Day 8 – Surviving the second day

The second day in the jungle started in the cave, where we stayed for the night. When everybody woke up the guides were already preparing the breakfast. Because of the thin sleeping sheets not everybody got up freshly, especially Rik, who woke up with the comment: “Augh, everything is stiff!” The breakfast consisted of roasted toast with fruit jam and a local spread called Kaya that consisted of coconut and rice.

After the breakfast the jungle tour started with the visit to some other caves. An immense amount of bats were in the cave, resulting in a whirlwind of bats after waking them up. Furthermore, a long white snake was spotted in the cave, staying there for his whole life, because he only eats bats. When everybody came out of the caves again, the jungle tour continued. The path was uneven, with big inclines, and parts of the track could only overcome by walking over fallen trees. Besides, small rivers could be crossed by using vines.

During the jungle tour the guides picked up several nuts which were eatable, the one nicer than the other. They also told that the jungle grows a special kind of mushrooms, making you hallucinating after eating then. Moreover, the leaves of one special kind of tree also have a hallucinating effect: “Gather ten leaves of this tree and put in your tea and you’ll feel very nice”. To the question of the guides also were able to smoke weed the answer was that many of them did it. Smuggled from Thailand the weed is transported by different persons through the jungle. However, in Malaysia weed is strictly prohibited. If you are tested positive on using weed you’ll go to jail and if you are possessing 400 grams of weed you’ll be executed. One of the guides told that he went to jail for smoking weed: “You’ll go to jail for two weeks, but those two weeks feels like two years, it’s terrible. You are locked up with 20 other persons in a small room without a toilet or faucet and without the possibility to go out of the room for any reason. After your time in the jail you have to pay as much as you can and hope that you’re not sent back.” During the jungle tour the guides saw some very recent foot stamps of elephants, probably came by the day before.

After a 6.5 km walk we stopped for lunch. Here, you were able to take a refreshment by jumping in the river, it was even possible to go tarzan with a vine. The lunch consisted of noodles and a tea with freshly picked lemon grass.

The second part of the jungle tour was another 2.5 km and came by a native village. The village consisted about 50 persons. The houses were made with big leaves and around the house canals were dug. The native people showed us how to make fire with a wooden string. The small timber of another piece of wood was warmed up and put in a basket filled with lightly flammable leaves, eventually resulting in a fire. Besides, they also showed us their hunting tool: the blow pipe. First, they showed how to make an arrow: cutting a small stick of wood, dipping the point in resin and putting a piece of foam likely wood on the end. After the demonstration everybody could try out the blow pipe by aiming at a Mickey Mouse. It pointed out that it was not as easy as it seems: only Tom B, Kelsey and Bart were able to hit it! Michelle refused to blow the pipe: “I don’t want to use the blow pipe, I don’t want people to see my blowjob face.” And about Karlijn one of the guides said: “You blow really slow, you blow no good!”

When everybody tried the blow pipe we continued the jungle tour back to the boats. This time the boats went downstream, so the boats reached even 40 km/h splashing everybody in the boat with the river water! It felt like mandatory cleaning after our stay in the jungle. After the boat trip Michel invited the guides to do a drink with us after the diner. They even brought their own rice wine, not four as promised, but only three. The next morning it turned out that this was not such a bad idea. Nobody knew how much alcohol was in the wine, but when the evening got into the late hours, everybody was getting pretty tipsy. During the evening the guides joined us with some Dutch drinking games and found it amazing. To Rik one of the guides, namely Emi, said: “You look like John Lenon.” We also learned that the other guide, namely Ayie, was his cousin and that Emi also had 17 siblings! We also asked the guides what the liked about our group, on which Emi answered: “You are a lovely group. Visitors have never treated us so much as a human being, sharing cookies with us, helping us with felling trees and the most we liked the continues questions if we needed help.”

Marco van Erp

Day 7 – Welcome to the jungle

During the night the bus drove to the jungle resort, because our driver insisted on trying to be there early. Over hazardous jungle roads, which were surprisingly well paved, the bus drove till deep in the night. The headlights of oncoming traffic warning the driver that just around the corner another brave soul attempted to drive this road. Aside from a lack of streetlights and some mayor holes in the road, which were caused by landslides, the road was very nice.

Around four AM the bus with sleeping passengers arrived in Taman Negara, but the driver was unsure where the resort was, so he parked the bus somewhere else and we slept until 7 AM. After that the bus dropped us of at the destination. With the sun up the view was amazing, trees were visible everywhere against the hill side, with the mist still lingering over the canopy.

The spirit was high, everyone was in a good mood and ready to take on the jungle, or at least so we thought. A nice breakfast awaited us; scrambled eggs, noodles, small hotdogs, bread and some watermelon. People were quick to repack their bag for the jungle because of some hesitation in what to bring. During the waiting everybody was applying bug repellant, because after the absence of the bugs in Singapore, they were everywhere around here.

At half past nine the guide arrived, wearing as little as shorts, a T-shirt and flip flops. Soon, many people started to think that maybe we were a little over prepared. After a lot of information about what to bring and what not to bring, we started to realize that everybody had to carry an additional five kilograms of food and water. This extra load consisted of 4.5 liters and diner, breakfast and lunch, so we packed our bags again, leaving stuff out that wouldn’t fit otherwise.

With a small pick-up truck we were transported to the river where small boats awaited us and the rest of the guides. First we had to cross the river to get ourselves registered for a camera license and to report what we were carrying with us into the jungle, because everything that we took with us, must be brought back out as well.

Finally after registration, we boarded a different boat that brought us to the area of the canopy walk. Every inch of the path was elevated by a wood-metal construction to keep us at least 20 centimeter of the jungle floor. The first jungle creeps were spotted; very big ants. The first persons already had a minor scare after some strange things fell down from the trees, which turned out to be leaves. After a short wait it was time to go into the top of the trees. With a maximum altitude of 45 meters, bridges were spanned in between the trees, on which only a maximum of 5 people were allowed. Let’s hope they counted on European people, because the lifts in Singapore counted the weight of 13 people very generously.

The bridges between the trees were a lot less stable then they looked, but in the end after a nice walk with an amazing view, everybody got back down with their skin intact. It was back to the boats for a 1.5 hour journey up river.

With amazing skill the boats were maneuvered through the rapids, the only thing we had to do being to enjoy the view and eat our lunch. Even in this part of the world there were people living left and right of the river in tents or simple houses. At the drop off point a small set of houses stood amidst paths of concrete and patches of grass, not your typical European grass, but fatty grass. The rule of “nature is toilet” was utilized only moments after getting our feet on dry land.

The guide was quick to climb in the trees to get some strange fruit and already life was found everywhere you looked, sometimes you just had to look more closely. A big line of ants, there must have been by the hundreds, was doing nature’s clean up. Luckily these were small ants, like we have in Europe, and not the big ones you see walking by themselves. Damn, I need some more bug repellant, the bugs here even sting through my shirt.

After all the boats arrived, the guides gave a short introduction, very cheerful people with a good mood. Their names were Emi Cobra, who had 17 siblings, Ayie and Emi Buddha. One of which was said to be crazy, but after a while we were certain all of them were. It was awesome. They told us that we might see elephants, but for that they first have to see how their poop looks like. If there was a mushroom growing out of the elephants poop, they would come again soon. As the animals walked in circles in the jungle. Later during the day poop with a mushroom on it was spotted, but sadly no elephants.

Leaving the houses and the concrete paths we left for a tour of approximately five hours. Those of us who were brave or stupid enough to put on shorts were very happy to see that most of the paths in the jungle were already trampled so that most of the low growing plants were not directly at your feet. The guide took a plant which, according to his grandpa’s secret, by rubbing it and adding a little water would create a white paste that would stop the bleeding after you removed a leech. Other information about certain trees was also given, but I was too amazed by the nature to actually write all of it down. I guess it is even easy to have a breathtaking moment when the air is so fresh.

The first part of the tour took us through terrain with a lot of inclines, caution was needed as some parts were very slippery because it had rained the night before. The walking was well manageable, but pretty soon everybody was sweating so much, by watching their shirts there was no distinction left between wet and dry. Home sweet home, as one of the guides joked. During a break the first leach was spotted on the shoulder of Michel. That little bugger was very small and people were happy to see that most leaches in the rainforest aren’t the big nasty things you sometimes see on TV. Further into the jungle the number of flying buggers seemed to be decreasing. A few minor rips in clothes and a major one where the damage at this point. This is nice, things are going smooth so far. When the break was over it was time to move on to the cave we would spend the night in.

Arriving at the cave, people were glad to remove the bags from their backs. It had been a long day. But this was no ordinary cave, it was a paradise in the rainforest. I got no words for this, so I will just show you with a photo. There was plenty of space for everybody, and the bats didn’t like the open part of the cave, so we were very comfortable there. In the entire cave, it was hard to see any bugs other than a mantis.

The day was far from over, it was time to prepare for dinner and for that we needed wood. One of the guides had a major smile on his face when he found out that our group was more than willing to work a little for some more wood. He ran outside and pointed at a big tree, which was easily 30 meters high. I remember thinking, so that is how they get small wood to start the fire. It took me a while to realize we were actually cutting down that tree with nothing but a machete and manpower. It was already dead before we started cutting it down so don’t worry, we were kind to nature.

After the tree was down on the ground, the strength of our backs lifted the tree in five meter long sections into the cave, where it was broken down even further. After that it was time to get some water out of a stream for cooking dinner. The guides prepared dinner for us, and the first people were already nearly asleep when dinner was ready. Dinner was nice; rice, chicken curry, soup and banana bread. After dinner we were chilling around the campfire. During twilight the cave got even more beautiful and because the ceiling was so high, it was easy to forget you weren’t outside. If you did look up it was easy to confuse the ceiling with clouds, until of course you realized they didn’t move.

Unfortunately the night walk in the jungle was cancelled due to hard wind. It was also raining, but the wind made it dangerous as entire branches could fall from the trees, so we went back inside and chilled some more, until everybody went fast asleep satisfied.

Erik Donkers