Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Taman Negara

It's the rain that I remember the most.

It fell solidly in the evenings, filtered through in soaking amounts from the high jungle canopy, rattled the rooftop of our barrack-like living space, and fell to the ground, the wooden walkways and concrete with a resounding splat.

Our window to the outside held no glass: only a dense mesh to keep the flying insects out but allowed the wind to circulate the moist air, cooling us at night. The eaves ensured that no raid could come in to ruin our rest.

Every so often, the gentle rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance. Not close or loud enough to stir or disturb us. It was merely the base line in a soothing melody.

The rain was constant, filling our ears but landing with a calming, persistent pattering that surrounded us like a blanket. I could fall asleep to the pattering sound of the rain, as we lay in our bed, in that national-park shelter, in that 130-million-year-old rainforest, more than 120 kilometres northeast of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The morning call to prayer stirred us, but didn't disturb our slumber. We heard the song, rolled over, and let it lull us back to sleep. For just a few hours more.

During the daylight hours, the rain held back, leaving a Scotch mist, instead. Water dripped from the forest above, but we didn't mind. We climbed atop to the walkways in the canopy, sometimes catching glimpses of the rolling landscape of dense forest, the low-hanging clouds reaching down to stroke the topmost leaves. Looking down to the ground, lush foliage and every once and again, as luck would show us, the odd pygmy deer.

The monkeys were everywhere, watching us, seemingly amused by our presence. Wild birds, some in trees; others, flightless, flittered above and in the brush.

Down on the ground, we had to keep moving. Leeches were everywhere. As I stopped to photograph my surroundings, the muddy trail we took seemed to move out of focus. On closer inspection, we saw the tendril-like creatures moving around us, encircling us, looking for nourishment.

Back at the barracks, the rain fell again. As we changed out of our wet clothes, DW discovered a leech, firmly attached to her calf, partially engorged on her blood. She called for me to rush to the dining hall, to find some salt, but by the time I returned, the leech had reached its limit and its plump body had disengaged from her calf. We gathered it up and tossed it outside.

It was then, as I removed my boot, that I discovered one on my ankle, filled near to bursting. I sat, fascinated by this creature, and chose to let it continue to feed.

We all have to feed.

As darkness came, the rain returned in earnest, to repeat its cascade, to lull us yet again to sleep.

In an effort to counter the ringing in my ears, brought on by tinnitus, I've been encouraged by a specialist to set up a distraction by playing a constant audio sound. My ear condition is so bad that it can take me hours to fall asleep.

I downloaded an app, Nature Sounds, which can play an ocean, fields and forests, waterfalls, babbling brooks, campfires, and more. The one I settle on each night is aptly named "Perfect Rain."

The rain is solid but not torrential. It mimics falling through trees, bouncing off rooftops, and settling on the ground with a solid splat. The rain is constant, filling my ears but landing with a calming, persistent pattering that surrounds me like a blanket.

Every so often, the gentle rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance. Not close or loud enough to stir or disturb me. It was merely the base line in a soothing melody.

Within minutes of hearing the sound, in my darkened bedroom, under my warm blanket, my mind travelled to the other side of the planet, to  that national-park shelter, in that 130-million-year-old rainforest, more than 120 kilometres northeast of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I set the timer for 40 minutes, but I don't really need than much time. In less than half that time, it seems, I'm long, fast asleep.

At least, this time, there are no leeches to worry about.

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