29 November 2011

Blood Suckers [Taman Negara, Malaysia]

In my first post I mentioned that I had not really seen the Malaysian countryside, so could not comment on whether it was beautiful or not. Well I can confirm; this country is spectacular. The landscape is one colour; a thousand shades of green. With thick green forests filled with wild animals, countless kinds of vegetation, rivers and streams, all under massive towering trees. The forest just does not stop, as far as you can see, it conquers deep valleys and tall mountains. In my opinion; Malaysia rivals Laos for the most beautiful in South East Asia.

At the end of the last post Julia and I were jumping in to the back of some random guys car, with the hope of a free trip to Teman Negara. We had our fingers tightly crossed that we would not end up in small pieces in a box in the corner of a basement somewhere in Malaysia. But we were lucky enough to meet an awesome group of people and had a really good couple of days (minus the leeches. We'll get to that...).

Our group consisted of five freelance video- and photo-graphers, a small child (not sure who she belonged to exactly), our guide Zeck (who was awesome by the way, check him out here) and his partner. We set off from Khota Bharu mid-morning and arrived at the north side of the massive Teman Negara about four hours later.

Surrounding the national park are huge palm and rubber plantations. The plants stretch out for miles in every direction. But as soon as you enter the park everything changes. From palms to dark, thick, lush forest. The temperature comes down a couple of degrees instantly.

Teman Negara is basically a huge (4300 sq kms) forest in inland Malaysia. It is almost impenetrably thick with trees and vegetation. The north entrance is one of the least touristed, mainly just because transport in the area is non-existent. It is mainly used for research and Malaysian nature lovers. Meaning it is extremely well preserved and there are a lot of animals around. The park is home to all kinds of wildlife, including tigers and elephants. My hope was to watch a group of tigers bring down an elephant. I'll be honest, my chances weren't good, but how awesome would that be?

First up was the canopy walk; a series of rope bridges connected to massive trees, overlooking the forest. I think the highest point we reaches was about 30m, which might not sound high, but when you are held up by a bit of rope and a couple of planks of wood - it's high! It was amazing (read: kinda scary) to be up among the tree-tops, looking down over the jungle. The views were spectacular.

After a quick dinner we hiked out into the jungle. The sun had set and it was starting to get dark, so the going was pretty tough. Clambering over networks of interwoven tree roots, under branches and through a mass of thick leaves, all while treading over a trail thick with mud. There were casualties...

Now for the scary part; as soon as we got into the light we found our feet and lower legs were covered in leeches! Ahhhh! But they weren't the huge black leeches I pictured, they were small and brown and looked kinda like worms. They moved really quickly, and once they had decided you were dinner they were extremely hard to get off. They got right in our shoes (no idea how) and could stick to you even through thick socks. Needless to say there was plenty of screaming, jumping up and down and yelling "get it off! get it off!".

Anyway, so the reason for our after-dark jungle trek - we were going to stay in a hide. A hide is a small wooden hut sitting up above the jungle floor with viewing window and a couple of beds. There is a salt lick down below to attract animals, and the idea is that you camp out all night in the hope that you will see some hungry animals. I think we were a bit noisy, because we didn't see any at all. But the sound of the jungle is an experience in itself. The animal calls and insects are like a chaotic symphony, and it is SO loud! Actually I lie; we did see some action. In the morning Julia went to use the toilet and there were a couple of bats hanging upside down from the roof! Awesome!

The following morning we made the trek back out of the jungle, followed again by the 15 minutes of leech removal. We then made our way to an elephant sanctuary to take a look at the animals up close and go for a ride! We were the only ones there, so it was really cool to be able to get right up close and feed the elephants. I think I made a new friend.

Our final stop was a cave just outside Gua Musang (a small city about 40kms from Taman Negara). This place was insane, with HUGE stalactites with beautiful vegetation surrounding. We clambered up over the rocks and explored the cave, taking about 200 photos.

And that was the end of our adventure. I should note that the whole time we were visiting these attractions we were being filmed. The footage is going to be used to make a promotional video for Malaysia, so we are pretty much going to be famous. This often meant doing the same thing a few times over while they got the footage they needed, but on the whole it was really painless. And the team of people filming were seriously awesome. For a free trip, it was definitely worth it. I knew our bad luck had to change sometime...

Later that afternoon we managed to get a ticket down to Kuala Lumpar. It was bloody expensive, but I sit writing this reclining back in my huge, comfy seat on a 'business class' bus. I would have bought a cheaper ticket if I had the choice, but I might as well not complain and enjoy it.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete
  2. Shared you story in Taman Negara Facebook
    http://www.facebook.com/tamannegaramalaysia?ref=ts

    ReplyDelete

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