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Diaries: AROCM Nature Adventure - 12/3/05 to 14/03/05
text by Dr Wong Ang Lai

AROCM Nature Adventure 12/03/2005 to 14/03/2005

DAY 1 …Are we there yet?

“Wake up la papa, wake up” . I slowly opened my eyes and saw the face of my youngest son staring at me . I looked at the clock and it showed 7.30am. and was pleasantly surprised. On regular school days, he would still be asleep and would have to drag him out of bed. But today, here he is calling me up, and the reason , we are going to Tmn Negara on the AROCM Nature Adventure. Truth be told, I was excited too, as Taman Negara was a place I had wanted to visit since I was a Medical Officer doing Gov’t service in Kuala Lipis back in 1985/86 but never did.

As it was the first day of the school holidays and a Saturday, traffic was light as my family and I set out from our house. My family of 4 were joined by another family of 8, comprising 2 young school mates of my two boys and their 6 adult family members. We set off in my Odyssey and their Kia Sportage and arrived the meeting point, the Gombak Toll, at 9.20am, well ahead of the scheduled 9.45am.. Boy, we were in for a long wait. ..

At the Gombak Toll Plaza rest area, the Kia Sportage missed the turning into the rest area and had to stop at the BP station about 1.5 km away.The others were trickling in and but by 10.30am, all had checked in. There were a total of 13 cars of which only 4 were alfas’ namely a 146 driven by Ron Lim, another 146 driven by Samsul, 156 Selespeed driven by Danny and a 155 driven by Chan from Kampar.

I had gone off earliear to look for the Kia Sportage and had stop at the Petronas Station to wait for the rest. and by about 11.30am the whole convoy met up again at the Petronas station near the Bentong Toll.

We finally reached Jerantut at 1.00pm where we had about 1 hour for lunch. After lunch, at 2.00pm, some of the cars filled up with more petrol and headed for Kuala Tahan which was about an hour’s drive away. The road was winding in places and narrow, with a fair bit of pot-holes in certain parts. My kids had a great time shouting out the various obstacles on the road, the dung piles bringing out peals of laughter from them.

We arrived at the Woodland Resort at 3.00pm, immediately checked in and had a nice cold shower. The resort is very new and still under construction.The rooms are clean and the linen, towels are very clean. There were lots of tiny ants though and the resort did not have insecticide spray. At night, one can hear the sounds of the riang riang and various insects clearly.

The resort has a restaurant but it currently serves simple meals as it is still not fully operational. However, the prices are reasonable and the fare quite tasty. They have a buffet spread for dinner and also lunch and costs RM10 per adult, half price for kids 6-10 yrs and it’s free for <6 yr old.

Night Jungle Trek

My family had dinner at a ‘floating’ restaurant down by the jetty. Due to the current dry spell, the river level had drop quite dramatically and the restaurant was actually resting in the middle of the river. We had to walk across the dry rocky river bed to reach it, which incidentally, was also our meeting point that night for the crossing over to the park.

At 8.00pm we crossed over on the small boats and this took us less than 5 minutes. Actually, one could wade across if one wanted to. We set off in groups of 12, each led by a guide. The hike took us through the Mutiara Resort until we exited at a small gate marking the boundary of the park. The whole hike was a distance of only about 400 meters and along the way, we dropped by a hide called Tahan Hide.

The high expectations of the children were however dashed by the sheer number of people along the trail that night. It was more like a pasar malam and the chatting and noise generated would have scared off any animals nearby. However we did manage glimpses of scorpions, spiders , moths and other small insects.

Twice along the trail, I did bump into a ‘beruang’ but it turned out to be Yazid in his red AROC T-shirt. At the exit, we finally saw an animal and the children screamed in delight. Alas, it was only a statue of a rhino with it’s tail missing.

At the Tahan Hide, a couple of deers were spotted by the Haizam siblings, as they were the last group there, having taken a reverse of the usual route from the others.The night was thankfully cool and the whole trail took us about 40 minutes.It was a different experience for most of us, and even though we did not get to see any large animals, the sight of torchlights in the jungle,the eerie shadows cast by lights and the sounds of the insects was enjoyable nonetheless.

We returned to the resort the same way and my family turned in for the night whilst a few of the others went to a nearby mamak stall for some Soup Tulang and Teh tarik.

DAY 2: Canopy Walk and River Cruise to Fish Sanctuary

Sunday morning call was at 7.00am with a 8.30am assembly. Breakfast was provided.

I had a good night’s sleep, dozing off to the sounds of crickets. However, my wife being a light sleeper, was kept up half the night by the sound of the riang riang just outside our room door. She was actually stalking it and trying to drive it away. Finally, she switched off the light outside, hid her head under the pillows and fell asleep. Of course the sleeping pill I gave her helped too.

Breakfast buffet consisted of the usual fried rice, fried noodles, egg omelets and sausages Bread, butter, kaya and marmalade jam and a toaster was also provided. The beverages provided looked like tea and coffee but hardly tasted like it. A packet of Nescafe 3in1 from home started my day off perfectly There’s nothing like a good maid, ahem, I mean wife to look after these sort of things.

The whole group managed to cross over and assemble at the Mutiara Resort by 8.45 am, whereby the various fees were then collected. The club sponsored the park entrance fee for the children. We then set off in groups of 12 led by a guide and we basically took the same trail as the night before. However, it looked less menacing in daylight and we could watch out for the overhanging branches, tree stumps and roots along the trail.

We stopped several times to marvel at some wild flowers and also saw a monkey up in a tree. No, it wasn’t a statue, it was a real one this time. Along the trail, about 400meters on, we came upon a very large tree and stopped for some photos. The ‘beruang’ was also sighted resting in the nook of this very large tree.

After hiking a total of 1.5 kilometers, we came, thankfully, to the stairs leading up to the canopy walk’s base station. There were lots of thirsty, sweaty bodies but everyone made it without any difficulties. The trail was dry, which made walking easy and, most importantly, didn’t dirty my new RM378 Nike Air trainers. It was also in the shade all the way and the morning air was cool.

We had to wait for almost 1 hour 20 minutes before our turn came. Thankfully we were ahead of the Coterie Land Rover Owner’s Club, which came up about half an hour after us. They had a very large group of at least a hundred members and as always, was behind the alfa romeos.

Stairway to Heaven

The canopy walkway at 700 meters, is the longest in the world. So for those who did not join, ‘RUGI TAK DATANG’. It consists of various sections of different length and heights of up to 50m, with several tree-platform stations along the way. Depending on the length of a particular section, we had to keep a distance of either 5m or 10m from the person in front.

The canopy walkway gives a very different perspective of the jungle. Whereas the jungle floor is damp and appears impenetrable in parts, the canopy walk offers a majestic view of the….errrr..err…jungle canopy la, what else.. One sees the green leafy tops of trees and…and… more green leafy tops of tees. Further ahead the view is of the back of the person in front, whilst one dare not turn around to look back. In fact, that is all I saw as I was busy holding onto the ropes and telling my son to slow down and not shake the walkway, which he was fond of doing. At a particular point, I had to stop in the middle as there was a hold up in front. There I was, 50m above the ground gently swaying from side to side when I got an almost uncontrollable urge to pee. Luckily, the convoy started moving again and I forgot about the need to go.

All in it took 20 minutes to complete the walk. One of the children was heard lamenting ‘Chiang Kwai te’( mandarin for so fast over one and no, it’s not referring to you Tajul ).
My children were so ecstatic and wanted to go one more time, but we had to move on down.

We then proceeded downhill and back to the resort for lunch and to prepare for the next activity at 2.00pm. First we had to climb up a very steep section, followed by a long downhill stretch. Towards the end of this, my legs were about to buckle as the muscles were already sore from the night walk and the climb up.

We had a quick but very tasty lunch at the resort changed into our swimming gear, sandals and slippers and was down at the jetty again at 2.00pm. Next stop was the Latah Berkoh falls and the fish sanctuary.

2.00 pm River Cruise and Fish Sanctuary.

What was to be a half hour boat ride eventually took 1 hour due to the very low water level. It was also decided not to proceed to the waterfalls as there were too many young children in the group and the falls was not safe for swimming.

At 2.00 pm, we had gathered once again at the floating restaurant cum jetty, waiting for the boats and the others to arrive. It was an oven hot day with not a cloud in the sky. The sun was beating down and the skin felt like it was on fire.. A loud moan echoed from the ladies in my group when they found out that the boats were without a roof and the journey was to take1 hour instead of the usual 30 minutes.

Suddenly, umbrellas were in great demand and sun-block cream became a much sought after commodity, like rare Zender Milanos. However, the fears were unfounded as the cruise passed through cool, well shaded sections of the river and exposure to direct sunshine was brief and fleeting. Still, my better half was well wrapped up like a dumpling, just in case.

As the river was shallow and rocky, progress was slow and much depended upon the skill of the boatman and his assistance up front. The boatmen had to skillfully steer the long narrow boat through the deeper parts and avoid rocks and fallen branches. His assistant up front would signal to him the submerged rocks and use the paddle or a long stick to steer away from trouble.

There were several times when I thought the lower arms were kaput when I felt a thud as we passed over some rocks…???lower arms, alamak sorry, wrong story. Was thinking of my 166. When we finally arrived at the swimming area, my two boys jumped off the boat before it even reached shore. With a cry that Tarzan would be envious off, they splashed into the cool river. I followed them and we had had a stupendous, awesome good time there.

The river water was so clear and refreshing though one had to be careful of the rocks. Ikhwan also made sure everyone had a taste of the river when he threw water on the one’s still dry. As a just reward for his efforts, he received a gentle dunking, courtesy of Joni and Zul, our tour guide.

After about 45 minutes, we all got back into the boats and headed downstream to the fish sanctuary. There we had Chicken Rice, compliments of the club. We were eating with our hands in the wild, accompanied by the symphony of the forest, the chirps of the birds, the sounds of the river flowing nearby, with a gentle breeze blowing …RUGI TAK DATANG.

We then spent some time feeding pellets to the wild river fish that came right up to the shore to feed. It was an amazing experience. Some of the children even tried diving into the river and swam with them. It was quite surreal and enjoyable...Lebih Lagi RUGI TAK DATANG

Soon, some of the less adventurous ones decided to go back. All of them had to pass through a curtain of water called the Cuore Sportivo Falls, thrown up by the others still there. Even the usual plea of Ron Lim to spare his video camera and his 4 year old daughter fell on deaf ears.

My family arrived back at the jetty at about 6.00 pm and we trudged wearily but happily back to shore and the comfort of the resort. That night, we slept well, no need for any sleeping pills. Even the riang riang did not bother us.
Some of the others went on a Night Safari to the nearby oil palm estate, but we decided to give this a miss as it was planned for 11.00 pm, and Daddy was too tired already.

Day 3 Orang Asli Settlement And Home

At 10.30 am Monday morning, after breakfast, we took a boat down river for a 10 minutes ride to an orang asli settlement. This time the boats had a roof and could take 10 persons at a time. The weather was good and we were enjoying the fresh morning breeze when all too soon we were there at the jetty. Cries of Chiang kwai de rang out from the kids .

We climbed up a steep slope and after a very short walk, we were in a settlement of several orang asli families from two different tribes. Don’t ask me the names of the tribes as I truly don’t remember. Trappings of modernity were present in the use of plastic for their lean to shelters, and the clothes hanging to dry.

After a brief intro by our guide, there was a demo of fire making using a strip of rotan and a block of meranti wood. This was followed by a blow pipe demonstration which included the making of the darts to the use of the blow pipe itself.

Danny gave a very good blow job and the appreciative crowd gave him a good hand job…I mean applause, as he hit the bulls eye on his first attempt. Some of the others couldn’t give a blow to save their ahem…night life , but still they were sporting enough to try and got applauded too..

After a group photo session, we bade farewell and thanked our gracious host and made our way down to our boats and was back at the resort at about 1.00pm.

After a very quick lunch, the convoy left for KL and brought along home sweet memories of the great adventure in Taman Negara.

Many thanks to the Yazid, the main organizers and the club and all the others instrumental in pulling off yet another great event. My family and I are looking forward to the next one.


Posted: yazid @ Tue Apr 12, 2005 5:18 pm

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