Okay, we were literally walking into restricted areas of Taman Negara, inaccessible to the general public. All we had was a map (with some pencil lines drawn on it) and two units of GPS to help guide us. Once inside, we have limited communications to the outside world. 10 minutes in and already the jungle starts to reveal itself.
They weren’t kidding when they say we needed parangs for this trip. It soon became obvious that we are moving into an area of the jungle where it has not been ventured in by people for a long time. There are simply no trails at all. The only faint ones that we can identify are probably animal trails and may lead us away from where we are supposed to head to. Constant check on the GPS against the map was necessary to make sure that we are heading towards the right direction.
The deeper into the jungle we walk in, the darker it gets. This is the first ‘change’ I realize. There was little light on the jungle floor. The ground is covered with all sorts of plant matter, creepers, vines and rattan thorns that make our progress slow and at times extremely painful. We pushed on and on, bit by bit with the Perhilitan officer at the front slashing relentlessly to make a path for the rest of us to come through.
It wasn’t until a good few hours walk before we finally found the first Taman Negara plate. This is the first indication that we have reached the border. Our jubilation was short lived when we realized that it is the only tree marked. The direction of the border can be anyway!
It was already a long days walk and we were running out of water. We took every opportunity to fill up on water. Even the wines that were cut when making the path through the jungle looks tempting for drinking!
They call the jungle rainforest and water is supposed to be abundant. But finding a clean water source at an area that is suited for camp can be a challenge. Though the map indicates water sources, streams and even rivers, many have ‘disappeared’, some simply too doubtful (stagnant water) while others simply do not have enough flat land. Our group needed flat land because several of us using tents.
In desperation, we make do with a small stream for the first night. It was a small stream. Abang Mat (Perhilitan) was quick to work the stream by digging and damming it so that we have a pool of water to collect water for cooking and even washing. Whatever flat land was cleared for the tents while the hammock users picked their trees.
The first day was a tiring day. Resting in my hammock, I was amazed at how noisy the jungle is. I remembered the night well. It was about 8pm and just as I was about to doze off, a loud single burst of ‘uuung’ when off and this ‘call’ was responded by a similar call from opposite the river where my camp was situated. Seconds later, more such calls rang out in the jungle. They appeared to be frogs and they kept on ‘uuung-ing’ each other for the longest time. I came out of my hammock, reached for a piece of stick and try to disturb the ground, hoping that the frog near my camp would just move away. It did…for a few minutes that is. Soon it was back ‘uuung-ing’ away. Well, nothing much I can do. I lie in my hammock, thanking God for the good and safe journey and slowly drifted into my sleep.