We packed up our things as soon as it started getting light. We had arranged for the boat to pick us up in Kuala Trenggan at 10 am but wanted to allow at least two hours for the walk back in case the trails were in bad shape. “How long will the boat wait for us,” we had asked the tour operator before we left. “20 minutes,” was his reply. We didn’t want to risk missing a boat that was already paid for. We had even invited the French-speaking couple to join us since they were looking for a way out of the area but had not reserved a boat ahead of time. The trails were a little iffy, I fell for the first time in five days and scraped up my leg pretty badly. Since we were in a hurry, we weren’t as concerned about collecting more leeches. We had doubled our number of leeches on the Kumbang leg of our trip, the students had even collected a dozen or so off of the Finnish girl, whose legs were reportedly in even worse shape than the bloody Canadian’s had been.
Having hurried, we arrived in Kuala Trenggan by 9 am with plenty of time to spare. We explored the derelict buildings more thoroughly this time and I soon became interested in a sidewalk that led south into the jungle parallel to the river. It eventually ended in a T-intersection at yet another old sidewalk, one end of which led down to the water. As I joined the original sidewalk again, I spied a group of Orang Asli, indigenous people who live within the boundaries of the national park. The name for this tribe literally means “indigenous people” in Malay. I hurried back to where the students were sitting to alert Becky. As our resident political scientist, Becky was particularly interested in seeing the Orang Asli. Taman Negara was noted for incorporating indigenous people into their plan for a national park from the beginning, in contrast to the U.S. National Park system which specifically forbid Native Americans from living within their park boundaries. The French couple who had shared Kumbang with us the first night we were there were headed to a Orang Asli village to spend the night, something that was encouraged by the Malaysian park system in order to breed mutual understanding in addition to financially benefiting the native peoples. As we encountered the group of four adults with an equal number of children in tow as we returned to where I had walked, we tried to nod to them nonchalantly instead of gawking at them. At the “T”, we followed the trail straight into the jungle until it led us into the village from which the group had presumably come. We stayed at the very edge of the village, however, wanting to respect the occupants’ privacy.
When we returned to Kuala Trenggan, we could hear our ride back just pulling into the jetty. Since it was only 9:30, I was glad that we had decided to come extra early. This time we did not stop at the Nusa Lodge but as we approached the canopy walk jetty, we did talk our driver into letting three of us off there. Becky, who had just discovered a giant leech on her ankle and was therefore bleeding profusely, had decided that she was finished with the whole jungle experience, she rode back to the park entrance with the couple with which had shared our ride, along with all of our heavy gear. The rest of us enjoyed the dozen or so spans of canopy walk that were suspended 150 feet in the air. At almost a quarter mile in length, the Taman Negara canopy walk claims to be the longest of its type in the world. Unlike the canopy walk in Arenal, Costa Rica, this one had people sitting at the platforms between the spans to presumably enforce the “no running” policy. This took some fun out of the experience, since I had enjoyed bounding across the hanging bridges in Costa Rica while acrophobic students were baby-stepping their way across (sorry Whitney).
After the canopy walk, we made the 20 minute hike back to the park entrance and reunited with Becky at the floating NKS tour office. We then decided to eat brunch at our favorite floating restaurant for one last time. “What time does the bus leave for Jerantut,” I asked our waitress, “3 o’clock?” “Yes, or 2:15,” she answered. I was a bit confused by this- but I figured we would head up hill into town long before we thought the bus would be there. I, of course, got restless soon after we had settled at the bus stop and resolved to walk to the Kuala Tahan mosque while we waited. Soon after I returned, a worn out 12-passenger van pulled up across the street. They asked us if we were heading to Jerantut and soon we had procured a ride there. Apparently, this mini-van sometimes left for Jerantut at 2:15, while the larger city bus typically left at 3 pm. This van was even more like the dalla dallas I had become used to in Tanzania- it stopped a number of times in the neighboring villages to pick up more passengers on the way to Jerantut. Back in town, we decided to have dinner at the credit card-accepting Railroad Station Café once again. We were starting to run low on cash by this point and wanted to make it last until we got to Kuala Lumpur.