Just your average jungle birthday

I’m not sure when midnight snuck by in the near-perfect darkness to officially begin my birthday, but I’m guessing it had already started when I got up, back sore from the bare wood planks of my bunk, to chase the cute little rodent out of our food bag.

Taman Negara 03 Kumbang Hide

“Bumbun” (hide) Kumbang, in Taman Negara, where I rang in my new year.

Knowing it was pointless, my eyes rolled over in the direction where I’d seen the massive spider before going to bed. As always in jungles, it was the size of my open hand, and hairy, but this one was interesting since three of its legs were skinnier and shinier.

Arne-the-German and I agreed that it had probably lost the legs somehow and was growing new ones. Amazing little undoubtedly venomous beastie. After a day spent hopping leeches and various skittering things, the backs of my eyelids were a montage of insectile legs, half-seen as they skittered about.


Click to enlarge 8-legged goodness

Click to enlarge 8-legged goodness

But since I was awake now anyway, I used Arne’s bizarrely powerful flashlight to look for critters in the semi-open space in front of the hide. A few days ago some bird watchers saw a tapir at 3:00 AM.

But no eyes glittered back at me, just fireflies drooping around the thick foliage, like stars on listless vacation from their nightly performance, so I lay back down on the bird-poop-spotted boards. My head on the meagre pillow of my rolled up shirt, I could feel the gap in the boards against the back of my head.

It was silly of me to wait for the second rodent visit to move the food bag. This time Arne woke up, sitting half upright on his luxurious 1 cm mat, to look into the eyes of the little fella, about two feet away from him.

Vas is das?” You only speak your mother tongue when you’re that sleepy.

His question woke the two English girls on the other side of the small room. “What’s going on?” The nervous one asked.

Nothing. Just a little mouse. No worries.” I reassured them. “It’s all good.”


My bunk. I'd already put away the shirt-pillow.

My bunk. I’d already put away the shirt-pillow.

Apparently I was soothing enough, because even the twitchy one went back to sleep until morning, when we shared the remnants of our backpacker buffet for breakfast. My peanuts were popular again, both roasted and spicy-something coated, but we avoided the crackers, given how thirsty they make you and the fact that they were drinking shallow-creek water, which was pretty cloudy even after purification and clarification tablets. I was more worried about purifying the good bacteria right out of my system, so rationed myself on the water I brought.

We decided the two styrofoam containers of noodles that the girls brought were no longer a safe bet at their ripe old age of 24 warmly humid hours.

We were each taking different routes back to civilization, so we fared each other well and set off. Just a nice easy walk back to town now…