The next morning Benny Mac and I must have woken up with a bee in our trousers considering the way we were carrying on about getting ready. We were pumped. Were we going to see orangutans today?? Where were we going to sleep??? Were we fit enough to even do this?!!
Well, we slowed down pretty quick when we realized we had some waiting to do as Patima was making us breakfast. So we packed and waited for Mr. Happy Happy. After breakfast, Patima sat with me to chat the best we could, and she shared this bizarre drug that I had never seen before. (Later, a friend from PNG would inform me that it was betel nut and kaffir lime leaf. Also common in PNG, but they use it in a different fashion) She gave me some to try and I quickly regretted it. Basically, it was what looked like chewing tobacco but red with grey paste wrapped in a leaf. You place this package between your cheek and teeth, and it dyes your mouth bright orange. Patima thought my spitting and gagging was just delightful. I’ve never had something so bitter in my life, and was left with the taste till lunch. Ew.
Mr. H came and collected us, singing and dancing to the music we couldn’t hear. We made our way through Kedah, past the school with the Muslim girls peering at us behind their hijabs and into the jungle. Benny Mac was struggling from the get-go as we had packed a silly amount of beer for the trip, per suggestion by Ramadan. It took us an hour to get to the lodges which were nestled into a jungle laden valley.
We unloaded our bags and minutes later Mr. Jally showed up to take us on our first jungle trek. We found out later that Mr. Jally never takes tourists into the jungle to camp the first night as he likes to see how they handle the terrain before dedicating us to a destination. Good thinking, because it was not easy. There was no trail, just trees and mud and noise. So much noise. We could hear gibbon calls and large hornbills taking off from the trees within a half an hour of being under the canopy. There was a sensory overload on the first day; there was no way to focus on just one sound while trying to catch sight of the birds Mr. Jally was pointing to at the same time. Absolutely phenomenal.
The first day we saw squirrels (huh?!) and two different kinds of long-tailed monkeys. No apes, no gibbon or orangutans. We were not even a little disheartened though. If we would have seen them, there is no doubt we would have passed out from too much diversity and excitement.
The guides were amazing to watch all on their own. They were constantly calling and stopping to listen for different animals. Both Mr. Jally and Mr. H had small statures, which was hilarious next Benny Mac (who soon became Mr. Heavy Heavy…by me anyway), but very beneficial to moving quickly through the forest. Mr. Jally said what takes typical tourist 2 days, he could do easily in 4 hours!
We ate dinner and slept at the lodges that night. It was great because Mr. Jally told us a bit about himself and some of the other types of tourists that had come through. Some are there just to get drunk in the jungle every night, others there for the most extreme experience they could muster. He told us a bit about Sigi, the expat who makes all reservations and connected us with Maulida in the beginning. He came to forest and was so inspired by the jungle that he helped Mr. Jally build the lodges. Each lodge was built from timber in the jungle by Mr. Jally. We saw the trees that he used to take planks from and they were are ~2 hours into the forest (Well, for us anyway). We couldn’t believe it! Carrying those heavy planks down those steep embankments could not have been easy.
When we turned in for the night, we expected to get a solid nights sleep. It didn’t happen for me. I had my first bad reaction to the malaria pills we were taking. Nightmares. Awful nightmares. Benny Mac didn’t start suffering from them for a couple more nights, but once he started getting them too, we stopped taking them all together. Stupid or not, I’m not sure. I don’t know how to explain how realistic these dreams were, though. Mine revolved around fire, and it was a fire I could smell and heat I could feel. I’m sure symptoms of malaria are significantly worse, and the decision to cut them out was not taken lightly.
The next day was when we started the real hikes; we weren’t being critiqued anymore! Camping, animals, food, and plants…all for another post. 😉