I’m always amused by how the concept of distance depends so much on where people live.
“The canopy walkway is very close, just about half an hour or maybe a little more.”
That’s what we were told when we bought our 5 ringgit tickets to the canopy walkway. For most people I know, 1.8 km does not quite fit with the phrase ‘very close’.
We walked through the jungle, marvelling at the fact that we were there, feeling privileged to be in a place that is so old and so wild. As we walked, we promised ourselves that we would take our time, strolling and taking photographs afterwards – our priority was to get to the walkway before it closed.
It was a Monday afternoon, so it was not even a day that was unusually crowded. Even so, there were still so many people there that we waited for over an hour. We put our names down in the list of people in queue, and then settled down under the trees, finding our own little spaces despite the crowd.
For many, I know that this is the part which would make it a complete waste of time. A long, long wait surrounded by people in the heat of the rainforest. For what? When you can walk around in the jungle, why wait in queue?
Also, there are signs everywhere saying ‘no smoking’ and ‘no vaping’, but even the people in charge of the walkway step away for a smoke behind the trees every fifteen minutes or so. There’s a section that’s littered with cigarette stubs, just behind the waiting area.
Yet, for me, it was worth it. Under a huge tree whose top I could not see, I found a little spot all to myself, and I wrote. I didn’t need anything else. The sounds of the jungle filled me up, and I wrote and wrote and wrote.
And the canopy walkway itself? It’s lovely. People go there with expectations of looking down into the jungle and seeing wild animals, but that was not what the experience is for at all. I do want to see animals in the jungle, sure, but for that, I know I should probably go camping in Taman Negara, and not to the highly touristy canopy walkway. Why would wild animals visit a place that is so populated with noisy, smoking humans?
So, what made it worth it for me?
Just the sensation of being there, suspended on a bridge above the ground, and looking down, down, down at the enormous tree-trunks, and up, up, up at the green canopy above. Being in a jungle is always a humbling experience for me, and the canopy walkway was no different. What are we, living our own tiny lives, when we look at trees whose height and girth defy our tiny sense of size and age?
As a safety regulation, tourists are asked to maintain a ten-metre gap from the person in front of them, so there’s no jostling and hurrying on the bridge. After all the waiting, the moment you step on the bridge, time slips away. Sure, there are people behind you and ahead of you. You can never delude yourself into believing you are alone. Yet, if the magic of the jungle is something that reaches out to you, the walkway is more than worthwhile.