Monday, 6 December 2010

Welcome to the jungle!

Sunday 5th December 2010

MP3 track of the day: Welcome to the jungle – Guns 'n' Roses

Weather: Humid but dry

Due to the early night I was up at around 8:15am fully refreshed. Unexpectedly – as I thought rainforests were hot humid places - I got really cold last night; so much so that I put on some of my clothes to give me an extra layer (really wished the hostel gave a top sheet). Also unexpectedly I checked myself to find no mosquito bites at all … bonus.

Due to skipping a shower I went to claim my free breakfast from the Han restaurant, the travel agency I booked with. Not really feeling the love for Han travel (I had given them 160 ringgit and they had put me in a 10 ringgit per night hostel … surely they could have afforded more) I ate as much as I could to get my monies worth. Whilst eating I met some others in the restaurant and we chatted for a while. I then headed back to the hostel to pick up my day bag and waited for the little shower of rain to stop.

At 10:00am it was dry and so I headed to the village jetty, paid one ringgit for a boat trip to cross the river, and into the national park ... I started walking towards the canopy. Earlier that day I had been told that the canopy was closed, due to the weather, however I still decided to walk that way as my day trek. I walked into the rainforest and soon I was getting very sweaty, not hot just sweaty. I went to a hide for a brief rest and a drink of water before continuing the walk.

It was then that I met the two Canadians on their way to their overnight jungle stop at a hut 11km away. I decided to walk with them and we chatted a long the way; the rainforest was pretty cool and it was just that, a rainforest. Vines, trees and watery mud (full of leeches we reckoned) covered our path as we slid and climbed our way through. It was an amazing experience and I felt very fortunate.

We made it to the canopy walkway, 1.5km into the jungle and up a small staircase, and it was certainly closed. Here is where I left the Canadians; they continued deeper into the rainforest where as I, took a breather and drank more of my ever decreasing water supply. I had only been in the jungle just over an hour however I felt it was time to head out. As I walked out I spent more time looking around, taking photos and reading the information panels present. On the way back I saw a spider, a huuuge ant and, believe it or not, a wild boar. Seeing the wild boar was pretty amazing, however a little disconcerting when it ran right past me. The final creature I saw was a leech, on the top of my boot, trying to penetrate my sock defense (I had tucked my trousers into my socks, my shirt into my trousers and sprayed myself, head-to-toe, in deet. This resorted in some laughs from the locals but I didn't care). The leech was unsuccessful and after a quick flick it was gone.

Once out of the jungle I took a boat back across to the village, went to my hostel and got changed out of my sweat soaking clothes (also checking my body for leech attacks … there were none). Whilst chilling I thought about my experience; some may say that to only spend two hours and thirty minutes in the rainforest, after spending all that money and effort, was a waste. However I had hit my limit; I had hiked in many different types of terrain but the rainforest was the hardest by miles. I gained a deep respect for military conflicts that had taken part in jungles. Mainly for the men of World War Two and the Vietnam War; I wondered how they did it, how did they continue; like I said I gained a massive respect for these people. One thing that surprised me about the rainforest was that it wasn't that hot, just very humid with buckets of sweat pouring down … strange.

It was now 2pm and so I headed for something to eat before checking out the internet cafe. This is the weird thing about Malaysia; the houses look like they are going to fall down any second and most represent a concrete slum. However here I am, in a shed in the jungle, faced with the most modern Acer machines to date and a broadband connection. It's not just the internet; cars, 4x4 and motorbikes that I couldn't afford are driven around all the time. It's like Malaysia missed a huge step in development of housing and infrastructure and instead of filling the gap, just missed it altogether and went for the nice new possessions of cars and computers.

With no friends around (the hostel was empty and the two Canadians were in the jungle) I took my book 'The Vietnam War' and read from 3pm until 7pm, almost finishing the book in one go. It is an extremely well written book and the Vietnam war is very interesting politically … it's so much more than a democratic vs communist cold battle ground. Did you know that when Saigon fell the Americans weren't even part of the war, apart from aid (American involvement had ended two years previously with the Paris agreement). The famous video of US troops taking off from a helicopter on top of the US embassy roof was only a handful of American troops sent to guard the embassy, not an army.

After this I headed for more fried chicken before returning to my hostel for my final night. I was glad that I was only spending two nights here, my accommodation is so dire that any longer and I probably wouldn't have coped.

Toodle Pip!

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