As we walked, the smell of jungle foliage filled the humid air, like a mixture of freshly cut grass and sliced cucumber. Butterflies danced around our ankles, birdsong rained down from the canopy and scarlet-red flowers blushed in the undergrowth. Above us, towering bamboo stems arced across the path – several different species grow in this jungle and this particular type, known as ‘monastery bamboo’, creates celestial-like arches over the pathways.
“Monkeys and gibbons use them to cross the track,” Nin explained and, as if on cue, a spectacled languor, with white rims around its eyes like glasses, scampered over our heads along a bamboo bridge and let out a cackle. “He eats the shoots,” Nin pointed to the monkey who was now busily ripping the fibres off a ruler-sized stick of young bamboo and tossing the litter to the floor.
Leaving the languor to enjoy his lunch, we detoured off the main track and picked our way down a narrow path that was fringed by spikey-teethed succulents. As I clambered over head-high buttress roots and ducked under plaited lianas, I saw claw marks scratched into tree trunks and hoof shapes imprinted in the mud – probably the tracks of a wild boar or barking deer.