After 3 hours of endless kampung roads in a shock absorber-less van, we set foot in Jerantut, Pahang. Frankly, Jerantut surprised me. I expected a tiny cluster of wooden houses without plumbing system while Moana sings I’ve been starring at the edge of the water, ‘long as I can remember, never really knowing why. Instead, a small town looms; rows and rows of shop lots, a hospital, sizeable concrete buildings… But the city kid in me notes: no mall.
We embarked on our boat ride from the Jerantut Jeti to Taman Negara. Fees paid and permits in place, we began our jaunt “over the edge of the water”.
row, row, row your boat
Every floating log freaks me out. After I nudged my husband’s arm for the 38th time, he finally says, “baby, that is NOT a crocodile”. But I’m not convinced. Can you blame me? My pandora bracket will sooo slip out over a hook.
My husband has two great passions: lego and Malaysian rivers. “Sungaiku, haiku”, cites the campaign slogan. Naturally, the water’s brownish shade caused him significant discomfort; but did nothing to me as we cruised along the windy river, wind in our (nose) hair, eyelashes flapping in the breeze.
mutiara taman negara
After 3 hours of a surprisingly pleasant downstream voyage, we are met with solid ground.
Mutiara Taman Negara is the nicer of the accommodations available in the national park. Since we were in the mood for a little splurge (that explains our rapidly decreasing bank account figure), we booked an aircond chalet for 2 with with an attached bathroom and private toilet bowl.
Bookings here also include buffet treats 3 meals a day, from the moment you check in till the second you punch out (or return your key).
The lamb was particularly mouth watering. Or maybe I just like lamb.
A pitch black jungle
The night jungle walk was, with respect to its name, at night, in a jungle, with no street lamps. Without the shine of our mighty torch lights, a blackness swallowed us like the fog in Sherlock’s Hounds of the Baskervilles. I stick my hand out like a traffic police but the darkness cheats the sight of my fingers.
The guide inform us that the “concert” we hear is a chorus of crickets, frogs and grasshoppers. He points out insects and creepy-crawlies, 2 snakes (1 poisonous, the other looks like a belt), too many crickets, and a big fat spider that sends tingles up my spine.
Pak Cik guide points out a pair of mating stick insects and delivers a mind blowing fact: our friends can “bang” for up to 15-20 days! I did a fact check on the internet (marvel of the modern world), and discovered that their norm is FIFTY-NINE-FREAKING-DAYS! Speak of endurance.
But the climax is yet to come. Scorpions lurk under leaves and in self-made holes. The slightest movement, the softest whisper, sends them clambering back into the shadows. To coax one out, the guide caress it with a stick, gently baiting it into the open. The guide shines a UV light at the scorpion to reveal a glowing silhouette of fluorescence glamour.
We trek on to Tahan Hide, a wooden structure that functions as an observation tower. From here, in plain view is the spot where park rangers lay out salt. That, coupled with the presence of a water source, aims to lure animals into plain sight. Unfortunately, we luck out today. No animals, just a couple of moths in our hair.
Bukit Terisek and the canopy walk, in that sequence
Day 2, we flex our quads up the man made wooden steps. Every 5 minutes, the guide takes a break to relay jungle survival tips. Where to source for water? How to start a fire? How to tend to wounds? Never sleep in the open, he advise.
The hike was relatively easy and our efforts land us on top of Bukit Terisek and a breath taking view.
The canopy walk, which is essentially a hanging bridge draped betwixt the towering tropical rainforest. Rules dictate a minimum distance of 10 meters between each person, precautions despite the sturdy ties to the solid trees.
A healthy portion of the walk was closed for maintenance, and I can’t say I’m not disappointed. However, I make the most of the opportunity, drinking in the lush, leafy paradise from the front row seats of the hanging bridge.
Hanging with the batek tribe
Speaking of hanging, the visit to a village of the Batek Tribe was an eye opener. These orang asli (aboriginals) are scarce in numbers. In the year 2000, there were only 1800 of them. Fortunately, their population today is nearly double.
20 families live in this village, where they drink from the river and hunt for food. The tiny huts house whole families, many of which have 7 or 8 children. Women walk around in sarongs, and the guide playfully told us that they don’t wear underwear. That sparked the question of sanitary pads, one I wish we brought up at the time.
A young Orang Asli man entertained us with his carving skills and fashioned wood into an arrow. Then, he demonstrated the fire starting technique the batek people use to spark “red flowers“.
We even had the chance to build fire hands on, with nothing but cane and wood. Because, real men build fire with bare hands (and wood and cane).
The 7 rapids
A.k.a. rocking the boat in baby pools of whirling water. Which is what the boat skipper did. Waves of water splash my face, drenching my t-shirt and running shorts.
Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, Dopey, Bashful, Sneezy… Oh wait, those are the 7 dwarfs.
Nevertheless, 7 “rapids” and 7 showers later, I was soaking wet from head to toe with bubbles in my butt crack… And then it was over. WHY IS IT OVER ALREADY??
Only 3% of malaysians have visited taman negara
Says a park ranger.
What??! That’s lower than the national diabetes statistics!
I say, let’s up the data.
We owe ourselves that much.