Tahan Rata floating cafes
People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)
Julia and I spent 8 hours in Johor Bahru, playing poker and ludo and waiting for our bus to leave to Jerantut. At 11pm we were finally on our way and arrived the following morning, just as the sun was coming up. Cold, dazed and confused, a guy bundled us onto another bus that was heading to Kuala Tahan, in Taman Negara National Park. It was around 11am when a lumpy dormitory bed became my new best friend, although my slumber was ended a few hours later when my stomach began to rumble.
Kuala Tahan is set by a river and several 'floating restaurants' have opened up to offer a strange dining alternative.
A view from the Jungle canopy walk
As small boats whizz by, they cause the structures to rock and make you feel sea sick! Nevertheless, we ate in them every day and eventually gained our sea faring legs! A trip across the river in the afternoon proved useful in gathering information on trekking possibilities, which we planned to do later in the week. That evening saw a torrential down pour and i began questionning the sanity of trekking in such conditions... more of that to come :)
On Thursday after some food on the river, it was decided that we would book a hide for the next evening and i was surprised that we were going to be the only people there - this really should have set the alarm bells ringing. Mission accomplished, the two of us decided to do a short hike to a jungle canopy walkway. Situated high in the tree canopy are rickety bridges made from ladders and rope, which get the adrenalin pumping, as you do a loop around a section of forest.
Me on the Jungle canopy walk
The views were spectacular and we were the only people there, even though Lonely Planet had recommended that it was neccessary to turn up early to avoid the queues! As it wasn't too late and the path to the walkway had been reasonably gentle, the decision was reached that we would push on to a mountain viewpoint a few kilometres along. Our first mistake lay in the fact that we weren't sure what the name of it was and subsequently set off in the wrong direction. About 45 minutes later with sweat dripping off us and no signs in sight, a u-turn was performed and a pair of disgruntled walkers could be spotted heading back to camp. Suddenly Julia emitted a yelp and when i turned around i saw that she was been attacked by leeches, horrible! Looking at the ground, i could see them eveywhere, reaching up to cling on and drain our blood.
Going up the rapids on our boat trip
This was all we needed. The pace was increased, with regular stops to try and pull the things off our boots, socks and legs and when we reached home, i was now really beginning to get worried about our trekking trip!
I'm not sure if i deliberately slept in the next day or not, but thankfully i did and this meant that we didn't have time to do the 8 hour trek to Bumbun Kumbang Hide. In all fairness i was bitten all night by bed bugs and couldn't stop itching, so maybe my lie in was justified! Instead, we cheated and hired a boat to take us up river, from where it was only a 60 minute walk to the hide :) Sitting patiently and observing the large area below us, we were lucky enough to spot some rare wild Buffalos, Squirrels, Bats, Birds and we even heard an Elephant call 3 times, but sadly didn't see it.
Me on Day 1 of our Jungle trekking
As dark settled in, the noises coming from the jungle were spectacular, but we had little to do in the pitch black, other than listen, lie down and eventually fall asleep.
The following morning we awoke for sunrise and began our look out. This time i saw a couple of Wild Pigs, a few different species of birds and something i have no clue about what it was, although a ranger said it may have been a leopard cat when i described it. It was a reasonably successful stay, but by 10am, we decided that we best make a move and crack on with the 12km trek back to Kuala Tahan, which certainly sounds easier than it was!
The first 90 mins covered about 4km and were pretty painless, but then the dramas began as the rain came tumbling down.
The hide that we stayed in at Bunbun Kumbang
It was ironic that on all the days in the national park it had always rained in the night and not in the day, but low and behold, this cycle changed especially for us! Trudging through the rain with our raincoats offering limited protection, our plight was worsened at the sight of leeches. Within minutes it appeared that they were everywhere, Julia even had them on her neck! The paths were also becoming flooded and i just wanted to be in a nice warm building away from it all!
After a couple of hours the rain stopped, but it had rained so hard that the countless river crossings that we had to make had become more difficult, due to the water levels rising and increasing in speed. This finally culminated with one river crossing been totally washed out and we were left with the dilemma of turning back or finding another route.
Julia watching from the hide
In no mood to turn back, we headed upstream and were delighted to find a fallen tree that we managed to teeter across. Once on the other side however, there was no path and only a steep slippery vertical embankment. I was surprised to see Julia take the lead and she really came into her element. I'd expected her to moan and whine and if anything it was me doing the complaining and her pushing onwards and upwards! It took 10 minutes of clinging onto tree logs, 30 metres up the embankment, whilst slipping and sliding above a gushing river filled with rocks, before we eventually made it back onto the recognised trail. I have to admit that i was more than a little bit scared.
The walk was up and down, up and down and although the distance we covered wasn't massive, the gradients and slippery conditions made it hard going.
To add to our woe, the rain began again and the path once more disappeared. As we scrambled along another embankment i couldn't help but scream aloud what a horrible place i thought this was - but not quite in those words! If nothing else, it cheered Julia up to know i was even more miserable than her. After finding the path again, we sat for a while in an opening on the river embankment. Taking my boots and socks off i was horrified by the amount of leeches that had crept through and had a damn good feeding on me. This was nothing however, as when we removed our raincoats, both our white t-shirts had turned almost completely red. There were bleeding leech wounds all over us both and i'm afraid that this would be my travbuddy t-shirts last ever outing! At one stage we bumped into an Australian couple heading the opposite way and even though we warned them of what lay ahead, they were determined to carry on, so we wished them good luck and expected never to see them again!
With a couple of hours remaining of the walk, it was a pleasant experience to pass through a small orang asli tribal village and i think they wondered what we'd been doing as we trapsed through, soaking and covered in blood! There were also plenty of wild pigs in the forest that gave us the fright of our lives, as they would go charging through the undergrowth when they spotted us, although thankfully none came head on for us! Other animals that were spotted on our walk back included plenty of colonies of ants, skinks and deer.
Day 2, walking back over a bridge
7 hours after leaving the hide, Kuala Tahan came into sight and i couldn't have been any happier! Reaching the guesthouse and plonking our bags down, i got a surprise when the Australian couple were also there. They had been only a few kilometres from the hide when the path had become impassable and they had to call for a boat to pick them up - although im not sure how they managed this - i was too exhausted to care or ask!
After a good nights sleep, our bags were packed and we were on our way back to Jerantut, from where we could catch the over night train to the very North East of Malaysia. The train didn't arrive until 2.20am, so we were left kicking our heels, but thankfully there was a KFC to pass away some time in. The train arrived into Wakaf Baharu at 8am, and from here we caught a taxi to the centre and a bus to the Thai border, ending another fun and eventful stay in a very special country.
Army of ants