Who would have thought it hey? A year ago I didn’t even own a waterproof coat! If it was raining, I wouldn’t go outside, simple! The most I walked was to and from the bus stop for work, or to Greggs for lunch. Now, my limited edition Nike sneakers are covered in mud, my butt is sore from falling over and I’m scrabbling under fallen trees – and loving it!
Warning – this post contains pictures of gross insects!
Taman Negara is a tropical rainforest 250km north of Kuala Lumpur, covering over 4300 square kilometres. At 130 million years old, making it the oldest rainforest in the world. The journey to reach the jungle is long! First we took a 2 hour bus from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Tembelling Jetty. Here you wait in line to register for your entry permit and get your photography permit. Once that is all complete we took a tiny boat (which was actually quite comfortable) along the river which takes 3 hours. This boat drops you off in Kuala Tahan which is your entry point to Taman Negara National Park. We booked all our transfers through HAN Travel. Each element was booked separately, we didn’t book a tour, this saved us hundreds of Ringgit and meant we could pick and choose what we wanted to do and when to do it. We ate packed lunches rather than set menu’s and we walked freely through the jungle rather than a trip with a guide.
I am scared of a few things, being swept away in the sea, being blindfolded, I’m also a little claustrophobic, but my biggest fear is spiders. I hate them. I have shed many tears when I have been confronted with the beasts. In Taman Negara you can find bird eating spiders and huntsmen spiders. So what the hell am I doing here and why have we just decided to do a night walking tour?
Equipped with insect repellent (does that work on massive spiders?) and a head torch, we venture into the dark depths of the jungle. As we tip-toed along, the guide flashed his light into the eyes of unsuspecting insects. Did you know that centipedes are poisonous but millipedes aren’t? Did you know that the stick insects in this rainforest can grow as long as 45cm! Did you know that red scorpions glow in UV light, like something you’d see on Halloween? Speaking of scary things, there they were, these gargantuan 8-legged freaks. I couldn’t run, it was pitch-black! I couldn’t scream, that would be irrational and embarrassing (for Pete). I had to stand there whilst everyone (including Pete) gawped at these monsters. When I eventually had to walk past them to join the group it took all of my might. After three gulps of breath, I power-walked past them, keeping my gaze elsewhere. Luckily, they didn’t pounce on me so I’m still here to tell the tale.
On our second day I felt like Dora the Explorer, we were ready for what the day was going to bring! The easiest trail you can do of Taman Negara should take around 4 hours to walk. You can do a 7-day trek if you’re crazy enough. On our easy trail we crossed the Canopy Walk. This is simply a thin, horizontal ladder with wooden planks nailed to it and ropes either side to grab onto. Unstable and probably wouldn’t meet any safety regulations, we treaded carefully along the walkway gripping for dear-life. I barely looked around as I had to keep checking for holes in the wooden planks! We managed to take some photographs which I looked back on when my feet were firmly on hard ground.
We then headed up the hill to reach the viewing point at Bukit Terisek. The path became more challenging as humongous fallen trees lay across the trail. Some of these trees blocked so much of the path that we got lost trying to find it again. We crawled, we climbed, we even banged our head! (Well, I did anyway, on a tree trunk I had to crawl under.) Steep climbs were aided by Tarzan vines, making it easier to abseil down, but watch where you grab as there are swarms of ants everywhere. The biggest ants I have ever seen in my entire life. If these ants were spiders, I would have screamed they were so big!
After a photo break at the top, we followed the trail down. Down was hard. You’d expect it to be easier, but it was so much muddier than on the way up. So much gloop stuck to our trainers, making the path slippery and our grip non-existence. Evidently one of us was bound to fall. Whooosh! I thought my foot was firmly in place, it wasn’t. Down on my behind I fell, slipping along the path and stopping at a tree root. Oh man. Luckily, the mud I fell in was dry and I could dust most of it off, although I may have looked liked I shat myself! Haha.
We clambered down, weaving through branches, roots, vines and mud before we eventually reached the picnic area Lubok Simpon. Benches looked over the water with tangled trees on the bank. Pete was brave enough to take a dip. ‘When am I ever going to get a chance to swim in a river in a rainforest?’ Good point. But the fear of leeches (as we had seen loads on the trail, like little lost worms sticking out of the ground searching for skin) was too great, so I stayed safely on the side.
After 5 hours of trekking through the rainforest, we made it out in one piece – just! I felt like Lara Croft, the adventurer within me was bursting out. Exploring a foreign terrain, surrounded by bugs and dripping with sweat, I needed a shower. And my Nikes needed cleaning more than I did! They took 2 days to dry and smelt like a pit. But what do you expect when you trek the world’s oldest (and what felt like the hottest) rainforest?