|Spider, apparently only a little one for these parts!|
We headed back down to the NKS café this morning for our other tour with NKS. Today we will “do” the main attraction of the park, the canopy walkway, and then carry on further up to the top of Bukit Teresik. I think we were both dubious about the quality of the guide we will have with us and whether it will make it worth us paying for a tour as the walks we will do today you can do on your own.
Back at the café we were introduced to our guide who is commonly known as Crazy Monkey. Since he was a small boy he has been fascinated by tarantula spiders and this, combined with his penchant for climbing tall trees has earned him his nickname. We reckon he was in his early twenties and looking around during the day he seemed to be the youngest of all the guides. Guiding here does not seem to be a skilled profession and the guides are not armed with lots of knowledge about the local fauna and flora. Most simply seem to be young men from the village who know about the forest from playing around in it and tourism gives them an alternative job to poaching.
We had to walk through the Mutiara resort to get to the start of the trail. It looks like a very large hotel with chalets and cabins stretching back through well tended garden. A sign part way through tells you about the animals that you are likely to see wandering around through the gardens – various types of birds, monkeys and wild pigs.
As we started out on the trail to the canopy walkway our guide dropped some bad news. This weekend there are lots of school and university children in the park so the trails will be very busy. The chances of seeing any wildlife are low unless you do multi day treks that take you into the wilds of the park, but hordes of students will reduce our chances of seeing anything at all in the park.
The path was well trodden and along the way numbered signs were placed on many of the trees. Crazy Monkey gave us an explanation about some of them but not many. It would be easy for the park administration service to produce a booklet giving background information to these signs so you know what you are seeing as you go but they do not seem to run the park with this type of thing in mind.
It was heating up quickly as we walked and before long we were both drenched in sweat. Our guide set a fast pace, OK when you are used to the trails but they were quite matted with tree roots and it was an easy place to lose your footing or trip on a root. Apart from the heat and humidity we could pretty much have been on a walk anywhere especially as there little explanation of what we were seeing around us and no hope of animal spotting due to the volume of traffic.
A steep climb up a set of stairs brought us to the start of the canopy walkway. For safety reasons they restrict the number of people on the walkway at one time. We signed up for our turn, glad that we had made it before the large groups of students or we would have had a long wait. As it was we only waited about five minutes before we were able to climb up the first support tower and set off on our way.
The walkway is like a rope bridge suspended above the canopy of the forest. In effect they have suspended a large net among the trees and then put down ladders and planks of wood to create a path in the middle of the ropes. Walking the plank suspended 40m above the floor of the jungle is quite and experience, especially on the really wobbly sections. I had thought that Stef’s vertigo would kick in but once you are up there you have no option but to keep going to the end.
You walk for about 500m in total along the walkway. There are a few platforms along the way which are the only places you are meant to stop to take photos. Most of the sections were OK, just a little wobbly, but there was one section where the netting either side of you is quite low and it makes for a less comfortable wobble across the planks. While the whole experience was a bit of fun we didn’t really get the chance to see what was around us because of the need to keep moving. Whether it is better on a quieter day or not I don’t know but I suspect they will keep you moving irrespective of the volume of traffic.
We both had slightly wobbly legs after the canopy walkway not so much because the walk itself was difficult but more because you are tense all the time not wanting to miss your footing and stumble into the safety nets. Our guide then set off hopping up the path leading to the top of Bukit Teresik. By this time it was really hot and the combination of heat, speed and steep slope was too much for me. I left Stef to go on alone to the top and worked my way back down to some benches in the shade. Here I was kept company by a jumping spider, big ants, butterflies and different midge type bugs while I waited for them to come back down. A fairly steady stream of people passed me by including big groups of students who all stopped to say hello and practice their English for a while.
|Taman Negara has big ants (and crazy Italian guys who play with them!)|
After about an hour Stef re-appeared on his own. Our ever professional guide had stopped to chat up a couple of British girls and Stef understandably got fed up waiting. I suppose it made a change from him stopping to chat to his mates and sharing a cigarette with them which was another favourite pastime of his. The views from the top out and over the park were worth the climb to get a feel for the size and scale of it. It felt like the Amazon, a large jungle stretching away beneath you with no signs of man.
On our way back down we spotted a wild pig scratching around in the trees a little way off the path. This and a forest gecko were our only wildlife spots for the four hour duration of being out and about. When we reached the hotel we parted ways, our guide heading back across the river and us heading to the resorts restaurant for a cold drink and a bit of lunch. It was easy to tell which of the people you had seen in the morning were staying on this side of the river. They had all stopped off for a shower and change of clothes before coming for lunch whereas we sat there rather soggily.
After quite a few fresh lime juices we both finally felt refreshed but neither of us felt inclined to set off for another walk in the heat. Instead we opted to see the National Parks own video about the park. Their video room is tucked away at the back of the resort and is an air conditioned haven away from the heat. From the clothes people were wearing the video must date back to the early 90’s and it was a bit on the blurry side but it did give a better overview of the park. At least we could hear the commentary this time.
In the late afternoon we headed back to our hotel and a much needed shower. We spent a couple of hours catching up on diaries before heading to the hotel’s café for dinner. Considering how much the rooms here cost the facilities of the hotel are pretty basic. There isn’t really a restaurant here for full meals, but you can get local snack food such as roti canai (roti with a small bowl of chilli sauce) and nasi lemak (coconut rice served with peanuts, small dried fish and chilli sauce) both of which are very tasty. The drinks are also “local” drinks by which they mean tea and coffee either iced or hot. If you want “western” canned drinks you have to get them from the small hotel shop. Fed and watered we headed for an early night.