Jake Gordon

A Cave, a Snake and a Leprechaun

12 March 2001

At the crack of dawn we dumped our tent and got onto a small boat which took us a couple of hours up the river. I was travelling light - as light as I possible could for the two nights, taking just my small day bag with a roll mat tied to the top, and two water bottles dangling off the side. Once at the small, derelict buildings where the boat stopped, which resembled something out of Jurrasic Park: The Lost World, we had some rice and veg. before setting off on our 8.7km trek. Excellent stuff!

Half an hour later and I was sweating buckets. It’s knackering work walking through the jungle in the swealtering heat, carrying a bag on your back and wearing trousers.

Let me tell you something about leeches. They’re annoying - they’re bloody annoying - literally - sucking all the blood out of you without you even realising they’re there. They don’t hert, they kind of itch, but they’re always there, crawling around your ankles, slithering inside your socks and then sucking away at your blood, leaving horrible bloody marks all over your socks and trousers. They’re not all that scary, they’re not life-threatening, and they’re not exactly huge - they’re just a centimetre or so long, slimy, sticky and enjoy sucking your blood. What this means is that every few minutes, you have to keep looking down at your feet, looking for something moving - and if it is, get out a cigarette and burn it off, or try and whip it off with your finger, leaving a bloody wound.

Well, apart from leaches, and a horrible wetness all over, caused by excessive sweating rather than a tropical rainstorm, the walking was fun stuff. Walking through a forest is okay… no scrap that, it’s boring crap. But walking through a rainforest is fun - climbing up the roots and buttresses of huge trees, slipping and sliding up rocky and muddy slopes, crossing streams by walking along logs - it’s really quite exhilerating.

We were all, however, thoroughly relieved when Danger Mouse (our short local guide, who carried a bag which must have weighed as much as himself) announced that we were approaching the cave - our hotel for the night.

Now, you imagine staying in a cave (or at least I did) and you think of a small entrance and a few metres of space inside. What you don’t expect is a huge cavernous void, taller than a cathedral, and larger than a mansion. Quite a cavernous cave really.

Of course a cave doesn’t have bathroom facilities. Instead, we had to use trees and leaves for that (although taking a toilet roll also came in handy!). The first thing we had to do was collect some wood for a fire - to keep away the tigres and all the beasties - so we went and chopped down some tree roots (bigger than trees in England) and then took our disgusting, smelly clothes (especially shoes) off and just relaxed.

Just before we went to sleep we were disturbed by an Attack Of The Killer Rat - a huge rat which was trying eating our leftovers. A few stone throws later, the rat was gone (for about five minutes) and we managed to get some sleep. Unfortunately, an elephant didn’t visit us in the cave that night - although there was elephant footprints in there, from one which visited recently. A couple of nights before though, I thought I heard an elephant whilst in the tent. Turns out it wasn’t an elephant, but a chicken instad - a mistake anyone can make… damn it, anyone can make that mistake. They sound identical… I swear.

One of my wishes was to see a live snake in the wild, and this was realised in the morning. At first I couldn’t see it, but after Danger Mouse poked around at it, it started slithering across the path in front of me. A snake! Whoppee! Regrettably, I can’t tell you which kind of a snake it was, because he didn’t know. But I’m sure it must have been poisonous (even if Danger Mouse said it wasn’t)… yes, that’s right, a poisonous, deadly snake, just a metre or so in front of me. Or at least that’s how it felt.

Slightly less walking this second day, and by about 2pm we got to our hide where we’d stay that night. A high hide - looking out across a clearing so we could see leprechauns and the likes. Well… we watched out of the hide for ages, and apart from a few dinosaurs and blue-spotted-pink-elephants which were lurking around in the undergrowth, it was pretty uneventufl. Sure, we saw some birds and squirrels, but it was only when night came that something mildly interesting happened. There was a ruckus downstairs, and I heard something about a ‘cat’ so immediately presumed ‘big scary tiger’. We went out with our torches (and bare feet) looking for this big scary tiger, and we shone the torch light right into its eye. Only later did we find out that it was just a fairly large cat (you know, like a domestic cat, but a bit bigger and of a different species) which wasn’t that scary after all. Some people went on the prowl after some big scary spiders, and they found them - very poisonous ones, but I didn’t because I didn’t fancy treading on them without my shoes on.

Big tropical storm at night which was fun to watch, but that meant no animals - which was less fun to watch. Next day we just did an hour’s walk, then something called ‘tubing’ down the river. Basically, this is a cross between Thunder River at Thorpe Park, and one of those rides in a waterpark where you’re on a ring going down a flume. Only this time, you’re in a big black ring big enough for one person, going down the rainforest’s river for about two hours, getting nicely surnburnt, and enjoying the thrills of the rapids every now and then. An relaxing way to finish the three days of fun.

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by Jake Gordon, some rights reserved