Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Jungle Trouble In Penang 31st March 2012

Between a Rock...

Breakfast at Jaya, no health related problems so far so it's good to stay with that and the place is always clean, with all the cooking action in public view too. What shall i do today then? A website suggests some nice beaches located to the north, by the fishing village of Teluk Bahang. It's on the tourist map as being a few miles past Batu Feranggi, and a continuation of bus route 101. Heading along Jalan Penang to the bus stand a few meters past the top of Chulia street, and quite a collection of tourists this time, on their way to Batu Feranggi I suspect, and a dip in that polluted water! Bus rolls up, it's 4 rm this time, about 80p for the  10 mile journey.

Takes an hour and ten minutes to get here, the end of the line and everyone has to get off.Teluk Bahang, a small uninspiring place with wooden shelters and large housing blocks that need a little maintenance by the looks of things. A gateway, the sign says National park. Although the National park is indicated on the map, I hadn't realised Teluk Bahang was the entrance to it - could be interesting then. Just at the gate, a couple of booths where  rather good sales pitch to a couple of tourists on how it's a 1 1/2 hour track to the Monkey Beach, and that a boat takes only 15 minutes, and 80 rm, per boat one way! Into the park compound, and there is a tourist information office. Entrance to the park is free, need to sign in, and out and that's it, nothing to pay. The hike to Monkey Beach should take 1 hour 20 minutes according to the office, so let's see how that works out, 1.30pm now so Beach at 3.

Nice path, well maintained, so far anyway. About 10 minutes in and a collection of monkeys milling around, waiting for a snack no doubt. On the left, think jungle whilst on the right are little beaches and coves, all looking clean and swimable too. Over wooden bridges,  well maintained, no missing planks or loose handrails. A junction here, left to Kerachut Beach or right to Monkey Beach, assuming locals haven't altered the sign post! A canopy walkway is available just a few metres from here, but it's closed. On to Monkey Beach then, with some rather picturesque scenery as the green blue sea shimmers just below. Palms and other jungle plants on the left, a thick dark covering that extends several metres up. Hot and sticky but surprisingly no mosquitoes to beat away. Colourful butterflies flitting around exotic plants and flowers whilst the crickets and locusts are busy with making rather a lot of noise - doing what comes naturally I suppose.

Why Crawl there?
The path changes to more of a track, having to climb over tree roots and makeshift bridges, although there is a rope to grab. Stumbling off one of these bridges could actually prove quite a serious problem as the ravines are quite deep and filled with boulders. The first major beach after about 40 minutes of hiking, nice, clean and a few people swimming, but it's not Monkey. Something catches my eye in the water here, looking down there a couple of creatures, could be small crocs. Camera zoomed in, and it's a couple of lizards lazily meandering around an outcrop of rocks. Climbing down through a gap for a closer look, but they are swimming away! Still, a picture or 2 can be snapped. I'll climb out onto the rocks, perhaps they'll come back If I wait a while - I want that definitive picture. It's a quiet spot, no noisy crickets or squawking crows, just the sound of water gently lapping at the rocks.

There it is, a lizard about the size of a small crocodile swims along the shore line. It's crawling onto the beach now. The creature is making for a gap between the rocks I clambered over to get here, this might not be good! Couple of monkeys appear just as that lizard disappears from view. A large one, and a smaller, more tatty older looking animal, both moving towards the rocks and towards me. I have a bad feeling about this,I really do. The older monkey clearly isn't happy, moves ahead of the larger one, looking right at me. Then its anger released as a hiss, a slow menacing crawl towards me, then around me whilst the other monkey seemingly blocks my only escape route. An expletive, maybe two as the situation looks rather bleak at this time. Its one of those times when the phrase 'between a rock and a hard place' was never so true, when the blood drains and wobbly legs kick in - this really is it!

Believe me, this monkey ain't smilin..
My only defence is a kit bag, could try and whack the critter with it. Only one chance, and I would have to make it a big whack. The bag was heavy, and the monkey will be considerably more agile. I could jump into the water with lizards and goodness knows what else ready to take a chunk from me too! On the face of it, jumping in is my best option, the shoreline wasn't that far, and I could then find some reasonable ammo, perhaps rescue my kit bag.

The stand off continues, with the aggressive monkey moving behind me, but then seems to settle down. The larger monkey stays put, doesn't seem as aggressive but still could do some serious damage.  10 minutes, I need to make a decision. Very slowly walking towards big monkey, away from little monkey. There's a rock at the side, I can jump onto that then hop to the shore. I do it, the plan works with no more trouble from those Monkeys. Its a hurried escape back up onto the jungle path, not giving that lizard under the rock a second thought. Relieved, but still wobbly legs somewhat at what could have been a nasty and potentially damaging situation. Onwards to Monkey beach, hope they're friendly monkeys..

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