Taman Negara, Aguirre, Riffi Shariff and Shrödinger’s bus

After much hesitation where to head from Cameron Highlands, I chose to go Taman Negara National Park, one of the oldest rain forests on Earth. After an uneventful three-hour minivan ride, I took a boat along Sungai Temebelik river to the park entrance. The boat ride was awesome and I felt almost a character in Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes. There was even a blonde German guy on board, although resemblances to Klaus Kinski end here.

As I feared the park greeted me with with frequent heavy rains, which eventually made my stay at the park rather short (on the other hand Shrödinger’s bus extended my stay by one night, but more on that later). I lodged in Rippi Hostel, probably one of the filthiest and shabbiest hostels to date. Chung King Mansions in Hong Kong takes a prize here, but that’s a whole different level of filth. The sorry state of the hostel was compensated by charisma of the owner Raffi Shariff and his brother. Really cool people, kind of jungle hiking, guitar playing, alcohol bootlegging type (the park is in muslim area). Plus I finally got an answer to the question on the dangers of the jungle. In a nutshell, provided common sense jungle is not very dangerous. Wild animals are of the least concern, as long as you leave them alone. Dengue fever is apparently more common in the urban areas than jungle too. The most serious dangers in the jungle are 1) getting lost 2) spiky plants 3) banal incidents as tripping over or getting hit by a fallen branch. People get lost in the jungle all the time, in rare cases for good. As locals put it: “kidnapped by the spirit jungle”.

The rain made my stay at the park rather messy, but did not ruin my plans. I did a canopy walk and an exhausting 15km hike through trying to reach an aboriginal village. I did not expect much from the canopy walk, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and excitement. Well worth its price, although I did not pay as I tagged along with British girls, who took pictures for Conde Nast Traveller magazine. As for the hike, I walked most of the distance to the village, but turned back after seeing abandoned shacks thinking that it was the village. Talk about epic fail. No wild animal sightings, apart from some birds and way too many blood-sucking leeches. These beasts are surprisingly fast and furious and get to you through the boots and clothes. You do not even have to stop, as they are fast enough to take a ride on while you move. On the other hand, leeches are supposed to be beneficial for you, so it is not all that bad. The bleeding wounds they leave are rather scary looking, though.

This was enough considering the weather, so I had planned to leave on the second day. But the local bus never came, completely ruining my plans to take a night-train to Singapore. Upon several inquiries about the bus, I finally got an explanation “sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn’t”. Shrödinger’s bus, indeed. I managed to leave the next morning and took a day-train, which resulted in one hand a good night sleep, but on the other hand in one pointless day. Not much to do and nothing to see on the train and no power sockets, so the laptop was of minimal use. Why in this age of digital technologies they cannot equip trains with power sockets is beyond me. Oh well.

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