6.30am and both alarms are simultaneously drilling into my brain. Simon is first out of bed and makes me a weak coffee which is, eventually enough to rouse me. We have a quick shower, get the kids up and all run downstairs for a few slices of toast, before we get on the bus to Taman Negara.
The bus is clean and comfortable and as there are only another 3 passengers on it we have lots of space to spread out. Taman Negara is located in central Malaysia and as we start to drive out of KL the landscape changes dramatically. It is very green, hilly and densely populated with trees. The road is excellent, like a dual carriageway in England and we zip along. The journey is estimated to take 3 hours after which we will stop for some lunch and we have a 15 minute break after an hour or so.
We talk to the other couple on the bus who tell us they are back packing for the first time. They are from the Netherlands and have visited their son in Singapore for a holiday. Like us they haven’t made any firm plans and are also slightly anxious about what awaits us in the jungle.
We stop as planned and then transfer to a minibus for the next 8km. The road is very narrow and twisty and Simon tells me he read that “this is where old buses go to die”. Happily though our driver is fairly careful and we arrive at the riverbank in one piece. We now have a 3 hour boat journey to the jungle and the boat doesn’t appear as seaworthy as I would have liked. It is a type of flat bottomed long boat with a motor and actually races along at a speed far faster than I would have imagined it was capable of.
The River Tembeling is a wide and fast flowing river and the journey along it is a beautiful one. Although we don’t see any animals more exciting than a few water buffalo, there are lots of brightly coloured birds to watch through our binoculars and the time flies by.
We’re all glad to reach the reserve though as our bums are numb and we moor up at the jetty of a floating restaurant. There are about 5 of these along the waters edge and each one offer excursions around the park and river. We have pre booked our accommodation and note that if we had booked it through the tour company it would have cost 70 ringitts each per night. (20 quid a night) as it is we have paid 80 ringitts (11 quid) total per night for 2 rooms. This is good as we are trying to reduce our daily expenditure!
We make our way to The Teresek View Motel. This isn’t easy as we have to walk along a steep and winding sandy pathway with our packs and although it isn’t far it takes ages. Still we get there in the end and are glad to see our rooms although very tiny and cramped are clean with a fan and shower.
We quickly change into long trousers and trainers and apply insect repellent liberally. We haven’t used it since leaving India and have only had a few bites each but I guess there will be plenty of biting insects here and don’t want to take the risk. We also spray it over our socks and shoes as it supposed to deter leeches.
The floating restaurants all seem to offer similar food and we stop at one for dinner. This is a fairly quick and simple affair consisting of grilled prawns, rice and kaluba, a local vegetable dish. I also have a lemon and sugar pancake for pudding.
We have decided that we are going to do a night walk in the jungle tonight and pay for a guided tour which focuses on insect life in the rain forest. The jungle here is so dense that you could pass very close to an animal and not even realise. It is claimed that this is the world oldest rainforest and it is one of the most pristine primary rainforests on earth.
There are only us 4 and another couple on the tour and we set off at 9pm. The guides name is Long and he tells us he has been working in the Malaysian jungle as a guide for 20 years.
We had to purchase a park permit prior to entering the park and Long asks us” to leave nothing but our footprints and take nothing but photographs”. We all have torches and as soon as we enter the rain forest we are in complete blackness. I think I expected that there would be a nice wide path but we have to inch along stepping over huge roots, up, down and around. Long is in front and starts to point out insects. We see Huntsman spiders (one nearly as big as my hand), poisonous caterpillars, bull ants (massive an inch and a half long), crickets, stick insects, leeches and a giant centipede.
I have my raincoat on pulled right up to my neck with all the drawcords as tight as they will go. As it is probably around 28 degrees I am really hot but I would rather boil than loosen any and risk getting any bugs in my clothes.
Suddenly Long stops abruptly and motions to us that we should all stand still to the side. He whispers that he has seen a scorpion and proceeds to shine a light and tap on the ground lightly. This apparently tricks the scorpion into think there is prey around and soon it scuttles out from under a log. It’s about as big as my hand and we all thought it was great to see it close up.
We reach one of the hides that are dotted around the reserve. It is possible to stay overnight in a hide and we are considering doing this. The hides are all located near natural or artificial salt licks which encourage larger animals to the area. Although elephant and big cats do inhabit the park we have been told that it would be very unusual to see these animals and we’re all pleased to see some small deer.
Our walk is nearly over and we start to make our way back to the rivers edge where we have to catch a boat to the other side. We thank Long and as we are making our way back to our motel I see a small frog. I’m pleased that I noticed it, I must have learnt something! The kids absolutely loved it and we are all looking forward to tomorrow when I have to face my fear of heights again as we go to walk in the canopies of the trees.