Tamen Negara: Trekking through history.

Beach life has finally come to an end.  After 15 + SCUBA dives off of the Perhentian Island of Kecil, we headed back to the Malyasian mainland.  Our intentions were to travel through the middle of Malaysia and see Tamen Negara and the Cameron Highlands before heading down to Kuala Lumpur.  This leg of the journey began with Malaysia’s “Jungle Train,” an eight hour journey from the coastal town of Kota Bahru to the jumping off point for the jungle park, Jerantut.

Jungle life on the Tamen Negara train

Jungle life on the Tamen Negara train

Is it really called the Jungle Train? – We caught the 4 a.m. “jungle train” down to Tamen Negara. For a little less than $3, we spent the morning on the rather comfortable train as it chugged through some of the innermost parts of the Malaysian Jungle. I kept expecting to see monkey’s swinging for the trees as we passed, but no such luck.  It was just miles and miles of lush green leaves and towering trees…or a jungle so to speak.

 

Tamen Negara train station

Tamen Negara train station

 

Once we arrived in Jerantut, we had no trouble finding a shuttle bus to reach Kuala Tehan – the base camp for Taman Negara in the very heart of the rainforest.  Accommodation near the jungle was few and far between (in our price range at least), but we did eventually find three bunks in a dorm room.  One fan. One toilet. And lots of bugs. Oh boy!  Sleeping was nearly impossible with the heat and awful humidity, but I think everyone was in the same boat for we all awoke grumpy and blurry eyed.  Plenty of coffee and some banana pancakes later, we set off to explore this vast mass of prehistoric wonder.

Time to explore…but I forgot my machete – Tamen Negara was simply beautiful. The jungle is over 130 million years old……(you can’t even imagine that number, right?) We spend an afternoon on the canopy walks, a series of rope bridges 30 meters above ground and then got a bit lost on a trail marked Bukit Teresik when we followed a lizard through the woods.

Canopy Walks in Tamen Negara

Canopy Walks in Tamen Negara

As I was jumping over twisted jungle roots and climbing over fallen trees, I realized that this was nature in its purest form. I was completely surrounded by monkey chatter, bird babble, and choirs of insects in every direction. Not a sound of modern life- no cars, no horns, and no people. We sat back on the highest lookout point to enjoy our moment of solitude.

Relaxing and enjoying the view would have been rather restful had I not noticed the incredibly huge spider dangling directly in front of me. It was approximately the size of my foot. This observation ended our brief rest quite abruptly. After inquiring about our eight legged friend, a guide at the lodge remarked, “Oh that was just a wee little baby.” JUST A BABY??? I would sincerely hate to run into the babe’s mom and pop in the middle of the woods.

Ready to hike in Tamen Negara

Ready to hike in Tamen Negara

Although jungle trekking in gorgeous…it’s also hot and uncomfortable.  After several hours of hiking and whacking away mozzies, ferns, spider webs and other bugs that I cannot name, we were hungry, tired and thirsty.  We were miles from the home base and knew that we had a significant uphill portion on our return hike. Luckily, (somehow) we found a lagoon hidden in a secret part of the jungle and stripped off to play in the cool water. (yes, we were wearing swimsuits).  We thought it was secret until a group of school kids came tromping in to spoil our secluded spot. I guess it was a well known “watering hole.”  Refreshed and invigorated, we managed the return hike, feasted on a few thousand calories, and with heavy hearts, found our way to our hot, muggy bunk rooms for another sleepless night.

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