23 October 2013

Kota Tinggi: Jungle Invasion

Had I written about this camp last week it would have sounded a bit cheesy. Awful, I know. I wasn't sure about a night in the woods so I had to put a lot of thought before I finally gave in. Two more dear friends of mine decided to join so I had two more reasons to join anyway.

I brought just one personal bag, but not that waterproof kind. It was my laptop backpack with my bulky DSLR in it, a few clothes, more clothes that I can't wear, and a lady's emergency kit. In another "shopping" bag was Jack Daniel's Black Label, disposable plates and some plastic bags. I know plastics are not friendly but we need a lot of those in case of rain, accidental fall into the river and of course to carry back the trash.

So it was just a breeze to cross the border to Johor Bahru, Malaysia from Singapore. We hired a commercial van. It was a bit pricey but what do you expect when none of us was a Malaysian citizen. It was about an hour drive on pavement before we started on foot. The trek was approximately 45 minutes which included crossing a few streams and rivers, and climbing up and down slippery rocks. It was not too easy but I would say it was tolerable for a beginner.

The camp site was filthy when we got there. A few inconsiderate people decided to leave their trash behind so we had some cleaning up to do. It was about 3 in the afternoon when we got there. Wood for the bonfire was priority number one and after that was a dip in the fresh water pools. Somewhere in between was Tarzan moment because one of the falls was not easy to get to. We jumped into the deep water, swam, played sports, drank beer and laughed. If I could replay the whole thing now, I would. For now, I only have the replay button on our video to console me.

It was getting dark and somebody had to start the fire. The ladies took charge of dinner. First batch of sausages was perfect but the second not. Burnt food didn't taste too bad especially that we were hungry. Smoked bacon came in a little late. Of course peanuts were perfect before everything else was cooked.

Whiskey and coke or plain water was smooth and warm. It was a good start for a long night around the bonfire. The guitar was a bit abused by the end of the night and the vocal chords too. It was a great night of singing though not so fantastic because we forgot our notes and lyrics. Deeper into the night were more animal sounds and serious conversations about life now, the life we want and of course being grateful for friends who make you feel that the world is just nice and comfy.

The fireflies glowed in the pitch-black forest. Some of them just floating in the air while some flew as if they were chased. I scanned for a pair of bright yellow eyes but I saw none. The moon became recognizably bright after our pupils dilated and no one bothered that the bonfire was dying. The music from the guitar was muted after we played our final song "Closing Time."

Peeing in the woods was both a hilarious thought and scary but we all managed that. By midnight, we slowly surrendered to our tents after a few whispers from friends. I found myself in the middle of a small tent without a sleeping bag. I could hardly move and I saw the bright sky straight up since we left the "windows" open. The silhouette of the trees reminded me of all the scary things in my imagination. I had to cover my eyes with my coat. The ground was hard and a bit damp. I had to put on some ear plugs to hush the loud rushing river and the bellowing nocturnal animals, none of which I could identify.

I woke up in the middle of a slightly weird dream about the morning after the camp, but the night was still black. A few imaginary tickles actually woke me up which was either from my dream or whatever. I could hardly tell. It must have been the whiskey or beer but I was just too sober that I could barely sleep. All I wished was that the morning would come sooner.

Morning did come and I was up too early. I sat outside the tent on this unbelievably comfortable chair and closed my eyes. I heard a few monkey calls from afar but didn't see any of them approach the camp site. It was around 8 in the morning when other campers from higher ground walked past by me to invade the pools nearest to us. I heard them scream for joy and I felt envious. The rest of my gang was still in deep slumber.

Later when the sun beams started peaking through the forest, I decided to slip into my more comfortable swimsuit and headed to the shallower pools alone. The water was cold but not ice cold since it was always moving. For a moment I thought there was some other animals in the water aside from fish and shrimps but I dismissed it. I floated on my back and saw the sky with the towering trees around it and it was just nice. I had my moment of serenity and wished I stayed there a bit longer. My other friends joined later after realizing that a morning swim is just refreshing.

Breakfast was spam and bread. Some decided for noodles. The huge spiders on the trees got a little attention during lunch when everyone was relaxed. We cleaned up and left by noon without a trace. I know that is an exaggeration but we did take all the trash.

Now this story is more like it. Calm and honest. I was in love with the forest but after dark it scares me to death. Strangely, I want to go back to that forest without a doubt.

Location: Kota Tinngi, Johor Bahru, Malaysia

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