Travel Stories

Jungles and Monkeys

         My guide, Armando, insists we go on at least one short walk in the jungle.  He takes me to Harau and the Harau Valley, which is stunningly beautiful.  The jungle he picks is relatively tame, basically running along the base of the steep valley cliffs.  Nonetheless the footing is slippery and wet with roots and vines impeding steady progress and the “trail” is very narrow and uneven.  Armando is hacking away with a stick at brush and branches much taller than I am.  In places the trail disappears and at one point running along the edge of a stream I have to make my way 10 feet above the stream by grasping branches with my hands and placing my feet very cautiously on roots exposed by erosion, as if walking across a narrow ladder. 
         There are monkeys, of course, and beetles bigger than marshmallows, and red dragonflies.  I recall that somewhere on this voyage there might be leeches.  Flying leeches I think.  I’m hoping this is not that place.  
         We’ve been out in the jungle nearly two hours as we start to walk out by approaching a knee high clearing on the other side of which is a stream and then rice fields.  It is clearly the end of the trail and I’m starting to rejoice when I see racing across the clearing directly towards us a toothless man screaming wildly with a machete raised in the air.  The man is running erratically in a zigzag manner.  As he draws nearer it is also clear he is laughing hysterically.  Armando starts to run away while I stand shocked and still.  The man is running hard.  He’s yelling, or swearing as he nears me and a then a small striped wild brown pig emerges from the field running straight at me, the man not far behind.  The pig zigs.  The man zigs.  The pig runs past me within inches of my toes and is lost in the jungle.  The man reaches me and surrendering the wild pig to the jungle waves hello with his machete, then squats breathlessly, lights a cigarette, and offers me one.  I shake my head no and now laughing myself walk to catch up with Armando.  
         “I’m scared of pigs,” he tells me. 
         “You knew?” I ask.  
         “What else could it have been,” says Armando.  
         What else indeed?     

 armando leaving me behind

armando leaving me behind

IMG_5013.jpg
 waterfall

waterfall

 the end of the valley

the end of the valley