Clip, Clip, Monitor Lizards and An Almost-Monkey-Attack

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(A diary entry from the first week of my travels 2011)

“The male Clip Clip flashes three times a second to attract a female mate. The female flashes only once a second and cannot be seen as brightly as the male from a distance. They mate for two to four hours each night and once the female has found their mate they stop blinking all together. They have a life-span of approximately two to three months and during this time they live in trees, blinking unseen by most of the world.”

The Clip Clip, or Firefly as I know them, is the most beautiful insect I have seen. They illuminate the surrounding bushes like Christmas tree lights as we row past them in a small boat, driven by a man who can speak as much English as I can Malaysian. Our host here is kindly translating the above information for me. I am sitting in my over-sized life jacket listening to the pleasant swoosh of the ores breaking the calm surface of the river. All around me the Clip Clip flash. Now that I know the purpose of these flashes, I can’t help but feel it is romantic. They are calling to each other.

Under the glare of the driver’s torch Clip Clip look nothing more than ants with wings, but as the darkness takes over they become fairies floating through the muggy air. One passes by the boat and I reluctantly let it crawl on my finger. I have never been much of a fan of creepy crawlies but I am drawn to the Clip Clip like these insects are drawn to light. I put it on Justin’s arm and it gets stuck in his hair. Not my smartest idea yet. Eventually we get it to crawl on our combined fingers and release it back into the humid night’s air. This entire scene reminds me of the song Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer because I can hear the line “fireflies dancing” in my head like a broken record.

This is my first week travelling, and so far it has been an eventful experience. Earlier this evening, we went for a walk through a mangrove park an hour outside the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. The park was slightly eerie with an outside of closing time feel. As we walked through the national park, monitor lizards skittered across the path and unfamiliar fish jumped out of the water. Our hosts casually swatted mosquitos away and told us of a water leopard “incident” that involved a visitor to the park and lead to it being closed off for a period of time.

After hearing that piece of information I developed eyes in the back of my head to ensure the water leopards or monitor lizards didn’t plan any kind of attack. I’m sure monitor lizards are quite friendly but they look like the result of a dinosaur mating with a lizard, a particularly scary looking dinosaur too. Anyway, we walked through this park, pausing to watch the native birds scrounge for food in their natural environment. The Malaysian air was muggy and sweat clung to the back of my jeans but there was something peaceful about just sitting there watching wildlife do what wildlife does without human interference. The four of us were the only ones in the national park by that stage so we decided to make our way back to the car and that’s when the trouble started.

There were monkeys hanging from the trees. Particularly evil looking monkeys with greedy eyes. We continued walking past them but I noticed the boys had picked up sticks and were casually swinging them by their side. I crammed myself between the three of them. We reached the bridge that led the way to the car-park and were halfway across when a gang of monkeys appeared from the bushes, baring their sharp white razers at us. I stood frozen, watching as these monkeys approached the boys, hissing loudly. I looked behind me and noticed the bridge wasn’t high. I considered jumping. I could swim. Even the thought of lurking monitor lizards beat the possibility of death by monkey attack. The boys suddenly raised both their arms, holding their sticks high above their heads. To my horror they stared hissing back at the monkeys. At this point of monkey versus man, I did what I considered to be the best option and threw my hands over my eyes. I took a peek and saw the gang of monkeys had backed off and the boys were in a two against one fight with the boss monkey. I covered my eyes again, my heart rate through the roof and my mouth dry. The next thing I knew, Justin had grabbed my hand and we are making a mad dash for the car. I was still in a state of monkey-induced shock which wasn’t helped by the presence of more monkeys hanging off trees, reaching toward us. I threw myself in the car like it was a safe haven. I don’t think my heart stopped racing the entire cartrip here.

But now the Clip Clip are having a soothing effect on me. I feel as though I have become part of a romantic film scene. I watch as the males flash three times, in search of their love. I close my eyes and realise with a flicker of excitement that I am in the first week of a long adventure, and the Clip Clip are only the start of the wonderful things I know I will see in my travels. I can only hope that I do not see a monkey for a while.

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