We certainly saw more than our fair share of glorious, deep, undisturbed jungle. However, to be completely honest, I didn't even try to photograph most of it. The truth is, I cannot afford to take my good DSLR camera into the jungle on a trip like this. The camera and lenses would almost certainly be ruined despite the best possible water-proof cases and care. So I don't even bother.
Instead, I take a point and shoot along, and even then I'm afraid to pull it out 90% of the time b/c I'm completely, totally soaked to the bone with sweat--soaked and dripping the same as if I had just jumped into a swimming pool with all my clothes on. So the pictures you see here are just a very small glimpse of what the "real" jungle looked like. You'll just have to take my word on that. But every once in a while, usually after we'd taken a short rest and my hands dried off just enough to take the camera out, I'd take a shot of our surroundings. Above, a gargantuan tree, who's trunk was like a solid mass of spiderweb roots that extended hundreds of feet up into the canopy above.
Well, I promised you some shots of critters. Once again, many critters that we saw never got to be photographed, b/c I wasn't able or willing to get out the camera. However, I got a few of them. One evening we camped alongside the river shown below (but it wasn't at this exact location.) As we usually did most nights, after hanging the hammocks, making camp, and laying out stuff for the following morning, we'd jump into the river to cool off, wash our clothes as best we could and bathe. For whatever reason, in this particular spot both Paul and I felt a little bit fidgety--something about the look of the river and the water...it just gave us "chills" a bit. Something could be hiding in there and we nervously joked about it, cause that's what guys do when you don't want to be a wimp, but there's good reason to be hesitant about something.
This was prime territory for a giant reticulated python, and indeed these are the very parts of the world where they thrive. A huge python could easily eat a man, though that's obviously not a common occurrence. However, I can't remember how many times we nervously joked that evening as we were trying to wash our clothes and take a bath, that at any moment a big ol' python might just come up and grab one of us, yanking us under water never to be seen again. Ha ha. Nervous laugh. Scrub some more grime from the nasty socks and steel a quick look back behind when the other guy wasn't watching. But fortunately nothing tried to grab or eat us.
The following morning, however, we were in for a bit of a surprise. On the very branch that hung directly over the very spot where we were swimming the night before, there sat a fully wild and evil-looking reticulated python. Now, to be fair, it wasn't a giant in the world of reticulated pythons (they can grow over 30 feet long), but that's not the point. It wasn't the type of thing you'd want to cuddle with--it was probably only about 12 feet long and as thick as my forearm. None-the-less it sent shivers down our spines, because it brought a sudden dose of reality to our nervous little jokes the night before. Indeed, we were deep in the heart of wild Borneo, where we, not the pythons were the strangers and intruders.
But speaking of cuddling, here's a much cuter and cuddlier critter to look at. One day while carefully negotiating a slippery, steep rock ledge that dropped precipitously into a whitewater river below, (seems like we spent the better part of 13 days doing that--one step from falling tens or hundreds of feet down rock faces to massive boulders below, which gave way to thundering, pounding whitewater,) we came upon a river otter family. The mom (or it could have been the dad--not sure) promptly jumped off the ledge and that was that. However, two of the cutest little cubs (or pups, or whatever you call these things) were just sitting there in their little den, too small to run away and to young to be afraid. We watched them for a few minutes and I managed to take a picture, but then we let them go, hoping the mommy would come back again. They were about the size of a small ferret, except fatter. And cuter.
One day while taking a break on the trail I looked down and saw this massively long caterpillar. It was at least four inches long and a half inch thick. I have no idea what it turns into (as in what type of moth or butterfly) but it must be big! Incidentally, the soccer socks hiked up over our pants are not a fashion statement, but rather an additional deterrent, albeit a failing one, to keep out the armies of blood-sucking leaches. Despite this, and 100% deet, as you saw in the previous post, we still donated plenty of blood to the future generations of Bornean leeches.
As far as large animals go, we saw lots of signs of bear (the honey or sun bear is endangered and only native to this part of Borneo), but Paul and I did not actually see one. On one occasion we heard two bears, quite close, growling loudly. According to our guides, they were either fighting or mating, in either or both cases, not wise to interrupt them. Our guides saw three bear, each at a different location, when one of the guides had wandered off on their own in a different direction for some reason.
We also saw small jungle deer, as well as Payau (large deer between the size of a mule deer and elk), monkeys of various types, birds, and lots of pigs. Over the course of the trip we shot four pigs for food, about once every three days, as well as a small deer. Late in the afternoon on the 12th day in the jungle, I shot my first jungle pig here in Indonesia, just as we were getting ready to set up a camp. Since that was the first pig that we took near a campsite, we were really able to feast that night! Below is a large pig that jumped out of a pig "den" like the one in the second picture below, and nearly gored one of our guides. Two of them had to jump out of the way to avoid being run over by the doomed porker!
There's always thousands of insects in the jungle . The bees and moths never fail to find us within minutes of stopping for a rest on the trail. It's insane how fast they sniff us out, and how many there are! They love to suck the salty, sweaty juices from our clothes and backpacks. But in this case, the morning after we ate a small jungle deer, there were dozens of brightly colored moths (or are they butterflies?) sucking the juices from the entrails of the deer on a rock by the river. Yeah, it's nasty thought to be sucking on gut juices, but the moths are really pretty.
Check back again for the third and final installment on our Jungle trek of 2011. I'll show you the conclusion to our trip and give you some of the stats from our 14 days in the jungle.