I was quite the monkey when I was younger, catching bugs for fun, crawling through mud, attempting to climb trees (but failing because it’s hard to find climbable trees in Singapore when you’re not an actual monkey).
When I grew older, the female hormones in me decided to revolt. They wanted a say in my daily activities. They lobbied, for instance, for knitting lessons.
Calling a mutiny, they quite succeeded in driving out the males, consequently usurping the terrority for themselves.
So it was that I found myself turned from monkey to cat.
I developed a dislike for bugs, water and dirt. I liked sitting in air-conditioned rooms, safe and protected from the harsh elements of the outdoors. And I learnt how to knit.
Last month, when I received an invitation to gallivant in a faraway jungle and visit with bugs, my female hormones obviously received the news with a lot of joy.
As the story goes, the male hormones in me didn’t all get banished in the last uprising. Some of the more enterprising ones hid in fat cells, where they knew the females would be loath to go near, and bided their time.
One day, they told themselves, they would overthrow the tyranny and reclaim their territory!
My trip to Bako National Park in Kuching, Sarawak, where I was invited to explore as part of a media familiarisation trip, seemed like the perfect opportunity for the male hormones to carry out a forceful takeover.
Thanks to my inner insurgents, I actually enjoyed being Jungle Jane very much.
I think the two sides are now at full-on war. The males are now demanding for me to take them somewhere a) rugged, b) dangerous, c) dirty, or d) all of the above.
The females are retaliating by growing a pimple.
While I leave them to fight, I’m starting my account with our arrival by boat at Bako National Park, on the way to which we had encountered a sunbathing crocodile.
Everything I saw in Bako National Park, the oldest national park in Sarawak, was a delight. Paving our way to the jetty were mangrove plantations, a rather strange sight for a city girl.
Oh, during our boat ride, we encountered this handsome ang moh who turned to our boat and sort of smiled at us. He looked like some National Geographic celebrity, with his trekking gear and sunglasses.
We later bumped into him again at the park, where he had set up his camera and was waiting to photograph monkeys in the mangroves.
I didn’t dare to talk to him because he seemed a little pissed off with our group for going into the mangrove swamp and scaring the monkeys away, although it wasn’t our fault because our tour guide wanted to show us stuff in there.
This is where the monkeys will come out from the adjoining jungle to play at if there aren’t any tourists walking about. So, obviously we didn’t see monkeys that day because we were playing in their playground.
We did see one proboscis monkey on one very high treetop at the edge of the jungle. But it was very far away.
Here’s the best I could do with my camera zoom:
The big fleshy reddish-beige thing in the middle of its face is its nose, which is what proboscis monkeys are famous for.
The mangrove trail was awesome. Besides making our shoes awfully wet and muddy, it served as a great backdrop for photography and also turned up some really cool wildlife.
Such as a woodpecker.
Can you spot the woodpecker? I never would have. Our tour guide Anastasia saw it and pointed it out to us. Anastasia is truly an amazing guide.
Here’s a zoom-in on the woodpecker:
It was hard to photograph it because it was very high up in a tree, and when we tried to get closer, it disappeared entirely.
But we saw it pecking at the tree industriously a few times before it went into hiding. It was so cute!
We also saw a hermit crab, which Juraida very bravely held out to let us photograph.
One part of the ground swarmed with fiddler crabs. The male ones have one giant claw which is bigger than their shells, making them look very funny.
They’re very tiny, about 1 or 2 inches in length.
I actually jumped the gun. We had started with a jungle hike before going into the mangroves. We actually climbed a mountain! I think we got up to about 200 metres above sea level or a little over that.
The climb was really fun because we had to navigate steep and trecherous rocks and sometimes climb on tree roots. It was like going through an obstacle course, which is something that very greatly appealed to me when I was a monkey girl.
That’s Anastasia climbing up the trail, which had been cut out by park authorities for trekking purposes.
Basically, we just climbed and climbed while Anastasia stopped occasionally to point out items of interest.
For instance, here’s a cinnammon plant, from which you get cinnammon spice:
What a good workout that was. We were also constantly harrassed by mosquitoes. Our insect repellent totally did not work.
There are many different trails you can explore in the park. The mangrove swamp I described earlier was one. The jungle trek is another.
Some of the “steps” are easy to climb, such as this:
Others are really tough, especially when going downhill, requiring you to hold on to neighbouring mouldy vegetation for support or risk falling to your demise.
I don’t have photos of the tough ones because I was too busy trying to stay alive during those times.
Well, okay, it’s not as bad as I just described. I kinda survived without a scratch on me, if you don’t count the mosquito bites.
Here’s a rest stop where people can take a break and have a smoke:
You’re not allowed to smoke outside of this little rest area.
After an hour or so, we reached the plateau, which was sort of a flat rocky base with sandy craters.
It was hot! And I forgot to bring sunblock. So I got quite tanned after the trip.
At the plateau, we were introduced to a variety of carnivorous pitcher plants, which eat insects.
And a giant lounging one:
I really wouldn’t mind going mountain or jungle trekking again. But I must say that having a good tour guide helps. It’s fun to have someone there to point out interesting plants and animals, and tell you stories.
For instance, I would have just walked past this plant and ignored it as being just a stupid common plant:
But Anastasia made it interesting for us by describing how her grandmother used to harvest these ferns and process them into cures for a host of ailments.
Well, you know what, I’m only halfway through my Bako National Park report, although that’s the end of our mountain trekking. Please come back again for part two!
Next stop: Monitor lizards and snakes and a screaming tour guide.