Is that how it went? Only the brave join the Borneo Night Trek? Or was it only the stupid join the Borneo Night Trek?
I had read about night treks before I went to Borneo and even then I was thinking why would anyone want to do that? Why would anyone go willingly into the rainforest after dark where you can’t see what’s there, at a time when the jungle’s scariest inhabitants are most alert and active.
Well as it turned out, I was the only one thinking this. The other three people who were on the rainforest tour with me thought that the Borneo Night Trek was a great idea. And their enthusiasm encouraged our already crazy guide even more.
Preparing for the Borneo Night Trek
While we were sitting on the klotok waiting for the sun to go down and leave us in complete darkness, our guide was busy finding and issuing us with head torches.
“Make sure you wear long trousers,” he was saying. “You don’t want anything to touch your legs.”
I shuddered. Damn right I didn’t want anything to touch my legs. It had rained even harder than usual on this day and had only stopped about an hour before. Imagining the wet tropical plants brushing against my legs in the pitch darkness was too much. Not to mention the creepy crawlies that might live in them.
Creepy crawlies… or worse.
Knowing my luck I’d step into the path of a hungry king cobra or something. I shuddered again and went to find some long trousers. I was doing a lot of shuddering lately. In fact I still do shudder when I see or hear the words “Borneo Night Trek”.
Iim, our guide, told me not to be so silly regarding the snakes: “We’ll be far too noisy,” he scoffed. “They’ll hear you long before you are aware of them.” Somehow that wasn’t as comforting as he’d intended.
The light was disappearing rapidly and all too soon it was time to leap enthusiastically off the boat with our head torches on, ready to get out there and see what we could find in the rainforest. Or see what would find us in the rainforest…
The Borneo Night Trek
At 6pm there was complete darkness in the rainforest and there was just our klotok tied up at the jetty near Camp Leakey. There was no sign of human life other than us anywhere around. There were plenty of jungle sounds though: a much too close splash, a high-pitched screech, a crunch, another splash, the constant hum of cicadas, a hoot, a flap…
It was time to set off on our Borneo night trek.
We walked away from the boat for less than five minutes and we were already deep in the jungle. As we moved away from the meagre light that the boat was giving off, complete darkness shrouded us. The tiny beams from our head torches were mere dots of light, all but lost in the dense darkness.
Iim went first and I stuck right behind him, followed by the other three who I could hear crunching through the woods behind me in single file.
As we moved cautiously forward, with each step Iim would swing his torch rapidly through the forest in the hope of seeing something move. It must have been a real battle of silent wills between him and me: he was desperately searching for something cool to show us. And I was hoping with all my might that we wouldn’t see any jungle creatures!
The first thing we saw were a few small lizards on a tree chasing one another up and down. They froze when the light from our guide’s torch fell on them, only their beady little eyes still gleaming.
“Do you want to do the long trek or the short trek?” asked Iim.
I answered like lightning before anyone else had the chance to speak: “The short trek,” I said. I did not want to be trudging through the wildest forest on the planet for longer than I had to.
We continued slowly. Iim would come to a dead halt after every few steps, making us often crash into him one by one like dominoes.
It soon became clear that what Iim was looking for was tarantulas. He had a little stick that he was using to brush away leaves and twigs at the base of the trees trying to uncover tarantula holes.
Whenever he found a hole we would all stand around in a semi-circle and shine our torches on it, hoping (or not) for a glimpse of this fearsome creature. We would watch with bated breath as Iim, holding his stick at arm’s length, would tentatively jiggle it about in the tarantula hole.
The first time we saw that hairy leg appear, followed by huge hairy body, we all jumped back in shock. That was one big spider. It had seen the movement and came to ambush its prey.
Not for the first time I wondered why the hell we were provoking tarantulas in the middle of the jungle, in the darkness.
As the tarantula disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, back into its hole, I shuddered. I felt a wave of hysteria rise inside my chest and all I wanted was to jump high off the ground. Not to get away from the beast that we had just seen, but out of fear of everything that we couldn’t see, that could be right by my feet.
Despite using all my energy to hope against hope that we wouldn’t find more tarantula holes, we did actually find a few. At each one, the same routine: us with the torches, Iim with his stick, a hairy leg, a huge hairy body, we’d jump back, the tarantula would disappear again. On to the next hole…
There was one moment when we had stopped dead and Iim was listening for something, during which suddenly I felt a sharp, overwhelming pain in my foot. I jumped and shouted. The stinging pain was shooting through my foot.
I realised in horror that I’d been bitten. Or I’d been stung. What was it? Was I going to die? Would my foot be amputated? Was it a snake? An angry tarantula that we’d disturbed?
Before I could get too lost in my horrific thoughts, I felt another attack, exactly the same as the first: just as sharp, just as painful, but in the other foot.
The pain was intense.
Iim looked concerned. He made me stop yelping and describe the pain to him.
“Move,” he barked dragging me forward and making the others follow quickly after I’d described the pain and the sensation.
He told me I’d been stung by fire ants. There must have been a colony of them where we were standing.
“Yeah, it really hurts,” he conceded grimly.
Good, I wasn’t being a wuss.
“But it only lasts a few minutes,” he said.
I didn’t see how the searing pain I had in both of my feet could possibly disappear in a few minutes; at the moment it was all I could think about. But just as our guide said, within just a few minutes the pain had gone almost completely and I was able to stop thinking about that and go back to thinking about how scared I was in the jungle.
Off the beaten track
After we’d advanced a little further along our route, Iim halted again. He turned slowly, staring off into the deep forest. We followed his gaze. All we could see was immense blackness. Iim obviously had his eye on something though, because without warning he took off.
He left the path we were following and went thrashing through the thick undergrowth, beckoning us to go with him. The last thing I wanted to do was leave the path in the pitch darkness to go exploring the deeper woods.
Toni, Yoko and Omar obviously thought differently and they didn’t hesitate to rush off the path into the unknown, their legs getting shredded on the cruel vegetation that grasped them. They didn’t care, they were desperate to find out what delights of the forest Iim was tracking down.
A split second later darkness had completely enveloped me. It dawned on me that I was alone. I could hear the deafening crunching and cracking of the gang rushing through the woods but I couldn’t see them any more.
Without a second thought I plunged into the forest after them. Turned out the last thing I wanted to do was not to leave the path in the pitch darkness to go exploring the deeper woods. The last thing I wanted to do was remain on the path alone.
When we caught up to Iim he was gesturing with pride at the branch of a tree.
“Flying frog,” he announced happily.
Except it wasn’t flying. It was sitting. Its beating pulse inside its big neck was the only indication that it was alive.
“How on earth did you see this?” I asked him. We were about twenty metres from the path and the night was so dense that I couldn’t even see my own hand in front of my face.
“I saw his eyes,” he whispered, his own eyes shining with glee.
Iim reached out quick as a flash and the next moment he had the flying frog in his grasp. It was squirming and protesting but Iim held it fast, urging us to hold it ourselves. No thanks!
He took pride in showing us his find and then he put it back on the branch he’d taken it from and the flying frog went back to sitting, as though nothing had happened.
We made our way back to the path, and the rest of the walk was uneventful. We got back to the boat a lifetime after we’d set off. In reality it was just over an hour, but it felt like a lifetime.
Do you fancy doing a Borneo night trek? Why? Or why not?
This is just one post of twenty that make up the Rainforest Blog.
Read the rest of it here.
I would like to remind you that all the photos used on InMyShoesTravel are my own unless otherwise stated.
You can see my whole collection of Travel Photos here.
About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....