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!
I start walking. Giving distances in the jungle is like explaining the theory of relativity to Rambo. We are talking about walking time
The guide looks at me with a funny “are you alone?” look. I answer with a yes sir! firm and smiling
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
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!
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.