I JUST LOVE THE JUNGLE IN BORNEO, I JUST DON’T LOVE HEIGHTS.
From the Journal April 2018
After my day with orangutans and sun bears the day before and walking miles just to get to the truly dismal dinner at the ‘restaurant’ then miles back again I said goodnight to Mr Gecko and went to have a wonderful jungle sleep.
In the morning I felt great and the skies were blue so I decided to walk a fair old distance to their conservation park. The shimmering, searing heat I will never forget on that long straight road. It was merciless.
The reward however was great if terrifying. You gotta go up into the canopy walkways, they are ridiculously high and set on kind of pylons three storey’s high. They appear less that safe in certain parts but I’m a chicken about heights so anything taller than an umbrella stand puts the fear of god into me. Either looking up to the tops or down to the ground gave me high anxiety as Mel Brookes puts it. My vertigo was tested a whole load over there, and although not mastered I’m not actually screaming if I meet a high challenge now (job done as far as I’m concerned Mr Vertigo)
When I sweatily bought my ticket and entered however, I just walked on the paths around this magnificent park. Huge bright red triffid plants clung to massive trees, wrapping themselves around with chestnut-like shiny brown seeds bursting forth. I did take one back to London by accident and although it germinated it soon after failed.
Snakes, monkeys and a huge number of birds showed their faces on this this long lovely jungle Sunday walk. Apart from climbing and walking the canopy walkways, I walked the herb and spice garden and encountered many culinary and medicinal plants unknown to me. I also visited the on site museum with cases of preserved wildlife.
Top Tip: There’s quite a casual attitude about dangerous wild life, as I came to discover, throughout Asia. Be very aware as you walk around to be mindful. Don’t casually lean on trees for example as vipers have great camouflage, and step very carefully while on treks. The locals know what to look for but you don’t so do go with a guide if it’s very wild territory. Antihistamine cream and tablets for any bites etc is always good to take along as you might be allergic to some bites.
Malaysia sports a huge number of species of leaf insects. They mimic the leaves of their habitats and open up like transformers, fabulous huge creatures of wonderful invention. The bloke I met wanted me to try a guided night walk. He needed another three people to share the cost and although I liked the idea in theory of seeing all these creatures and maybe even lemurs, I declined. No, not for me I already had been challenging my vertigo I didn’t want to have some weird bug land on me and freak me out. Besides I heard that the hotel ‘next’ to me has a fabulous bar overlooking a lake. My nature viewing would be of human beings that night.
After the long old trudge back to my place and a cold shower and rest that afternoon I went and check out the other hotel and was jealous. Much as a review had said, it was far superior on the restaurant and bar level, and although my gardens were more lush and jungle like, their deck and lake were sublime. I nursed a drink and fumed. It also had a more cosmopolitan set there much like being on a posh safari that hanging out at a dated and near empty village.
Drinks sinking in I pondered a meal, the food at mine was inedible ffs. Some lovely people were next to me and we exchanged information about the area. I had noticed some spots of rain and thought nothing of itbut we still moved to the covered upper deck. That’s when the storm hit. It was magnificent and savage. forked lightening all around and the deluge?! A total blanket of rain, lightening and thunder, the flimsy covers meant we all in turn scampered to new dry places. When you thought you had found a new dry bit like where the sofas were a new leak would spring. Although I was laughing and breathless at the beauty, suddenly I felt anxious about getting back to my gaffe. Rivers would be flowing down my road surely, and between lightening strikes it was pitch black now. A bloody orangutan might jump out, and though I loved them ,not up and personal on this wild night! I thought I’d leave it for a bit but it was relentless, a true jungle storm, it could go on all night. The standard of this hotel was top notch however and poopooed the umbrella I asked to borrow and took me back in their smart hotel van. Those angels! As you know from my previous exploits would have done it solo but at what cost? Home safely and now loving my pet giant gecko I felt very luckyand happy to return to my jungle cabin room which as the storm continued to rage all night, did not leak.
I did go back the next morning but it all looked very battered and the lake had been churned up to a orange mud soup and there were mosquitoes everywhere. Maybe my place wasn’t so bad after all..
I think when travelling alone a little oneupmanship with small victories that you have and you can feel smug at your solitary correct decisions. Yes also if you travel with someone but it’s more intense alone. You have more time to ponder whose got the best whatever!
Leaving the jungle is always bittersweet but leaving this place was a hard knock. I knew I’d never come back again and I loved it so. And those orangutans with their personal foibles and their hierarchy, and their gathering together at dusk felt so much how I envision primitive man.
A word on conservation. It’s hard to think of anything more distressing than seeing first hand the devastation of the effects of mans greed and thoughtlessness, his cruelty and lack of sensibility. Although all the projects I have witnessed while travelling, have been courageous and heartfelt, one feels it is too little too late. My optimistic nature shouts ‘never’ but my head says ‘oh shit’. The kindness and humanity of those few is no match for the ignorance and cold attitude of the majority and the cynical greed of the corporations.