time! I'm glad Em is getting a gibbon-fest instead of too much beach action! ;-) Hope you are having a wonderful time (stupid comment, you obviously are). Don't come back to the Real World, it sucks. Thanks for the postcard though. Enjoy everything and take lots more pics. I want to see a full-on slideshow (accompanied by Em's cooking) when you get back xx

  Jane Kirby Aug 10, 2010 10:56 PM


Hi noflyzone,

We really liked your story and decided to showcase it on our Malaysia feature so that others can enjoy it too.

Happy travels!

  Alicia May 2, 2011 10:11 AM


Thanks Alicia!

  noflyzone May 19, 2011 8:18 PM

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