Second day at Taman Negara, I woke-up early, bought some snacks at the woman selling curry puffs near the entrance of Durian Chalet and headed to the park as I wanted to beat the crowds at the popular Canopy Walkway. My plan was to do the classic loop of Canopy Walkway-Bukit Teresik-Libok Simpon; a walk that would take about three hours. Easy enough.
With leech socks I bought at the souvenir store earlier, 1.5 liters of water, and some snacks, I headed to the trail. The raised platform near the Park HQ soon gave way to a trail covered with leaves, branches, and the creeping roots of the large fan trees. Minutes into the trail and I was sweating like a pig as there wasn’t any air and sunlight barely fleeted through the thick foliage above. I felt like a dwarf among the gigantic trees.
I reached the Canopy Walkway around 9:45 and I was the first one there! Paid the RM5 fee and took my first step on the suspended planks high above on the rainforest. Each segment led to a platform which connected yet to another segment of planks. At one platform, you could choose to take the platform that led the way out or climb a steep aluminum ladder to another platform and on to suspended planks much higher than the previous ones. It was an exhilarating walk especially when you peer down at the rainforest and see how high you are. The entire loop was about 45 minutes and as I exited, people were just arriving. Only 4 people are allowed at a time at each segment and it would be utterly unexciting if you had to wait your turn to walk the planks.
A trail from the Canopy Walkway led to Bukit Teresik which means “high hill.” It was a steep but easy climb as roots and stones made natural steps on the trail. There were a lot of people both going uphill and downhill. Fine views of the jungle greeted me as I reached the rocky outcrop of the hill. The guide of a Japanese (or was it Korean) couple pointed to a side trail whichhe said led to another viewing plateau and was “nice for meditation.” It was a 15-minute walk and unlike the first outcrop, this one was much smaller and seemed more secluded as the tiny space was surrounded by trees. Perhaps if you’re alone, it would really be a nice spot for meditation.
At the foot of the hill, a trail led to Lubok Simpon about 1.5 kilometers away. Of all the trails, this one seemed to be more lush as it led through really thick jungle. My feet were kinda aching by this time and 1.5k seemed such a long way. All throughout, I never passed a single soul. Maybe there were spirits hovering as Taman Negara, if the locals are to be believed, is full of them. Spirit or no spirits, my own spirit was flagging as my legs seemed to have tired out after climbing Bukit Teresik. It was with relief when I reached the sign that pointed to the swimming hole. Down some steps and I found myself in a lovely patch of forest with a lake. Again, I was alone so I had all that beauty around me to myself. All the aches and tiredness drifted away as the serenity of the place overcame me. It was so peaceful with nothing but bird calls echoing through the forest. The very beauty of God seemed to hover.
I sat at a log and munched on my cereal bars and a chocolate as I rested my eyes on the still lake. Nourishment for both body and soul. While nourishing myself, I happened to glance at my right leg and saw a leech also nourishing itself with my blood. That brought me out of my revelry and I headed back to the trail to Park HQ which led me through the camping grounds of the Mutiara Resort.
Back at Kuala Tahan, while waiting for my rice and vegetables to be served at Family Restaurant, I pointed my leg to the waitress and asked for some salt. As I was about to pour it on my leg, she pointed me to the restaurant entrance with a “do it outside.. it’s so yucky” look on her face. With a handful of salt, I watched in amazement as the leech disengaged itself from my leg by stiffening up. It looked like one of the monsters in a B-grade monster movie. I could almost hear it scream, “aaaaaaaggghhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!”. Such is the power of salt. I pulled it’s blood-pumped carcass with a napkin which readily squished between my fingers. Mission accomplished, I straightened-up and walked towards the small sink near the dining tables. A family of Caucasians seated at a nearby table had seen the entire operation and they seemed in shock. Nonchalantly, I washed my hands, wiped it dry on the towel and headed back to my table near the restaurant’s docks’ edge and feasted on my fried rice and vegetables. Yummy!