Today was possibly the busiest rest day I've ever had. Dreams of having a day off relaxing in a hot pool were never going to survive the array of distracting activities on offer here. That said everyone was sufficiently stiff to slow the plans down somewhat, with a trip up and down the stairs an achievement to be celebrated. Rich was particularly pleased to be able to jog up the road to show off, despite the grimace of pain on his face. We went to a local cafe (one of the two) for breakfast and I discovered that a fried breakfast is served with cold beans here. However, as we ordered first we got the last of the bread so any complaints weren't going to fly. To loosen up our legs Eleanor and I headed into the hot springs park, which was easier to navigate in daylight, and headed up the hill to the canopy walk. That's right, uphill. 500 meters of sore staggering saw us climbing the steps to the start of the canopy walk. This consisted of planks of wood suspended between trees with ropes for hand rails and netting's to hopefully catch the clumsy of foot. Now I'm the first in line to ridicule the health and safety virus that has infected Britain, but I was wondering whether this going a bit far the other way. Perhaps this was re-enforced when I witnessed a park ranger giving the walkway what I imagine he thought of as a thorough structural check. With the ghost of industrial accident present hovering on his shoulder he tugged a total sum of one ropes, satisfied with it's firmness he indicated his pleasure at another check successfully pasted with a big thumbs up and a broad grin. Inspiring stuff. Luckily the experience of walking around the canopy of a jungle was easily enough to draw our attention away from more structural issues. Withs views across the jungle tops (predictably green) and straight down (worryingly far - approx 20 meters) we shuffled our way around the platforms, occasionally stopping for an Indiana Jones like pose.
With the canopy finished we had a bit of time before the hot tub room we had booked became free so we walked along a little trail through the jungle to a small waterfall where there was already a good crowd of people with picnics out and splashing around in the water. It turns out that today was some sort of national holiday so everywhere was much busier than normal. Since we lacked swim stuff we kept dry but practised taking snaps of moving water with ever setting on our camera, looking for the fuzzy, flowing effect often seen on professional shots. Wondering back to the hotel the heat of the day started to kick in and we were glad to make it back to the baths in time to jump into our private hot tubs. These were perfect for soaking the muscles in some medicinal warmth and all too soon our hour was over.
We had heard rumours from our guide that a semi-wild Orangutan sometimes came to feed in the park, at the top of the hill near the park head quarters and Eleanor was as keen as a kid in a sweet shop to go and investigate. Having sweltered our way up the hill we found that there was no one around the building at the top and the further we wondered around the more we realised we were not meant to be inside. Retreating outside we spotted a sign for the tropical gardens and just inside the gate a sign for a feeding platform. Sounded encouraging. The garden was like a scene from Jurassic park with lots of empty animal enclosures - presumably taken away deliberately rather than escape. The aviary turned up a solitary butterfly and a small flock of Peacocks. With a slightly surreal feel we headed further into the jungle only to be rewarded with the truly wild animals of Natasha, Mike, Maggie, Rich and Wesley. With the path becoming ever more un-used Rich and Natasha saw the writing on the wall and abandoned the feeding platform in favour for the way back. Sure enough we eventually made it to find a feeding platform last used when the A team were a new concept. I resisted the temptation to jump on the platform and mimic our orange cousins just in case they chose that moment to move back in and we wondered back slightly disappointed. On the way we finally saw some wild life, a couple of monkeys leaning through a wire fence to pinch some irritated deer. Meeting up with the other two outside the headquarters there was some discussion about where Jackie, the Orangutan, would be. Eleanor decided that talk was easy but hard facts would only be gained by the welly sporting park ranger sweeping the yard. It seems we were in the right place after all and Jackie was expected to put in an appearance anytime that afternoon o feed. We all left Eleanor waiting for Jackie while the others wondered off and I went on my own feeding mission.
Supplies purchased I went back to find Eleanor and found my way blocked by a ball of orange blocking the road. Jackie had arrived and without a thought to the excited crowd trying to take photos had sat with her back to them all, but had a thoughtful expression on looking down at a small building site just past where I was stood. With the air of an animal with all the time in the world, time-management and stress probably aren't part of an Orangutans daily life, Jackie knuckled down to the freshly laid concrete and proceeded to try to eat some. Naturally the builders soon shooed her away. Eleanor tried to offer a banana to Jackie, but she had spotted the park ranger up the road who offers more than merely a single, lonely banana. While the ranger carefully opened a gate and shut and locked it behind him Jackie patiently waited. For as long as it took for the ranger to step out of site and then carefully lifted up the bottom of the fence and crawled inside.
The days activities were soon exhausted, only a short trip to a Rafflesia flower. These bizzare plants only flower for 6 days after 10 months of growing and obviously make up for lost time by being enormous. A couple of signs indicated that a group of locals were willing to take us into the forest to show us a plant they had found. Ignoring all advice from my mother about heading off with strange men we disappeared into the jungle. Our guide seemed pleased with his discovery, and rightly so if tourists queue up to pay him to be taken on a 200 meter walk! I had come along to see the flower after being told how rare it was, a botanists dream etc etc but I came away genuinely impressed. Not only a crazy name but a HUGE flower. With all our activities ticked for the day we headed back to the hotel to relax for a bit and gab a beer in the bar in the hotel. It seemed that while our guide had expected up to be eating at the hotel again, a rebel group had investigate the restaurant in the hot springs complex and suggested it for tea. With promises of a fantastic place to eat, compared to our mediocre hotel, the rebels won the day. Walking there in the dark almost proved too much for Rich who took a tumble after which repeating his earlier running feat would have been considerably harder given the newly developed limp. However, undeterred and spurred on by the smell of food and beer we got to the restaurant and had a splendid feed.