Sweaty McWetbody

How much sweat is a human being capable of producing in an hour? I really think I might have hit my maximum today and I wasn’t even hiking quickly.

With many of the travelling companions I accompanied yesterday already gone to KL, I had today mostly to myself and decided to head up to the highest hill in near Kuala Tahan. Knowing full well that the jungle’s humidity would soon have me exhausting the limited water supply I could carry, I slowed my pace down considerably. Apparently it wasn’t enough as I soon found every item of clothing I was wearing had grown darker with the sweat pouring from my pores.

By the time I had reached to top of a hill that really wasn’t immense by any standards, I had already consumed my litre-and-a-half bottle of water. I felt fine though – just wet. And the views from the top were well worth a dripping brow. A couple of different viewpoints had windows through the trees where the surrounding jungle and hills were visible making for a unique perspective on the park.

As for the wildlife I saw today, the bulk of it appeared before I had even reached the main trails. While strolling through the chalets on the way to the trailhead, a long-tailed macaque danced along the rooftops and stalked one of the housekeepers from a distance. When the housekeeper went inside and temporarily left her cart of supplies unprotected, the monkey jumped down and started rifling through the towels and plastic bags.

I have no idea what it was looking for and it didn’t seem too concerned with my approach. I was telling it that it probably wasn’t supposed to be there and waving it away, but apparently it didn’t speak English. As soon as the housekeeper saw the scene, she started shouting in Malay and shooed off the mischievous monkey.

On a weird side note to this minor episode, I was just looking at my photos of this monkey and noticed something I didn’t when I was watching him. It appears to have a length of electrical wire tied around its neck. I don’t know if perhaps it was trapped at some point but escaped or if it happens to have skills as an electrician, but that’s definitely something you don’t see on all the monkeys around here. Odd.

I then headed towards the Tahan Hide which is just off the main pathway through the chalets to check out the area we had visited last night in the dark. I was just curious to see the scene in the light of day. The path to this, the most accessible of the park’s hides, is a raised wooden walkway and while I was wandering to the hide, I noticed movement up ahead. I stopped and armed my long lens to see if I could figure out what was trotting under and beside the walkway.

From underneath the boards appeared a small wild boar. Blissfully unaware of my presence, it marched a set course that happened to take it directly beneath my feet. I could have spit on it if I wanted. But since that’s not really my thing, I let it pass. It was then unable to continue under the boards due to a felled tree blocking his path so it jumped up onto the log and spotted me not more than a couple metres away. Startled as could be it scurried off towards the chalets. I followed at a distance until it disappeared around a couple bends and possibly back into the woods.

It looks like paying the big money and staying in the fancy rooms on the other side of the river might be worth it to have all the animals sauntering around outside your door.

The jungle walk last night was good fun. Our guide from the Orang Asli tour earlier in the day, Aris, took four of us off into the darkened jungle.

We first visited the Tahan hide where a number of eyes peered back at us in the distance and the darkness. Those gleaming eyes belonged to a group of Sambar Deer who were drinking from the small pool in the middle of the clearing. Aris’s flashlight lit up the small deer so we could see them going about their business. They eventually wandered off into the surrounding jungle.

We did the same. The half moon lit our way as we ambled past the trees and untold night creatures. Along the way, we saw small scorpions, spiders, crickets, enormous, brightly coloured grasshoppers, and my favourite, walking sticks. If ever I am going to get a pet bug, I think a walking stick is the way to go. They have some of the cleverest camouflage in nature – even when looking directly at them, you can hardly differentiate between them and the surrounding twigs.

Other encounters included one of the girls, Katy, getting buzzed by a bat in the darkness. None of us saw it, but we’ll take her word for it.

Our last animal encounter of the evening came as we had re-entered the rows of chalets near the park entrance. We had just passed one of the many animal crossing signs on the grounds of the resort and this one happened to be a ‘Snake Crossing’ sign. Just as Jenny had finished inquiring about the truthfulness of the signs and convincing herself that they were just playful additions to the d’cor, we stopped in our tracks. Dead ahead on the path was a small snake coiled and looking a little bit angry.

Aris warned us to give it a wide berth and while he may have been playing up the danger for dramatic effect, the thing did seem genuinely interested in getting a nibble of Aris’s ankle as he passed. Taking no chances, the rest of our small group stepped through the plants to the side (where I’m sure plenty more snakes were hiding).

This little night adventure was, of course, a great time, but I think the light from the half moon made it a little less intimidating than the similar walk I took in Peru. There, the blackness and the huge life of the jungle was just out of reach and ready to swallow you whole whenever it pleased. Here in Taman Negara, the moonlight kept the trees slightly at bay and you didn’t feel the forest encroaching into your space quite so invasively. The sounds of the forest here were also not as varied as in the Amazon.

There, it seemed like every creature ever to walk, hop, slither, crawl or fly was represented by the surrounding buzz. Here, the orchestra had fewer instruments. Truly both were beautiful, but I think I liked the intricacies of Peru’s jungle music. But, perhaps nothing will ever surpass my first jungle experience only because it was my first.

Either way, I’ll gladly try to put myself in the position where I get to do it again because each time is so haunting.

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