Monday, 4 June 2007

Taman Negara Revisited

I read an article by Tunku Aziz in Sunday's NST (27th June 2007) about the state of Pahang's forestry offices then, how trees were already logged out way back in the 60's and 70's. I got quite worked up. I love Pahang and its forests. I hope (maybe selfishly) that Pahang will not be developed in the way Selangor is: with a lot of concrete jungles. Let Pahang be developed in other ways: as the state with a lot of natural forests, as one that is a scnctuary for animals, as a source of balance of the ecosystem!

I recently (March 2007) went for my third visit to Taman Negara, Pahang. We drove down from KL, onto the new highway and followed the road signs (they were good) towards Jerantut. The road was good, with lots to see along the way. At a T-junction (after the new mosque), we took a right (left would take us to Jerantut town) and left again at a junction where a huge sawmill is. This road is narrow, and whenever I am on it, I say to myself "the journey begins". It is because the trees are bigger, the road a lot narrower, and the 'real' journey to Taman Negara starts. You can hardly see houses along this stretch of road. Not five minutes along this road we met a number of lorries, all of them carrying logs, heading towards the main road. To my untrained eyes, they seemed overloaded. And they were fast. Were they chasing commission for the trips they made?

I recalled an earlier trip, about two years back and we were met with timber-laden lorries as well; but there weren't that many. This time there were at least twenty lorries all the way to Kuala Tahan. I was alarmed at the rate the forests were being invaded. The authorities must be aware of it, I thought. There must some authoritative figure who visits Taman Negara one in awhile, I believe. So what business were the lorries doing to be able to transport out so much timber? And the stretch of road was marred by potholes almost all the way. So sad.

We stayed for one night at the resort, in one of the chalets at Mutiara. The rooms could be better kept: simple dusting would have helped. Since I am allergic to dust, I kept sneezing. So we decided to go to another hotel the next day. We decided to have tea at the restaurant (I adore the open-air concept). There were more non-Malaysians than Malaysians. The food was so-so, mainly catering to tourists. We chose a table at the side, where we could see the river. It was so calm. I could just sit there, admiring the huge trees and enjoying thinking of nothing in particular.

A couple of years ago I was here with my brothers and sisters and their families. After a trip to the Canopy, we doubled back to the little jetty to catch our boat back to the other side of the river. The children amazingly managed to hop downhill, very surefooted, despite never having the experience of being near any river. And at the edge of the river, they simply jumped in. I dared not just jump in but I trudged in anyway, not being able to resist the water. I then ventured in a little deeper; and as the water reached my nose, I wanted to lower myself down, reach the bottom and kick myself to the surface (as my father used to teach us when he threw us in the water at Teluk Chempedak three decades ago) and swim to shore not two feet away. To my horror, the soft sand gave way-- I could not kick, but instead sank further. I stuck my hands out, waved hard, and grabbed somebody. It was my nephew, Y. Skinny Y alerted my brothers and they pulled me out. Pheww. So, be careful if you go.

So, we walked around the area towards the camp site and saw a family of wild pigs sniffing away at everything along their paths. Nothing to be alarmed, as they've never charged anyone. I simply love Taman Negara. I had planned our itinerary for our stay, and mentioned it to AHS. I planned to take him first on the guided night walk, next morning to Lubok Simpon, in the afternoon to the Canopy walk and later take a boat ride up-river. He was non-committal. Night walk was vetoed. We instead enjoyed the river, from the restaurant. The cicadas (riang-riang) serenaded us with their orchestra.

After breakfast the next morning, I managed to entice AHS to Lubok Simpon. I learnt later that if one can stay in the water of the Lubok for about 20 minutes or so without feeling unduly cold, that person is sihat. The water is straight from Gunung Tahan, and is very, very cold.

The path started after the campsite. It was very clearly marked: no one can get lost if they stick to it. But as we progressed, I got more and more nervous, because there were just the two of us heading into the jungle. I didn't want a crowd, but listening to just our footsteps was somewhat eerie. After awhile, I heard the cluck of a fowl. It made me remember what my father used to say when he told us about his hunting trips: ular kadang-kadang berketak macam ayam. Oh, dear. But I just kept on. I also remembered what my friend's husband experienced: as they were walking out from a jungle in single file, they smelled goat. Now, tigers smell of goat too, some people say. So, without saying a word to each other, they picked up speed and when they reached the clearing at the edge of the jungle, they sprinted away as fast as their legs could carry them.

When I heard the sound of the river, I was quite glad, but when I peered down to where the river bank was, it was deserted. I felt fear. I only allowed AHS to rest not more than 5 minutes and hurried him on our trek back. Poor AHS was sweating profusely. When we reached the campsite again, I was so relieved. Only then I mentioned to him my fears. After that he vetoed my every plan. Later that afternoon (after lunch at the floating restaurant across the river), we checked into another resort (cheaper and cleaner) and went for teh tarik at a kampung stall. Nice!

AHS wanted to go on a boat ride, and after much discussion, we decided on going upriver (Sg. Tembeling), to Trenggan. That cost us RM70. A better trip was up Sungai Tahan, said Hamidi, the boat owner, but it would cost us RM120. So, we were taken upriver, the water was high and swift, as it had rained earlier. I had the feeling of fear and enjoyment. I prayed the boat would not capsize, because at some points, we had to cross some rapids. The trees were huge, and simply magnificent. At certain corners, there were people fishing away. We also stopped at an Orang Asli settlement. Here, we spent some taime, taking in the serene atmosphere, with Orang Asli children playing in the water not far away. However, there were unsightly plastic bags and styrofoam containers that drifted pass us that tainted the view. Otherwise, it was heavenly.

If anyone reading this has not been, do go to Taman Negara, Pahang. It is a wonderful experience. I would also recommend going by boat from Kuala Tembeling and taking in the river and all it can offer all the way to Kuala Tahan. More can be done to NOT modernise the Taman Negara area, I feel.

1 comment:

D said...

TAMAN NEGARA, WooHoo!! I have both pleasant and unpleasant memories of that wonderful reserve. I too experienced that 'sinking' feeling at Lubok Simpon - thought that was my goodbye! InsyaAllah will go back when my kids are bigger.

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