“It’s probably an allergy to MSG, stop eating instant noodles all the time”
This is what I was told after two weeks of feeling really under the weather: high fever running for days, stomach flu, aches and pains, delirium! It wasn’t until the rash broke out on my face and hands that I thought maybe I should seek medical attention.
An MSG allergy? Really? How could it have no connection to the 12 days that I had spent deep in the jungle of the Putussibau district of West Kalimantan, Indonesia?
The trip was one that I had anticipated for months. I had heard amazing reviews of the Danau Sentarum National Park, with its wildlife intact and its breath taking, pristine lake. When I heard that I would be going there on a work expedition, I was beyond excited.
Me at the Danau Sentarum National Park, Photo Source: Dedy Armayadi
We spent four of the twelve nights in the small hamlet of Lanjak. Since no hotels are available in the area, we were offered a homestay. As the only female on the trip, I was offered my own room: a small rectangular space, with a curtain covering the door and a mattress on the floor. Perfect! The first night, I fell asleep instantly. The second night, however, my usual creepy-crawler paranoia kicked in and I succumbed to sneaking downstairs and sleeping in the fully lit living room. The third night was like the first and I slept soundly.
I was therefore really excited to spend one more night in Lanjak on the way back to Putusibau. This night followed our day excursion to the National Park, which lived up to my expectations. Upon arrival at the homestay my colleagues and I slumped into the living room where I witnessed a cat bring in a large, dead mouse. I knew instantly that this was going to be a sleepless night. There was also the high incidence of large bugs invading my personal space…no sleep tonight for sure. In the kitchen while we were having dinner, a mouse literally fell from the ceiling, quickly evading the household cat by slipping under the floorboards. The cat, not having caught his dinner, jumped up onto the stove and used it as a bathroom instead. I tried to ignore these things, took a quick bucket shower, and settled into bed. My sleep was also disturbed by the incessant itch of my many mosquito bites: I counted 61 bites on my ankles alone.
I felt completely healthy during the 8 hour, bumpy bus ride back to Putussibau city. However, when I checked into the hotel, I fell asleep immediately. When I awoke, it was near evening time, the following day. Something was wrong. Although very weak, I made it back to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan and my current home, in one piece. I then endured three weeks of fever, muscle ache, headache, fatigue, joint pain, skin rash and stomach related illnesses.
It was Dengue Fever.
Although miserable at the time, I am now very thankful for my health, and for the opportunity to have seen one of the remaining untouched natural reserves of West Kalimantan. Indonesia’s Borneo is gravely affected by the depletion of its natural resources due to logging, mining and palm oil plantations. Dengue Fever aside, I would have regretted NOT taking this trip. In the very least, it gave me a good story to tell!
This post is a part of the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Travel Carnival hosted by The Turkish Life http://theturkishlife.blogspot.com