After several days of disappointment in the rainforest good news finally came. A jungle trek was arranged for the next day and I was booked to go on it.
At last the Hobo was going to hit that rainforest trail. Deep breathes. I feel a Tarzan like yodel about to come on………
I had tried trekking on my own without much success so this time I was going with a group of 8 plus our two guides, one of whom was Thomas a bit of a local legend in this area. Forget about what you may of seen about using a machete to get through undergrowth thats a load of bollocks. The trail however is rough with some spots an almost vertical climb up the mountainside. After about an hour our other guide had found signs of Orangutans and was trying to coax them down with fruit. A bit here about the other guide. Not only was he carrying food for us till we got to our camp for the night, but he was also carrying water for us and extra food for the orangutans. This guy had the thickest calves I have ever seen. Following him some times was like being one step behind the Incredible Hulk.
Eventually much to everyone’s delight a female appeared with her baby. It was a magical moment as she slowly climbed down from the trees and hanging from a slender dead tree reached down for the food. Our guide gave her some carrot then diced some more and handed it to me to feed her. It is one of the moments that will always stick in my most fondest memories as she slowly reached down and uncurling fingers as long as my full hand carefully grabbed the food from my hand. I was totally gobsmacked. I had hoped something like this would happen but never thought it really would or that it would be so soon.
Eventually another arrived. This was younger then adult but still not all that big. Thomas explained that the babies stay with the mother till about the age 8 then they are pushed away when the mother has another baby. This one was obviously still attached to its mother and did not want to leave. After a while it was time to move on as we still had a good way to go before getting to camp.
We managed to see over half a dozen all together most kept their distance apart from one. Mina. She had a bad reputation and had been known to attack even the guides before now. When we encountered her she marched straight up to us and you could tell the guides felt wary. We were told to stand back and the guides distracted her with food so we could move on. She is something of a legend herself is old Mina but fortunately it means more work for the guides as because of her all guides must now work in pairs.
We stopped briefly for food and a good rest at the top of the mountain. We had rice wrapped in banana leaves and fresh pineapple and melon. It was surprisingly good and we all were too full to finish. All this was carried by our hulk calved guide and I bet he was glad to be rid of it.
The hike was very tiring. The most strenuous I had ever done and I have been lost up mountains in Ireland before now. I was shaky and I am sure some of the younger ones were (I was the eldest by 2 decades yet again) some of whom did not have the benefit of the proper hiking boots that I had on. We eventually headed down towards the camp which was a near vertical climb straight down clambering for vines and footholds all the way when suddenly marching up towards us on all four came an orangutan. Mina we all thought. “Head back” shouted one of guides. I looked up. It was a near vertical 75ft climb back to the top. The orangutan was a mere 25ft away. There was no way I could make it in time.
She climbed up next to me. Looked in my eyes and it was the most fantastic moment. The quiet intelligence in her eyes as she calmly regarded me. I felt sure any minute her mouth would open and them soft rubbery lips would speak. “Hello Hobo how’s it going” in a voice like a female Morgan Freeman was how I imagined it. Instead she carefully wrapped her long soft leathery fingers around my hand and proceeded to drag me back up to the top of the mountain again.
“Don’t resist her” one of the guides shouted as if I could. She had a grip like a vice and it was all I could do to keep on my feet. “It’s ok it’s Jill” shouted another as though that made much difference to me. At the top the guides fed her and she slowly let my hand go but not before grasping the hand of another fellow trekker. She knew that as long as she held one she would get fed and having basically four hands it was easy for her to do.
The next day we went for another short trek followed by a wash in a waterfall and then lunch. Food at the camp was both plentiful and amazingly good. We had stayed up till late last night playing drinking games with the locals hid in the shelters as the heavens had opened up. Well it is called a rain forest.
We river rafted back to town in two teams. Each raft made up of two big inner tubes tied together with smaller ones front and back with locals steering from these with poles. The highlight came when the other teams rear driver bounced out of the raft into the raging torrent. Only the trekkers seemed to panic and further on when the guy managed to climb back into the raft he had a big beaming grin. I don’t think it was his first time. It was a long slow ride through the village to our stop off point. A great end to a great adventure in the rainforest.
I wonder if Jill still remembers helping the Hobo up the hill.
Thanks for reading.