I couldn’t sleep last night and as I finally turned the light out at 3am it takes me a while to get my arse out of bed this morning. We try breakfast in one of the floating restaurants and after stuffing ourselves feel ready for the day. We have hired a guide called Suvala (Ali played guitar with him last night) and he is going to spend a few hours showing us some of the sights around the river.
We get into the boat and as he has to bail it out first I’m pleased to see life jackets and immediately consider putting mine on. We motor up the river, against the flow and after 10 minutes or so stop at the side. We are going to the canopy walkway and although I was feeling slightly anxious about this, my nerves are quickly forgotten as we realise that we have forgotten our park pass. There is a big sign explaining the penalty is 500 ringitt and up to 2 years in prison for such an infringement. (This scares me more) We tell Suvala but he assures us that the rangers are his friends and it will be ok.
The canopy walkway is reached by a long steep flight of steps and we have to register and pay 16 ringitt before we can start to make our way across. We listen carefully to the instructions. We must stay at least 5 metres apart, no more than 4 people on the walkway and go slowly. We are about 150 feet above the ground and there is no way I’ll be ignoring any of their advice.
Ali goes first, Maisie next and then it’s me. I step onto the walkway and start to plod along ignoring the fact that it is wobbling madly and focusing on the tree tops around me. The views are outstanding and despite my legs feeling a bit jellyfish, I make it across without losing it and feel pleased that I have achieved this.
We get back to the boat and I use the toilet near the river. Suvala tells me afterwards that the last time he used that toilet he found a viper in there.
Next we stop off at The Orang Asli Village. This is a small village of 6 families and they live very simply on the riverside in huts. The Orang Asli people are indigenous aboriginal people. Suvala explains that several years ago the Malaysian government provided them with bungalows with televisions and other mod cons but they only stayed there for one night and then chose to return to the village where they have continued to live.
They make a living by harvesting sandalwood and sell it to the village where we are staying. The chief of the village spoke a very little English and with Suvala they showed us the blow pipes they use to kills birds and how they make fire from sticks. (Suvala explained in the rainy season they just use a lighter!)
We took the opportunity to take some photographs which was perfectly acceptable and all felt privileged to spend a bit of time there observing the families, particularly the children playing. Although we had read that visiting the village can feel quite intrusive we didn’t experience that, maybe because there was only us 4 there and we just sat quietly watching what went on.
We get back to the boat and after bailing it out once more set off back down the river. Suvala tells us we must prepare to get wet as we have some small rapids to go through. Actually we get completely soaked but we all enjoyed the bit of excitement.
We arrive back at the jetty and arrange to leave Taman Negara tomorrow. We will be travelling by road which is actually a longer route than by the river but as we wish to move onto the Cameron Highlands it is the most direct way for us to travel.
This will cost us 55 ringitt each (around 8 pounds) and we need to arrange some cheap accommodation also.
We also pay Suvala for the day and he charges us approx 24 pounds which is much cheaper than an organised tour and we agree well worth it. He’s an interesting character and I have learnt a little about Malay culture today. He tells us he left home aged 13 and that his brother has 2 wives. Like all the people we have met here he loves music and tells us the names of his favourite films.
We have found that the Malaysians, although not as outwardly chatty and friendly as the Indian people we met previously have a sly and cheeky sense of humour. We have watched today as they tease their kids and they laugh at each other a lot. I had heard reports that as Malaysia is such a conservative Muslim country, Westerners may encounter some minor hostility here but that certainly hasn’t been the case for us so far and we haven’t witnessed it for anyone else either.
Simon goes to update our website in the afternoon and I read my book. It is so humid here that lying around isn’t really a pleasant experience and everywhere and everything smells damp. It has been an amazing few days that I wouldn’t have missed for the world and Taman Negara is probably the most beautiful place I have ever been but I don’t qualify as Jungle Jane quite yet and once again I am looking forward to moving on.