I’ve known for years that it’s a jungle out there, but here, it really is!
In Borneo we have encountered more wildlife than in Duquesa Port on a Friday night.
Admittedly, far less dangerous!
Our morning meeting with a group of Orangutans was the undoubted highlight.
We had been advised by our guide to refrain from using flash photography and to be very quiet so as not to offend, in any way, this rather, theatrical primate household.
So what happens, as the gargantuan fellow ambles majestically into view?
FLASH. CLICK. PUSH. SHOVE. LAUGH. SCREAM. SURGE !
It’s a times like these, I am quite certain, the most daft family in the order of primates must be the homo sapien!
Ignorant, or just plain ‘mutton Jeff’, the small crowd of assembled spectators took absolutely no notice of our trusty guides’ advice.
No. Instead – these wannabe ‘Attenboroughs’. Packing more sensitivity in their obscenely, pornographic cameras – clamoured and clashed for the perfect pitch.
I, by this point, had left the melee.
I was sure ‘Ritchie’ had shot me a look, not dissimilar to one I had once received, from a swarthy, bent copper – early some morning in a particularly seedy ‘Scabinillas’ bar.
Actually – I think it may have been our bar!
Things didn’t quite work out on that occasion and I certainly didn’t want a repeat of the incident.
No, having recognised that certain Latin mood ‘Ritchie’ was displaying, I made a sophisticated retreat from the ring.
This proved to be a wise move, as the great ‘Orange Man’ suddenly decided, on a whim, to smash up ‘The visitor’s centre’! Which, in truth, was an average sized shed, containing a few posters and a very small projection screen. Presumably meant for those who were not lucky enough to witness such a close encounter with the beast.
Bang! Crash! And then he headed in our direction!
‘Move back, for own safety’, shouted our guide.
The ‘P’ape’parazzi’ made no response!
‘Back. Back out.’
I’m not surprised. Men seldom pull back for their own safety, hence the world’s ridiculous problem with overpopulation!
A French couple retreated, unsurprisingly, but most were oblivious to the orders.
I was simply hoping we’d be lucky enough to witness ‘Ritchie’s’ de-fingering trick in the flesh, so to speak.
Sadly, it was not to be.
The old guy seemed irritated, yet bored with his audience and turned, nonchalantly, away from the crowd and towards his ‘brekkie’.
On his first mouthful of coconut – you know it –
FLASH. SNAP. SHRIEK. WOOH!
I, momentarily, looked away. I knew how ‘Ritchie’ felt.
” I ‘Vant To Eat Alone! ”
‘Ritchie’ had no choice.
Still, for us, it was a small miracle and a priviledge to witness him and his substantial family doing what they do.
I only wish ‘Man’ would halt his accelerating destruction of their natural habitat and just let them do it!
Our next visit was far less moving.
I had talked Andrew into visiting ‘The Sarawak Cultural Village’. A site where the various tribal groups of this great land, are encouraged to keep their ancient traditions alive and kicking.
Tragically, there was no life to this sterile theme park and I’m sure Andrew felt like kicking me for persuading him to visit.
We started with a show in the theatre. A production, notable only for it’s lightning quick costume changes. Which, unfortunately, were not that successful. On at least three occasions, several dancers were left to bop aimlessly, gormless and uneasy, waiting for their colleagues do up their pop-studs and enter stage right.
It was quite uncomfortable.
We were then treated to two scantily-clad gentlemen with large blow-pipes. As each of their darts continued to whizz by their pink- balloon-targets, I couldn’t help but think Andrew would be a great addition to their act.
He has always, inexplicably, been in possession of a superb blowing technique and has a much straighter aim!
Next, members of the audience were coerced into joining the troupe onstage, for a little tribal humiliation.
Andrew, who, in my opinion, has always possessed a little too much of the Panto spirit at times, volunteered….
He explained to the young, ‘native’ girl that he was unable to join the dance because of his dodgy knees.
I was then hauled up onto the unglamorously, over lit platform to take part in a traditional, Malay, celebration dance. Much to the amusement of a jovial group of Indian lads on the fourth row.
They found much to celebrate!
I shall take my revenge on him at some point.
Post performance, we took an organised trail which lead us into different huts of various ‘tribal-ness’. In these abodes, we had been informed, we would find the inhabitants playing traditional games and making local handicrafts.
I knew this to be mendacious, when on entering the first ‘Longhouse’ to a traditionally, resounding silence, I heard a ring tone. Then,from the corner of my eye, I saw a feather-clad tribes woman hastily drop her IPhone out of sight and make busy with a pestle and mortar!
I pretended I hadn’t spotted the device, although she looked a little guilty.
‘Cake, cake’, she smiled and gestured towards the bowl.
‘Yes’, I replied. Grinning right back.
Another beep beep came from beneath her worktop.
I smiled, so did she, and then began to pound the mixture furiously – no doubt to drown out any more message tones from the tradional mobile phone she had secreted.
With all the pounding I forgot to ask her what type of cake she had been pretending to make.
‘Apple’ I should imagine!
It did not improve.
The ancient sword maker was also busy online until he heard a creak at his entrance – he then went into full ‘Excalibur’ mode. I gave him a little wink to let him know he needn’t bother – I have, after all, never been concerned with the polishing of big weapons.
Andrew, on the other hand…….
And, when we arrived at ‘The Traditional Malay Townhouse’, we were certain we heard ‘Taylor Swift’ blasting out from the kitchen.
I couldn’t help but shake off the feeling this was all a little native conspiracy.
‘The Iban Show’ instead of The Truman Show’!
I half expected Mickey and Minnie to come trotting round the corner – blow-pipes and all!
When we got back to our guest house, Cyril, the owner, was a little surprised at our early return.
‘You did not like The Cultural Village’ he enquired.
‘Not really’, I answered, honestly, ‘a little too ‘Disney’ for us’.
‘Me too’, he said, ‘just stupid government jobs there.’
I must have looked a little incredulous,
‘Then, why did you take us there?’ I asked.
‘Because you must see for yourself’, Cyril explained.
He’s a wise guy.
‘Ah, yes’, I mused, ‘I suppose some people must love it there.’
‘Not really’, he said, ‘ it’s all just corporate shit !’
We left it there.
The next day, Cyril took us for a traditional breakfast – noodles, prawns, chicken and heaps of chilli paste. It cleared the tubes – he then went on to take us into the jungle, to the mountains, the seaside and even Indonesia, for a quick spot of shopping.
We eventually ended up in a defunct Gold-mining town at a great bar – with music. Of course, we couldn’t help ourselves and ended up doing a few numbers which, if I say so myself, went down rather well. ‘The Lola Boys’ could have a future here!
Borneo has emerged to be another mind-popping experience.
Even if the balloons did remain embarrassingly, intact.
Many parts of this beautiful island are so green and wild – huge forests that are, I imagine, reminiscent of England’s primeval landscape – before The Sheriff Of Nottingham had his wicked way with Robin’s Hood!
Singapore’s wild, swampland, before Sir Stamford Raffles initiated the craze for concrete.
Andalucía, with it’s craggy drama and wonderful coastline – before the property ‘over-developers’ bulldozed their way across the land to make a fast buck. Sorry – I mean, Euro. Or was it the Peseta then? Who cares!
Perhaps the underdeveloped world could learn from some of these errors of judgment and try not to obliterate all of nature with man-made ‘advancement’.
This place really is an Eden – it would be a shame if there ends up being no room for the apple.
It is not all sunny here though. Not at all. In fact, she rarely makes an appearance. Therefore, my tan has now completely faded. Andrew says I have the appearance of the sick, Victorian boy in ‘The Secret Garden,’ – only slightly more pallid!
Borneo – Sunny-no!
But then we didn’t travel all the way here for something as shallow as a deep tan!
We came to discover the ‘Dr Livingstone’ inside of us.
And – I think we’ve just about managed it.
Well – I presume!