Tuesday, March 4, 2008

One Month Ago... Taman Negara

(by Joe)
(This is now a month old, sorry for the late posting)
Hey everyone. It's been a while since I wrote. Most of the last month has been spent travelling with Mia's mother Marla, which has been wonderful. You can scroll down to her guest blogs that she posted to find out more. I would like to talk to you all about Teman Negara now. Teman Negara is a vast expanse of untouched rain forest nestled deep in the heart of peninsular Malaysia. There are only two ways to get there. The first is by a three hour boat ride along a winding river whose banks are crawling with wild monkeys and deadly monitor lizards. The trees act as camouflage for the still thriving rhinoceros, elephants and tigers which stalk each other through the night, each hoping to make a meal of the other. The sky's above the river could theoretically fill with so many birds that the sun could be completely choked out and it would become a virtual night time in the already dense jungle below. (This didn't happen, though I was able to see at least 4 of the 250 species of birds that live in the jungle during our trip (there were very few birds around)). The only other way to reach the jungle is by paved, divided highway.

When we arrived at the small town that acts as a staging camp for those brave enough to enter the Taman Negara wilderness we were briefed on a number of possibe guided trips and then turned loose on our own. The town itself was nothing worth writing home about, so I wont. However, across the river there was a 5 star resort hidden amongst the trees and vines, so we chartered a boat and got us a fancy chalet.

The buffet at the resort was amazing. It boasted of entrees from every corner of the world. Slow piano jazz covers of popular 90's songs competed for the affections of diners ears with the whining buzz saw of cicadas the size of a gorillas thumb. The cicadas, confused by the lights, would find themselves drawn inexplicably into the open air restaurant and thrust headfirst by their own instincts into anything bright around them. Lights, plates, shiny reflections on the plastic straps of a french woman's Invizi-bra. I caught one in my hand, exchanged a nod with an elderly Englishman who saw me do it, and the set it free.

The grounds of the resort were well groomed and only small remnants of the jungle still remained. The most noticeable of which were the giant wild hogs which dotted the lawns and required a full time staff member to circulate with a shovel filling in the holes they made rooting for grubs. All the wood beams, decorative lights and clocks showing times all over the world couldn't mask the savageness of the place completely. One morning I was waiting for some breakfast vouchers in the lobby of the hotel when a squirrel on the wall caught my eye. It was climbing from beam to beam, zigzagging its way up toward the vaulted ceiling. A gecko was also hanging out on the wall, two stories up. It was just relaxing there. Sleeping. The squirrel went out of its way to scamper over, reach up, grab the gecko in its hand, and fling it screaming toward the polished concrete floor. It landed belly down with a rubbery thud. Murdered for fun. That's the way the jungle is. Hardcore.

On our second day in Teman Negara, after a night spent gorging ourselves on international cuisine, playing cards, drinking fine wine and sleeping in, we decided to venture out into the jungle without paying for a guide. We had a map and 3 fairly adept people. That's really all you need. (When I had asked the nature guide the night before what animals he would show us on his jungle trek he had paused, looked embarrassed and then said, "Um, maybe cricket? Maybe spider?" Not worth 30 ringet a piece). The jungle was green and brown and humid. We made our way to the canopy walk.

The canopy walk is a series of suspension bridges 75 feet in the air strung between ancient rainforest trees. After that we hiked to the top of a few hills that looked over the whole valley. Nice. we had been warned about leeches but for the first number of housrs we didn't see any. The leeches here are land leeches. The walk like inchworms along the ground and then when they sense an aproching victim they stand on their tail and stretch up into the air like a thin, glossy stick, allowing them to grab onto shoes even when your foot is passing over them. You can't feel them at all even though they pull 20 times the blood as a mosquito. I saw a couple of other hikes suddenly panic and start grabbing at their shoes while we were walking and so I checked my own. 3 leeches, sucking through my socks. Sneaky little bastards. Mia had them too. For some reason they left Marla completely alone even though she was wearing open sided shoes. For the rest of the hike we had to keep stopping to burn all the leeches off of us with lighters. Even standing still for 30 seconds the came inching in from all directions, tiny black lines radiating out from where we stood, like the black rays of some evil, shrinking sun. The wounds they open can be quite gnarly. By the time we got back one of my socks was half soaked with blood. No pain though. I have so much to write but this is a start. Next up, our one month adventure on Kapas Island. Cliff jumping, vine swinging, jungle treking, cat nabbing, beach bonfireing, Steven Segal look alikes and more!

1 comment:

Randy said...

i was starting to wonder when we were going to get another update.

sounds like a wonderful place if you like murder-for-fun.

i look forward to the next installment