The oldest rainforest in the world
17.10.2010 - 19.10.2010
Right in our own backyard, and we never knew it. Older than even the Amazon. Various sources seem to suggest that getting to the national park headquarters require a 4WD expedition through dense jungle, and the recommended route would be to board a longboat at Kuala Tembeling for a 2 hour ride upriver.
Day 1: The road less travelled
We decided to drive and were pleasantly surprised that it is paved road all the way to Kuala Tahan, just across the river from our destination. Roadsigns pointing towards "Taman Negara" assured us that we were on the right track.
Slightly over 2 hours on the excellent Karak highway from Kuala Lumpur, and we reach Jerantut for lunch. Chanced upon a restaurant review while researching this trip, and that is exactly where we ended up having lunch.
One of the dishes we had, steamed fish, a species we had never seen or heard of before ("Kahak?"). Nice grin on it. Tasted pretty good too.
Another hour's drive later and we arrive at Kuala Tahan. This is the view of the national park entrance from where I parked my car. When we were there in Oct 2010, the parking area proper was under construction, so my car was just parked at the side of a road. We probably shortened our journey by 1 hour by driving all the way in, instead of taking the boat from Kuala Tembeling.
You get across the river by boat, 1 Malaysian ringgit per person for a 5 second trip. Which brings you here.
Accommodation is in the form of chalets. Pretty basic, considering the price. But it is right in the jungle, as opposed to other resorts which are across the river and some distance from park HQ. The rooms smelled like no one had been in them for the past 50 years, but they were clean and acceptable.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the park HQ compounds.
Tip: Stake out at one of these huts (called Bumbu in Malay) at dusk or dawn for a chance to see animals come out to the salt lick for their sodium fix. We had no idea and were there at the wrong time.
This is Lubok Simpon, a section of the river a few hundred meters from park HQ.
Day 2: Not all who wander are lost
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
The next day, we find a wild boar having it's breakfast at one of the fruit trees nearby.
Then, we head off to the canopy walk. It was a 1.5km trek away, terrain was slightly rugged, where you need to pull on ropes to climb up steep sections.
Tip 1: Bring a backpack for water and some fruit or energy bars. You'll need to refuel, and also free up your hands. A walking stick or trekking pole helps, it's easier to balance on 3 points than 2.
Tip 2: Bring some salt along to get ride of leeches. Or tuck the bottom of your pants into your socks (this method doesn't work with shorts).
The canopy walk and the queue to get on it after we came down.
Next was a hike up Bukit Teresek, and the view from the top.
We decided to take a different route back. And ended up wandering around for 2 hours before getting to park HQ. I guess what transpired can be an analogy for life.
Sometimes the path is clear, and you just need to follow it.
Sometimes it isn't, you need to look harder to find it.
There are times when the trail seems to disappear, you just pick a direction, and go.
And there are times when you need to turn back, and do it all over again.
Maybe we should have gone back the same way we came. But then, where's the excitement in that?
Later that day, the highlight of the trip. A boat ride to Lata Berkoh. The trips are handled by National Park staff, so no haggling on the price, no overloaded boats. The way it should be. The boat ride took about 45 minutes, just enough for you to soak in the stunning sights of towering trees on both sides of the river, and not too long as to make the it tedious.
Tip: Wear slippers for this. You don't really need shoes, and during low tide, you might need to get off the boat at shallow parts of the river and help to push!
Walk about 1km from the river to get to the Lata Berkoh cascades. Great for a dip in the afternoon.
And so the sun sets on our trip to Taman Negara.
Overall, a good experience. The accommodation and service at the resort are mediocre at best. Food choices are limited (only the hotel cafe, and 2 Malay restaurants across the river), but it's a nice escape, being in the middle of the rainforest. Makes you appreciate nature more, and hope that it'll still be around for generations to come.