I leave for Danum Valley in about an hour.Two weeks of trekking for orangutans and camping in the jungle!
I never did find a trekking partner – but instead of the Joseph Conrad style hacking through the virgin jungle with our food and water on our backs that I had pictured when I made plans to go to one of the most remote and pristine parks in Borneo, I’ll be staying amidst a variety of researchers and students at the Sabah Foundation’s camp site.
When I finally found the office last Friday (it was an endurance test of misdirection – I’d been in the proper strip mall for nearly two hours before I made it there, wandering around the back of fast-food like restaurants and auto shops), I expected I’d have to bluff my way into an entry permit by fluffing up my credentials – I was prepared to lie, I was prepared to beg – but I hadn’t really prepared anything to say. I was out of breath and red-faced as I opened the doors, blinking at the stylish wooden interior.
“Selamat pagi. I would like to go to Danum Valley, please.”
“The Center is not for tourists,” a smiling woman in a sari told me.
“I’m a student,” I began “of -“
I didn’t have to get any further.
“Ah! Well, we are fully booked at the moment -“
“But if you are willing to camp – ” this was said hesitatingly.
“Camping is no problem!”
“Please have a seat. When would you like to go?”
“As soon as possible.”
“A shuttle leaves in half an hour but it is unfortunately full – there is one every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.”
“Is this Monday possible?”
It was. She outlined the prices for me (transport both ways, breakfast, lunch, dinner, park entry fee, and the guides’ hourly rate), pausing and repeating as I scrawled them down. It came out to a little over $400 USD for the first week. She asked me to write down my name and phone number – and to return at 3:30 on Monday for the bus.
It was that easy.
I’m excited – but also rather nervous.
I’ve done none of the pre-trek-trekking I intended to, I’m probably in the worst physical shape that I’ve been in since leaving home (having succumbed to laziness and French food in Laos and then having wilted in the humidity in Malaysia). I’ve just barely skimmed up on orangutan behavior, rather than doing any proper research – despite the free wifi that I found here in town, and I’m about to be crashing into a campful of real scientists who actually know what they’re doing and have real reasons to be here!).
And, most importantly, I don’t want anyone else to say the word “leeches” again – just don’t – no – don’t even –
I’ll be fine. It will be great. I’ll just – drink water and keep walking and borrow someone’s bug spray – that’s a decent strategy, right? Right.