National Geographic : 1964 May
(C) N.G.S. Quest for rare plants carried Dr. Zahl 3,800 miles in the new federation of Malaysia. War II. Japanese occupation troops at times fell into ambuscades of roving guerrilla bands and died in a silent rain of poison-tipped blow gun darts.* Visitors to Borneo run no such risks now, for reform of the head-hunters seems com plete. I did hear of one fight in which a tribes man's neck was severed-not, however, for the sake of taking the head but in the fury of the moment. Even brawling is rare among the Dusuns, who are by nature a mild-mannered people. No Need to Thirst in Bamboo Country At dawn, with Anggau and two carriers of equally formidable ancestry, Jim and I set off. For an hour, we hiked around the neat edges of rice fields and across green, buffalo dotted fields. The usual route up Kinabalu lies on the south face, but Anggau was taking us toward an eastern spur. I could only hope he was right. Before us, Kinabalu's peaks were, as usual, cloud-wrapped, but we soon lost any sense of the mountain as such, for we plunged into virgin rain forest which grew denser and darker with each upward step. We became burrowers rather than hikers. Two thousand feet above the valley, our course threaded a belt of towering bamboo. Each emerald shaft was four to six inches in diameter-and each bamboo segment was a canteen full of water! Mudah, one of our car riers, showed us how to drink. He whacked the bamboo shaft just above a joint, and out poured a crystal-clear fluid, both cooler and purer than the chemically treated supply in my aluminum canteen. I tried it and found the taste like that of distilled water (pages 688-9). The inside of the bamboo stalk is com pletely aseptic. Higher on the mountain, shortly before noon, Anggau signaled a halt. We were in a forest zone so eerie it seemed bewitched. Un der and around towering trees writhed lianas 684 as thick as a man's leg, ever straining upward in search of sunlight. Other dank vegetation seemed to clutch at us like enchanted trees in a horror film. This is the homeland of gibbons, orang utans (the legendary "men of the forest"), wild pigs, deer, and perhaps even rhinoceros. It is a haunt of cobras and other deadly ser pents, too. But throughout nine weeks of field work in Borneo and adjacent areas, I saw only monkeys. The reason: Natives of this part of the world are careful to make quite a bit of noise as they work their way through the jungle-the exact opposite of the stealthy American Indian of legend. The noise scares away the beasts. From overhead came asoft, chilling "whisk whisk" of huge wings. A black shadow moved across the roof of the jungle, and a demonia cal shriek split the stillness. After an instant of uncertainty, I knew what the intruder was -a hornbill, the large weird bird that patrols these elevations. Cigarettes Disengage Jungle Leeches But if this strident apparition was harm less, some silent worms were not. Lurking in chinks in the humus or under fallen leaves, leeches surrounded us. When we walked, the vibrations of our footsteps, our scent, our body heat, or per haps their primitive sense of sight led these bloodthirsty little abominations to us. Across the ground they came, hunching and lunging along like so many inchworms. These jungle leeches are, in fact, related to the earthworm, but instead of harmlessly eating dirt they live entirely on fresh blood. A rasp at the head works through your skin so smoothly that the little parasite is gorging *Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, and Sabah, or North Borneo, banded together last year to form the new Brit ish Commonwealth nation of Malaysia. See "In Storied Lands of Malaysia," by Maurice Shadbolt, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, November, 1963.