I admit, embarrassingly that I’ve been wandering around in a Lonely Planet stupor for the last few weeks, opting for a road more travelled (or just one we can actually find on a map), happy to see other gualos in an eatery (once a wk) and saying daft things like ‘We’re going to the Taman Negara national park’ (translate: the national park national park, not unlike the ATM machine). 

But slow and steady, I’ve got back into it; I’ve started to just wander into eateries off the road and say ‘Nasi Lemak Terima kasih’ or more often ‘Tandas?!?’ (toilet, with an accent of desperation).

But then we met the jungle – a whole new frontier to be conquered.

Taman Negara is the fabled home of Malaysia’s remaining Tigers, Elephants and Panthers, wild pigs, tapir, snakes, insects and thousands of millions of blood thirsty leeches.

We thought we’d be able to drive right up to Taman Negara, wander in and throw down a tent, but it doesn’t work like that in Malaysia. Most places you need a guide to penetrate the jungle any further than the national park ‘resort’. The jungle is cut off by a rapid flowing river, and you have to catch a long boat from any of the floating restaurants on the opposite side to the park entrance (I love the smell of two stroke). So sadly, Bob didn’t get to play in the jungle.

We opted for a 5km walk to Bukit Terisek on day one which nearly killed us – Joe lost at least 7kg in fluids (mostly thanks to the inappropriate, yet stylish, polyester blend shirt he was donning). But it was jungle-tastic – so noisy and dense, and deceptively cool in the shade (although it was still over 30 degrees).

Joe gives two thumbs up to cotton
                                          The view from the top - very lord of the rings

With day one success, we planned a walk in – camp in a Hide – walk out strategy next. We set off early (crack of 10am) with packs laden with water and cup noodles, but within and hour were battling the leeches, sweat, and stiff shoulders from the packs (blackberry bags with cunning use of shoelaces to hold camelback and sleeping bags). The jungle was fun, but the walking wasn’t. We went about 7-8km before I plonked down in a rage and removed 4 fat leeches from my foot. One was the size of a small hamster, another asked me for a cigarette.

Joe takes the risks of the jungle VERY seriously.                           The only wildlife to show its face. A Tapir.

We were still determined to continue until we heard loud singing in the form of French Rastafarians along the path. The one that wasn’t wearing any socks said this:

“Hey man, don’t worry about the leeches – they won’t hurt you. But just be careful in the Hide that the rats don’t crawl on you when you’re sleeping.”

He also added that they hadn’t seen any wildlife from the hide (the reason people go there) so we waited until they’d got a reasonable distance ahead of us (when the smell disappeared) and then packed it in back to the visitor centre, back to BOB and out of Taman Negara.

Yes – we wanted to conquer the jungle overnight, but in the words of Indiana Jones: “He would never have made it. There’s rats. He hates rats.”