The bus to Jenrantut was fairly quiet, it was also quite luxurious compared to what I’d been used to, just three reclining seats in each row meant we all had lots of space to sprall out and fall asleep for the 5 hour drive.
At this point I hadn’t spoken to Marjin, Haf or the two sweeds (is that how you spell it when you are referring to Swedish people?) but we’d given each other the westerners nod. I hadn’t seen it much in Southern Asia, as it is more touristy here so you see more westerners. In China, Vietnam and Cambodia westerns tend to give each other the nod, its an all encompassing gesture that says hello, you ok? and don’t worry mate I’ve got your back. Anyway we had exchanged the nod but said nothing more.
We got to Jenrantut and we were ambushed by a tout trying to sell us a boat ride or a coach to Tama Nagara for 35r. We’d all read about the antics in our Lonely Planets and knew there was a much cheaper bus but couldn’t see the ticket office. It was at this point that the Japanese lad Suki who had joined our group realised that our bus from KL had parked in front of the ticket shed, so that we couldn’t see it! We all booked ourselves on the 1pm bus costing us each 6r (about $ 1.10). As we had an hour or so to wait, so we headed to a local buffet restaurant and introduced ourselves over hearty meal of rice, various curries, boiled eggs, salads and a whole array of other culinary delights.
The bus from Jenrantut to Tama Nagara was a little less comfortable than the last, but we all managed to get seats near open windows and managed to while away the two hour journey on meandering roads through stunning jungle scenery. Stopping at various point along the way to drop off passengers, creates of food, a washing machine amongst other things.
Martjin had read his Lonely Planet slightly better than the rest of us, so had the names of a couple of places to stay, luckily they were all sign posted from the bus stop. We managed to get our own straw huts in the middle of the jungle for just 25r, we got them down from 40r! I shared hut with Suki, so it only cost me about two quid!
After the long sweaty drive from Jerantuit the cold shower was heavenly, afterwhich we headed back to the village and negotiated with various companied who wanted to take us trekking in the jungle. The first started at nearly 260r, with and extra 50r for the jungle canopy walk, extra for the jungle permit, camera permit etc. etc. After a short walk we managed to get the price under 200r including the canopy walk and all the permits, Result! I was pleased we booked with our guide BE, he seemed really friendly, relaxed and really just wanted some more people for the volley ball match kicking off on the beach outside his restaurant.
Early dinner and early to bed as we had an 8am start in morning. I packed my big bag up and sorted all my trekking stuff out whilst Suki was on a night jungle trek which he had booked in addition to our two day trek. He was a little mift that he had seen nothing but very dark jungle and been bitten lots in the process.
Enroute to meeting our guide BE we pick up the three and a half litres of water that we have been advised to bring with us. BE or Baby Elephant is so called because of his size (he’s tiny) and the scars he latter shows us from being trampled on by an elephant whilst he slept in his tent, more amazing is the fact that before he was taken to hospital where he spend two weeks being put back together, he walked through 9km of jungle back to his village, although he does admit that the 9km took him quite a bit longer than it usually would!
The two sweeds have opted out of the jungle trek, the girl is not feeling too good, she has a problem with her heart, so is going to make her way back to KL or Bangkok. The lad comes on the canopy walk before they catch their bus back to civilization. We don’t hear from them after that, I hope she’s ok.
Whilst we stand in the rangers office ten minutes upstream from the restaurant, BE tells how there are elephants along with various big cats and other dangerous animals in the jungle. But the chance of us seeing any of them are somewhere between slim and none. At which point Martjin and I try desperately to photograph the pictures of various animals on the rangers office wall in a vain attempt to fool you guys that we had seen said animals! The ranger signs out jungle permit and our camera permit, he then asks for a list of stuff we are taking in to the jungle; clothes, plastics, toiletries, batteries etc. The rangers do spot checks on groups leaving the jungle, if they don’t bring back what they took in a hefty fine is issued.
We get back in the boat and travel a further 15 minutes up stream, to the canopy walk. The views are pretty amazing and although the rope bridges between the trees are a bit of Heath Robinson affair we know it is perfectly safe, so before long we are swinging on the bridges and getting them to sway from side to side 30-40m up in the air. The rangers kind of saw the funny side of our antics, as they themselves looked quite bored, but when I rather snotty American lady moaned at them, they had to tell us off although they were smirking at the time, so we didn’t take them too seriously.
Back in the boat, this time we have to travel in the long thin wooden speed boat for an hour and a half up stream. The scenery is unbelievable, mile upon mile of un-spoilt jungle stretching up from the river bank towering hundreds of feet above us. We start intently taking photographs, knowing that we will be unable to catch the awe inspiring backdrops with our measly little compact cameras. The warm sun, the hum of the outboard and the crash of the water rhythmical crash of the water against the boat send us all to sleep, only being periodically woken by the rough waters as the teak open air boat makes its way up the white water rapids.
When we got to the rangers station in the middle of the jungle we sat on the river bank and had our lunch of chicken fried rice, forced to share the rice we dropped with the huge ants measuring about an inch in length. Beautiful blue dragon flies took it in turns with the huge multi coloured butterflies to fly above our heads as we finished our food and made our way up to the rangers station.
A group of Singaporean students sat on the wooden porch of the disused holiday bungalow, they were doing the same trek as us but stretching it over three days and two nights. They looked woefully unprepared their jeans and their Sketchers, bickering over who was going to carry what as they loaded themselves up with additional plastic carrier bags full of goodness knows what.
Call us anti social, but we didn’t want to walk with them, so we made a swift start to our 15km trek, walking at a fair pace. Stopping occasionally for BE to point out, rare and beautiful plants, strange insects or foot prints of the tigers and elephants that he said we wouldn’t see.
The jungle is amazing, the humidity soaked us through before we had completed our first km. The noises were sometimes deafeningly loud and dangerously close. The trees were gigantic, some of which I had to climb over the roots, I mean properly clamber of the roots as if they were garden fences.
Claire Chandler, you laughed at me, you mocked me, you said I was a fool when I told you about the leaches, there were s*** loads of the little w***s and they do jump and they do bite. There is a photo of my leg bleeding to prove it! I had about 6 bites in total, but I wasn’t going to complain, they got in to Haf’s trainers and his boxers, so I got of quite lightly really.
After three hours trekking, the first cave we arrived at was the bat cave, (unfortunately not that one) this one was full of fruit bats and it was a bit of a mission to climb in to. And although the bat poo smelt supprisingly nice, it was bloody slippery to walk on and made climbing out of the cave even more of a mission! We got some good photos though!
Pop quiz a free pint to anyone who can remember the butler’s name (Drew you’re not allowed to play).
We trekked for another hour and a half before we made it to the cave where we would be spending the night. The cave was huge, you could easily fit 300 people inside, albeit somewhat inaccessible it would make a great location for a rave! We staked out the prime locations for our sleeping mats, as the Singaporeans would be joining us in the cave when they caught up with us! We collected fire wood, washed in the stream and made tea on the gas stove (Grrrrrrr). The others arrived about an hour or so after us and while they unpacked, collapsed etc. we built a campfire. All insults about the other group were revoked when we were sat around the campfire after dinner and they produced chocolate and marshmallows!
I had a lousy nights sleep, as a result of which I may have been snoring a little bit. Elizabeth may moan about my snoring in a 9ft square bedroom but apparently an echoey cave amplifies the issue! Either way I was about to get my penance…
Unable to sleep I got up about 6am and nipped outside to use the onsite facilities, a quite patch of the jungle clear of snakes, tigers etc. (or so I thought) sorry to be vulgar but, I was squatting having a poo, when I heard a buzzing a bloody wasp, a big nasty black son of a gun, not panicking I gently bush him away to notice the buzzing getting louder I look up and there were hundreds of the bloody things viciously buzzing around, their nasty black bodies arched like hundreds of small Ducatis. I speedily conclude the task in hand and rushed back to the mouth of the cave, where there was a nother swarp congregating, I climb the 5-6ft up in to the cave and make my way over to where the others were sleeping. One or two of the others were stirring due to the buzzing, there was a second opening to the cave, in accessible by foot, this is where had hung our clothes to dry, our clothes were black with wasps. I was supprisingly calm by the time BE woke, I pointed out the wasps and asked if it was normal. I trusted BE, partly because of the elephant story and he had also told us that his father used to trade with the aberiganies as a result of which he would spend a lot of time with them in the jungle sometimes months learning how to hunt and survive. He seemed shocked by the unusual swarm, but remained calm and didn’t really want to leave before we had breakfast. We get the fire going again and the smoke displaces some of the wasps, it also aggitaes a few bats that relocate to avoid the smoke. After breakfast, I bravely retreve my drying clothes from the clasp of the wasps, it’s amazing how a good cup of tea and a couple of slices of toast can prepare you for such tasks! A quick sweep of the cave for bottles cans etc. and we make a move again ahead of the other group.
The pace was a bit quicker today, I’m not sure why the boat wasn’t picking us up until 4:30 so we had plenty of time. We were supposed to stop at the river for lunch but didn’t really feel hungry so we decided to go skinny dipping instead to cool off. After an hour goofing around in the blissfully cold river, a quick leach check then dressed and off we march to the for the last two hours of our trek. By the time we reach the jetty we are all starving, BE whipps up a mean spicy noodle soup, with his nose running, he concedes he may have put a little too much chilli in! With an hour or so to wait for the boat, we go for another swim. Martjin & Haf swim the 60m or so to the other side of the river, this was the big river, deep and fast flowing, knowing my limits I stay in the shallows close to the shore. The boys swim back slowly, Martjin looks knackered swimming against the fast flowing river. I’d been harping on about trying to get a good butterfly photo for the last two days, they both tell be that the bank on the other side of the river was swarmed in butterflies! It’s not worth the shot I say, rather disappointed.
Our boat arrives and we make our way back to the village, we much further downstream and sailing with the current so the journey is much shorter. The guy driving the boat (it’s only a skiff, so he’s not really a captain) finds it hilarious taking the deeper rough water through the rapids soaking us, it was great fun!
We cheekily used the showers at the camp site before we jumped on the 7pm bus back to Jerantut. Martjin was patiently trying to teach me the basics of guitar playing, when I conceded that I wasn’t going to be as good as Newton Faulkner by the time I reached Jerantut or for Heathrow for that matter.
We found a dodgy little hostel opposite the bus station, the four of us had to share the dorm room with a weird American guy with smelly feet. We got our own back by unpacking our boots and wet clothes from the jungle, leaving them to air on the balcony, the collective smell overpowered the yanks cheesy feet and he left at 6am. I think he had a bus to catch rather than our attempts to fumigate him out of the dorm!
The four of us departed for various destinations in the morning, Suki was heading to KL to catch a plane home, the two Dutch lads were taking the jungle train to Kota Bharu and I was going to make my way to Melaka, a small ancient port on the south west coast.
As there was no direct bus from Jerantut to Melaka I had to go via a small town called Temerloh to transfer. When I arrived in Temerloh I was informed all the busses were full, the next available seat was 5:30 the following day. I weighed up my options, Temerloh was a grotty little town with very little to offer, so I jumpt on a bus to KL hoping there would be a bus out to Melaka, if not at least there was some form of civilization there!
Luckily for me there was a bus from KL to Melaka, with only an hour to wait at the bus station. Spying the KFC across the road I opt for lunch and some free wifi whilst I wait. It was extremely busy, I find a table, but before long a couple of older guys ask if they can join me. So whilst I’m there updating Facebook, the two guys who had now been joined by another couple who were quite blatently selling NATO ID badges and fairly good Malaysian passports! Time to wait at the bus station I think, so I hastely finish my Zinger burger and walk over the road!
Waiting patiently for half an hour the lady who sold me my ticket comes down to the bus garage to tell me that my bus had broken down and the mechanic would be along soon. An hour and a half passes as twenty other busses sit in the garage with their engines running trying to kill me with carbon monoxide poisoning, and still no mechanic. I strike up a conversation with a western guy on a Brompton as the 5pm bus roles in, we were told that we wouldn’t be allowed to get on this bus as our tickets were not valid. Luckily for me Jon the guy on the fold up bike is an expat who speaks quite good Malay, so the next thing I know our cases are on the bus and we take the last two seats!