Our day began with laundry. It might not seem like the most robust start to a day in the jungle, but if you’ve ever smelled someone whose been trekking you know that laundry is a very important jungle related activity. So once our dirty skivvies were dropped off we hopped the river which separated Kuala Tahan from Taman Negara National Park and headed for the canopy walk.
Perched up to 40 meters off the ground the canopy walkway is a series of rope bridges with narrow wooden boards linking platforms in the upper reaches of some tall, tall trees. It gives visitors to Taman Negara a chance to get a closer view of the jungle canopy. However, when walking across the swaying bridges suspended so far above the ground by nothing more than ropes and knots I must admit that I didn’t look at the canopy all that often. Mostly I looked at the platform ahead of me and thought things like, “just keep moving forward” and “I’m sure this is safe lots of people do it” and “Oh god why is it moving so much!” Like when snorkeling, my adrenaline really kicks into high being in an environment so un-land based. I was fine for the first half of each bridge, but about half way across the flexibility of the walkway peaks and you start to really feel the bridge sway under your steps. Even though there is waist high netting on each side I clung onto the ropes like at any minute Indiana Jones might start cutting the support lines and plunge me into alligator ridden waters below. Josh found it especially funny to mock my sluggish speed but I didn’t die or pee myself so jokes on him. Honestly though it was quite fun and by the end I did wish the canopy walk was a bit longer.
After the canopy walk our next destination was Lubuk Simpon, a swimming hole in Taman Negara, though the jungle had other plans for us. Due to a lack of good signage or perhaps our inability to read signs we ended up hiking up to the peak of Bukit Terisek instead. The view was great but the moment was slightly spoiled by the family ahead of us whose youngest member was throwing a tantrum at the prospect of having to walk down what he clearly didn’t want to walk up in the first place.
There are two ways up Bukit Terisek so you can do it in a loop if you choose. One way is stairs and the other way involves a lot of mud, tree roots and rope. We came up the stair side and down the root side; I wish we’d done it in the opposite direction because our descent could have been so much faster if we didn’t have to examine each step so closely. Of course since we didn’t even plan to do the trek I’m just happy we didn’t get hopelessly lost in the jungle and eaten by some huge, carnivorous plant.
Descending Bukit Terisek was the jungliest thing we did in Taman Negara (if jungliest is a word). Picture making your way through tree roots as big as your thigh, down muddy slopes with nothing to hold onto but vines covered in spikes or rotting ropes and all the time sharing the path with giant ants and what must have been a billion termites. In other words it was super cool.
Finally by late afternoon we made it to the swimming hole and happily enjoyed the chilly water. Only the boats taking tourists farther into the jungle disturbed our aquatic relaxation. The final leg out of the park was on the boardwalks that rim the easier trails around the park entrance. Though not as rugged as trails farther in, I enjoyed the boardwalk section of our jungle trek because I didn’t have to worry about foot placement. As an already clumsy human being I spend a great deal of time looking at my feet trying not to trip so having a level, even stretch of trail allowed me to simply look at the jungle. Instead of focusing on the forest floor I could look up and for the briefest of time worry more about the way the sunlight filtered through the tree tops than the way my foot nested between roots. After a full day in the jungle we finally made our way back to the hostel for a cold shower and a beautiful sunset.
For more pictures check out Josh’s photo blog: When in Asia.