Tonight we’re staying at Bako National Park, a 30-minute ride from Kuching in a little boat with an outboard motor. It had a sign that said, “Wear life jacket at all times,” but at no point did anyone offer us a life jacket. The river (delta? little sliver of ocean?) ranged from narrow to wide—I know because I kept thinking about whether or not I could swim it, and the answer varied. I also thought a lot about crocodiles as I watched the mangrove forests and tiny houses on stilts roll by.
B was not so happy to learn that our hostel had no mosquito netting or air conditioning. Her doctor didn’t prescribe malaria pills, but to her credit, she’s sticking it out. There is a yellow-cliffed beach nearby and lots of wild (or wild-ish) animals. We were barely off the boat when we saw our first bearded pig, a huge boar with a scouring brush for a face (B’s description). There are dozens of what the campground brochure refers to as “naughty macaques,” pale, cat-sized monkeys. I think the brochure describes them that way because they like to steal visitors’ food, but we witnessed a short monkey orgy today that would suggest the naughtier connotation of “naughty” also applies.
B wasn’t feeling well, but Ryan and I decided to brave the Lintang Trail, a three hour loop that took us through all kinds of terrain, from root-covered hills that reminded Ryan of Lord of the Rings to lava-bed-looking flats to places where the rainwater flowed over pale sands like white chocolate. We saw blue and orange mushrooms, spiky rattan (“I think this is what they use to beat people with in Singapore,” Ryan worried. “I didn’t know it had spikes.”) and two kinds of pitcher plants.
I love the rainforest because you don’t have to appreciate subtlety to enjoy it. It has all the variety and spectacle of Disneyland.
We hiked in the rain, sweat and bug spray flowing in rivulets down our arms, and talked about camping and Wal-Mart and Mormons and screenplays. On the way back, we finally saw the elusive proboscis monkeys, big orange dudes with Gonzo noses and long white tails.
The three of us ate at the canteen, which is attached to a little store that sells Fumakilla brand mosquito coils. We laughed and made up stories about other park visitors and swatted mosquitoes as we ate noodles with greens cooked in some kind of fish paste. It seems to be a popular condiment here, and I have to admit that, while not unpleasant, whenever I eat it I always find myself thinking about Maria’s Pet Store in Hermosa Beach.