16 May 2011

Into The Heart Of Borneo - Redmond O'Hanlon - Book

A family friend lent this book to me for me to read in preparation for a trip to Borneo, which I am undertaking in a few weeks (insert manically excited face here).  It gives the account of O'Hanlon and James Fenton as they embark on a journey to Mount Batu Tiban, located close to the center of Borneo, in search of the Borneo Rhinoceros.

It's an eye opener to say the least!  Luckily, the hilarious way in which the story is told has only made me more eager to go - who could have thought a mass leech attack in the middle of unchartered jungle territory could make you chuckle?  It was written in 1984 though, and I'm pretty certain that Borneo has sadly become much more of a tourist trail since then.  Nonetheless, I am looking forward to a mini adventure.

The book gives some fascinating insights into the people and animals that live on the island, painting a picture of nature at its very best.  I liked the way O'Hanlon makes reference to the opinions of men who visited Borneo many years ago, stating that the further you venture into Borneo, the more primitive the people and the societies become.  The Ukit for example, don't even live in longhouses - they sleep in the forest like an animal.  They do come across a Ukit longhouse, built in order to try and keep the Ukit in one place, and the pair see a community in transit from an old way of life to a more modern one. I didn't like that part  - the way the younger generation mocked the older generation for relying on nature, and how desperate the younger Ukit were to learn the 'seven step disco', as though they were keen to be doing what the rest of the modern world was doing.

This book will make you laugh, and in some parts wince, but mostly laugh.  It will also make you want to go to Borneo.  The way he incorporates the wildlife and nature into the books makes you realise just how fascinating nature really is - little things like the butterflies feeding off their sweat, and Fenton announcing that he was 'about to see something marvellous' just before a magnificient bird swooped into view.  My favourite part of the book has to be O'Hanlon's (who is an accomplished man with a tidy list of published works) poem/mantra that he thought up in a bid to stop his mind from cracking during the intense jungle trek:

Oh f*** it,
It's an Ukit
We're going to kick the bucket