Jungle dream

For a long time I dreamed of the jungle. I’ve been waiting for this discovery all my life. The wildlife, the trees, the spiders, all that…


The largest wild park in the country, the oldest forest on the planet. Jungle, here I am!

When I left Malacca, I was ready to go there on foot, dragging my wheeled suitcase. Taman Negara, I’m comming.
For this first discovery, I want to make a walk that is reputed to be easy, to be done alone without any problem in about four hours. OK. It sounds good, I’m in great shape.
It rained heavily the night before, I will have to  progress in the mud. I show up at the park entrance and ask for a map and the necessary information. I inherit a tiny map on which the guide scribbles because it is not up to date. Just to find the path that starts from the information point, I ask three times for my way. 

I start walking. Giving distances in the jungle is like explaining the theory of relativity to Rambo. We are talking about walking time

After an hour of crawling in the mud, after having continued on a very little marked path which does not always look like a path, I find myself at a crossroads.
Three directions, none of which are on my map.
I am, as it were, lost.
I wait a while, I chase the leeches out of my shoes.
Waiting is always good when you’re lost.
Then I hear voices in the distance.
I toss out a few Youhou sounds… a group is approaching.
A group of Malaysians accompanied by what? A certified guide. And he is charming. Smile. I ask for directions.

The guide looks at me with a funny “are you alone?” look. I answer with a yes sir! firm and smiling

Really alone?
Strange question. I am tempted to answer that no, indeed, I have my whole family folded up in the bag, à la Marie Poppins. I don’t, of course, a guide who falls from heaven deserves some consideration.
My answer leaves him perplexed, he glances at me briefly, not a bit. 
The explanations he gives me to find my way in a somewhat short English are hardly convincing. I ask in the most charming way if I can join them.
“Of course!”
I don’t get told twice and I stick to this providential Tarzan.
He calls me by my first name, explains to me the trees, the leaves that turn into an antiseptic when rubbed in a little water in the palm of my hand, which is the tree whose bark gives a violent poison to go hunting gibbon with a blowpipe.
He even catches me a frog so that I can take a picture of it.
I am ready to marry him.
Jo is his name. We cross rivers, with no bridge, mud puddles the size of Lake Geneva, slippery descents. I am swimming in happiness. Never, never will I have found my way here on my own.

But before I tell you the rest, I must tell you about the favourite topic of conversation of the budding explorers of the Taman Negara. It’s not about the tiger or elephants, or even toucan or bats, it’s about leeches

And what leeches!
Everyone has their own advice to counter this scourge. The most far-sighted have special gaiters, repellents.
The leeches of the Taman Negara can be quite large. They are everywhere on the ground, especially when it rained the day before. That’s just my luck.
About the size of a small (and sometimes really small) worm, they stand up on their sucker feet when they hear you coming. They stretch out like a snail’s antenna and as soon as you are spotted, they come galloping back like a cartoon caterpillar. They’ll take off in your shoes, sneak into the tightest socks and slurp!
Completely painless, you only notice them once they’ve done their job.
The most spectacular thing is that once they’ve feasted well, they drop to the ground leaving behind a nice bloodstain on the clothes because they inject an anticoagulant of their own making… then it bleeds quite a bit.
Jo doesn’t care about the leeches. He regularly looks at his shoes, takes them off by hand and continues on his way.

Jo is a great guide, he speaks English, knows the forest like the back of his hand, is interested in many things and knows Zinedine Zidane!

Jo, who is discreetly watching me, points to the top of my leg, with an amused smile. A large bloodstain is staining my beautiful Lafuma trousers. 

As I don’t want to look like a sissy, I give Jo a defiant look and clown “AAARRGGHHH! My goodness! Blood!”
Jo rushes in and offers to cut off my leg on the spot, I accept without blinking. But our paths separate. Jo repeats to me several times to take care of me. He looks at me as if I was on death row. I am now really alone and I must be halfway there. I have three kilometres of jungle behind me and four more to go. 
Between the trees fallen on the path that force me to make detours and the path not or badly marked, I realise how much I miss a guide. But hey, I’m there, I will go ahead!
I crawl as well as I can while carefully hunting leeches. The path climbs, climbs and climbs again.
I have to cling to the trees, to the vines and to the ropes when there are some to progress.  In all, I will cross four people during the day.

I have to show them a little pity! Blood on my trousers, mud everywhere and I’m dripping with sweat, literally wet


When the road finally comes down, it’s so slippery and muddy that I wish I’d brought a pair of skis with me! Arriving very close to the Canopy Walkway (the suspension bridges) I come across three men all clean and beautifully equipped. They inquire about the state of the road, about my route. They are hardly motivated by the mud. I’m clowning around. What I was able to do alone and without equipment, they must be able to try it all the same!
It’s a group of Dutch ornithologists. No, they prefer to turn back and I can see a spark of admiration in their eyes. I suddenly remember that I saw a big bird higher up. 
They were mocking. I look on my camera for something that I thought was a turkey with a bit of peacock on the edges. They wait patiently with a smile on their faces. When at last I brandish the portrait of the bird, I see their eyes round with surprise. It’s a hard bird to see! 

So I stay with the group and we go for a walk on the suspension bridges. I tell them what Jo has taught me and I realise that my pitiful escapade was fascinating, rich in discoveries!  
It’s a great pleasure to walk around with specialists armed with binoculars. Two specialists in one day, I don’t even dare to tell my guesthouse companions!  

When I finally reach the camp, I find Jo who jumps at my neck, relieved to find me alive!


I didn’t see a tiger or a monkey, or even a big spider. I saw a lot of leeches and a big bird that looked like a pheasant. A frog. Huge ants. That was it. I saw the forest, black and deep, I heard the song of the hornbills and the trees, the magnificent, serene, strong, huge trees. Raised towards the light like semaphores. They shelter, far from my ignorant eyes, marvellous creatures that I could only ever see on a screen. It was a long journey to see this.

I’ve taken buses, a boat, I’ve eaten and slept badly, I’ve been devoured by leeches and mosquitoes and now my buttocks are so stiff I can hardly sit up. I have no regrets. I have seen beautiful things and met beautiful people. 
It’s already a lot.

While travelling, stay nature !

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