Blow Darts and Bug Bites – A Journey through Taman Negara Rainforest

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I didn’t want to go to the rainforest. Even before we had booked our trip to Malaysia, I had said these words. Why? Fear. I was afraid of everything to do with the rainforest, from the leeches that crawled beneath the feet, to the sheer volume of space. Easy to get lost, easy to run into dangerous animals. My mind was made up. Until, of course, Daniel told me exactly how much he wanted to go, and then I found myself agreeing. The only thing stronger than fear? Love. If he wanted to go, then we would go.
So, we booked a minibus to take us. Roughly three hours from Kuala Lumpur, we were collected at around 5am. We both slept the whole way there, save for a brief ten minute break in which we ate some delicious roti and dahl. My stomach was in knots for the entire journey, and I was grateful to finally arrive and meet our guide, DJ, at the edge of the beautiful Mutiara Resort. DJ was brought up in and around Taman Negara rainforest, and had expert knowledge of the 130 million year old expanse of trees. He was very friendly and personable, joking with us and showing us trees that were used for different things, from incense to medicine.
As we walked along the path into the rainforest, we began to climb the steep staircase to the highest vantage point. The humidity was in the high tens, and our preparation for the climb was non-existent. Still, DJ kept us going with encouraging words, signalling at others taking a flatter path below, ‘Don’t take the easy route out like them!’
The view was worth it. Staring out over the 4,343 km2 national park, we were silent. The most wonderful parts of travelling are those moments, standing in the centre of a world so much bigger than yourself. Everything seems so far away from you, your problems and worries are as irrelevant as a speck of dust. These are the moments I travel for.
The journey back down was as tough as the venture up, our knees struggling under the strain of our weight and backpacks. Next? The canopy walk. On the way there DJ told us of the people that have gone missing in Taman Negara, and I listened with hesitant interest. The girl who split from her group at the start of the canopy walk, never to be found again. The woman DJ’s own brother found by the river, after days alone in the forest.
I have spoken in another post about my experience at the canopy walk, which you can find here: World Nomad’s 2018 Travel Writing Scholarship
So, I was too afraid to complete the canopy walk. I was petrified, knees knocking together. DJ had gone on to the end of the walk, to wait for us by the river. Daniel had continued the ascent to the top of canopy walk, and I found myself walking back through the rainforest alone. I was careful to tread the same path as we had previously, pacing quickly. Eventually, after around an hour, I found the exit. Happily, a café sat in front of me, and I sat sipping on a cool drink filled with ice. I was beyond relieved, my mind had been consumed by the stories DJ had told us. As I leant back, I suddenly saw him run past me, toward the opening of the forest. I called after him and began the chase. As I caught up and tapped him on the shoulder, he turned and looked at me like a father would to a daughter who had stayed out all night. He was relieved, angry, beside himself. That same look was shown to me by Daniel, who repeatedly said ‘I just kept thinking that you had refused to take the water with you.’
We went for an early lunch to calm down, eating delicious fresh fish on a floating restaurant in front of the rainforest. After this, we hopped into a boat, ready for a journey down the choppy river to meet a tribe who lived in the rainforest. Some of the tribes agree to meet visitors in return for money, and we were introduced and took a seat within a clearing, as they explained how they made fire from sticks and hay. As I sat I noticed a burning sensation on my right butt cheek. It started small, but quickly grew. Had the fire caught my clothing? I checked, but no. It began to hurt enough for me to interrupt; ‘I’ve been bitten on the bum!’
They stared at me. A smirk sprung to Daniel’s mouth as he whispered ‘What?!’
‘I’ve been bitten on the bum! Something has bitten me! What do I do?’
DJ shrugged, and motioned to the hut behind me. I stared at it, increasingly aware that it was someone’s room. I didn’t fancy dropping trou in someone else’s house. So, not knowing what the mystery pain was, I turned my discomfort into focus, and did my best to beat Daniel in a blow dart competition. I was pleased with my efforts, managing to hit an Angry Bird teddy pinned to a tree.
Thus ended our humid day in the rainforest, as we piled back into the minibus and watched Taman Negara disappear behind us. The bite eventuality subsided, and when I checked it at home, was nothing more than a small red mark. An army ant, I suspect.

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