Tena Negara

Working backwards, Cameron Highlands, Pengang, Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur, Geddis, Lumbok, Bali, Flores, Komodo, Lombok, Bali, Kalimantan, yup, I have a lot to catch up on , maybe someday, maybe not.

Cameron Highland to Tena Negara

A van picked my up at my choice of accommodations, a group of bamboo cabins near the city of Tanah Rata, we picked up a couple of other groups of passengers and headed out to  Taman Negara.  After a bus ride of a few hours we we deposited at a station beside a river and told to deposit our bags.  The end wall was covered with enormous posters of activities and tours offered by a tour company.   With no further direction I took a seat when one became available and filled out a slip for admission to the park (1 ringitt) and a permit for photography (5 ringgit).  There are reportedly spot checks throughout the park and the penalty for not having a permit is 100,000 ringgit and two years in jail.  I went to the park office across the street, passed my application and six ringgit over the counter and waited while my information was entered into a computer and printed off in quadruplicate.  A lot of paperwork for thirty cents.  I placed my permits in a waterproof pouch in which I keep my passport, the pouch is tied to my computer bag, I don’t know how many times I would have lost it were it not tied.

I sat in the restaurant and ordered a dish of chicken and fried noodles.  Everywhere, it’s fried noodles or fried rice or rice.  Starch and oil. Twenty minutes later, nobody else was being served and I still had no meal.  The waiter indicated it was on the way.  Ten minutes later I was told it would be another five minutes, the restaurant was empty except for one couple.  Another ten minutes and nearing departure time for my boat I left, and bought some crap food at the market across the street, biscuits (alternative form of highly processed flour and oil) and a snickers.
The long narrow boat had eight or so seats and we sat two to a seat on the floor, there was a backrest but little room for the old legs.  We travelled upstream on the muddy river for several hours.  There was no sign of human activity for the whole of the trip, no other boats, no houses on the bank, no fishermen, it was a bit strange.  Eventually there were a dozen or so floating restaurants, covered wooden decks floating on plastic drums.  A man approached the boat and barked orders, “We will take your bags, take a seat and wait for instructions.”  What? We were in a combination restaurant and tourist agency and this guy was giving orders like an army sergeant.  Three Germans headed out, up the bank and the asshole snarled, “It happens all the time, we try to to help people out and they leave without instructions, they will be lost and return in ten minutes and I won’t be here.”   After a sales pitch of all of his overpriced tours he stated that up the hill the hotels were to the left and right.  Well, it didn’t seem as though his wonderful help was really necessary.  I vowed to not eat there, nor utilize them for anything.
Up the hill I found a nice enough hotel, but they didn’t accept payment through Agodo.  I have a finite supply of cash having acquired a the equivalent of $1,300 several weeks ago in Bali.  I have a replacement ATM card en route to Kuala Lumpur, but am paying for my rooms, when possible, by booking through Agoda.com and paying with Paypal.  So far that was only possible a couple of nights in Kuala Lumpur.  I located a hotel on my phone through the agoda sight and walked up the hill to a functional but soulless hotel, booked there, received the key to room 330 and promptly used it to enter room 303 to the consternation of the occupants thereof.  By this time the day was gone, so I just grabbed dinner and briefly strolled around.
Thursday, December 11

Canopy Walk

A tour company offered a canopy walk tour,  but it left at nine and it was past nine and they only had one tour a day.  This was fortuitous as for one ringgit one could hop a water taxi across the muddy river, stroll through a two hundred cabin pretty resort nestled under tall trees beside the river.   Beside the stairs was a trolley car on tracks used for transporting luggage and presumably resort supplies up the hill.  This would have been a far preferable place to stay, but they didn’t take agoda.  Besides, it was part of the national park and strolling the grounds was permissible for the public.
After passing all of the cabins I found the trail to the canopy, which seems excessive for its purpose, plastic synthetic wood planks made up the walkway and five centimeter square, black painted steel guard rails prevented one from falling off the walkway to the forest floor, a moderate step down.  The hanging walkway was erected for research purposes in order to study the canopy flora and fauna.  The majority of life in the rainforest is in the canopy.  Unfortunately there was little to see here. I have walked the hanging bridges near Arenal Volcano on the outskirts of Fortuna, Costa Rica many times in the last eight years and every time but one saw colorful birds in great abundance, skinks and walking sticks, monitors, agouti, capybara, hawks, parrots, macaws, eyelash vipers, frogs and tarantulas.  The views are impressive and pass over rivers  and beside waterfalls, orchids cling to every branch.  This was little more than walking on a narrow plank with web sides.   Oh, well.
I walked off, unguided through trails, but it was hot, humid and particularly uninspiring.  The only wildlife in evidence was the occasional monitor and some lizards and the view was was limited.  My hiking shoes are shot, in the prior few days, trekking in the Cameron Highlands, the sole on the ball diminished to tissue thinness and the sole became detached from the toe on the right shoe, catching with a flap on roots, stairs and stones.  It wasn’t worth the trouble and I walked back, caught a boat back across the river and lunched, a vegetable sandwich for three ringgit and a bowl of TomYam, a spicy thai soup with a red broth, veggies and usually some sore of meat, this was combination chicken and beef, seafood was unavailable.

The Urang Asli

There was a tour to shoot the rapids of the river and another to visit an Urang Asli village.  Urang means person or man in Malay and Indonesia. Asli is Malay for original.  Urang hutan is man of the jungle and is anglicized as urangutan.
I was requested to show up at a quarter to three and we waited until well past three for an Indian couple who didn’t count punctuality or consideration for their fellow man among what virtues they had.  I was asked to take the rear most seat, ahead of me a guy from Sweden and a girl from Netherlands and the rest of the boat was occupied by people from India and Malaysia.  The river was shallow, swift and muddy brown.  In a short while we encountered the rapids and received the promised dousing repeatedly, those near the rear were far more wet than those in the bow.  Water accumulated beneath the floor boards and soon rose above them.  When the water was not sufficiently tumultuous the driver rocked it with successive alternating thrusts on the tiller handle of the outboard.
We pulled up to a bank and disembarked.  Bjorn and Cess were going to wait at the boat, not having paid for the village tour.  I had come to the realization that the thing was a scam.  The rapids tour was a necessary path of transit to the village and suggested to the two that they had bought the village tour and not the rapids ride.  They readily accepted my logic.
We ascended the bank to a small collection of ramshackle wooden huts with thatched roofs.  They were the most basic of accommodations, devoid of furnishings of any sort, just a wooden floor with no evidence of even a room for cooking.  With no evidence of even a latrine
A short while later our group gathered on benches mourned a sand floor beneath a simple thatched for and our guide began to explain the lifestyle of the people.
There a several communities that live in an around the park. They are allowed to hunt using traditional hunting methods of blowguns.  The penalty for using a gun is severe and would probably be counter productive anyway as the sound would disperse the game.   The people hunt monkeys primarily but also deer.  For some reason, the easily hunted monitors are not a target, although I can attest the meat is far superior to monkey, at least to my palate.
The wedding rituals are pretty boring, but I will briefly relate them anyway as I am on a bus with nothing else to do.  The guys go to another village, choose a girl and they sleep together for one night, but don’t have sex (yeah, right). In the morning the girl can reject the guy and he has to look for another girl.  There was no mention of a guy rejecting a girl.  After the families consult, if everyone agrees they are declared married.  The consequence of  absence of other forms of entertainment results in great fecundity, with families of seven children common and up to sixteen to a single woman.
After age twelve or so the girls are housed in a female dormitory until they are wed off.  Why they are separated from the family, I don’t know.
The tribes grow rubber trees and sell the latex, but there is a hitch.  Rubber trees take seven years to become productive and the whole village moves before sundown to a new location upon the death of a village member, the deceased being secured in the branches of a tree ten to twenty meters above the ground.
Our guide stated that these people had been offered proper housing by our guide no less, but prefer the huts as they are a tourist draw, the village is recompensed five ringgits for each tourist that visits.   We were also told that the tribe is nomadic, that they deplete their hunting grounds, taking in conjunction with the statement that they move with each death, I find the claim a bit self serving and dubious.

Blow Guns

Glued barrel

The blow guns are unlike any I have ever seen.  A piece of bamboo just shy of two meters must be located.  A rare specimen of s special type of bamboo is located after a search of one to three days.  A barrel is sought out which typically takes five to seven days.  The barrel must be smooth and straight and of an appropriate diameter.  This type of bamboo never has segment long enough, so a couple are used and are secured together by being butted with a matte  secured with glue.  The barrel is inserted into the protective outer shell and a knob is formed on one end with the resin  from the tanjung tree.  The other end of the barrel is capped with something akin to a shotgun choke.  This piece receives an inscribed ring with each kill, and can be detached to serve as a whistle that is less disturbing to the prey than human voices.

Darts

The darts a made from splinters of wood, but I can’t recall the name of the tree and sharpened to a

Finished dart. The shaft is from one kind of tree, the poison is the sap of the Ipoh tree and the the balance on the end is from the very light wood of a third tree.

point TODO (how). A balance is made from the soft light woody root of still another tree and glued to the shaft with tanjung tree resin.  The tip of the dart is treated with sap from the ipoh tree.  Darts are carried in a quiver made of bamboo.  A green material made from leaves is inserted into the barrel as wadding after the dart is inserted.

Hunting

Groups of four or five go out in search of monkeys at night.  The hunter approaches the tree and shoots near straight up as this provides the greatest accuracy, the drop is primarily in speed, not in height.  The dart generally breaks off at the skin and the animal runs off to die.  Three or four people track the monkey which is dead within the hour.

Game

Porcupine and monkeys are the primary game, a deer is occasionally taken.  We were told that lizards are not eaten, despite the fact that the monitors are plentiful and fairly large.

Pay for Trip

I hadn’t paid for my combo tour yet, when I returned to the office I stated that this was no combo tour, we went to see the Urang Asli and returned.  The tour operator protested that we did shoot the rapids which is a separate tour such as the one the Swedish guy and Dutch girl went on.  I protested that all I had was the Urang Asli tour and that it was not possible to see without shooting the rapids.  He stated that shooting the rapids was a necessary tour to see the village.  I don’t know, it doesn’t appear to be marketed as such.  We split the difference.  There being better trekking elsewhere, I bought a ticket to Kuala Lumpur and headed out to dinner and back to the hotel
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