Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven. -Rabindranath Tagore

i just got back from royal belum jungle. the track is not as difficult as the krau track, but is tricky in its own way. the track i followed ran along sungai kejar and unlike the krau track which saw me walking and climbing through thick jungle, this track comprised of huge rocks, sand pits, long grass and riverside slopes.

you got to get a permit to enter royal belum. the place is guarded by the army and is still considered a security zone and them soldiers are quite particular about who they let in.

you enter royal belum from the adjoining temenggor – banding river. no, i don’t think that this is the only way in, but boat rides are cool. the river, or rather lake, is huge and has several islands on them. the lake is really a dam and the islands are really hilltops of sumberged ground.

the river is said to be trecherous and we were warned not to put our arms or feet in the water. among the fish that dwell the river are toman and tapah, said to be unforgivingly carnivourous. but fish are not the only animals that travel via river. elephants and tigers also get around on the river.

… which is why the island we stayed at was surrounded by electric fences.

according to the island management, elephants have torn down their structures many times in the past and are almost invisible when they swim underwater. yes, elephants do swim. they are natural born swimmers, as are tigers. the deeper the rivers, the easier elephants are able to swim through them and they do it with just the top of their trunks sticking out, which is why they are so dangerous.

we went river drifting on the first night. we did not see any anymals because i think our motor boat was just way too noisy. i would have been completely disappointed if not for the night sky.

you know how you look up in the city sky and see five stars, and the kampung sky and see a hundred stars? i swear to you, i look up in the jungle sky and i say a hundred million stars. it was like looking at one of those astronomy charts where stars come in different sizes and you try to trace constelations through the star clusters. forget about the five or six star posh resorts, out here in the wild, i’ve got a roof of a million stars, something i feel is invaluably precious.

i am begining to understand why travel writers eventually become passionate environmentalists.

you learnt a thing or two about plants when you go into the jungle often. i have think stinkin’ feelin’ that there are more back to nature trips lined up for me in the coming months. i got to know this plant, which i also found in krau. the leaves are blue.

i hear that there is also a mushroom variant, but we did not come across any of them on this trip so i have no pictures. it is said that the mushroom glows blue in the dark and is used by the orang asli as a source of light when they don’t want to risk lighing fires. very cool.

this is a medicinal plant. i have no idea what the plant is called but the people i went with call this daun kapal terbang, so i guess that’s its reference for now. it is used to stop bleeding cause by pacat bites and sooths scratches caused by leaves or thorns in the jungle. how to use: you crush the leaves with water and rub the green liquid on the would or scratch.

i bear witness that these leaves work. i have mean pacat bits in the two trips. what i did was crush the leaves and held it on the wound with a plaster. the bleeding stoppeth. the belum trip saw me with dozens of scratches because i had to walk through tall grass and all, so i rubbed some kapal terbang leaves on and the itches went away.

just a side note, i learnt that i do a mean temple of the kings. hm.. adventurers are divided by their music genre. there are the dangduts, the jiwangs, the belasah-whatever, the golden oldies… you get my drift. i am a soul rocker… yea…

back to our usual programming, one should be cautious about what the pluck in the jungle though. i have not experienced any encounters with the ‘other kind’, and i pray i never will, but i have heard stories about jungle spirits following people home in a stone or flower picked up or plucked from the jungle. one should also be careful of boasting or playing pranks in the jungle.

you know what? the jungle ain’t so bad after all. yea, so there are bloodsucking leeches and countless other reptiles and insects that might sting you in there. you have to be able to get down and dirty and muddy. there are rocks and slopes and mudslicks and the occassional wading through rivers. and you can and will fall and get scratched and bitten, get a twisted limb or two and get up to mornings of sore backs and shoulders…

… but when all is over, you leave with not a sense of having conquered the jungle, but rather, having gotten to know nature, all the wonderful life, animals and plants and suns and stars… you come away with an understanding of nature and its secrets, for nature has not just given you physical scars that will eventually heal, but a dose of spiritual strength, like no pill can.


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