Close your eyes. Now imagine a long stretch of dazzling white sand and the sun setting over the Andaman Sea.
That's where I'm writing from. It's an island called Langkawi in northwest Malaysia. Currently flying solo on an Asian summer odyssey, undeterred by bad weather and evil monkeys. I like to write due to my ever-disappearing memory – and to prove to a future self that I did, in fact, live a life of adventure.
This morning, I awoke to the rain that I'd fallen asleep to. Darn it! It's the first day of rain that I've encountered, so I guess I'm lucky.
Around midday I grew restless and decided a little bit of precipitation wasn't going to stop me. I've driven through a typhoon, after all. So I got myself onto a rental motorbike and in no time I was cruising the wet roads to the 7 Wells Waterfall.
Upon arriving I bought ice cream and chips for some energy, since I had skipped breakfast. I needed some sugar for the 600-step climb to the first pool. I demolished the ice cream, saving the chips for a victory snack at the top – some five kilometers up a mountain.
But by the time I reach the top of the stairs, there's a slight issue. An aggressive monkey is stalking me for my bag of chips. After a quick battle of hissing and kicking, I ward off the evil monkey... for the time being.
The rain has stopped, but humidity is through the roof. I have a mission to accomplish, however, so on I go. A sign posted at the trailhead advises to not bring food on the trail, so as to avoid unwanted animal attention. (They should have put that at the bottom of the stairs!) Either way, I concede to munching on my chips before I continue, to escape another close call.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned evil monkey is still lurking in the distance. Literally as soon as the bag starts to crinkle, it charges at me! More out of fear of rabies shots than this nuisance, I throw the bag as far away from me as possible. Ego slightly bruised, I console myself that it takes more than that to stop me, and off I venture into the jungle.
Due to the storm from the previous night, the small trail is deserted – no one's interested in climbing a muddy mountain that has become strewn with fallen trees and branches.
Now let's assess what I'm wearing: sandals and a dress. Okay, probably not the best choice. Usually there's a maintained-for-tourists trail, but not here. That's the cool thing about Langkawi, it isn't overdeveloped. So jungle trekking it is!
The humidity engulfs my entire body in sweat. My mind begins to wander. I wonder what animals are out there and what I should do if attacked. I think about how many mosquito bites I could rack up, and what other parasites might be lurking in the bushes I'm crawling through. I pass a sign with emergency numbers, which I find ironic; I have no phone and there's absolutely no one else out there.
After sizing up my next obstacle on the path, I wipe some mud specks off my legs that I noticed had been there a while. Oh, they're not moving… what kind of dirt is this? I rub it harder and to my horror I discover a curled-up leech stretched out on my shin! There are three on my left shin, one on my right shin and one on my right ankle. (I feel obligated here to mention they were teeny tiny, mini leeches, but leeches nonetheless and equally terrifying.)
Maybe it’s a good thing no one else was around because the ensuing panic attack and freak-out was, if nothing else, overly dramatic. For my sanity, I hightailed it out of there but I didn’t know exactly where the leeches came from, so I was scared of everything. Trees in my way, all these suspicious branches and all the water… ahhh my brain was on overload. Paranoia set in. About every 200 meters, I stopped to inspect my body to insure no more bloodsucking parasites had decided to hitch a ride.
To completely shatter my nerves, of course, there was a big one between my toes. I had probably missed it from before because this one was much bigger, as it had filled up on my sweet crimson nectar. I couldn’t get it off the first try and started screaming and flailing around. Even the evil monkey would have been afraid if he had happened upon this scene.
Mother Nature must have mistaken this for a rain dance, because shortly thereafter, the sky started to sweat again. I didn’t care. I was walking like a maniac, not stopping to cool off at the first pool, straight down the 600 stairs, to the parking lot, onto my motorbike and onto the highway where no leech would dare follow.
I guess I’m not the nature adventurer I fancied myself as.