I cant go across the world without spending some time becoming one with nature. What better place to do this than one of the oldest forests in the world. We made the journey to the small town of Kuala Tahan that is across the river of the forest. We slept the night mentally preparing for what ended up being quite the adventure in a forest that seemed like it was out to kill anyone who walked thru it.
A very important piece of information is that the night before we began our trek there was an absolute downpour. I did not really think anything of it until we were in the forest the next day. There was actually supposed to be another couple of groups hiking out the same day as us but the rain kept them away. What’s a little mud…right?…We ended up being a group of 6 plus our wonderful guide Fami (spelling is absolutely wrong). After we packed our bags full of water, food, and our sleeping bag we were on our way. The first part of the trip involved a “boat” (think large motorized canoe in which the water is almost level with the top). This was a two hour boat ride into the jungle that allowed us to hike deeper in the jungle back towards the town. It didn’t take long for us to be in awe of the towering trees painting the riverside. It was quite a wet and bumpy ride. I thought that this was normal and it was always a struggle to get down the river. It was only when we were done for the day that Fami told us that even he was a little worried that we wouldn’t make it down the river because the water was so high and strong thanks to the storm.
Leeches. Leeches everywhere. Big leeches. Small leeches. An abundance of leeches. Whatever you’re thinking, double that and that’s still not an accurate representation of how many leeches there were in this jungle. Luckily Shannon and I wore Chacos (hiking sandals – i.e no socks). So when I say we each pulled of probably 50 leeches off our feet during the course of two days that is probably a little conservative. One thing we learned is how accustomed one can become to something when there is no choice. Every half hour we would pull up our pants, see a couple of feasting leeches and then proceed to pulling them off. Sure, the first 20 were pretty bad but after that they were just part of us. I could go on about the leeches and how Collin found some on his stomach or how Shannon probably had one on her hip for an entire day (prize for biggest leech of the trip), but I’ll spare the details but just as you read the rest of this insert leeches in between everything.
8 “Malaysian Kilometers”
Now to start the 8 kilometer trek to the cave where we would spend the night. The walking was wet, tiring, long and humid. The rain turned the trail into a mixture of mud and streams that usually one doesn’t have to go knee deep to cross. Nothing I have said so far portrays anything other than misery. I promise this wasn’t the case. If i could go back I would absolutely still do it. It was a different experience that had a beauty that is hard to find. We walked by trees that were all cut up because aborígenes, to this day, use the tree as the poison for their blow dart arrows. By trees that are used to make the boats, the very one we made the trip on, houses and even that is used as fire starter. Hmm the same wood that is used for a house is used to start a fire? Yeah, maybe everyone is just more careful when living inside a large fire starter. There were times on the trail that we had to cross a rather large drop on a giant fallen tree. Falling here probably would not have done much more than break a few bones. We all crossed feigning a sense of confidence whilst on the inside we were quite scared. Or maybe that was just me. Anyway, this trek ended up being a test of toughness more than anything else as fire breathing ants crawled down our arms, spikes that made cacti look cuddly jutted out of the very trees that we were forced to grab as we inevitably slipped, leaves that looked harmless but of course were tiny saws, oh and leeches. It was when we made it to the cave and had the chance to look around that we all realized that this was worth it. We had a giant cave to ourselves in the deep jungle with hundreds of bats flying overhead. It took us close to six hours to get to this point. Seems like a slow pace, right? We all thought so too and where quite confused as to why it felt so long. Well while the map says 8 km, Fami later told us, while laughing, that we had actually just done 12 kilometers because the trail has had to be changed because of falling trees. After the 8 “Malaysian kilometers” we walked that day we made Fami assure us that the net day was 8 actual km.
Once we got to the cave we were immediately in awe that we would have this giant cavern all to ourselves. We feasted that night thanks to Fami and ate a delicious chicken curry with rice. When the food was ready we all spent the next half hour eating in absolute silence because we were so hungry. We explored the darkness of the cave until we eventually fell asleep. As you can imagine sleeping on the cave floor isn’t exactly ideal, so while my eyes were closed sleep did not come easily. In the morning Fami told us that we all had porcupines walking near our heads as we slept, which is hilarious to imagine. In the morning we were able to explore the cave further with light and take some pictures before we embarked on an actual 8 km walk. This walk was a little more pleasant, albeit with just as many leeches. It was a little more dry and felt a little shorter. Once we got to the jetty and had another amazing meal of spicy noodle soup (never thought i would eat so well in the middle of a jungle) we got on the boat on our way to the Asli Village.
It was here where we got to learn a little about the culture and traditions of the Aborigines of the Forest. It was fascinating to learn that outside this one tribe there were many others that still exist deep in the jungle and hunt (with awesome blowdarts) and gather. We got the opportunity to try our hand at shooting a Asli blow dar (aimed at a teddy bear) whilst Fami explained to us the various traditions of the Asli people. We were not here too long as the village was quite small but I was pleasantly surprised as to how authentic the village felt even though it must get hordes of tourists in some seasons.
Instead of a good ole Collin quote we get his take on our hike (in order of occurrence)
Poorly built dock
Douche bag French guy
F*** this how can I possibly get burned in an hour
So many ants
Blood sucking baastards
Showered in creek
So much hunger
Comped in a massive f***ing cave
Best camp dinner ever
Dumb stick games
Bats shitting everywhere
Porcupi-pigs in the cave
This sunburn blows
Wtf that cant be the trail
F*** that is the trail
Dammit so many leeches
What happens if i slip – death
Maybe chacos were a good idea….
Hooray we made it to the longboat
My knife is covered in Shannon’s blood
Met natives that kill stuff with poison arrows
Home! F*** I’m tired
Taman Negara in a leech-infested shell
The jungle is huge, awe-inspiring, beautiful, and out to kill you. The experience of being deep in the jungle and sleeping with the bats is not one that I would pass up. It was a hard and slippery trek in the mud but it was also a fun challenge that was absolutely worth it. Get your mind ready for leeches and some shoes with good traction and just keep walking.