February 26, 2011

Week of Weirdos Part V & VI: Jungle Friends

If you were going to spend three days in the jungle, what would you bring? Knowing full well that electricity and running water would be novelties and since it's the RAINforest, there would be a high chance all of your things would get drenched, would you bring much?

After a full month of traveling, Jenn and I decided it would be best to limit our packing to a change of clothes, a rain coat, bug spray, sunscreen, and toothpaste. We put our items into plastic grocery bags, which would be more or less water proof and easy to carry.

We looked like hobos compared to the rest of the campers who brought in large, fancy hiking backpacks and multiple changes of clothes. Maybe I was missing something, but I didn't feel compelled to be fashionable in the rainforest.

Perhaps the only one who brought less than us was one of our three cabin mates, a British teenager named Guy, who ironically was the only guy in our cabin. He didn't bring a flashlight (which was vital) nor did he bring bug spray. I'm fairly certain he didn't bring any change of clothes whatsoever, either.

Our other cabin dwellers were a middle-age lesbian couple from Germany who had spent a lot of time in the jungles of Central America, Thailand, and Laos. They had large backpacks and bright LED lights that they could strap to their head. Each day they had a new pair of durable, quick-drying khaki trekking pants and a fresh Lycra workout shirt. In the mornings and evenings to protect themselves from mosquitos, they had long-sleeve button-up sturdy safari shirts. 

They had millions of pockets. I'm not sure what in the world they would put into all of the compartments. Jenn, who lived in Kenya for a while, had them pegged as diva safari people from the moment we met them. She said in Africa that most people who visit Africa for the first time bring with them fancy, unnecessary and expensive safari clothes. Jenn and I wore what the staff wore -- freebie t-shirts, cotton shorts, and basic light pants. No specialty shopping needed. 

Before we went on our trek, we were warned that we would be walking through pretty deep water, so we went back to the cabin to figure out what to put on. Jenn put on gym shorts, and I rigged my pants so they were sort of shorts (they were the one thing I had that had a legitimate chance of drying out overnight). The ladies saw us and quizzically watched me as I rolled my pants up. 

"You girls don't look very prepared... didn't you bring jungle clothes?" they asked me. 

"Uhh, jungle clothes? Umm well I don't really know what that means, the clothes we have seem to work just fine," I replied.

Jungle clothes. What in the world are jungle clothes? All I could think was Tarzan.

Oh shoot, I left my loin cloth back at base camp... Shame on me!

Guy, in the meantime, seemed to get by in his skinny blue jeans and his camera around his neck. He was introverted and reminded me a lot of a gecko the way he walked around and studied plants, spiders, lunch, breakfast... Through it all he never said much of anything. He smoked more than any 18-year old ought to though, nearly every time I saw him he had a cigarette in his hands. He smoked as if nicotine was his oxygen, one puff/breath, breathe out, another puff/breath, breathe out. Back and forth back and forth four to five times in a row without a rest in between. My lungs hurt for him.

The afternoon I came face to face by myself with a meter-long monitor lizard, I was the envy of the camp. Guy in particular was deeply upset he missed the prehistoric creature. He decided to go on a mission to find the lizard, completely barefoot in the trees armed only with his camera. Poor Guy, he never completely caught up to the lizard.

Guy managed to make it out of the jungle alive and uninjured, even without mosquito spray or a flashlight. Jenn and I easily survived with our grocery bags of goods and lack of jungle clothes. Our kind German friends were well-protected by their nice clothes, and I guess if something bad would have happened in the jungle, I'm sure they would have had packed a remedy for any trouble in one of their 10,000 pockets.

-- Weirdo Disclaimer -- 
The people we met are far more interesting than the places we visited, so I feel like I have to give them a little credit for making my travels even more memorable.  In some cases, I'll use "weirdo" in a positive and quirky way, other times I'll use it in a "dude, you are legitimately strange," sort of context. I've got full confidence you'll be able to decipher between the two. (Also, I've changed a few names).

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