Last year, one of the scariest and craziest experiences I was lost in a jungle… This experience taught something about ego that I would like to share.
HOW IT STARTED
It occurred in December 2017 in Malaysia. I had two weeks to spend alone before my partner would join me for romantic Christmas together.
Because it was my last weeks alone, I decided to try something uncommon and exciting: to visit the oldest tropical forest in the world, Taman Negara.
The park is 130 million years old and has a total area of 4,343 km², almost 4 times New York. You can imagine the size of some trees! A true beauty of nature, with large biodiversity. You can find wild tigers next to rhinoceros and even elephants. Those species are rare to send Generally when you visit the jungle, the most things you see are monkey’s food stealers, bloodsuckers (leeches), snakes and mosquitoes…
HOW DID I GET LOST ?
Group tour has never been my thing. I like to travel on my own, discover at my rhythm and go wherever I want. So, when a national park tourist officer advised me to take a tour guide to walk in the jungle, I didn’t pay attention to him.
Another one who tries to sell me his tourist rip-off.
No time to waste to listen to a salesman.
Because my time was limited (only 4 days in the park), I went straight with my sneakers to one 8-km trekking road. Easy to begin with, in 3 hours I thought to be back to enjoy a nice lunch.
In the rainforest, you feel like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.
Deeper you into the jungle, less traced are the roads. There is the touristic path (a beautiful one with wooden sticks to follow), then you have the adventurous one (one small track to follow). As you guessed, I took the ego path…
Walking in the jungle it’s not like walking in the street or in a small forest. I travelled 1 kilometre in 2 hours. Nature is literally fighting back against you. Every plant or tree with their stickiness, their spines, their size will try to slow you down. Tarzan is a too-beautiful-to-be-true. Every liana will catch your feet and put you in difficulties. Watch your steps and stop every 20 minutes to remove leeches from your body.
Welcome to the jungle.
On the road, I’ve met a Chinese man walking in the same direction as me. I couldn’t speak a word of Chinese. Neither he could any English. Body language was hard too. So, we ended up with sounds:
- Wooayyyy: For Danger
- Zobaaaa: Let’s go or “continue motherfucker lazy guy”.
He was a nice guy. When I fell from a small cliff because walking with sneakers sucks, he pulled me back. He had some backpacker tricks too like using certain plants to reduce the pain from the bloodsuckers or drinking water from trees. He didn’t know Rambo, what a pity…
After 3 hours of deep-jungle walk, we realized we had lost our track. We went back, but the path was just impossible to find. We were lost in the jungle.
DON’T FREAK OUT
When we ran short of water and food (which was just two strawberry biscuits :p), I started to freak out. 9 hours of jungle trek, it’s physically challenging.
The sunset was coming. Two solutions,
- Sleep in the jungle with no equipment and only tigers and bloodsuckers as sleep partners.
- Walk in the dark until we reach the river.
The first instants, I was not worried. I liked the idea to have a story to tell my children (if I have any). We both knew that there was a river 5 km North. If we were keeping our direction, we wouldn’t miss it.
It was not fun anymore.
END OF THE STORY
One hour later, right before sunset, we found out the river. We dropped a camp there. Later, local indigenes on a pirogue found us and save us against some money.
At the hostel, other guests were looking at us terrified. We were in a poor condition, blood and mud from bottom to top.
- “What the fuck have you done, guys?”.
- “We just survived”.
It took me two days to take the courage to come back to the jungle. My last day, I discovered the jungle like any wise other tourists. It was fun too!
Some years before, a rescue time saved me and a friend from death. We wanted to be smarter than the rest of the group and slid down a full snowing mountain on our own: a mix a sledge and fun. After a long slope, we slipped on ice and fell from a 20-meter cliff. They took 4,5 hours to find us. Frozen, we survived.
It seems that my ego puts me twice at risks. In Switzerland and in Malaysia, I thought to be smarter than others. I didn’t trust the park guide; I didn’t follow my peers. 50% chances that I would never tell any story to my children… Your life is too precious to put it at risk for your own ego. There are so many ways to cross your comfort zone without being stupid. D
Accept that there are things that you don’t know. There are so many variables that you can’t control. If people tend to advise you, treat those pieces of advice like gold. It might save your life.