Saturday, May 14, 2005

taman negara - 03


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morning mist over Simpang Tualang side of Sungai Tembeling.


Mutiara Taman Negara Resort.


just as e cat finished its breakfast of Lia restaurant's heavenly roti canai, a bunch of guys got off a boat & unloaded this BIG FAT FISH =)) e rocks in e picture are bigger than a human foot....Lia Restaurant is a cat's dream come true =P apart from e usual roti & nasi dishes & e highly-addictive shakes (except for e watermelon shake, which tastes more like ais kachang with nothing except sweetened condensed milk), e ubiquitous banana pancakes also appear on e menu of Lia Restaurant, as they do on menus of all restaurants in even e tiniest & most remote of ang moh backpacker haunts throughout Thailand, Laos, Cambodia & everywhere else in Southeast some sort of insidious vector-borne (farang backpacker) disease (banana pancake virus) spreading beyond control....

at 9am there was no sign of e guide. waited. & waited & waited until one of e French asked e staff of Lia restaurant to help us contact him....& e wonderful people called every number they knew using 5 different handphones & sent a boy up on his motorbike to e guide's house to hunt for him! e boy returned with e guide's backpack & e guide followed behind in a truck laden with supplies (canvas sheets, sleeping bags, foam mats, 24X1.5L bottles of water, tom yam-flavour instant noodles, instant bee hoon, rice, sardines, baked beans, tinned curry chicken, dry biscuits, carrots, cabbages, kailan, coffee powder, milo powder, jam, bread, pots, mess tins, plastic plates, tablespoons, candles) for e trek ahead. split up e load between e 9 of us & set off on a boat.


map of e trek: boat from [1] to [26], walk from [26] to [25] to [24], overnight in [23], walk on to [22] to [21] to [20], then boat from [20] back to [1].

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travelling upriver along Sungai Tembeling from Kuala Tahan [1] to Kuala Keniam [26], e start of e trek.


after clearing 7 sets of rapids (Jeram Tabong, Jeram Nusa, Jeram Dua, Jeram Teras, Jeram Pedai, Jeram Panjang & Jeram Terenggan), all seemed calm as we passed by Kuala Terenggan [20]....only to get stuck at e 8th set of rapids a couple of metres upstream, where e water was far too shallow. e boat propeller was damaged when it hit some rock. after pulling over by e river bank & hammering e misshapen propeller back into shape, e boatman tried again, only for e propeller to hit another rock. more hammering, & then we decided it was faster for all of us to get into e water & pull e boat upstream through a narrow channel. e excitement factor was upped by e fact that e Indian & e PRC both can't swim....

finally reached e second river confluence [26], & disembarked at what seemed like an unmarked spot along e riverbank. met two Orang Asli guys as we climbed up a little overgrown path to e remains of Kuala Keniam Lodge, which has fallen into disuse & is in e process of being reclaimed by e jungle.


start of e Kuala Keniam to Gua Luas [25] section of e trek. within e first few metres we came across yellow wild ginger flowers, tiny durian fruits about e size of e cat's fist, & e first of many many (about 23?) stream crossings along this trail....this one involved about 10 metres worth of a few pairs of rotting planks coming loose from e rusted nails that once held them together, about e same width as e canopy walkway. looked like a simple crossing but e guide himself wasn't sure how much weight it could bear & told us to cross only when e person ahead had cleared it completely....kinda unsettled those who suffered vertigo at e canopy walkway e day before, & they took quite some time to inch their way across =P

been some time since e cat has walked through equatorial evergreen forest (last December was 3 weeks in tropical moist forest at +500m to +1200m elevations - mixed deciduous & hill evergreen forest with plenty of teak, bamboo & ferns). happy to experience all e familiar primary rainforest stuff again - shade from e dense canopy, strangler fig cathedrals, lianas, epiphytes, floor & understorey species racing skywards in light gaps created by canopy trees that had 'fainted', rattans, spiderwebs, patches on e ground that had been cleared of leaf litter & picked clean by male Great Argus pheasants (Argusianus argus) for mating displays, termite mounds, tualang, Ipoh & Shorea trees, wild pandanus, leafcutter ants, cauliflowery, shallow extensive tree root systems criss-crossing e trail, beetles, cute mushrooms peeking out from beneath e leaf litter, buttress roots up to e height of e cat's waist, gingers & arums, e whooping of gibbons (some of e calls sounded more like siamangs)....except for e lack of wind, e choking humidity that made e Europeans rather miserable, & leeches. this being Malaysia, we kept coming across 2- to 3-day old elephant tracks & big fat lumps of dried elephant 'pie' too.

after about an hour of trekking, stopped to cook assorted vege sliced with a swiss knife + instant bee hoon in stream water soup by a stream with fish darting about in tannin-stained waters. hadn't rained for about 2-3 days so collecting dry firewood wasn't a problem. plus there was dead bamboo just beside e stream - managed to split it (e guide had lost his parang along e way, else could've made a bamboo fish trap on e spot =P) to feed e fire....learnt from 2+ weeks of keeping e fire in an Akha house going that bamboo burns better & can get a wood fire going pretty strong =)

resumed walking, & e cat started to keep a safe distance behind e bigger people who tend to langgar every single rattan & overhanging branch & vine, after one guy's shirt snared a rattan stem & catapulted it onto e cat =| all e thorns in e forest seem to have this affinity for bigger people - there were plenty of (at times less than polite) sound effects coming from e Europeans walking ahead who kept yelling 'SPIKES!!', while e smaller people passed through wondering what e fuss was all about. on e other hand e bigger people could simply step over fallen logs that e Indian & e cat had to climb across. e forest is fair?

when we stopped for a break, 2 of e guys discovered red bloodstains on their socks - they had made some leeches very happy & satisfied *BURP* funny thing was that all who kena leeches on this trek were those who wore shoes/boots....


finally reached e first cave, Gua Luas, after 4pm.

hurried on to e second cave as there weren't many hours of daylight left.


climbing into Gua Daun Menari [24], which has 2 openings at e entrance - a lower one for those who can climb in, & an upper one for those who prefer to fly.


e black dots on e ceiling of Gua Daun Menari are incontinent roundleaf bats (Hipposideros larvatus).


looking out of Gua Daun Menari.


climbing out of Gua Daun Menari....e ground was slippery due to e thick layer of guano loosened by maurading armies of roaches, millipedes, maggots & worms, & one guy fell on e cave floor. a good thing e place was dark enough that we could hardly make out e creatures swarming around our feet. but despite wearing sandals, didn't get any of them exploring between my toes =) wind is funnelled through this opening & directed onto e plants growing at e entrance, hence e beautiful poetic name of e cave (dancing leaves). e wind also makes e entrance a wonderful spot to rest =) e guy in this photo has devised an 'Arabian' solution to e humidity using his towel - he was sweating so profusely that he had trouble keeping his eyes open!

more rushing along as light was fading, pausing only to gather fallen twigs & branches for firewood, & Gua Kepayang Besar [23] was reached just after 6pm. there were 3 other trekkers already in there together with their guide who had woken up on time, which was precisely why they were there ahead of us....

outside e other entrance to Gua Kepayang Besar was a confusing network of trails, with one leading to a slight above ankle-depth stream where we bathed at twilight....e cat had forgotten to bring its Myojo cup noodle containers on this trip (usually carry 2, one for eating/drinking/collecting water for cooking, one for scooping water for bathing - super lightweight & good to recycle) but we made do with empty mineral water bottles. a little taken aback at some who washed in e stream using e national parks of some other countries only biodegradable phosphate-free soap is allowed, & only at a certain distance from any water source....thankfully all e water for cooking had been collected before anyone had starting bathing!

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preparing dinner in Gua Kepayang Besar [23] - assorted vege in spicy stream water soup again, curry looks-like-chicken, curry I-can't-tell, curry something else, & sardines in baked beans with rice that saved e cat that is highly susceptible to chilli poisoning.


actual conditions, taken without flash.

before turning in, tied up our trash & kept e cooking pots, plates & spoons (e guide had told us not to wash them!) to one side of e cave away from e sleeping area. spotted what seemed like e glow of fireflies (e caves here don't seem to have glow worms) some time after e fire had died out, which brought to mind e almost-full moon Christmas night when fireflies decorated e path back to e cat's hut in Ban Du, Chieng happy =))

later on there was another kind of glow - pairs of eyes of noisy scavenging cave rats sitting in e cooking pot reflecting e light from our torches. by morning they would have done us e service of licking e pot, plates & spoons clean. e guide & e Finn got up to stick a branch into a crevice in e cave wall & hang our remaining food out of their reach.

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