Afiq is super generous. His jungle camp feels like staying at a friend’s house. Our mid-dock suitcase/clothes exchange wasn’t the most efficient and we forgot shoes and long-sleeved shirts and flashlights and he shared his own with us.
We might think it’s strange that the cook keeps the door to the kitchen locked while he’s working but I think it’s mostly to keep the dentist out. He has to use a special knock before they open the door so he can bring in the dirty plates. They are messing with him because he is new and his shoes are so white.
Anyway, I guess I’m not done talking about wildlife spotting protocol.
Afiq worried that we weren’t enthusiastic enough about the wildlife he spotted for us.
He was faintly disappointed with our persistent appreciation of the macaque monkeys. He noticed that we weren’t crossing species of hornbills off our (oops didn’t bring one) bird spotting lifelist.
So he upped the ante.
Walking through the jungle in the dark one night, he shone his flashlight on two birds sleeping on a low branch.
“Trogons,” he declared.
“Huh, nice.” We said.
“DIARD Trogons.” He said.
“Aren’t we going to wake them up?” we asked. “They seem so comfortable.”
“They are VERY RARE,” he emphasized.
“Awww, look at their little blue eyelids,” Ramona crooned. “So cute.”
“SOME people come from around THE WORLD to see this bird,” he rallied, flicking the flashlight for emphasis.
“Hope they’re still sitting there when those people show up,” we muttered, eager to move on.
It’s a shame that Afiq wasn’t with us at the Rain Forest Conservation Center near Sepilok.
Just as we were about to cross a swinging suspension bridge, we spotted a monstrous spiderweb roped across the trees above us. In the center, if you tilted your head just right, you could see a black spider the size of a saucer, hairy legs spread and menacing.
“Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god,” Ben said.
Ramona craned her head until she got a just right spot of the beast.
“HOLY SHIT!” She yelled and backpedaled off the shaky bridge.
It was a very un-Ramonalike response.
Afiq would have appreciated it.
Our second day at the jungle camp, Afiq went to town to pick up the South Africans and left us in the charge of the cook and the dentist. Before he left, he checked in with us about our itinerary.
“I just want to make sure you don’t want to visit the Gomontong bat cave,” he said.
“I don’t know, do we?” Ramona asked. “What is it like?”
“Well,” he said. “First you go and learn all about bats. Then you go into the cave, which smells like batshit and you walk around in bat shit while the bats shit on you.”
“That doesn’t sound very appealing,” Ramona said.
“We have bats here,” he said reassuringly. “In our dining room.”
“By the way,” Afiq said, and put his hand on my shoulder. “Kristie can I talk to you for a moment?”
My heart jumped. He found out about the clogged toilet?
“Kristie, I am worried,” he said, leaning close to my ear. “I noticed that you didn’t drink your beer last night. Is everything ok?”
“Oh my gosh, yes,” I assured him. “It’s just last night I was so tired and cozy and I didn’t want to get up and trek to the bathroom.”
“Ah,” he said, nodding. “But you’ll drink it today?”
“Yes,” I promised. “I will drink my beer today.”
After breakfast, Afiq left and the rest of us went for a walk in the jungle.
We didn’t see anything except ruts left in the mud by hungry bearded pigs. The heat smothered us.
A moment of tension arose when we worried that we were walking toward a forest fire but then we realized that the smoke came from the cook’s cigarette and we continued.
“It’s hard to see things in the jungle,” the dentist confided. “The birds are so small. And there are so many trees.”
“That’s all right,” I patted his arm. “We’re all doing our best.”
Then I spotted a black blob in the distance. “What’s that?”
The dentist didn’t say anything but the cook pointed excitedly. “It’s a drogo! Very rare.”
That broke the ice. We noticed some cuckoos and heard a couple of hornbills and a thrush.
After a bit, the cook dropped his cigarette and grabbed a handful of leaves from a bush and squished them.
“Smell this,” he said. “Ginger”.
We smelled it and agreed that it was, indeed ginger.
I ground his cigarette out when he wasn’t looking.
We were dripping with sweat when we finished the looped trail. The cook pulled out his cell phone and asked the dentist to take a picture of all of us together.
“For memories,” he said.
That afternoon we lazed in the hammocks. I drank a beer because Afiq was expecting me to. The wind kicked up and the sky covered itself in black clouds. Rain dumped in torrents. The air vibrated with thunder.
I took a nap and Tavish woke me up to join everyone watching a crocodile crossing the river. It wasn’t Bleggh but it was still an impressive sight nonetheless.