Accompanied by Sea Dyak trackers, Redmond O'Hanlon (the naturalist) and James Fenton (the poet) set out on a long river voyage into the interior of a tropical jungle hoping to reach the Tiban massif. This is an account of how they battled with insects, discomfort and setbacks along their journey.
"Ye Gods, old man--don't do it!" you're bound to shriek on page 1 of this hilarious travelogue, on which the author lists the hazards that may befall him--vipers, cholera, crocs, ticks, tuberculosis, malaria, rabies, and 1,700 types of parasitic worms among them. After all, portly, over-the-hill London Times
literary reviewer Redmond O'Hanlon hasn't done anything more aerobic than flip the pages of a book for decades; he wasn't even a Boy Scout. It's hardly reassuring that his colleague, poet James Fenton--who had the big idea to trek in Borneo--was a Boy Scout. He hated it, and besides, aged, balding Fenton, whom O'Hanlon describes as rather worm-like, sounds like he's a likely lunch for a swooping black eagle.
But on they trod--with the much-needed help of three Iban natives and an unseen, though oft-quoted river god--through jungle, across rivers whose height may rise seven feet overnight, and via native villages (where they often have late-night parties), with one goal in mind: seeing the fabled Borneo rhino. Fenton is nearly swept away in a whirlpool, they subsist on jungle-worm gruel, and ripping off sucking leeches is a near-daily occurrence, but cultural and natural insights and adventures abound in this rip-roaringly funny and deftly written travelogue that will have you chortling out loud. --Melissa Rossi