The Man in the Jungle
Updated: Aug 17
People get lost up in the Daintree.
Sometimes they get stuck in the floods, but mostly they lose themselves. You see, the jungle has its’ own rules, it plays on a different level. Time doesn’t tick tock the same there. Like a year in a dimension means ten in another, the myst in the oldest rainforest in the world encapsulates its inhabitants in such a way that is beyond human control. Humans, those who conquer, who dominate all, who use and abuse and waste and destroy - you have no power here, under her unpredictable majesty.
A (very) hippie Polish guy named Hobo was my guide and partner in this big question mark of an adventure. We begin the winding drive beneath the blistering sun, and soon the tropic veil of fog rolls down to greet its’ new visitors;
“Welcome, adventurers. Leave the world behind you.”
Then, it parts like the red sea and shows you the most abundant palette of verdant tones, from lime green to sea weed and everything in between, across textures and upon shapes, stretching as far as the eye can see, a voluptuous rainforest alive with all its magic, so alive.
Welcome to the jungle. But beware, the force of nature strikes sharp, it envelops us in awe and storm and wonder and chaos. It bears no compass other than that of perfection and it is ruthless - don’t you dare try to fight it.
“There’s an abandoned resort near here - let’s go check it out.”
(Kids, take note: These are the kinds of things in life that you don’t say no to.) Turn right down a little dirt road, clack clack go the pans and hold on to the van because the suspension is gone and 2nd gear is real shallow. Foliage overgrown brushes our roof, a few more revs and a few more bumps; a clearing leads us to the tall wooden structure, made to blend in with the forest but even more so now, 10 years after gone rogue, camouflaged with fallen leaves and debris. Windows wide open, a sad deck chair lone across a soiled cemetery.
We arrive with the cut of the engine but remain miles from silence. Even untrained city ears perk at the whispers of the jungle and its’ creatures. Crickets, birds… flight calls, alarm calls, chirp, whistle, buzz. We have arrived. Touch base with an audacious glance and let’s go; into the forgotten wooden skeleton.
Through the side, we’re presented with a gorging roof of passionfruit hanging like pendants from a chandelier. Green, fist size jewels point to life that is enriched here, life looking after life. A garden, the first human labour that ever bore fruit. You cannot trust a man if you don’t know his house. We turn right into an open kitchen, big round baskets plentiful of veg and fruit hanging from a grand archway, escorting us through what has been made to be the living area. It would have been the reception, bar, lounge and pool area combined on the ground floor of this memorial motel of coconut husks.
Desiccated along the fringes of a very specific area swept clear, lay stained cigarette butts and more dead leaves, and in the centre; a massage chair, a table, a tobacco pouch and old tattoos bleeding through leathery skin, now the heavy handed ink contours his whole body like a child’s wild crayon, blending into one.
“ I haven’t had a visitor for 5 months.” States the man, chin down, black eyes staring up. Firmly. Like dogs smelling each other settling if friend or foe, we scan the scene, senses heightened in the nuance of uncertainty. He looks down to roll a cigarette.
Sai has been squatting for most of his life, and now sells baskets and other items weaved from lawyer vine that grows in his backyard. Never alone, the company of two Rottweilers, two crocodiles, sea snakes and ducks co-inhabiting the moss carpeted pool, and an infinite number of mosquitos, the sex-haired savant drapes across corners as he speaks, and does so in perfect harmony with the subliminal aura the jungle has.
Sometimes, the things he says have reverberations that others attempt to decode, with layers and implications that can be interpreted in many ways:
“There’s no such thing as time.” he says with eyes closed and eyebrows raised. “Someone told me I’d been here for 4 years the other day. That’s probably true.”
And other times, he says things that resonate explicitly to our very core;
“I feel alive here. Our disconnection with nature is the source of all our problems… will we wake up and save ourselves in time? Dunno. But I’m damn sure I’ll enjoy it, all of it, while I can.”
Is he mad, the man in the jungle, or does he grasp the one thing that we do all have in common? That we are nature herself, and we must protect her as we would our family?
That we must reconnect, that we must remember;
everything we really need,