This is one of ten fun stories from ten years of travelling - the rest are here.
I have to tell you now, going into the jungle on Borneo in the wet season isn’t the best of ideas. Sometimes when you travel, certainly when you’re just randomly going to places because Air Asia had a cheap flight (like on this particular trip), you have to make the best of things.
However, it did seem a waste to find ourselves on Borneo and not go into the jungle. A bit of research later and we found ‘Uncle Tans’ – a three-day experience, where you stay in wooden huts surrounded by verdant rain forest.
It rained much more over the days before the trip and when we arrived at the departure point, it was clear that the river we were going to boat down was at bursting point.
The boat turned out to be a dug-out canoe with what looked like a garden strimmer on the end to push us along.
As we moved further into the jungle the river narrowed and the trees started to hang over the water.
This was a pretty sight until the guide pointed out all the snakes that had taken shelter in the trees. One of which he drove the boat right under. Apparently, its bite didn’t kill, just hurt – so that was okay then (I didn’t cry, regardless of the fact that snakes and cats are the henchmen of the devil).
The camp was a collection of wooden buildings on stilts that lifted them about 6ft off the ground. And then a walk way about 3ft high ran around the camp.
When we arrived the river banks had flooded and the water had about reached the bottom of the walk way.
The place looked like the abandoned set of a 70s horror movie, where in the film a crazed killer in a ludicrous mask had butchered everyone in sight.
It was a shared dorm, with mats on the floor. In total the camp housed 10 of us, though a fancy looking Japanese couple who had dressed for a night on the town, asked to leave ten minutes after we arrived. Sadly, neither of them fell in the water as they got back on the boat, which was a miracle given how tight the clothes they were wearing.
If I’m making this sound bad and rough, it was a case of you get what you pay for, and for 3 days it was super cheap – which is my favourite of all prices.
The rain continued and started to get harder as the day when on, and by lunch time the water was up and over the walk way.
The dug-out canoes were swapped for larger plastic ribs and we were zipped down the river along the jungle where the guide pointed out a variety of local wildlife. At this point we got to see orang-u-tans in the canopy. Such amazing creatures whose existence is being threatened by man; I only mention this because it's one of those creatures that if you want to see in the wild you better go look for them now.
Not entirely sure why but our ‘highly trained’ guide told us that every animal in the jungle eats nuts and seeds. Which might be true, but I was pretty sure some of them eat each other.
As the sun dipped and the light faded, the rain carried on hammering down. By the time we reached the camp the water was a foot higher than the walk way, making traversing the camp a damp affair.
In the evening we went out in the pouring rain on the boats and, with an insanely bright torch, the guide terrorized nocturnal animals for our pleasure. I’m not sure how they write that in the brochure, but I don’t think many animals are keen on being held in a 1000w beam.
The highlight of that evening for me, wasn’t so much the animals fleeing in terror, it was another one of the camp guides asking me if ‘I liked to party’ – I didn’t really know what he meant tbh. I don’t really like the company of groups, but that didn’t seem like a suitable answer.
I stumbled my way through it, to which he kept saying ‘yes man, but do you like to party’ – I think now of course he was offering me weed, but this was a long time ago and I often have no idea what people are talking about.
The next morning, after I had a bout of night terrors that involved screaming at the top of my voice that there were snakes on me (I’m such a great traveller), and scaring the camp half to death, breakfast was a cold affair.
Another round of sightseeing, more animals that ate nuts and seeds and then time for lunch. By this point, to move from one hut to another you had to wade through 2 feet of brown water, and avoid the passing snakes – who knew they swim so well.
Lunch was impressively grand for the middle of the jungle. A collection of large pans with a range of delicious curries and local dishes, sticky rice – lots of yummy goodness.
The smell of the food wafted through the jungle attracting the attention of large grey macaque monkeys. These have huge teeth and though appear friendly they basically only want your food, or sun glasses, they seem to have a thing for sunglasses too, as you can often see them steal around the temples in Cambodia.
A troop of them gathered in the trees around the camp as we ate. Thinking back, you’d have thought what happened next would be a regular occurrence at the site, so the guides would have a better plan for dealing with it.
The monkeys leapt into the camp, screeching as they landed on tables and chairs, knocking things flying as they grabbed the food and yelled at screaming tourists.
A girl passed out and a man died of heart attack (this didn’t happen). We all did however, scream.
With arms full of food, the monkeys vanished as quickly as they arrived and, most likely because everyone was still tired from me keeping them awake, conversation very quickly turned back to other things.
The other thing was the rain, which hadn’t stopped and as we chatted, a man announced that the toilet block was now flooded and closed. This meant that they had to float a wooden shed on plastic drums downstream about 20 feet and then hammer a hole in the bottom of it so that we could go in there. To get to there, a little man waited in a boat to drop us there and back.
Because my body hates me and the Fates find it fun to play about with me at the most inopportune moments, The food from dinner poisoned me, and with the food poisoning came volcanic lava that needed to find a way out. It chose my rectum(too graphic?) – so the rest of my day was spent being ferried backwards and forwards to the shed by an increasingly disgruntled local.
Everyone else went on day tours where they saw fun and exciting animals. I saw giant spiders and played ‘aim at the tiny hole in the wood’ – for the rest of the day.
I like to tell this story when people tell me how lucky I am to be a traveller.
The best part of this trip, other than the general adventure of it all and the orang-u-tans, was meeting a British couple with the same sense of humour as us.
It made the whole excursion super fun and we travelled with them for a little while after.
Plus, I didn’t die and a monkey didn’t eat my face, so that’s always a good result.
Any thoughts? Have you been to Uncle Tans?
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