The next two days became the stuff of our own little legend as even now we still speak fondly of it however this trip actually started off with very little fanfare. As arranged, we first went to the place that had sold us the ‘Jungle’ trip the day before and at this stage we perhaps should have guessed something was amiss. As requested we had taken along the peel off part of my big backpack and filled it with some of our ‘essentials’, the Malaysian gentleman who had sold us the trip merely looked at it in disdain and said that we could have it back when we returned (!) and gave us two much bigger backpacks which we transferred our stuff into. Ok fair enough these were big backpacks but we would probably be taking along plenty of champagne and caviar or perhaps this was for the minibar – who knew what but it seemed okay didn’t it?
From there we were directed to meet our guide at one of the floating restaurants an unlikely fellow named ‘Dean’ who to be fair seemed quite a slender guy and although there were plenty of other people there even plenty of Malaysians there it turned out it was just Dean to a party of eight of us – another couple and four young lads (three Germans [REMEMBER THIS FOR FUTURE TALES] and a Dutch guy). How was he going to carry the canapés thought I?
I had packed what I thought was ‘it’ – i.e. – my food ration but Dean repacked it all adding four and half litres of water, a sleeping bag, a mattress (which was the thickness of an A4 sheet of paper) and a billy can with fork and spoon, plus we had our original stuff – anti wrinkle cream, toothpaste, nostril hair trimmer – you know just the jungle vitals. Okay it was a fair bit heavier but we shouldn’t be going too far so how difficult could this be?
The guide explained the itinerary consisted of a canopy walk, blah blah blah, river trip through rapids, blah blah blah, walk through jungle, blah blah blah, sleep in cave, blah blah, night walk etc etc. You know easy enough stuff or so it seemed and so it started. After a short run upstream we hit the canopy walk which was – as it said on the tin – up in the tree tops this was not too long in distance but it was high enough to give me a bit of a scare and the walkway was quite a bit wobbly – the only thing stopping me from being so worried was my good lady doing all the necessary shouting and things. There was not a great deal of wildlife up there but it was quite a good start to the proceedings surely it would be time for elevenses when we got down?
After this easy introduction there were no elevenses instead it was the boat ride – nice and easy, okay a bit of a drenching here and there through the rapids but this was FUN, I could even get used to life in the jungle surely the Jungle Walk would be a piece of the proverbial and by 10pm I would be being tucked in a nice comfy ‘bed’ with a nip of Drambuie inside me whilst they read me a bedtime story by Jiminee! This turned out be quite a long way from the truth, to be more accurate it was 11km away from the truth! It was hot to begin with and the pack felt like it was increasing in weight 1kg per km. We did not feel like we had seen a great deal in the jungle but every now and then there were disconcerting prints in the mud –
elephant and perhaps tiger or some bloody cat – to keep our interest level up and the jungle itself is just amazing. All along the way we had to keep fording bits of water, from mere big muddy puddles to whole expanses of water whereby the bridges were trees or bamboo shoots even and balancing (not my strong point) was the key.
Well okay the walking was grim then it got grimmer as first our brains and then our bodies and finally our feet realised just how far 11km was in this searing heat. Liz thought that at the halfway stage we were three quarters of the way through so when we had an extra period of walking to do she must have told me at least twenty times that she thought we were already finished.
In my delirium I managed to hold onto the fact that ‘the cave’ sounded like a groovy place the ‘Beatles’ would hang out in. When we arrived however I was somewhat dismayed to find the cave was in fact just that – a huge cave. There were no butlers – monkey or otherwise and I had a feeling that there would be no mini bar either – things were now taking a turn for the worse. Dean however turned a blinder and made what looked like rice, super noodle and vegetable into a meal from heaven. That said this was still a cave and as mentioned earlier the mattress was paper thin but by this time – new worries – it was the night safari, more walking?
I am not really sure what a night safari consists of elsewhere but here it was merely Dean pointing out various insects, animals and even trees and telling us how poisonous each was – bloody great eh! Spiders were high in the running, so were snakes but Dean not being entirely happy went scorpion fishing to show was what was lurking a short stones throw from our cave ‘door’.
Dean had told us to bring a torch, which we had cos we had bought it especially from Millets before we left just for such an occasion as this – and it was bloody expensive for a torch! What happens is that after fifteen minutes or so it bloody packs up working, typical!! Luckily enough I had supplied Liz with another torch we brought from a car breakdown pack just in case. But this was a wind up torch and all you could hear was the constant whirring of Liz trying to charge it as we walked through the jungle! At one point we thought we had discovered the lost Dodo however Liz needed a bit of a charge and whatever it was soon buggered off – it was a definite “Crunchy Nut Cornflakes ad” moment!!
Sleeping in the cave was something of a misnomer as sleep was somewhat difficult to come by – early on the pots and pans were rattled by what turned out to be a porcupine – ie a large rat with an armoury – prickly spines!
The only good thing was that the other couple who had come along a Norwegian guy and his French missus – she was crapping herself so bad that she had him guarding the place, making life a bit easier for the rest of us!