Day 29 – Taman Negara to KL

We have to get back to KL for Cyrus’ job interview. After breakfast we trudge up the hill to wait for the local bus, though the location of the bus stop is guesswork. We stand by the clinic for no more than a couple of minutes when the driver of an NKS minibus waves to us, then comes over and offers us a ride to Jerantut (same price as the bus would have been, so a bargain).

The journey through the beautiful forest, passing cows in the shade and bright blue birds flitting across the road, is uneventful apart from a sudden sickening loud thud which jolts everyone out of their reverie. Apparently a bird struck the windscreen or the windscreen struck it and the impact has smashed the glass directly in front of the driver. I would be so shaken I wouldn’t be able to drive on, but he pulls over just for a minute to brush the splinters from his lap then drive on. Thank god for shatter-proof glass. I don’t think he could see too much through the windscreen for the bulk of the journey….

We don’t have to wait too long at Jerantut and by mid-afternoon we are once more in the heat, humidity and jungle of the big city of KL. Once more we try Le Hotel, but it doesn’t have any affordable rooms free. Cyrus is getting irritable and impatient, so it’s lucky that the next place we try (Etica guesthouse) has a room, and it’s peaceful and cool (it looks on to the back street market which starts up in the morning. No mosque!). After a shower Cyrus and I clear the air, and I tell him he needs to be more appreciative and patient, and less demanding. Everything is fine.

We go different ways: he back to Ampang to do my laundry (which turns out to be a big mistake as it doesn’t leave enough time to dry, and so I end up carrying around musty stinky damp smelling t-shirts for the remainder of my trip), and then to an education fair. I arrange to meet Eyrique, who I havent seen since he was in the UK in February.

He turns up in a car at Pasar Seni (a new experience for me in Malaysia) and takes me to the Institute of Performing Arts, where there is a buffet posh restaurant, but we are too early, it isn’t open, and anyway dressed in shorts, singlets and flip flops we wouldn’t be granted admission. We walk the main street in Brickfields, the road lined with bright green, red, orange painted Hindu-styled arches, and find an Indian Restaurant that does a great buffet and mango lassi. We talk about his life and relationships. He is in a similar position as Cyrus: back in Malaysia, not sure about staying. With an English boyfriend. Having to make decisions.

Eyrique wants to talk somewhere quieter and we end up at the temple on the hill that Cyrus and I walked to a few weeks earlier. The scaffolding is down and there are lanterns hanging in readiness for the Chinese New Year. A big gaggle of photographers is photographing some model. We talk at length about religious customs, re-incarnation, concepts of time and experience, spirits, aspirations of perfection and my dream about killing. It’s a sprawling conversation that covers a lot of ground. Temples do that to me.

Cyrus calls. He has gone back to the hotel to rest, as he feels a bit unwell. So, I stay out longer. We take a walk along Petaling Street and see a lion dancing troop doing some shop promotion. I get a mango dessert and then a kumquat and lime juice. Eyrique gives me a bag of fruits from his grandmother’s garden: rambutan and another fruit whose name I forget (like a less hairy rambutan, more like a conker or testicle..lol). i ask him about Chinese character (it’s helping me understand Cyrus some more). Eyrique walks me back to the guesthouse where we say goodbye. It was good to meet again.

Cyrus is sleeping, and I begin to edit my photos.

Day 28 – Taman Negara

Writing this from notes and memory, now I’m back in the chilly brightness of UK, but at least I have a quick responsive Mac to type on again.

We got up with early intentions but not early enough to have the jungle to ourselves (wishful thinking). The park in the morning was full of chattering groups and so the magical silence was absent. After spying a very tame mouse deer at the resort we headed the same way as yesterday to get to the now open canopy walkway.

After 1km or so we climbed some steps to find the platform at the start of the walkway. In fact we heard it first. Due to the fact that the walkway bridges can only hold one person at a time, there is usually a queue to start the walkway. Today there was a group of Dutch and the Arabs from the boat. I suggest going for a trek and returning at lunchtime hopefully to miss the crowds.

Bukik Teresik is a 344m climb in 100% humidity over tangles of roots and leaves us soaked with sweat.

The summit is a cluster of boulders with a great view over the river and jungle. but too exposed and hot to linger.

I was right: when we get back to the walkway we are the only people there. It’s much longer and much more exciting than I imagined. There are around 7 rope bridges including one which is a ladder taking you higher, suspended 30-40m up in the tree canopy. The views are amazing, and Cyrus is having to deal with a fear of heights.

We walk back and cross the river for a mediocre lunch at the LBK jetty then rush back to change our clothes “prepare to get wet” for a “racing the rapids” trip: a hurtle along the river in a motorised sampan riding 5 series of rapids, where the maniacal driver rocks the boat from side to side getting us drenched. Cyrus again is inappropriately dressed, wearing canvas shoes which end up taking a couple of days to dry out. Exhilirating and fun. Safety is not really on the agenda: no compulsory life jackets or hard hats. Anyway nobody falls in. Oh, and I spy a kingfisher. The skipper takes the boat to a flat bank where there is a rope swing and drop into the river. He builds a little platform and then does the first swing and drop, egging us all on to try. I’m one of the few not to. Even Cyrus has a go. It looks fun, but I know I’ll get scared by the deep water. We have the option to stay with the group (European couples) but by now we are shivering a little and I don’t want to watch natives demonstrating traditional skills, and anyway we were just tagging along for this activity, and don’t feel like we are part of the group. We’d rather be alone. So we head back to base.

I’m still toying with going for a night trek: Cyrus doesn’t want to come (I guess he is scared), and I decide that I don’t want to be with a group, who I know will be firing flashes all the time.

We take dinner at Momo Chop’s as the night trek groups assemble, and watch a documentary DVD about the park.

We sit on the river bank with an ice cream. The sky once more is beautiful, with a bright moon. An eerie black streak (a vapour trail) then rips the moon and the glowing halo of clouds in two. It widens, fades and disappears.