Savaged by a persistent, impenetrable thirst. It began in the jungle when, in a panic to escape the leeches, we mustered on in the thick, dark heat. We were afraid to stop anywhere for long for fear the rapidly inching creatures, heads raised like bloodhounds sniffing the air, would latch onto a shoe, breach the plastic bags we had tied around our feet, and wriggle through our socks to gorge disgustingly on our blood. It was not an idle worry. Chris had to pause several times to pry them off the plastic bag or his shoe, and when we finally reached a bench in what we deemed to be a safe area, I found two on my plastic bag--including one inside that had miraculously kept out of my sock. More disturbing, however, was the engorged leech we unwittingly brought back to our hotel room. We found it dazed with the blood it had drunk, moving not with the quick hunger of its rainforest friends but with the drunken motions of fullness. But this was my territory. I was filled with contempt as I tossed it over the balcony.
There is something instantly primeval and uncomfortable about the jungle, and Taman Negara is known as the oldest rainforest in the world, at 130 million years of age. The great animals are all hiding, of courses--all you see are the creepy crawlies. Even those aren't exorbitant in number. Maybe what I'm talking about is simply the sneaking, unshakeable sense that this land is not made for humans. We aren't expected to be comfortable here. No, here we are equals or even subordinates. We must fight like everyone else, and risk ourselves--be flogged by virus, bitten by ants, sucked on by leeches. We must feed and, in turn, eat.
But ultimately this knowledge of life was too extreme. I turned away. We're leaving a day early.