I have just returned from three fabulous days in the Tamara Nagara National Park.
Kuantan kept pulling me back – a view of the food stalls at night
From Kuantan, I took a bus as far as Jerantut and transferred to the jetty and awaiting boats. Three happy hours passed, chugging up the river, through rapids past wallowing water buffalo and the most fabulously coloured birds. I sat down next to a 60 year old German woman who was living in Sri Lanka and she became my dinner buddy for the next few days and we laughed at all the other guests who were not as cool as us.
Arrival at Camp Nasi
I stayed 60km up the river, and was surrounded by dense forest, strange creatures and even stranger noises. I was taken out into the jungle almost as soon as I arrived to see the environment at night time. The difference is startling. As soon as you turn on your torch light a whole new world opens up – reflected eyes stare at you, shadows cast strange shapes and your world gets compressed into a small radius of light. Then, of course, you turn the light off and another nocturnal world comes into view as your eyes adjust. Lichens glow, glow worms blaze and a billion stars above you become pin pricks of light that get reflected by the canopy.
And I saw a tarantula! I hand-sized beast lurking on a tree trunk ready for a kill. Rather intimidating in the wild, but fascinating to see in its natural environment. I also saw a sleeping snake hanging in the branches that woke with our torch light, bats flying over my head chasing the insects attracted by my head torch and some bizarre centipedes that would look more at home on a coral reef.
My alarm clock, set for 7:00am, sounded exactly the same as the cicadas in the forest. Thus, yours truly awoke fresh as a daisy at 10:00am, missing out on the sun rise over the trees… I made up for it by hiking up to the peak of the hill, which afforded the most amazing panorama over the canopy. I stayed up there for some time, reading my book (and sweating profusely), and descended again.
Great view over the canopy and river below
But rather a sweaty climb!
In the afternoon, I signed up to the cheesy tourist canopy walk and I unashamedly loved it. Threading its way through the trees 30m above the ground from tree house to tree house were a set of long rope bridges. Although a little unsettling at first, you soon get into the ‘swing’ of it and it manages to be both exciting and relaxing at the same time. Both in and out of control… so a bit like skiing!
Bear in mind that you are already 25 metres high and the whole contraption is swinging around constantly …. and I hate Ewoks
I split from the tourist posse and headed down to the main village. I bumped into two Swedish guys that were also at a loose end and we resolved to head down the river for a few hours. Luckily, we bumped into a great guide – Mat – who took us to native village. This nomadic tribe are only accessible when they are near the river, so we were very lucky to see them. I felt strange to be a tourist there but Mat reassured me that they were happy with the deal and it helped them. After hearing about the history of the tribe (amazingly, they originate in Africa! – and you could see it in their faces) we lit a fire with their tools and tried our hand at using a blow pipe to fire darts into a target. It was easily the most ‘authentic’ native people experience I have had – I only wish Taiwan would treat their native people with the same respect.
However, the authentic experience became rather too real when we heard an animal sound. Mat froze and we were unsure of what the sound was – a deep guttoral rumble. Tiger! Luckily / unluckily, we did not see it, but it was a rather sobering experience. All the more sobering when two lost American female back packers walked through the camp going in the wrong direction – they looked concerned when we told them the news!
Kids checking the scene – the African roots are apparent
Let it be known that I tried this … and I did hit the target (if I continued, and had killed six monkeys I could then become a hunter, but I had to get some dinner instead). Incidentally, each blow pipe takes 6 days to make and is astonishingly straight – a true piece of engineering.