Monday, December 22

Day 116-Georgetown

My trip might easily have been cut short this week, though today I am comfortably stationed in yet another World Heritage city. This colorful and vibrant port town, known as Pinang to the locals, affords me my last chance to enjoy the tri-cultural foods, sites, and personalities that make this place special. Tomorrow I will board an overnight train that will take me 1500 km to Thailand's capital city. But to elaborate on the trails and trials of this week.

Coming from the big city hustle of KL, I was ready for some time spent in nature. Situated between the two coast of peninsular Malaysia, lie the Cameron Highlands, a vast stretch of mountainous jungle, long ago cleared to create the fertile farmlands that provide the fruits, vegetables, and flowers for the people of this nation. It's commercial and tourist center is Tanah Rata, and it is there I made arrangements to take a tour of the local environs. We would take a drive to an aboriginal village of the Asli Orang, practice our blowpipe hunting, and then make the walk into the jungle to visit the renowned rafflesia, the worlds largest "flower".

My participation was in doubt as I boarded the van that morning, for it was packed to the gills with a honeymoon couple from Ireland, a foursome from "down under" and, my least favorite company, a gang of tourist from Holland, reeking of stale beer and cigarettes, all achatter in there unpleasant Germanic tongue. But having paid, I was determined to reap my reward. Our projected hike would be doubled in length, for the recent heavy rains had rendered the 4 wheel drive road impassable. Needless to say the track was ankle deep in mud, and steep in places, but I managed to keep up with the young and experienced Aussies. The poorly dressed and hungover Dutch team lagged behind and my misplaced sense of superiority grew by the minute.

As we neared the endpoint of the trek, in the vicinity of this elusive "flower" (actually a type of mushroom, though you would never know by looking at it), we were halted by our guide, warning us that we must cross the river on a treacherous log bridge, and to be very careful. In my enthusiasm I had been racing ahead, and as I began the traverse of the logs I noticed that traction was more than sufficient for an old hand like me, I certainly did not need to use the handrail, and virtually danced my way across. Until that last step. In a flash I was tumbling into the river a few feet below, knocking profoundly both shins, and managing to catch in both hands the broken spike of a branch that would have made quite an impression on my breastbone. I quickly regained the bridge and assured those watching that I was alright. In fact, I acquired only a golf ball bump on the shin, and a spider of equal size on my neck (quickly removed). Hopefully more lasting, is my realization of the Biblical warning that "pride goeth before the fall". The perils of travel are, for me, more often in my own mind.

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