Blood Sucking Leeches and Jungle Sounds
Trip Start Jan 10, 2011
36Trip End Jun 09, 2011
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The coach finally turned up and we piled on, there were about 12 of us in total on a massive coach for 40 odd people, so needless to say we had plenty of space to lounge about. The coach took us as far as Kuala Tembeling and the jetty there. There wasn't a lot in Kuala Tembeling but there was a Taman Negara National Park office where Lucy and I were able to purchase our entry permits and a camera license. After some lunch we were called and told the boat was ready. We were to get a boat up river to Kuala Tahan. The boat was a skinny little thing, we were sat in the bottom of the boat in twos, all in a row with our life jackets as cushions, at least they were to hand in an emergency. Lucy and I really got the sense that we were heading into the unknown on a jungle adventure as there was nothing on either side of the river (except for super dense jungle) for almost the whole time we were in the boat.
We finally arrived at the little village of Kuala Tahan that serves as the base for treks into the 130 million year old rainforest that is the Taman Negara National Park. The village is on the east side of the Tembeling river, with park headquarters and one super expensive resort on the western side, little boats work as taxis and do the trip across river for 1Rm (20p). We arrived at one of the floating restaurants and made our way onto dry land to find somewhere to stay. The
After getting our stuff sorted we crossed the river for the first time and went to the park headquarters to get a map, book a hide to stay in the following night and review our trekking options. As there was space Lucy and I decided to go for 'Bumbun Kumbang' it is the hide furthest from headquarters that can be reached in one day without a guide. As this was the case we thought it would be best if we got the boat back down river as we would be pretty tired from the previous day. After sorting that all out we went for some dinner on one of the floating restaurants and then made our way back to our guesthouse.
Day 2 03/04/11
So! It's the day of our jungle trekking adventure!! We get up later than initially intended and go down to the riverside for some breakfast. We intend to buy some lunch and dinner as-well but their kitchen isn't doing anything but breakfast yet so we can't get food there. We then get a taxi to one of the raft houses that are renting out equipment (we are after some sleeping bags) for the jungle only to be dropped there and find that it was closed. We are assured by a friendly group of gentlemen on an adjacent boat that there will be someone along in half an hour. We couldn't wait that long so we went to a guesthouse on the other side of the river and got them there. After finally tracking down the sleeping bags we loaded up with water and crossed the river for the last time that day.
We had only walked 20m when we came across our first of many leeches. The first one you see is rather comical, they stand on one end and wave around seeming to sniff you out. Once they sense you are there the come crawling at a surprising pace towards you. If you stand still for even a moment the forest floor seems to come alive and starts to move towards you. Most of the time we were fortunate enough to spot the leeches as they were crawling up our boots (despite covering them in DEET) and we were able to jut flick them off. At one point I looked down at the back of Lucy's foot to see her sock just soaked in blood! Oh dear! I pulled it son to find the massive fat leech sat there sucking away. The only way to safely remove them (without risking leaving their teeth in you, which often get infected) is to burn them off. Despite being fat and full on Lucy's blood the leech was surprisingly mobile as it ran away from the flame. The jungle trekking itself was fairly hard work, constantly heading up and then down hill to the next little stream, there were often massive trees fallen on the clearly defined path that we had to negotiate but the heat and humidity was the most taxing thing. As we set off too late it was late afternoon before we stopped for lunch. Reluctant to stand on the path and get mobbed by leeches we stood on a couple of rocks in the middle of a fast flowing stream. The coconut caramel was really tasty, at first, it soon became very sickly indeed. It was a well needed break and the jungle seemed a lot less daunting afterwards, for a short while at least.
After lunch I was following Lucy when we heard a brief rustling sound in the bushes to our left. Being unable to see very far in the super dense jungle we were understandably apprehensive. All of a sudden there was an explosion of noise as we caught glimpses of a large black an white animal bolting away from us into the jungle. Wow, a glimpse of the very shy and elusive tapier! But that wasn't all! Not more than 100m later we were further surprised when a family of warthogs shot across the path in right in front of us. As we had been walking along we could see evidence of animals, footprints and disturbances in the ground where animals had been searching for roots, we even saw mounds of elephant poo! But we were never expecting to come so close to the animals, especially as we were making quite a racket, traipsing along chatting away. Needless to say Lucy was fairly rattled by all this especially having been tormented by leeches for several hours now, and so insisted on speaking loudly so no more animals would be surprised by our presence.
After walking for around 5 hours we we were expecting to come across a bridge to cross the big river as the hide was on the other side. When we finally got to the river, to our dismay we found no bridge, no boat to take us, no shallow causeway, only a rope. All there was was a rope to hold onto to cross a wide fast flowing river of unknown depth. Great! So, who would be going first? Me of course! Reluctant to continue the rest of the walk in soaking wet boots I took them off and jumped down the river bank into the raging torrent beneath. Not the cleverest thing I'd done that day. Nevertheless I was in, the water wasn't too cold, it was pretty fast moving but not too powerful or deep, yet. As I waded across I found the middle of the river to be sandy
After the crossing it wasn't too far to the hide, 500m maybe. We were the last to arrive, there were 7 others, all of which had either taken the other route or got the boat up river to get there, none of them had seen any animals or got drenched in the river.The hide was a large concrete building set 20m off the jungle floor, with 6 bunk beds allowing for 12 people.
After eating our dinner of cold fried chicken and rice, we all sat down on a big long bench infront of the window to wait and watch for animals approaching the salt lick the hide was overlooking. Unfortunately it was dark by 2030 and nothing had come out of the jungle. So we went too bed with the sounds of insects and birds ringing in our ears. We were quite glad for our mosquito net as there were so many insects flying round the room, a few people mentioned a rat or two.
Day 3 04/04/11
Lucy and I awoke to the sounds of the jungle as the sun was rising and it was starting to get light in the hide. I slept surprisingly well, only waking up once to the sound of a deep growling sound! Lucy slept through it all! We had a fairly lazy start to the day as we only had to walk for around 1 hour to get to our boat at 1000, we had the rest of our bread deciding not to have the coconut caramel spread and finished off our orange fruit cake.
The short walk to the river jetty was enjoyable, we had eaten most of the food and drunk most of our water so my backpack was considerably lighter today. When we got to the jetty we had a short wait for our boat to run up. Squashed in the front of a really skinny wooden boat with a massive engine on the back, going down rapids was pretty fun to say the least, even if we did get a little soaked. The boat dropped us off at the canopy walkway jetty, 30 minutes
When we finally arrived back at park HQ, it was a gloriously sunny day and we were glad to be back in civilisation. Showers, dry clothes and hot food were very welcome! We went to organise our transport to the Perhentian Islands for tomorrow, where, whilst having one of the best banana smoothies I've had on this trip so far and a brilliant vegetable curry, we were met by 2 of the people we stayed at the hide with. After our late lunch we went back to our guesthouse (just as it started raining) to sleep for an hour or so before going out again to take our sleeping bags back. Before we went to bed we thought we should have some dinner, although we weren't particularly hungry as we had such a late lunch, so a plate of chips and a bowl of rice was enough.
Day 4 05/04/11
Scheduled to catch the bus to the Perhentian Islands at 0800, we intended to be up at 0630 so we had plenty of time to re-pack and organise our bags before we leave to get breakfast. But as usual we didn't get up we had to hurriedly chick everything in our bags after a very brief cold shower and race down to the bus stop. Fortunately we got there around 0745 and there was a local street vendor making pancakes (we both had fantastic chocolate and banana ones). There was even a lady selling little lunch packets, we weren't sure what was inside but discovered it to be rice with a fried chicken leg and a little pouch of Malay laska (curry sauce).
We finally leave and have to change buses at around 1030 after stopping at an ATM as there are none on the islands, there is no electricity between 0700 - 1900 and no roads, bikes or cars,just boats. When we stop for lunch Lucy and I are astounded to find Mark and Anne (we went trekking with them in Sapa, got on really well an have kept in touch) sitting at a table in the same restaurant on their way to the Perhentian Islands themselves! We meet up with them again at the harbour and catch a boat to the islands together. The boat ride was a bit mental, as we got on the boat the driver was joking with us that we'd be jumping 20ft in the air, doing 80 km/h, so we had better hold on tight! He wasn't joking, fortunately we had got the seats right at the front and we didn't get to much of the spray although we did experience more spine jarring as the boat hit the waves and as it landed after flying over the top of them. We managed to get to Perhentian Kecil with big grins on our faces if a little shaken and wet.