How was your summer? I hope good. Did you get that tennis scholarship you were seeking? Excellent.
I spent a good bulk of the season in the jungles of Borneo. No, I wasn't doing a pictorial on "The Hot Jungle Women of Borneo". Instead, I was partaking in a 10-day trek through the wilds of malaria country with Terra Incognita's ecotour in the northern Malaysian state of Sabah.
By no means was I planning on infiltrating the world of jungle ecotravel in uncharted territory; not with crocodiles, poisonous viper snakes, and wild elephants present. I needed to trust my experienced Terra Incognita guides because I didn't know if I would encounter the mythical headhunters of Borneo, a prehistoric bird the size of a house, or 37 species of moss. (The prospect of a wide-variety of moss was what freaked me out the most.)
I was thrilled at the prospect of a life changing experience with sensory overload deep in a jungle adventure that would make Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull look like a complete load of crappy fiction. (Can you really believe that was the long-awaited Steven Spielberg sequel they went with?)
No need for modern technology when I had the Discovery Channel right before my eyes. Chucking away my cell phone, with neither the Internet or a Mission burritos to be found, I wanted to see life through fresh eyes in one of the most remote regions in the world where trees full of monkeys are simply a common day occurrence.
Meanwhile, a herd of 50 wild elephants crossing a river in front of our boat played out like it were the most ordinary thing in the world. Let me say that again: 50 flippin' wild elephants crossing a river in front of our boat!
Adapting my best Martin Sheen look, we journeyed up river into the heart of darkness. (That being the Kinabatangan River.) But instead of trying to locate the last outpost of a renegade Colonel Kurtz (portrayed by an overweight Marlon Brando), we instead found...
A big selling point of the Terra Incognita tour is special access to Red Ape Encounters, which is a orangutan wilderness conservatory on the lower Kinabatangan river where only 300 people each year are invited onto the land to observe one of man's closest, red-haired cousins. (Did you know that orangutans are 96% human?)
Disregarding leeches, our group of intrepid explorers ran through the jungle like little, excited kids as we followed a mother orangutan and her baby as they traversed across the top of trees.
And this is what it looked like from the orangutan's point of view:
"Funny little people and their peculiar habits," the orangutans must have thought with their 96% human brains.
One place that almost made me scream like a little girl was the Simud Hitam Cave. This would be the worst place in the world to get really baked. Basically it's a cave filled with thousands of bats, cockroaches, rats and crabs.
And it smelled really bad too.
Very scary looking Malaysian gangster-types guarded the cave in order to harvest the valuable nests of the cave swiftlets to be used for expensive bowls of bird's nest soup.
The walls looked worse than those in my Mission district apartment.
With a true sense of adventure and discovery, Terra Incognita provides amazing ecotours around the globe: from Rwanda to New Zealand.
Their philosophy is to make a difference to the places they visit, with a pledge to engage in responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and improve the well-being of local people.
I also tried to make a change in people's lives. The reason this happy family is waving at me: I'm doing some awesome air-guitaring on our boat.