7/30 – walked over to the Mandarin Hotel to have breakfast and catch our 8:30 bus to start our jungle adventure. We are on our way to Taman Negara (translates as Country Garden), which is the Malasian National Park containing the oldest old growth rain forest in the world.
Shades of British colonialism – the Full English breakfast was offered, with mushrooms, baked beans and tomatoes accompanying the eggs and toast. Haven’t had that in a while! Our bus left at 9:30, and was full of Italian and Dutch tourists. Off we go!
We rode until noon, and were delivered to Jerantut, Pahang, where we queued up to pay for our entrance to Taman Negara of 1 ringgit (25 cents) and our camera permit (5 ringgit) that will allow us to take pictures in the park. The man was very clear in communicating that this permit must be carried with us at all times and produced upon demand. Failure to have the camera permit results in a 5000 ringgit fine.
After a quick lunch, we hopped on another bus for the short ride to the jetty, where we were packed onto two long boats for the three hour ride up the Tembeling River to Kuala Tahan.
Halfway through the trip, the lead boat got stuck on a sandbar, and we watched with amusement as everybody jumped out and helped push the boat through the calf-deep water.
A half hour before landing, the sky opened up for a typical tropical afternoon drenching. Unfortunately, our packs were all lashed to the front of the boat, and no one had thought, on a sunny afternoon, to put their pack covers on. We arrived at 5:30pm with wet packs, sore bottoms from sitting on the hard deck, and full bladders – no facilities on board the small boat of course, and we were all drinking water in the hot sun.
We disembarked and walked over to the hut marked Nusa, where we expected to find a small boat that would take us to our camp, Nusa Holiday Village. All was dark and still – no one and no boat. We went to the floating restaurant next door, and were told to climb the hill and inquire about Nusa.
The travel agent at the top of the hill rolled his eyes and at first refused to help, but then thought better of it, and called Nusa on the phone. He apologized for his moment of pique, but said Nusa does this (leaving folks stranded) all the time. 45 minutes later, the Nusa truck rolled up to pick up the four of us who were waiting. We were wet and hot and hungry. Our adventure was not off to a good start.
Nusa Holiday Village was billed as a resort, and we had prepaid at a much higher rate than our normal budget allows, as it got high ratings online and was supposed to be ‘da bomb’. It’s the busy season for tourists here, and every budget place we had tried was booked solid. We talked ourselves into the high priced ‘resort’ as Jim was really eager to hike in this jungle. Imagine our surprise as we trudged up the steep hill, over the swinging bridge to find a dinky, musty cabin with no windows and no amenities whatsoever. Well! How about the restaurant, which also got rave reviews? We ordered chicken curry for supper, and got curry with chicken bones and skin. Ugh. We’re captives here, with no other restaurant choices. It’s going to be a long week!