overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
Pic of the week: (previous - fav video clip)
Pic of the week
Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

An afternoon stroll

Written by Maz Towns. Uploaded 30 August 2006.

Malaysia, Country 22, Diary entry 27th to 2nd July 2006, Total distance in Peninsular Malaysia: 3442 KM

After waving off Max, it was time to leave Jeff and his family in peace for a little while, so Alex and I headed off to Taman Negara. After having a leisurely morning with Jeff and Sheema, we drove as far as we could get before water became an obstacle. One of the many rivers running through Taman Negara

After finding out the information we needed, we searched for camp as we'd arrived too late in the day to venture into the national park. Tonight happened to be a nice spot in the middle of a palm oil plantation. Thankfully it was one of the handful of nights that we were not actually disturbed, so we managed to pack our camping gear and cook dinner in peace. A rarity! Colourful flowers can be found among the green

As Max has wisely informed you, Alex and I find it hard to pack light. Out came half the contents of Tinfish so we could pack to perfection everything we needed for our 2 days in the jungle.... the lightweight tent, roll matts, mozzie spray. head torches, lighter, candles, book each to read, stove, bowls, cutlery, water filter, change of clothes, swimmers, suncream, sun hats, sunglasses, rain coats, placcies, walking boots and camera with all 3 lenses. OK, maybe I exaggerated a little, we didn’t really take the walking boots. We’d made extra rice and cooked a curry to take with us into the jungle for the following evening. We sat and chatted the evening away and slept peacefully and undisturbed till morning. A butterfly keeping us company

After a leisurely rising, we headed for the national park. Perhaps somewhat erroneously, Taman Negara is portrayed as a wildlife park. Elephants, tigers, leopards and rhinos are home to this pristine primary rainforest, but you’re as likely to see them as us seeing a whale shark down whale shark alley in the height of whale shark season…..NO chance! Still, it was an adventure for us as we relished a change from sitting 3 feet apart in Tinfish. Wading through the river…don't drop that camera!

By the time we’d got our arses into gear, we reached the registration booth at 3pm, ready for our day’s activities! There are no real maps of the jungle, just a sketchy drawing but supposedly there were good signposts along the way. We asked directions to the camp site we were aiming for to be told it no longer existed. Great! Asking where the next camp site we could walk to was, we followed the finger pointing to 500 metres away! Hmm, we had wanted to do something today, even if we had left it a little bit late in the day. We found another campsite on the map, which was 9KM away. Asking the advice of the warden, he said if we were fast walkers (our smiling faces showed no illusion that it’s only our right calf getting any exercise driving round the world) we could make it before all light was lost through the dense jungle. No problem, we could do that…..with good signposting, we’d be there in no time at all. Two intrepid travellers, weighed down with two 20kg bags (no joke), we set off to our camp for the night, probably looking more like Laurel and Hardy than jungle explorers extraordinaire! Alex in charge of the kitchen

It was hot and clammy with the dense foliage all around, giving the feeling of sitting in a sauna. We made our first mistake about 2km into the trek, finding ourselves at a hide. People camp in wooden huts overlooking the salt licks and grassy clearings to look for nocturnal wildlife activity. Another couple had just turned up and thankfully they were better prepared than us ‘city folk’ and showed us a map in their book of the route we needed to take. Just a 500m walk back, we found the signpost we’d missed earlier and carried on our trail. The waterfall!

It’s very difficult to see any wildlife the vegetation is so thick, with just narrow mud tracks leading the way. When we got lost yet again, we noticed pug marks in the mud, now was a good time for the tiger to stay hidden! The only wildlife we saw were the leeches, which managed to smell us out in the hundreds and make a beeline for our feet. They stood on their tails all over the track and as soon as we put our foot on the ground, they began sliding over to attach themselves. The advice is to wear tie up boots with thick socks to stop the leeches attaching themselves to you, however, we wore our placcies so we could at least see when they had decided to feast. We followed the river round and after about 5km the track began to ascend. Steep slopes with thick buttress roots to climb over to add to the assault course we had chosen. It was tough and lasted what seemed to be 20km, which obviously wasn’t the case as we were only supposed to be walking 9km in total! It would have been nice to know it became tougher towards the end so I could have psychologically prepared myself, but we struggled on to the top. All I could think of as we were climbing up was that the following day we’d have to do the same thing in reverse….ouch! The contents of the leech after I'd stamped on it

We made our way back down the other side of the hill and came back to the riverside. We’d been loosely following the river along the way but had not been told we needed to cross it; still we weren’t prepared for torrent in front of us. Having packed everything but the kitchen sink, we hadn’t brought the dry bag with us, so Alex had a wade in to see how deep the water actually was; waist high and running fast! We changed into our swimmers for the crossing and Alex first carried the bag with the camera equipment across the river (woe betide was I going to risk dropping it) before taking the rucksack with everything else. The feeding fish

Just as we were about to cross, another 3 trekkers came up to the river. They were expecting a river, but had been told to expect the water knee high. With the water being waist high for Alex, that translated to mid chest for one of the girls who was much smaller! We managed to find the track after a bit of hunting on the other side and got to camp just as the last remnants of the sun were dwindling. We took ourselves to the river to wash. The bloodstained socks of the others confirmed our decision to wear placcies, as the leeches had delved into their socks and had a feast whilst they were walking. Alex being brave on the canopy walk. Don't look down.

Out came the tent, beds, kitchen and food, and we tried to relax under the stars of the night, in between fighting off the blood sucking leeches trying to drain life out of us. By 10pm it was time to go to bed, as I couldn’t bear the leeches any longer. They sent shivers down my back, every time one attached itself to me. Just before bed, I found one which had been feasting for a while on my foot as it had swelled to a fair size. Once I’d got it off, I stood on it so it couldn’t attack me again. To my disbelief, these things are hard to kill. I squashed it once but it just spat all my blood out and then began to wiggle off! Eventually it came a cropper, but it took a few stamps to finish it off. :o/ The Malaysian Offroad team - Zafir, Zuhairi, Jazli and Syamim (L-R)

Snuggling down into the tent, we were just zipping it up when I squealed as Alex turned round with another leech sucking at his neck. Out came the lighter to get it off him and we flung it into the blackness and tried to get to sleep. It must have been one of the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had, as all night I fidgeted, itched and scratched and fitfully dreamt of leeches and insects crawling all over me. I was glad when morning came and we could pack up camp. Syamim and Zuhairi looking after camp

We walked up steam a little to see the ‘waterfall’ which ended up being a few rocks with water splashing over them and then returned to camp to collect the bags and head back over our 9km track. The thought weighed heavily on our shoulders and in the distance we could hear the buzzing of a boats engine carrying its passengers effortlessly over the water. How nice it would be to highjack one which would take us smoothly down to the river back to Tinfish……

No sooner had we had wished it, we came to the opening of the river where our genies appeared in the form of two English gentlemen walking along the edge of the water. We sprang out of the greenery to give them a shock. “How did you get here?” one of them exclaimed and couldn’t believe that we’d walked it. After a little chat, me being as cheeky as I always am, saw an opening when Stephen said, “you look tired, are you walking all the way back?”. “Any chance of hitching a ride?”, “Yes of course you can” was the response……. Luvly jubbly :o) We could have walked it back although I think my legs might have dropped off at the end, but the canopy walk closed at 3pm and we didn’t want to miss it, so that was our excuse anyway and we’re sticking to it. Rekindling the fire

We waited for an hour or so while Stephan and his brother Nick, a keen ecologist went to search out birds and insects, as we splashed in the river like playful babies in the knowledge we didn’t have a long walk ahead of us! We glided down the river and had an unexpected stop at one of the fish farms where the locals feed the fish. Since fishing has been banned in the rivers of the national park, a huge increase of fish has now populated the rivers again and we spent a few minutes watching them feeding. We got back for the canopy walk in plenty of time and I lost my legs once again as I clung on to the wire bridge, 50m into the sky as it swayed under my weight. We can still see you

It was time to leave the jungle, and my relief was welcome as we crossed the river back to Tinfish. I did enjoy the walk as it was nice to do some exercise, but the jungle is not for me. I prefer the exercise which comes in the format of lifting a bit of dive kit and swimming effortlessly underwater :o)

We headed back towards KL and found camp down a rough track towards a palm oil plantation. Nestled within trees, we cooked up some food, showered and slept well after our previous days activities. The following morning we were woken by the sound of motorbikes. Alex popped his head out of the window to a puzzled face, keen to know how we knew his place existed. He looked even more confused when we said we just saw a track and followed it. He asked to see our passports and just as Alex was about to make some sort of excuse, a huge grin covered his face and he said ‘only joking, go back to sleep’. It was time to get up anyway, and we packed up camp and continued to KL as we had some off-roading and camping with Jeff and his family to get back for. Our first co-pilots - Syamim and Zafir

We returned to KL to be greeted by two overexcited children, Jazli and Syamim, bags packed and ready to go camping. After much persuasion by the kids, a telephone call was made and suddenly the camping party was increased as Zuhairi and Zafir, their cousins joined ranks. After a quick meal we began to head north where we set up camp next to the river.

Having practised basic, easy camping for the last year, taking 4 children with you adds a whole new angle to it! First things first, put up the cover over the seating area, just in case it rains. Then, the little forest fairies put up everything else, as the kids gather wood to make the camp fire. After getting the fire going, all night they played with the wood in the flames as it licked round them. Alex and I were exhausted and well in bed before Jeff could get them all in settled – I’d forgotten how much energy children have and how little I have in comparison! It reminded me of years back when I went to stay at my cousin’s house in Australia. At the time they were 5 and 3yrs old and loved being thrown up in the air and caught again. Once is always good fun, but after the 20th “do it again” my arms felt like they were going to drop off. I spent the 2 weeks I stayed with them permanently knackered. At least 10 year olds plus are too heavy to thrown up in the air!!! I’d have to think of a much better way of tiring them out….. Jeff keeping a time check on the eggs

We’d had a lesson in Malaysian the evening before and I’d been warned that we were getting a test the next morning. I didn’t even have the chance to get out of bed before the test began! Already up bright and early, Jazli, Syamim, Zuhairi and Zafir had already had breakfast, swam in the river and collected more wood and rekindled the fire. Where do they get this energy from?!?! As soon as they heard movement in the tent they began testing me. Alex needed more sleep to build up his energy so we left him in the tent for a while longer, but he was also tested before he’d managed to get down the ladder. Anyone for a sausage and nachos kebab?

We spent the morning relaxing, playing and swimming in the river before packing up camp and heading to Slim River where we drove the cars off road through the dusty tracks. We’d also collected a couple of strays in Tinfish, as Syamim and Zafir hopped in for the ride. We made a visit to some hot water springs and boiled some eggs – cos we could! Slim River is a popular spot with locals, and by the time we’d arrived there, it was already packed with other off roaders. We found a great spot away from all the other cars, and set up camp again. It wasn’t long before Tinfish attracted attention and we had visits from interested folks as to where this strange looking car had come from. This lasted all afternoon and evening. I left Jeff and Alex talking to the men, many of whom Jeff already knew while I played with the little folk…… :o) Much more up my street. Jazli making sure we're not cheating at carcassone

The fire was started for the kids to cook sausages and interestingly, nachos, while Alex and I prepared dinner; campfire spaghetti bolognaise. Sheema had already made us a delicious spag bol. one night previous, so we were on show as to whether ours would live up to mums! I think we did a pretty good job as everyone wolfed it down when it was dished up, but with a few too many green peppers in ours I think secretly mum’s won hands down! Who's going to catch the frizbee?

Now, as Carcassone addicts, it was time to spread the word about this exciting game that few people know about. It was time for me to introduce Jazli, Syamim, Zuhairi and Zafir to it. We started with the rules slowly, but by gum the kids were quick. Soon I was defending my own like I’d got Max jumping into my fields with his men taking away all my buffalo and elephants that I’d worked so hard to build up. One game wasn’t enough for them, and as I’d gently guided them through the first game, giving them advice on do’s and dont’s, they picked it up so fast that I defended my own in the second, for Jazli to win yet again!. Syamim and Zuhairi were so exhausted from staying up most of the previous night playing games, they fell asleep after each move, only to wake to play their move then fall asleep again! Heading back to the highway

The next morning we played in the river. Since leaving the UK, we’ve carted around a frisbee which has never been out of the car. So, out it came for an hour or so’s fun, before it flew through the air, over everyones heads into oblivion down the raging river! Still, at least we had an hours fun. The next bit of excitement to be had was Tinfish playing in the river. The kids jumped on the side steps of the car while I drove Tinfish through where we’d just been playing frisbee. Squeals of laughter and delight poured out into the countryside as they clung on for dear life as we plunged through the water and out the other side. Jeff was a little concerned about this, obviously not due to my excellent driving but Alex assured him the kids would be fine (fingers crossed they held on tight enough!) as we splashed through the river. Aim, deep breath, blow

We stopped at one of the local villages where Jeff gave the leftover foods we hadn’t eaten and some old clothes for the children to have. He explained to the chief of the village what we were doing and Jeff translated a little about the village and the people. We were then asked if we’d like to buy a blow pipe, one which they use with poison darts for their everyday hunting. Normally this sort of item is incredibly hard to come by or you only get the mass produced variety down the tourist market. We jumped at the chance and had a demonstration before the goods were sold. It was beautifully hand carved and was a piece of workmanship that had been lovingly decorated. The gentleman used a cigarette box as his target, but his aim was a bit wide and after hunting for the dart for 5 minutes, we decided we liked the pipe enough without another show. We had a deal. A great w/e was had by all

It was time to head home. This time our stowaways were Jazli and Zuhairi, but with all the weekends’ excitement of carcassone and splashing in the river, they were asleep before we hit tarmac. We returned to KL to a fantastic display of Sheema’s cooking, little tasters of cakes and pastries before dinner of fired chicken, chicken and ginger and rice. Sheema you are the best cook! Another game of carcassone later (hats off to you Jazli for winning yet again), it was time to retire to bed. We had an excellent w/e Jeff, Sheema, Jazli, Syamim, Zafir and Zuhairi. Thanks for taking us off road to explore the Malaysian outback, we hope you had as much fun as us.

All content copyright © overland-underwater.com - please do not use without permission.

Comment from Maxine
Knowing Alex's love of all things creepy crawly, tip-toeing over leeches must be up there with balancing on precarious rope bridges & other such dare devil escapades. All this talk of grub & no bush tucker trial yet... Looking forward to that installment ;o)
31 Aug 2006 @ 19:08:09