Note from Jodi: (These 3 Jungle Stories were written back in 2002 & emailed to friends in the US after I returned to my hotel in Kuching. It was before digital cameras & the images were copied from still prints & are not sharp.)
Here I am back in civilization after 5 days of trekking & living in the jungle with 2 Iban tribesmen: Janda & Belansai, as guides/ porters/chefs....from one of the original head-hunting tribes in
Borneo... The Ibans.
What a fantastic experience. My only souveniers are a few relentlessly itching bites, a stinking bag of dirty clothes (laundry is next stop!) some minor bruises, a wonderful walking stick that Janda made for me..which kept me upright and slightly independant......and some amazing memories that I want to share with you.
Day 1..Nanga Jelia: The jungle lodge that was to be the starting point. Due to low water level, the canoe was unable to continue to the designated drop-off point for what was supposed to be “20 minute hike” to the lodge.
Consequently I was thrown into this adventure quite abruptly when I was told to get out of the boat as we couldn’t go any further. We had no choice but to climb up the steep river bank (approx.12’ straight up..) of mud & trees!! My initial reaction was “You’ve got to be kidding!..I can’t make it up that hill!” but they weren’t kidding as there were no other options.
Not only did I have to climb it.. but had to change from sandals into hiking shoes while standing on a perpendicular wall of mud with a backpack & camera gear, while balancing on 1 foot & using 1 hand to hold onto a tree branch ...each time I let of the tree branch to tie a shoe I would slide down... but someone was always around to push me back up.
Janda & Belansai had no problem balancing precariously while repacking our supplies in their rattan backpacks..we had to leave some stuff on the boat..including the cooler..(our only source of refrigeration by the way)..as they had also planned for level beach-type landing.
SOMEHOW I made it up the hill...thru a combination of being pulled & pushed when I slIpped back..& wondering what the hell I got myself into...It turned out that was one of the EASIER parts of the trek...many parts consisted of uneven paths about 12” wide, covered with wet leaves & branches.. alternating between the edge of a ravine or a straight drop to the river..
I COULDN’T DECIDE WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN THE LESSER OF THE 2 FALLS.. however due to help from the guides, extreme concentration on where I put each foot, occasional glances downward to ascertain what would be my fate if I lost my footing..I stayed on the path.
The remaining trek consisted of steep uphill & downhill climbs which took every bit of strength and courage I had.....it didn’t help my ego knowing that the guides..each carryng about 40lbs of food, clothing & bedding for the 4 of us..were not having any problems & were probably wondering what they got themselves into with me!!
It was almost dark as the “20 minute” hike turned into an hour + of difficult trekking..and we arrived at Nanga Jelia..a bare-bones lodge (no electricity or hot water)..furniture consisted of a picnic-type table in the “kitchen” & thin mattresses on the floor of “rooms” separated by 4’ high partitions..& a separate cold water shower & flush toilet in nearby shacks.
I unpacked and settled in by the lite of a kerosene lamp while the 2 Iban porters & Lemon, the Bidayuh guide from the tour company.. made a fire & started preparing (by candle light) what turned out to be the first of many delicious meals....using traditional Iban methods of sanitizing utensils & preserving food.
It must have worked.. for I never got sick.... considering we spent 5 days carrying around unrefrigerated meat..in temperatues of 100+ (remember the cooler was back in the boat!) & washing hands, plates, food..with cold water.. & having no toilet paper...!!
As my first intro into this lodge was in the dark, I had to sort thru my stuff ... (fortunately I packed lightly).... find the nails on the wall to use for hooks while avoiding cobwebs & whatever was in them, & clean up by flashlight,... as the kerosene lamp was just sufficient illumination to see the location of the walls & mattress.
I will never know how they made such a good dinner in the dark..after that climb...with only a trickle of cold water & huge wok over a wood fire..while I had my hands full just unpacking my bag & finding my stuff..but it was great having 3 men prepare dinner for me after that walk!!
I felt guilty not helping..but realized the best help I could be would be to keep out of their way!!
After dinner..while THEY cleaned up by candle light.. I took a shower ..... & never enjoyed a cold shower so much!! & luckily the flashlite didn’t allow me a clear view of whatever creatures were in there with me.
The next days & nites were spent hiking, swimming, eating & sleeping in the jungle.. in shelters they made as we went.. however, although my trekking improved immensely, the route to our destination at the salt lick where we had a better chance to see orang-utans... was getting increasingly more challenging......the ledges were narrower..the drops higher & the hills steeper.....& we ALL agreed that this city girl may not make it back in one piece if we continued.. so we turned back!!
We h.ad many adventures en route.. including the time they were stalking a wild boar to bring back to their longhouse for food...(Thank goodness I slowed them down so much...and was so noisy.... that they lost it. I was a vegetarian at the time and don't think I could have handled camping out with a dead animal accompanying us!!) ....... & an attack by fire ants when we were sleeping..
But I’ll save that for another email...
Gotta go get my pictures developed & my clothes washed...& find out how to get the digital pictures on disk so I can try to e-mail them to you