When I decided to sit inside a big metal wing thing until it was in South East Asia, so that I could sit in stagnant puddles of my own sweat eating cheap gonad-swellingly-hot curry while gaggles of men try to sell me fake aftershaves that actually smell of a combination of said curry and sweat…I thought I was escaping the stinking jaws of reality in a way that would make writing my new book, ‘I am The Gloryhunter’ a much purer, objective and frankly hedonistic experience.
I didn’t imagine, not even for a nibble of a second, not even a single divot of a minute, that two weeks later I’d be breaking my personal best for a fifty meter turn of pace in the dense, thorny undergrowth of the Sumatran jungle while being chased by an enormous orangutan with a strop on. Nope. I definitely didn’t think that would be on the menu.
So here’s how it happened. Me and Matt – my Welsh traveling partner – decided to do a jungle trek at Bukit Lawang, Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, The World. And Jungle Eddie, a tour guide from the jungle who’s called Eddie, said he would take us but couldn’t guarantee wildlife. We thought that was a noble proclamation from the outset, because usually they’ll tell you you’re going to see the lot – probably including some species of dinosaur.
I knew this would be a bit different, early doors, when a monkey urinated in my face. But that was alright, a bit of warm ape wee sprinkled on my boat from way up in the canopy is more a novelty than a hygiene outrage. Then the big orange dirtbags started coming down and taking food off the guide. Excellent. Amazing. Super. What an experience. Unique. Memorable. Then it bloody chased me. It had a cob on because it used to be in captivity and wasn’t treated well. Its abusers used to wear red t-shirts, and the guide’s helper standing next to me happened to be wearing a red t-shirt. Like a red rag to an orangutan. So when it started charging with its horrible long arms and stupid big face, with an ugly little baby thing hanging onto its side, the snide in the red t-shirt sprinted past and left me directly in the path of the ginger twat. Imagine suddenly having to sprint into the undergrowth, dodging trees like a ridiculous jungle slalom, trying to get away from an orangutan. Unbelievable. All I remember is looking behind me every so often and seeing an orange blur getting closer and closer. I scrabbled around, running into trees, cutting my legs on sharp bits and steaming directly through apparently impermeable bush efforts. Then I fell over. Idiot. I later found out that during that fall, when I was at my most monkey-prone, a leach decided to take advantage of my inner thigh. But seemingly it lost interest when it realised how pathetic I must have looked; a greasy, muddy, leachy Englishman panting for his life in not exactly his natural habitat. Had it dared take me on in an East London pub, it might well have ended up with a Budweiser bottle shoved up its rancid jacksie and some pork scratchings lodged under its goggly eyeball lids. So that was that. I lived. Well, let’s say I didn’t die. And chapter three is nearly cooked. But now I hate monkeys. All of them. Especially ginger ones.