On waking my insides hurt a bit. Blame it on the raw chilli. Breakfast at the LBK cafe is early.
Then we take a 1 hour mini bus to the jetty (full of Saudi guys talking loudly). The trip in the boat is 3 hours, gentle, hypnotic and beautiful. We sit at the front of the boat and let the view of dense forest, walls of dramatic soaring trees, and very occasional passing boats slip by. Its hot too…
Arrival Kuala Tehan is low-key. There are a few guesthouses visible through the trees, but the settlement is very small. We land at one of the many floating platforms which serve as restaurants (which, we soon discover all serve the same bland and uninspiring menus of “western food” – burgers. fried rice, fried noodles, tom yam, set breakfasts and shakes with minimal fruit and maximum water content. the quality varies, but overall can be said to be very poor), booking centres for all the same trips: night safari, trekking, racing the rapids), and landing stages for the sampans which ferry you across the river to the park headquarters and the sites of all the activities.
Here there is also a rather gentile resort of chalet like bungalows arranged around neat paths and manicured lawns. Though even here there is wildlife: later in the day we see a couple of monitor lizards and also a mouse deer.
After crossing a wobbly plank and clambering over a river bank of sand and boulders we climb through and past some rather grubby and seedy looking guesthouses which must be rife with mosquitoes. One even has a disused sign hanging n a toilet door worded “do not enter – snake”. we end up on the only road in the town and climb a hill, pass the police station and find Tahan Guesthouse, set in a pleasant little garden with painted hippy slogans scattered around, where a laughing woman shows me the rooms. We take a first floor room. The walls are painted with large ladybirds, a sliding door opens onto a little balcony , which comes in useful for drying our soaking clothes after the rapids trip, but……there is a squat toilet, which I prefer not to use (I like to sit). The location suffers from its proximity to the mosque which has a deafening tannoy which wakes us at 4.30 each morning. There are also a lot of bugs and mosquitoes, so we sleep under a net.
Surprisingly it is cold there at night and we have to ask for blankets on the second day. The first night requires us to sleep under towels, fend off bugs and refrain from swearing too much at the call to prayer.
We have lunch at one of the floating restaurants. The service is also appalling. Waitresses sitting around plucking their eyebrows, watching tv (dramas – they even switched the channel when we were watching badminton. Who is the tv actually for?). Mama Chop turns out to be the slightly better restaurant. When we go there on the second night the waitress actually suggests that Cyrus doesn’t take the Tom Yam (we make it, but it’s not very good”).
In the afternoon we go for a walk/trek of a couple of hours into the rainforest. The path is well trodden and well-used, so it doesn’t feel particularly wild, but it is beautiful.
We see some ferns which are green and blue and are called peacock ?????.
We see a black and white caterpillar, and an armour-plated one which is about 20cm long, and I find out later is poisonous.
Cyrus is edgy in the forest and is scared of the unknown. At one point he hears a sound which makes him think TIGER, the red caterpillar, is the turning point, as he retreats from it as I move in to take photos. He is also reluctant to walk beyond the sign which recommends the use of a guide. I try to reassure him that there is nothing to worry about. I guess this kind of adventure is beyond his comfort zone. He likes things to be more organized and more predictable. We bump into a German couple a few times on the trail, and chat at length.
The cold night is illuminated by a bright near full moon which breaks through a mackerel sky. The sky later is pitch black and full of stars and total stillness and silence when I wake up cold to close the sliding door. I wake up once more. This time, oddly, the silence has been replaced by the buzz and hum of a myriad of insects in the trees. The following night one of these makes it into our room. Cyrus hears a flap, I see a shadow and i gingerly investigate to find a moth the size of my hand settled on the water hose, brown, the same colour, obviously choosing this resting place as camouflage.