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I'm a Jungle Man, That's What I Am

Chiang Mai, Thailand

There is no good time to get diahorrea but the morning which marks the start of a three day jungle trek is definitely one of the least desirable. However, by the time we had driven up north to the National Park I was back to normal; we stopped at a huge staircase and at the top we found a massive golden Buddha and panoramic views of the jungle which we were about to delve into.

We had stopped at a shop along the way and in the excitement I had bought not only a cap with flaps but a camoflage t-shirt. I was ready for the jungle! Except I wasn't. Before long we were trekking through woody jungle, climbing over fallen trees and streams as required and even being attacked by a swarm of MASSIVE wasps which stung me three times! This was not what the pictures on the leaflet looked like! I thought we would be happily marching along a nice wide and well trodden path to a big rushing waterfall where we would all smile and splash around and take photos. Well, actually that came later.

We arrived at our camp tired and with burning, stabbing pains from bleeding wasp stings and were shown a waterfall which would be our shower. This was a lot of fun, the strong current taking one particularly adventurous northern lad on an inadvertent tour downstream while we all looked like a bunch of shivering twats auditioning for a Timotei advert. That night we were cooked a delicious feast of local food before sinking a Changs around the campfire and talking about the days adventures.

Non stop rain throughout the night meant that day two was inevitably going to be a challenge, particularly for those who had not invested in appropriate footwear. Obviously I had been organised enough to buy a nice sturdy pair of walking boots back in England; However, upon packing I realised there was no room for them in my bag and so it was that while my boots sat neglected in the quiet town of Lewes, I found myself scrambling up muddy banks in the Thai jungle - treading paths which due to the unfalteringly precipitous climate had become more like streams - in my trusty Converse All Stars.

The warm rain fell all morning and created a wet, misty jungle which was even more exciting and visually impressive than the day before. I was really enjoying the walk although it was not easy. We would trudge high into the hills and then skid back down again on the slippery paths. The hardest part was staying on your feet and despite my complete lack of grip I was one of the few who managed to avoid spectacular and hilarious slides down the hillsides. We left a trail of uprooted trees and there were skidmarks all round by the time we made it to our camp. We were to stay with a very friendly and sociable hill tribe, who I really enjoyed meeting.

I can not create an account of this trek withoutmentioning our two guides - a pair of brothers who were both (bizarrely) called Noi. Although I believe one was spelt Noy and had a slightly different intonation that only Thai people can hear. The eldest of the pair, Noy, was (and I will be careful to use politically correct language here in order to preserve my job) a midget (I lied) who had a very limited grasp of English but a great sense of humour. He frequently challenged the more boisterous members of the group to Mai Thai fights and encouraged drinking and smoking by setting an impressive example. He came to be known as Rambo and will probably be the part of the trip that most people will look back upon with the most fondness. The younger (but slightly less vertically challenged) Noi spoke excellent English, was well informed and spoke to me at length about his life in Chiang Mai and the positive impacts which he felt the tourist industry could bring to these remote mountain areas.

The final day was, on paper, to be the most exciting although I had a feeling that elephant trekking and bamboo rafting would be a bit of an anti-climax after such an amazing experience clambering through the jungle. It was actually better than I had imagined - our small circuit gave us enough time on the enourmous banana guzzling elephant and I was even afforded the privelage of climbing out of the litle seat on it's back and sitting on his rough prickly neck. Our guide was a twenty-four year old elephant trekking veteran andtook us swerving off away from the others for some off road Jungle Book style trampling. I sang the song accoringly. After 20 minutes , six bags of bananas and a short but worrying dip in the river, we were helped off and driven down to the bamboo rafts.

The group was divided into threes and fours and, each with their own captain, we raced down the river which after all the rain was high and fast enough to warrant life jackets. We were given a long pieve of bamboo which I assumed was to steer the boat and attack the other rafts - it was a good laugh. We were driven back to the hotel soggy and in need of a decent bed. Ot felt like we'd been gone a week and I found myself referring to the hostel as home- which freaked me out.

We'd met a couple during the trek (both attractive girls, much to the enjoyment of the northern lads although I had barely noticed) and when we got back we decided to visit the reggae bars one last time. We left the next day, exchanging sad farewells with the girls while we left Tim sleeping. We were actually glad to be leaving Tim who, after almost 5 days, was beginning to grate. On the plus side we did have a lot of fun mocking his white linen trousers and I can now do a very convincing impression of a socially ignorant Dutch guy.

We passed as uneventful a night as you can hope to have in Bangkok, this time staying on Koh San Road. It was better than where we had stayed before- we had a pool on our roof and I was given the opportunity to have dreadlock hair extensions - but I maintain is a charmless city and a mecca only to prostitutes and perverts. The next day we escaped to Sydney.

permalink written by  steve_stamp on May 31, 2009 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
from the travel blog: The art of being lost
tagged Elephants, Jungle, Bamboo and Wasps

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It's a Jungle Out There!

Sepilok, Malaysia

Borneo is a land of exotic contrast and having spent a day on Sibuan we soon found ourselves knee deep in rainforest mud, how? Well, a three-day stay in a nature lodge by the Kinabatangan River helped! We were welcomed to the lodge by Ibrahim, he gave us a somewhat unique and funny introduction to the electric fence [to keep big animals out], the animals to look out for during our stay and the agenda for the many walks and river-cruises that we had planned. We were soon heading down river on a small boat, accompanied by an Australian couple, a young Scottish couple and a Swiss girl with a passion for nature!

By the end of the afternoon we had seen orang-utans, eagles, monkies and most amazingly, wild pygmy elephants. The elephants do not appear that often and we had exceptional luck to see them at this time of the year, seeing so many of them from 10m as they had lunch by the river was incredible. In the evening we discovered the jungle by night as we did a 45 minute nightwalk with our 'gentle' guide Elson - who really was a star! We didn't see that much but just equipping yourself physically and mentally to do it is something! [The beasts come out at night!]

Borneo est une terre de contrastes, si bien que nous sommes passes de l'ile paradisiaque Sibuan a .... la boue de la Rainforest! 3 jours dans la Nature Lodge pres de la riviere Kinabatangan a decouvrir la faune et la flore. La boue, c'est parce qu'il y a eu des inondations la semaine passe et que la riviere etait en crue. Ibrahim le responsable qui nous a accueilli, nous a directement mis dans le bain en nous mettant en garde avec la cloture electrique qui entoure le Nature Lodge. Nous avons rapidement commence la premiere sortie en bateau-moteur sur la riviere, seule facon de pouvoir observer la nature environnante et toutes ses richesses sans la perturber. Nous etions dans un petit groupe (un couple d'ecossais de notre age, une suisse et un couple d'australiens) avec qui nous sommes restes les 3 jours.

Des le premier jour nous avons vu la chance de voir des orang-outans (ils vivent seuls et construisent chaque soir un nouveau nid!), des aigles, des singes et surtout... des elephants!! A cette saison, c'est apparemment tres rare. Cela faisait 5 mois qu'ils ne les avaient pas observes! Il etaient pres de la riviere, a casser et a manger des branches. Incroyable de voir ces animaux sauvages dans leur milieu naturel! La suite du programme etait de marcher 45 minutes dans la jungle... de nuit! Preparation maximale : bottes+ 2 paires de chaussettes pour ne pas que les sangsues s'incrustent. Heureusement, Elson notre super guide a su nous rassurer! C'etait une experience inoubliable, meme si nous n'avons pas vu grand chose a part quelques araignees et mille-pattes.

Every morning we woke up at 5.30am for the early morning cruise to see the many birds such as; purple herons, egrets, oriental darters, storm storks, hornbills, more eagles and several small but colourful birds with quite specific names. Breakfast after the cruise and Ibrahim oncemore changed guise to ensure we were ready for our 3 hour rainforest trek to the oxbow lake, a lake in the shape of an Ox's horns. We spent the trek fighting against either the branches or the profound mud levels due to the recent floods that had also altered the riverbanks considerably too. As you can see from the picture Lenaic nearly lost more than her boots!

Chaque matin, nous nous levions a 5h30 pour observer de bonne heure les animaux depuis la riviere. Cette fois-ci beaucoup d'oiseaux : herons pourpres, aigrettes, oiseaux-serpents, calaos a casque rouge, d'autres aigles et petits oiseaux colores avec un nom bien specifique. Ensuite, petit dejeuner tres attendu de tous! Requinques, nous sommes partis pour une marche dans la Rainforest jusqu'au lac Oxbow (lac nomme oxbow car il a la forme d'une corne de zebu), marche qui ne s'est pas faite sans difficulte surtout pour moi. Je m'enfoncais dans la boue, et avec l'air emprisonne il m'etait parfois impossible de decoller le pied! Il fallait s'aider des branches et troncs des alentours, epuisant!

In the early evening we had another cruise and this time we saw crocodiles, monitor lizards, buzzards, otters, probiscus monkies [specific to Borneo] and a large owl on the riverbank eating fish supper. After the evening cruise we had another fantastic meal with Ibrahim in his restauranteur guise and a nightwalk where we managed to break our torch. We had to walk back a short-distance without our guide! We left the Nature Lodge at Kinabatangan with good memories and new friends!

En fin d'apres-midi, rebelotte, observation depuis le bateau. Cette fois-ci nous avons vu des crocodiles! Impressionnant. On gardait les doigts bien a l'interieur du bateau! Mais aussi des petits varans, des buses, des loutres, des singes nasiques (qu ne trouve qu'a borneo) et une chouette. Derniere marche de nuit dans la jungle : pas de chance, nous avons perdu la manivelle de notre torche dynamo peu de temps apres le debut de la marche. Trop dangereux, nous avons du rentrer seuls au Nature lodge en essayant de ne pas se perdre. Un peu flippant du coup sans le guide!! Cette etape n'aura ete que des bons souvenirs, partages avec nos nouveaux compagnons de route!

Next stop, Paganakan Dii, a relaxing retreat set at tree canopy-level and near the Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sepilok. While walking around the rainforest grounds at the centre we were able to see Rhinoceros Hornbills [quite something], a chameleon, a flying squirrel, a 'giant' squirrel, a pig-tailed macaque, an unidentifiable 2.5m yellow and grey snake and many more birds! Are there more animals to be seen out there in the jungle? I'm sure there are but we will leave it at that! The rest of the time was spent at the guesthouse, relaxing on the terrace and getting to know Paul, Ayumi and Sandra a bit more, all of us continuing from the same Kinabatangan trip.

Nous avons poursuivi notre route en direction du nord, jusqu'a Paganakan Dii vers Sepilok (connu pour son centre de rehabilitation des orang-outangs). Nous avons dormi dans un endroit qui surplombe la Rainforest durant 2 nuits, au calme dans la nature a regarder les oiseaux et ecureuils de nos lits. Nous avons passe nos journees au centre de decouverte de la Rainforest. C'est en fait une partie de la foret amenagee par des sentiers et une passerelle qui surplombe les arbres. La, nous avions des jumelles. Ce qui change tout! Quel privilege de pouvoir admirer chaque detail de ces animaux sauvages. Les calaos rhinoceros etaient fabuleux!

Nous avons egalement observe un ecureuil volant, un ecureuil geant, des macaques a queue de cochon et surtout le plus impressionnant un serpent jaune et gris que personne n'a su nommer dans le parc. Nous etions fascines de le voir de si pres (de la passerelle, un ecureuil a attire notre attention car il faisait des bruits bizarres. Il etait comme attire par ce serpent et en meme temps il ne pouvait pas s'approcher de trop pres. Les gens du parc nous ont dit que le serpent avait certainement du manger un des petits de cet ecureuil! Snif). Ces 5 jours dans cette partie de Sabah auront ete riches en decouvertes et apprentissages : nous avons appris la patience et a etre attentif! Nous sommes contents d'avoir pu observer autant d'animaux sur Borneo, tant qu'il en reste...

permalink written by  Lenameets50 on February 10, 2010 from Sepilok, Malaysia
from the travel blog: Indonesia & Malaysia et al 2010
tagged Malaysia, Animals, Jungle, Borneo, Kinabatangan, Sepilok and Rainforest

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