From the beautiful Cameron Highlands we leave for the even prettier Taman Negara National Park, where we arrive by boat. We go on an incredible 2 day hike through the jungle, sleep in a cave, look for night creatures, walk the worlds’ longest canopy walk and visit an Orang Asli village.
Don’t feel like reading today? Check out the photo album!
We’ve already done some pretty nice hikes at Cameron Highlands, but Taman Negara National Park is known for it’s huge jungle, so we’re very curious to check that out. It’s the perfect area for jungle hikes and we have a chance of seeing elephants, cloudy leopards, mouse deer and wild pigs. From Tanah Rata we take a tour bus to Jerantut, from where we have to take another bus to the river. It’s a 2 hour boat ride in a smal, long, traditional wooden boat. Luckily there’s an (very loud) engine in it otherwise it would take forever. We arrive at the small town of Kuala Tahan, Taman Negara’s basecamp.
We quickly get off the boat, as it is quite crowded here and we didn’t book a place to sleep beforehand. Luckily we find two beds at Liana Hostel, close to the Jetty (boat dock) where we arrived, so we didn’t have to walk too far with our heavy backpacks in this hot weather. It’s quite a large hostel, fairly clean and the dorms are small (4 beds). They even have WiFi in the seats in front of the reception and the bathroom is not dirty. Only when staff goes home at night, they immediately run out of toilet paper, so make sure to bring some of your own. At the hostel you can also book all your Taman Negara tours and so did we. Tomorrow we’ll go on an overnight jungle trekking with at least 4 people. 18 kilometres of hiking and sleeping in a cave. We’re very excited.
2D1N Jungle trekking
The next morning we have to be ready at 9, together with the other 10 people in our group, to pack our sleeping gear, food and water. Riny’s so kind to carry most of the stuff in his backpack so I only have to carry a small daypack. I’m very thankful for that, because my ankle is still healing from the fall on the Ijen volcano, and I don’t do well anyway climbing mountains in this climate. We’ve already been warned about the heath in the jungle. It’s going to be even warmer than it is here. Eventually we leave at about 10.30 am. We get on the boat and litterally not even one minute later we’re on the other side of the river and we have to get out. Here we have to count our clothes and pieces of plastic to make sure we bring everything back from the jungle. They also check our permits for the national park and for our camera, which we already bought in Jerantut.
The longest Canopy Walkway in the world
By boat we move on to the Canopy Walkway. According to our guide this is the longest one in the whole wide world. After a lot of steps and a long wait of at least 1,5 hours, we finally get to go on the bridge. It’s indeed huge, but it’s made out of a lot of seperate bridges. So in case of one breaking, only that part of the bridge will fall down, which is good I guess but because of that it really doesn’t feel like one long bridge. It’s very high up in the trees, not suitable for people with a fear of hights at all. And there are some rules; there has to be a certain amount of metres in between every person and there’s a max. amount of people on every part of the bridge. It takes about 20 minutes to cross and somewhere in the bridge there’s even a stairs! Scariest stairs of my life but it’s quite funny to walk the stairs on a bridge.
We follow the path towards the river, where our guide awaits us with the boat. He was so kind to stay with all our stuff, so we didn’t have carry anything up. The boat passes the point where we will finish tomorrow, and our guide suggest to start here today and do the trail in the opposite direction since it’s already quite late in the afternoon and he wants to be in the cave before sundown. Of course we would want that too. From here it’s 8 km to the cave instead of 12 and we save the hilly parts for tomorrow. This also means that we won’t be on the same track as the other 80 people who’ll be sleeping in the cave tonight, and tomorrow will also be a lot more quiet. And we don’t have to go through too much mud today, so we can start with dry socks and shoes in the morning. Last but not least, tomorrow we’ll have a lot less to carry which will make the hills a bit easier than they would be today. All we see are advantages, so we agree on walking from here.
Start of the track
We feel great and start this journey full of confidence. On the way our guide tells cool facts about the jungle and he let’s us eat a leaf that makes everything you eat afterwards taste sweat. We really enjoy the taste of our water after this, very funny. The pathway is quite easy to walk on and luckily the guide doesn’t walk too fast and stops many times to tell something. Every hour we get a five minute break for some food and water.
Sleeping in a bat cave
It’s almost 7 am when we reach the cave and we are one of the last groups to arrive. All the other groups were in line at the Canopy Walkway and some of them even got delayed there more than we did. Still they did do the furthest and longer part of the track today and made it here before we did, how’s that even possible. Were we really that slow? We meet a Dutch couple that we’ve talked to before, in the village yesterday. They tell us that they’ve been practically running all the way here and didn’t even get time to take a picture along the way. Nor did their guide tell them anything on the track. Now we are really happy with our guide! So that’s why we appear to be slow. Oh well, at least they all did the longer part already, which means we won’t be seeing them tomorrow. That would be awful I think, walking through the jungle in a parade of 80 people.
We set up our camp (read: roll out our thin mats and place our bags next to it) and then we have some time to freshen up. Close to the cave is a river where our guide pointed out a spot where we can wash ourselves. We are told to just do it there and not anywhere else, because a bit further upstream is where the guide will get water for cooking. So better not pollute this with sweat and soap (yes, some people actually brought soap and shampoo). It’s kind of difficult to wash yourself clean in 5 cm of still, brown colored water but hey, this is the jungle and it feels actually really nice. I don’t think we get really clean, but at least it cools us down a bit. Man, it was hot during the walk. Inside the cave we even have a spot to dry our clothes during the night.
Once back at the cave, our guide has already started to prepare dinner. White rice with fresh vegetables, canned fish in tomato sauce and some coffee or tea. For me it’s just white rice and vegetables and no sauce. There’s not much flavor to it but at least it’s nutritious. We are all very happy with our hot meal anyway, a real blessing, no matter the taste.
At night Riny is going on a night hike together with the rest of the group. I try to get as comfortable on my piece of rock as possible to get some extra sleep and hopefully lose my headache over night. When I come back from the ‘bathroom’ (a dedicated path for only this purpose), I see a large group of Asian people standing around our pile of dished that we’ve put there about an hour ago. When I come closer I see there’s a porcupine feasting on the left overs. So cute! Unfortunately the Asian people decide it’s funny to throw food on the poor animal and it quickly runs of, before I had the chance to make a decent picture.
When Riny comes back it turns out they didn’t see any animals, except for some spider eyes, lighting up in the dark. He did bring a slimy friend on his leg, and he’s bleeding on another part of his leg. We heard that leeches really hate salt, so let’s put this to the test. Indeed the salt works very fast, the leech is panicking and let’s go of Riny’s leg. A very useful item when you go on this hike, because there are so many leaches in the jungle. If you don’t have any salt, it’s better to leave them alone until they let go by themselves.
The bat poo experience
The next morning we wake up because of the chattering of our neighbors. Apparently they did have a good nights sleep… I had a horrible night. The sleeping mattress is so thin that you’re basically on the floor and it’s too painful to lay on your side. It’s impossible for me to sleep on my belly so there was only one option left, on my back with many drops from the ceiling falling on my face. Must be just water, right? The next morning it turns out to be bat poo! There are so many bats in this cave that our guide tries to prevent from flying above us by making lots of smoke from a fire. Unfortunately he eventually fell asleep and that’s when the pooing started… Everyone’s sleeping mattresses and sleeping bags are covered in shit, just as all our backpacks and the clothes that were on top of it. Gross! And it smells so bad. Luckily our guide promises us that we get to swim in the big river after today’s hike. We have some breakfast with leftover bread from other groups because apparently we didn’t get any bread yesterday morning. Oh well, at least we didn’t have to carry it either.
Jungle hike day 2
When everyone’s ready we start walking the 10 kilometres of today. First there will be a muddy part, followed by 6 large hills. The muddy part is indeed very, very muddy. 4 people fall down and it’s more sliding than walking. I also land on my butt one time, but at least I didn’t fall flat on my face! Even through we feel like we’re moving super slow, it doesn’t take long before we hit the hilly part, which is already halfway! Here we meet the first groups from the opposite direction. Since Riny’s backpack contains a lot less food and water, he’s able to fit my small pack into his, so I can fully focus on myself and my breathing, to hopefully make it to the top without any headaches.
Luckily our guide is walking on a very easy pace, what makes it easy even for me. The rest of the groups seems to be in quite a hurry, so we have a private jungle teacher at our service. He really knows a lot about this jungle and says he could easily survive here with his family for the rest of his life. He shows us how to drink from a liana and we eat some fruit from under a tree. Fantastic, these survival skills! You never know when you might need it. The guide tells us a scary story about being lost in this jungle for 19 days. Luckily she was found just in time. It’s not very hard to get lost when you lose your group. That’s why we feel very comfortable with a guide on this trip. Normally we prefer doing everything by ourselves, but this one we would never do without a guide. There a so many tracks and the jungle is just too big and full of danger. I you’re too stubborn to believe me an do go on your own, make sure that you tell someone your plans! Please. The girl I told you about was lucky, but there are still people missing on this very day, they’ve been lost for years…
Orang Asli village
Swimming in the river feels amazing, even though the brown, cloudy water doesn’t look appealing at all. Afterwards we enjoy some spicy noodles for lunch and then we get to decide if we want to stay here and swim of if we want to visit the Orang Asli village. That’s a really small village where the original inhabitants of this area still live by their traditional ways. We decide to go have a look. By now the tribes are a little bit more developed than they used to be. They wear normal clothes and the youth even has modern haircuts and dyed their hair, but the houses are still simple and made out of reed. Children don’t go to school but learn all they need to know from their parents. Boys learn to shoot with a blowpipe to be able to hunt to feed and protect their future family. Girls learn how to cook, clean and and take care of the younger ones. A special skill women know is how to prepare poison to hunt with and, even more important, how to cook animals that have been killed by poison. You don’t want to eat this yourself of course.
We’re back in the hostel by 7pm. After a long shower we go out for dinner and finish the day with some beers together with some others from our group. Because we already basically did eveything there is to do around here on the jungle tour, we leave tomorrow for our next destination: Kapas Island.