Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dave's paranoid jungle journal

I'm going into the jungle today. This blog may be my last.

Day 1: Into the Heart of Darkness


I left the 'comfort' of my infested, 8-ringget (£1.63) room in Jerantut behind. Where would I be staying tonight? Some hellhole, no doubt. It would be back to basics from here on in. Maybe it wouldn't even have Wi-Fi! I tried not to think about it.


There was a palpable sense that this breakfast would be my last. Who knows what lies in the extensively mapped jungle? Out there, it could be me that ends up being the main course. British beef would be rare treat for Orang Asli cannibals.

I know they say there aren't any cannibals in Taman Negara, and that the region is a well-administered national park with stringent regulations in place to protect the habitat and visitors, but I wasn't going to be swayed by facts.


The seven of us were packed into the seven-seater, air conditioned minibus like so many feckless cattle. We disembarked at Kuala Tembeling jetty and were forced to hand over one ringget (20p) to enter the national park area. Apparently, our miniscule funds will go towards 'conserving the environment for future generations.' Whatever, Nazis - that's just what Hitler said in 1936.


We boarded a long-tail boat and went for a three hour cruise down Tembeling River to Kuala Tahan. I say 'cruise,' but it was more a feat of endurance - sure, the seats were deceptively comfortable, the scenery pleasant and the breeze refreshing, but let's not ignore that at one point, two droplets of river water splashed onto my face, and a butterfly flew across the bow.

Combined, these could be carrying all kinds of diseases! I was literally taking my life in my hands, literally. I began to wonder if we'd even make it to the jungle, or be picked off one by one along the way.


LBK 'floating' restaurant is actually connected to the river bed by supports.
How many other lies are they telling us?

We disembarked at Kuala Tahan village and were told about the various accommodation options and activities we could take part in during our stay. The guide even mentioned booking transport back into civilisation - yeah right, like he believed any of us would actually be leaving here! I couldn't detect a quiver of fear in his voice, but it was definitely there.


The first guest house I came across had Wi-Fi (oh yes, very convenient), with the proviso that I pay five ringgets (£1) for the privilege of using it, for the duration of my stay. If I stayed four days, that works out at 25 pence per day for 24-hour satellite internet access! Hmm... I believe Herr Hitler launched a similar initiative in 1930s Deutschland, am I right?

To add to the nightmare, the first guest house also didn't have any storage lockers for my valuables, meaning I would have to trust my bags to the care of the staff. Hmm, yes - what a good idea! If I want to have drugs and illegal porn planted in there and face the death penalty, that is. The owner looked like the kind of person who would do something like that - never trust a Malaysian, that's my motto. Where are the police when you need them?


Turns out there's a police station between the mini market and internet café. Very convenient - tell me, mein Führer, do your officers wear black leather uniforms with a sort of eagle insignia? I think you know what I'm saying. (I am saying you are Nazis).


The second guest house I visited was full. Will this nightmare never end? It was looking increasingly likely I would have to camp out overnight in the jungle. That's assuming the other 10 or so guest houses and campsites in the village were all fully booked too, and that for some reason I took a boat and trekked into the jungle, rather than just staying in the village which would be easier. But still.


I got a room at the third guest house, but it was out of Wi-Fi range. Talk about roughing it! I now felt for the first time that I was truly in the wilderness. Unable to get Wi-Fi in your bedroom in the middle of nowhere? What year is this, 1475?


As I was unpacking, I saw an ant had somehow got through the open door and infiltrated the dorm. I would have to take precautions to ensure this vile creature didn't eat my face all off and give me malaria in the night. I moved to the top bunk.


I heard someone playing 'Welcome to the Jungle' by Guns 'N' Roses, which I found funny. But then they just played the rest of the album, rather than other jungle-themed songs, so it turned out they weren't trying to be ironically apt, they just had bad taste.


I bought a T-shirt so I would never forget this harrowing experience. It was cheery and red, and also made it look a bit like I was in Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was an added bonus. Unfortunately, there was no one around to serve me, just a naked special needs kid absent-mindedly wanking in the corner.

I went next door to fetch an adult and they sold me the T-shirt. They didn't pay any attention to the naked special needs kid and what he was doing; this was normal behaviour to them. This was turning into an ordeal, alright. I haven't even got into the fucking jungle yet.


After eating a couple of times, I went into the jungle with a torch and saw bugs fighting and eating each other to death. It's literally a dog eat dog world out there, except with hunting spiders and crickets as opposed to dogs and dogs.

At one point, one of the steps on the extremely convenient wooden walkway was damaged, meaning we had to make a slightly extended stride up to the next one, and risk plunging down a six-inch drop onto soft leaves. Anything could have happened, although it didn't. The horror! The horror!

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