Taman Negara

There it is again: the skin. The small, dark pellets of dying skin that balls up and sticks to your hand each time I wipe the sweat from my brow. Yup, I’m out of the mountains and now in the jungle.

But that’s no real worry since the jungle is a fine place to be. Close to the river’s edge and the town, the trails are well-worn and obvious so there’s no worry about getting lost for the amateur trekker, but if your cup of tea is a nine-day romp through thick underbrush, that’s a viable option (and surprisingly cheap too).

If I were feeling a bit more rugged and had more time, I would consider that option. As it is, more of Southeast Asia beckons. But possibly more importantly, I don’t feel like I have to prove my hardiness by subjecting myself to the jungle’s mysteries. While I’m sure I might come away with some wonderful photos, I think I may save such treks for when someone is actually paying me to go.

But even without entering deep into the jungle, there are plenty fun times to be had. On the bus over here from the Cameron Highlands, I met a good group of folks and we’ve banded together to make the wee journeys together. This morning, we ascended into the branches of the tall trees to walk along a lovely canopy swinging through the air. Much like the one I visited while in Ghana, this one was built out of metal ladders and wooden planks. The two members of our group with a fear of heights managed the trip successfully, but there was a bit of a worry that Katy wasn’t going to even make one step onto the suspended walkway when she came close to hyperventilating at its start.

Unlike the walkway in Ghana, this trip was not plagued by a monstrous tropical downpour. While the rain in Africa looked spectacular as it poured down and streaked past you to reach a forest floor hidden somewhere far below, I have to say I prefer taking my time in the nicer weather. Since there is so much wood surrounding me, I shall knock on some to hope that the drier climate prevails.

This afternoon’s trip was to another Orang Asli village. These people followed similar customs to the folks in the Cameron Highlands, but there were obvious differences. This village looked substantially less permanent than the one in the highlands. I suspect the conditions here are a bit more unfriendly – the jungle here seems more eager to consume the things of man than it does in the mountains. Also, I think there had been appropriation of more modern conveniences by the highlands’ people – t-shirts were present in both locations, but here, there seemed to be a smaller percentage of the village donning DKNY clothes.

We also learned a couple of tricks of theirs like how they start fires as well as the assembly of the blowpipe and darts. When I tried my hand at the blowpipe this time, I fared considerably better. I won’t be picking off monkeys in the trees anytime soon, but at least all my shots stuck in the target this time. Our joker of a guide intentionally misdirected my second shot when he exhorted me to aim higher than what would have been a straight and true shot. No bull’s eye for me.

I’m now killing a bit of time before I head off to do a night walk in the jungle. When I did the same sort of walk in Peru, I was overwhelmed by the sense of the life that’s surrounding you. It felt like the jungle could consume you at any point – that this mass of living breathing forest was very much allowing you to trod its soil and if it didn’t want you there, it could take you away. The constant sounds and mysterious noises from the dark are as intimidating as could be and even if we hadn’t seen any wildlife, it would have been very much worthwhile just to feel that force surrounding you.

I’m looking forward to what the world’s oldest rainforest has to whisper in the dark.

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