Trekking the Taman Negara Rain Forest Jungle in Malaysia

Trekking the Taman Negara Rainforest: Like Leeches Much?



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The final leg of our Southeast Asian adventure was an overnight jungle trek through the Taman Negara Rainforest in Malaysia. The over ten mile slog through the rainforest was torturous as we endured drenching downpours, jungle heat, hordes of blood sucking leeches, sandals that failed at the worst possible moment, and a fitful night of sleep on the guano covered stone floor of a jungle cave. But as soon as we were out of the woods I think we all considered it one of the best things we had done on the entire trip.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    After getting a taste of the Taman Negara on the afternoon hike near our cabin, Steve, Alex and I decided to hire a guide and explore the more remote regions of the jungle.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    It's crazy to think that we originally considered just going without the guide and doing the trip by ourselves.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Not long after we began hiking, we all noticed that our feet were covered in leeches like this one. the leeches would lie in wait on the jungle floor, then stand up and wave wildly back and forth when they sensed the vibrations of our footsteps approaching. The leeches were quite successful at catching a hold of us as we walked by.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Alex found this vine that turned out to be kind of a jungle gong against the tree. Note the muddy stream of rainwater running down the middle of the trail.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    The vine rang out a hollow, resounding note when it hit the tree.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Shareef scolded us for stopping every five minutes or so to pick the leeches from our feet. Alex had a few go through his socks inside his boot.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    A few hours into the jungle trek, Steve's Tevas that had served him well all over Nepal gave out and the straps broke.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Shareef attempted to salvage Steve's Tevas by operating on them with his knife, but there was no hope for them. Luckily Shareef had a spare pair of sandals, but they were several sizes too small for Steve's feet.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    We pressed on towards our camp for the night, crossing streams swollen from the non-stop rain.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Some of the trees deep in the jungle were completely covered with thick, branching vines.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Alex found this huge porcupine quill along the trail, luckily we didn't encounter the owner.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Our boat sat pretty low in the water so that when we charged through these rapids it felt like it wouldn't take much to capsize us.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    As we neared our camping spot we found this abandoned Aboriginal settlement, Shareef said that the tribes still live in the jungle as they have for eons. They build temporary settlements from the bamboo and palm fronds, then move on to a better spot depending on the seasons. I imagine the indigenous people are probably a little less worried about the leeches than we were.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    As we neared our campsite and the end of the trail for the day, I think we all looked forward to changing into some dry (or more dry) clothes.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    We camped out in a huge cave that had a large opening looking out into the tree tops. Inside the cave was like a cathedral, with a ceiling that looked to be about 70 feet high and extended far into the earth. Shareef told us that elephants use the cave as a temporary shelter sometimes, and sure enough we could see their enormous footprints in a few spots in the cave. We hoped that they wouldn't choose to come visit us during the night.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Shareef began preparing an awesome vegetable curry for dinner. You can see Alex in the background exploring the cave with his headlamp. Before we went to sleep on the floor of the cave, Shareef built a fire to keep the jungle tigers at bay.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    The next morning woke up early, and a feeble light made it through the thick jungle canopy. We needed to be back in time to catch the last boat in the afternoon back to Jerantut to pick up the Proton and arrive in Kuala Lumpur in time for our flights home. I don't think any of us slept too well in the cave because of the weird jungle sounds that woke us up throughout the night. Shareef didn't seem to have any problems sleeping through the noises of the night creatures and snored away contentedly.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    We passed this unusual looking jungle flower along the trail.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Here you can see one of the jungle leeches in its attack position, standing on the rainforest floor blindly searching for its next victim (us).

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Leech breaks were just as common on Day 2 as they were for Day 1.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    The same soldier like rows of ants that we had seen near our cabin were also deep in the jungle as well.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    This boatload of aboriginal native people from the jungle charged right by us though.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Sometimes we got lucky and found a fallen tree to get over the many stream crossings.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Near the end of the jungle trek, we stopped to take a break inside this hide that people will stay in overnight to watch the jungle animals come out at night. It certainly was more plush than the cave.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    When Alex took off his boots to check for leeches, he noticed these three that had not yet gotten inside to feast on his ankles.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    As we neared the edge of the rainforest, more and more sunlight streamed down to the jungle floor.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Finally we came out into the clearing where we were to meet our boat back to the relative civilization of Kuala Tahan and on to Kuala Lumpur.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    It was really nice to stretch out my leech-ridden feet in the afternoon sun for the trip down river.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Back in Kuala Tahan we said farewell to our new friend Shareef and caught the boat back to Jerantut.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    As we drove back to Kuala Lumpur, we stopped to eat at what Alex appropriately named: McDonald's International Airport.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    An evil looking Ronald McDonald was at the entrance of McDonald's International Airport to urge us to pick up some Ringgit McSavers.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    By the time we parked the Proton in a Kuala Lumpur parking lot it was about 11 pm, and I think I was especially showing some road weariness as we toasted the trip over a few Tiger beers.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Shareef, our guide took a nap during the trip upstream.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    The next morning we fired up the Proton to take us to the KL airport and out of Malaysia.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Shareef gave us a quick introduction to the basics of the jungle as we started our ten mile overnight trek.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    I think we all realized quickly how different hiking in the jungle is compared with something we were familiar with such as the Appalachian Trail. You might be able cover ten miles on the AT over a diligent afternoon's hike, but we found that after a few hours of slogging up and down the steep, muddy terrain of the Taman Negara we had only covered a kilometer or two.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Only a short while into the hike, a torrential downpour opened up out of the sky. Shareef tried to help us keep our packs dry by attaching large jungle leaves to the outside.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    This wasn't going to be quite as easy as we all expected it to be.

  • Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004

    Taman Negara Overnight Jungle Trek - October 2004
    Within a few minutes we were soaked to the skin, but at least the jungle heat kept us from getting cold at all.