329km Kuala Ketil to Gua Musang
Friedel spotted the coconut-sized balls first and we both screeched to a halt by the side of the road for a closer look. It was definitely elephant poo and it was as near as we got to the elusive giant of the jungle.
Many signs warn motorists to be careful of elephants on the East-West highway running between Malaysia’s two coasts but we didn’t see so much as a tip of a trunk emerging from the bushes. Only the elephant’s mess told us he’d been here not long ago, although whether it was the night before or a week before, we weren’t sure.
We kept our eyes peeled for elephants throughout our jungle crossing. Every rustle of the branches sent our heads swinging round, hoping to catch a glance of a grey tail going into the lush green hills but without luck. When rain forced us to camp near a mountain peak, we thought we might hear elephants during the night but our sleep in the jungle was strangely quiet, apart from the hum of the generator running the nearby mobile phone mast.
If the missing elephants were a disappointment, the rest of the jungle did its best to fill the gap. A scorpion crossed our path early on the first morning, monkeys danced along the guardrails and swung from the trees and wild boar were constantly foraging for food by the side of the road. In the skies, eagle and hawks were almost as common as crows.
Only the logging trucks distracted our attention from the wildlife. They rumbled by with incredible speed and frequency between the forest and the lumber mills, loaded down with gigantic trees and making the jungle smaller by the day. Deforestation is a major problem here.
We had three nights in the wild places before we finally reached a town of any size. Well, it was only a few streets but after being out in the middle of nowhere, Gua Musang felt like a real metropolis and our last chance to rest up before the climb to the famous tea growing plantations of the Cameron Highlands.