After several hours traveling upriver, the boat motor suddenly whirred and abruptly died just as we were traveling around a bend. As the boat lost power, it was rapidly swept towards shore, crashing under an overhanging tree. We all ducked, but then reached out and took hold of the branches, effectively stopping the drift before we hit the bank. Our young spotter quickly jumped into the water, to check out the cause of the problem. I thought to myself, "If the problem is mechanical we could be stuck here for hours until someone realizes that we haven't shown up at our destination." Luck was with us, when the lad came up he held up a long thick piece of root that was twisted around the propeller. The boat was soon underway again. Before long, we rounded another bend and spotted our destination. There were boat docks on both shores. We tied up at the one on the left. On the opposite shore there a small group of buildings with colourful tin roofs. We were told that the area on the left was part of the national park, however the area on the right was outside the park, therefore commercial enterprises could exist there. As I climbed onto the dock I was thankful that I had reduced my luggage to one smaller carry-on bag, because a long flight of stairs led us up to the Taman Negara Resort. Arriving hot and perspiring, we were greeted with a lei of fragrant, frangipani flowers and a marvelously refreshing green drink, which had been made with kiwi fruit. Quickly, we were each assigned to peak-roofed chalets.
Following a porter down a path through the landscaped, tropical gardens I came to Number 9, my temporary home. A little monkey, wandering aimlessly amongst the shrubbery by the front porch, was undisturbed by my presence. The main room was equipped with an air conditioner, that the young man immediately turned on. The place was soon quite comfortable. The large room was attractively lined with woven bamboo and was comfortably furnished with twin beds, several easy chairs and a desk. After a short rest I joined the others in the lounge. While sipping a cool drink, we saw a video describing this ancient rain forest and what we were about to see here. Later we gathered in the open air dining room and were served a very tasty buffet dinner.
The following morning, after breakfast, we began our trek into the dense tropical forest. Prior to leaving we had to spray our boots with something to ward off leaches. I was careful to wear a cotton outfit that had long pants, and a high necked top with long sleeves in case we encountered mosquitoes looking for victims in the jungle. It was a challenging hike, but fascinating, as our guide took the time to point out some of the many various forms of vegetation that grow so densely in this climate. He told us that over a hundred different forms of plant life can be found in each acre of jungle, many of them used by the local inhabitants for a multitude of purposes, including traditional medicinal remedies. Now Malaysians are conducting research to determine the authenticity of these remedies and to see if there may be more undiscovered medicinal uses for these plants.
Walking was slow going. We had to take each step carefully, because the ground was covered with a tangled web of surface roots. We climbed over huge roots; walked around narrow embankments and often stopped to hear about something interesting or to view a small plant or flower. These stops gave me the opportunity to catch my breath and for our group to consolidate again. We had been told that it was important for us to keep track of each other, as a person could get lost quite easily here in the jungle.
Upon reaching the most distant terminus of our trek we came to "The Canopy Walk. Here a rope canopy has been erected over the jungle. The series of rope bridges have been strung from the jungle's tallest and oldest trees. I climbed to the first platform with eager anticipation. However, on viewing the rope structure arching across the jungle roof, with only narrow planks for footpaths and ropes and netting for support, I began to have misgivings. (I have developed an aversion to heights in recent years.) Not one to give up easily, I set out with some apprehension. Fortunately, I did not realize there were successively eight rope bridges all together, and each one was higher than the last. We were restricted to four people in each group, with at least one of those four on a platform. We set off at specific intervals. Stopping on each bridge was practically impossible as it would swing quite erratically once a second and then third person began to cross. Each person seemed to be marching to a different drummer! The view was spectacular, however it was only as we reached the next platform that we would take the time to really take it all in. In spite of my misgivings, the canopy walk was a fantastic experience and one I am happy to have done.
A second adventure in the Taman Negara National Park awaited us the next day. We were taken in groups of three, by smaller long boats, up another narrower river, shooting a series of rapids to reach the remote heart of the jungle. The jungle is so dense here that long vines hang out over the river and form a curtain along the bank, hiding most of what lies beyond from view. Here we again trekked through the jungle to a remote waterfall, where we were told it was safe to swim. We all came prepared with bathing suits under our clothes. In minutes our clothes were piled on the rocks and we were frolicking in the cooling water. One can hardly imagine the serenity of a place so far from civilization. The occasional screech of a monkey or a bird was all that revealed the phantom inhabitants of the jungle. The waterfall was actually a place where a narrow opening in the rocks allowed water to rush over it with considerable force. We took turns standing in front of the pummeling water, letting it provide us with a natural back massage. It was a delightful afternoon. As we floated back down the river, on the way back to the park, we had the good fortune to see some of the original people, the Orang Asli waving to us from a cliff overlooking the river. These people live in this jungle and are known to be friendly. The only other signs of life we saw along the river, were a small herd of water buffalo, wallowing in a shallow eddy.
Our visit to this ancient rain forest was over all
too soon. The next
breakfast, we again boarded
the long boat and
traveled downstream along
River to the jetty.
Our short visit to
the jungle is now
but a memory, but
what a fantastic
Story & photos by M. Maxine George Canopy Walk photo courtesy of Margaret Deefholts
For further information contact:
830 Burrard St., Vancouver, B.C. V6Z 2K4
Phone: 1-888-689-6872 Fax: 011 603 746 5637
Taman Negara Resort
E-mail : email@example.com
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