Editor’s Note: MAF pilot Dave Forney serves in Indonesia and takes a yearly trek through the jungle that he flies over each day. He says understanding how challenging it is to travel through the dense vegetation and dangerous wildlife habitats makes him appreciate what MAF does for isolated people that much more. A story about his jungle trek is featured in the latest edition of FlightWatch, but here is an account of some of the more unique things he sees while traveling by foot.
We’ve seen a lot of wildlife — some weird, some scary. Last year a pack of monkeys went screeching over our heads like they were being chased by something. A thunderstorm was bearing down on us and we were hurrying, waste-deep in a small jungle river, trying to find a bank that would allow us to set up camp before the storm hit. Only later did our guide tell us that a large spotted leopard had crossed right over us, chasing the monkeys.
Two years ago we were high up in a cloud forest and it was like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. We got stuck up there and had to set up camp as we were enveloped in thick fog with rain drizzling on us. Everything–and I mean everything–was covered in a thick coat of moss. It looked like something from another planet. We even saw strange bugs, and after closer examination realized that they too were covered with moss. I’m pretty sure if we had spent more than a night there, we would have started growing moss as well!
Last year we surprised a family of pigs on a steep riverbank and were subsequently charged by a large bore. Had our guide not jumped out of the way he would have been gored. I was next in line on the trail, but the guide swung around and shot the huge pig at pointblank range. The pig fell off the ledge into the river and our guide jumped in after it, wrestling with it in the water for several minutes before finally subduing it. We ate it for dinner that night.
A few nights later, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, we set up camp along an eerie-looking small river, deep in the jungle. It had a certain look to it that just sort of sent chills up our spines. Almost every night we would camp along a stream or river, and we always ended the day with a jump in the river and a quick bath and washing of our extremely ripe-smelling clothes. But this time we just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was watching us.
We saw a few monkeys on the other bank, but that wasn’t what had us feeling like we were being watched or stalked. I jumped in first and couldn’t find the bottom of the river. It had rained a lot and the water was brown, obscuring whatever might live there. We started joking nervously that this would be the perfect place for a giant python. Lo and behold, the next morning when we were pumping water through our filter to drink, guess what was hanging in the branch right above where we were bathing the night before–yep, a reticulated python. It wasn’t large by python standards–maybe only about 10 feet–but it just confirmed that we were in wild country, where large giant pythons do in fact thrive.
One of the strangest things I’ve ever seen is the bio-luminescent mushrooms and fungi that abound in certain parts of the jungle. On a dark night, if you walk away from the campfire and turn off the flashlight, the ground appears to be glowing an eerie neon-greenish color–but they’re not reflecting light–they’re actually producing it. It’s remarkable!