Tuesday, 4 September 2012
Off in a boat on a jungle river....
Back in 1988 I took a trip in a boat, up a Malaysian River from Kuala Tembeling to Kuala Tahan. As far as I recall in those days it was the only way to get to Kuala Tahan, the gateway from which to explore Taman Negara National Park. There was a feeling of 'getting away from it all' as one lowered onself tentatively into the fragile craft for the 3 hour trip up to the Park Accomodation. The modern resort had not yet been built and the buildings there were just a collection of low wooden huts. As the boat pulled away from the jetty I remember feeling a real sense of relief that, for a few precious days, I was leaving most of the modern world behind.
The river journey was a wonderful experience, with fascinating glimpses into the lives of people for whom the river still represented the only connection with the outside world. As we passed small riverside Kampongs (villages) we saw children playing in the water, women chatting to each other as they busily washed clothes and men fishing in the intervals of toil. Other river traffic flew past us, heading downstream and I managed to take a picture of one of the Kuala Tahan shuttle boats on its way back to Kuala Tembeling (see above photo). Shaded from the sun's harsh glare, it was bliss to be able to sit back and dangle a hand in the cool brown river water. As we went upstream the river's banks drew closer in, and one gradually became aware of the enclosing presence of the jungle. As I listened to the busy jungle noises my thoughts broke free and my imagination began to take me away from the boat and into the trees.
Like all journeys, it had to end. As the boat came alongside the jetty at Kuala Tahan it was a relief to get out and stretch aching limbs - 3 hours is a long time to sit still on a low seat! I've been back to the park since, but the magic of that first journey has always stayed with me.