Friday, 22 May 2009

Brave is the man who beats his fears

Brunei is a very odd country, full of strange little things that really throw me.

It's a dry state but, if you are a non muslim, you can bring alcohol into the country. So ex-pats are constantly crossing the border to bring across their allowance.

One of the best things is the need to show people toilet etiquette. All over this small country, toilets have a message explaining that you do not need to put your feet on the sides of the throne - so many toliet seats have been damaged by misuse.

View leaving the orangutan centre...

The last two days have been fascinating. On our last day on the Malaysian side of Borneo, Sabah, we went to an orangutan rescue centre. The story of the only great apes of Asia is a sad one. Their habitat is being destroyed at an alarming speed, to the extent that some believe that by 2020 no rainforest at all will be left in Borneo. Sadly, I saw a lot of that.

Orangutans are being displaced and, although several centres are trying to rescue them, their future is bleak without a home.

These great apes, that share 96% of our genes, are fascinating and cute as hell. I could not help but feel sorry for them and wondering when will we stop destroying all that is beautiful around us.

I had been quite sceptical about what I read about Brunei. It promotes itself as having 75% forest cover, with some of the most pristine rainforest in the world, as Laos also did.

Well in this case it is all true.

I can't tell if it is 70 or 75% but there are trees, and trees, and more trees.

Yesterday we went up the river and across to the other side of Brunei to the Temburong National Park.

The boats that do the journey are called flying coffins. I hoped this was to do with their shape and not their speed and the number of accidents.

The best and worst thing of it was taking the jungle canopy walk.

Fear is irrational and cannot be controlled. My fear of snakes goes beyond me to the point that when I once saw one in Thailand, actually it was being waved in my face, I tried to throw one of my best friends towards the snake to get away from it. A very scooby doo moment, I even jumped on his lap.

My fear of heights is slightly less hysterical but, going up the really narrow tower, I was sure I was going to slip on one of the platforms and plummet 40 metres to the ground.

As I said, this was stupid, fear is irrational, but I couldn't help but think about it. As I went up, sweat was dribbling from my face, a mix of heat and fear. But, as Indiana Jones said, bravery is not the person with no fears but the one who beats their fears. I decided to go first so no one would see my face of sheer fear, pure panic.

Nonetheless, when I eventually got to the top the view was breathtaking. The rainforest extended undisturbed as far as my poor sight could see, and my gloom and doom mood lifted.

There may be hope.

The hope is that we pay to preserve our forests. Brunei has not chopped theirs because they have oil resources to pay for the needs of their people. We, the rich of the world, need to pay for the others to preserve their forest, the lungs of our planet, for future generations.

Somehow I agreed to finish the day trip tubing down the river. Sitting on a huge tube from a tractor inner wheel, I drifted down the river, very aware that we were in the middle of a jungle where pythons, crocodiles and an endless list of reptiles live by the water or in it.

Still here, so I guess i made it.

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