Its become clear throughout this trip, both to ourselves and probably you all, that we have a different idea of fun than most people. Take, for example, our latest foray into the jungle.
It started, as usual, with our transportation. Most people are perfectly happy taking the ubiquitous tourist minibuses from destination to destination, as was offered to us direct from the Perhentian Island jetty. We, with our strange sense of adventure, rejected this option to take the “Jungle Railway.” Which, you must admit, is a very enticing name for a train, especially with its reputation for beautiful scenery. To see it in the daytime, however, the trains only leave at 4 AM and 6 AM. so we got up at the buttcrack of dawn, headed to the station and hopped on the train. It turned out this particular train wasn’t scheduled to go all the way to our destination, Jerantut, which was a downer, but it never even got as far as it was scheduled to go. We broke down after six hours in Gua Musang, which we should’ve hit after three hours. And we weren’t even impressed with the scenery. After running around Gua Musang trying to find a bus out of town and always being a step behind all our fellow train passengers who knew what they were doing, we gave up and waited out the ten hours at the local KFC (complete with free wifi!) until the next train. This train, scheduled to leave at 10:15 PM, finally arrived at 1 AM. So we finally got to Jerantut at 4 AM, nearly 24 hours after we left. And I think we definitely ended up paying more for our transportation after all was said and done than we would have just taking the minibus. The jungle railway plan certainly backfired on us.
But the next afternoon, after sleeping in until 11, we hopped on the bus up to Taman Negara, the most well preserved virgin jungle rainforest in Peninsular Malaysia, home to all sorts of jungle animals. We started by heading to the canopy walkway, 280 meters of high-walking goodness, complete with – well, no animals, bird or otherwise. But the stroll was pretty exciting, especially when you looked down.
We followed that little warm-up with something quite a bit more intense, and in retrospect, a little crazy. We hiked 11 kilometers to a hide, spent the night hopefully observing nocturnal jungle animals, and returned the next day. Sounds ok? Yeah, we thought so too. Here are the things we underestimated:
—steepness of the trail – the trail wound along the river, but went almost vertically down and back up at every ravine that poured into it. Though we didn’t gain any altitude overall, we sure went up and down a lot.
—jungle heat – we started with eleven liters of water, and I had started to cramp by midday. I simply could not drink water fast enough to balance out what I was sweating out. It was dripping off my clothes all day.
—amount of leeches – although the final tally was 2 successfully bloodthirsty leeches for Theresa, 0 for Jeff, we both spent plenty of time flicking them off our shoes and clothes.
—comfort of hide – we knew it would be spartan, but wooden planks sounds easier to sleep on in theory than when you’re actually trying to do it. But the “toilet” was completely backed up and unusable. On the plus side, no rats.
And here’s what we overestimated:
—amount of interesting animals – we sat in the hide late into the night and early in the morning and never saw a thing. For that matter, on the entire hike including our time at the hide, we saw a few monkeys, a squirrel, and a lizard in addition to a mere handful of birds. On the plus side, we heard a lot of birds (and cicadas!)
—availability of boats to take us back downriver on day two – one day of hiking in the jungle wiped us out, so we used our backup plan and headed to a nearby “town” where we were told we could hire a boat to take us back to the park headquarters. We walked up to find a completely deserted town and an empty jetty. Fortunately, other people who had stayed at the hide with us had arranged a boat and a hour or so later we were able to hitch a ride with them.
So it turned out to be a lot more work and and a lot less reward than we were expecting. Is it weird, then, that thinking back to it now I still think it was fun?