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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Jungle of Taman Negara

After a long trip by bus from the Cameron highlands in west Malaysia we stood by the wide brown river that lead into the jungle. Not just any jungle, Taman Negara, one of the oldest jungles on earth.  After gathering our things we climb into a long thin boat with the other travellers heading up the river toward the park headquarters. There were 4 of us travelling together at this point. Jeanette, Chistina, myself and a German girl whose name I cant remember. We were off at once, flying up the river into the unknown. On either side great trees soared, exotic birds called, our eyes were wide searching for movement at the banks. We all know under those dark trees coutless eyes were watching us roar past. Elephants, tigers, bison, snakes, spiders, leeches, monkeys, boars, giant ants. After three hours through the jungle on the boat we arrived at the park head quarters and the small riverside town of Kuala Tembeling. We set up in one of the few hostels and packed it in.

We awoke early in the morning excited to get across the river and into the jungle. Leech proof socks on, into the boat, and away we go. We crossed the river by a small motor boat for 1 ringit(about 30cents) and headed towards the park head quaters. After gathering some information there we headed off down the path to get our first taste of the jungle.  Only 100 meters into the jungle we spotted some beautiful blue ground birds with blue faces. It didnt take long before we encoutered the giant ants which were well giant. Some of them were an inch long each body segment the size of a pea and pinchers that looked like they packed a nasty bite. We saw leeched soon after but our socks and boots seemed to be holding up well. We wandered down many paths untill the distant thunder warned us of the afternoon rains which come around 2pm everyday like clockwork. Its called a rainforest for a reason. Everyday we awoke early and took a new route through the jungle, the diversity of insects was what really amazed us. At first we were excited about elephants and tigers, but we never could have imagined all the incredible and sometimes terrifying insects.
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Nearing the end of our trip and only having spotted one deer we decided we wanted to go deeper into the jungle and stay there overnight. We organised to stay alone in a hide high in the trees but we would have to trek to get there. Jeannette wasn't feeling well so she stayed behind, it was just me and Christina. We took another boat 1 hour down the river and trekked from there into the jungle. The trek was hard mostly because we had to bring all our food and our sleeping mats (and too much camera gear).  The hide was about 20 meters high had a good view of a clearing with a salt lick to attract animals.  We arrived to the hide early on the first day and spent all afternoon staring out at the empty clearing watching for any sign of movement. Just knowing that at any moment a jungle tiger or elephant might walk out was very exciting. We kept watching as the light faded. With every passing minute the darkness grew and with it the sounds of night. I cant even begin to describe the sounds of a jungle at  night but I'm sure we are meant to have an innate fear of these sounds because even though I had never heard many of the sounds they were unsettling to say the least. Into the evening we kept watch with a big flash light. At one point we were sure we heard a cat of some kind but we couldn't see anything. Eventually we went to sleep, or at least tried, on the ceiling only 3 meters away I could see this giant spider bigger than my hand and even though it wasn't moving I was sure the moment the light went out he was coming for me. I think I checked to see if he was still there with my flash light every 20 mins for the first 2 hours. Each time praying he would still be there.

 The next day we trekked out and hitched a ride down the river with some people from a local tribe. The traditional people of the jungle looked more like Africans than Malaysians, they all had dark skin and most of them picked their hair into a short afro. Only there facial features gave them away as Malaysian. We arrived back in town and spent the last few days wandering the trails closer to the head quarters. We also went through the jungle canopy walk, which is a series of suspension bridge supported by huge jungle trees. It starts off close to the ground and climbs high into the canopy until the ground is almost out of sight. The canopy is like another world, a whole new range of plants and animals different from what you see on the ground. I captured a lot of great video in Taman Negara and am still working on making it into something. I will post the video here when it is done.

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