After 34 kilometers, 3 days, 3 nights, 2 bloody blisters, more leeches than I could count, and what felt like 2 kilos of rice and 9 liters of water in my stomach, I had completed the hardest challenge of my life:
Hiking the Salt Trails through the Bornean jungle.
34 kilometeres doesn’t sound too bad does it?
That’s what I thought when I first heard of the Salt trails – boy, have I ever been more wrong in my entire life.
Sure 34 kilometers are not bad at all if you’re walking on a straight road, that is actually there.
However, its quite the different story when all there is, is dense jungle and a trail that no longer exists.
When you have to climb 4 mountains with a heavy backpack and wade through more muddy rivers than you thought existed.
Then 34 kilometers will end up feeling incredibly bad.
They had made sure that all of us knew what we were getting into: This was serious, and they would not be able to come get us, if we were to change our minds.
There was only one way from now on – and that was through the jungle.
We were a group of 19 young Danes, who were obviously not used to doing things like this, so I can’t blame them for empathizing on the severity of the situation we were getting ourselves in.
The first night we stayed in a small cottage just outside of the jungle.
We were woken at 5.45 in the morning, ate breakfast – noodles and tea – at 6.30. Took a group photo at 07.10 and entered the jungle at 07.15.
It quickly became clear that the trail was not an actual trail through the jungle, as much as it was just signs telling us where to go.
The ground was slippery, there were rocks, and trees and roots everywhere and within the first hour I had fallen 7 times.
But I was loving every second of it. Forgetting everything else. Only focusing on where to put my foot for the next step.
Never have I been more at peace with myself.
It took us 7,5 hours to overcome the 10 kilometers that we were scheduled to hike on the first day.
7,5 hours on 10 kilometers. Maybe that’s actually the best way of explaining just how hard it was.
In that time we had overcome the tallest of the 4 mountains. And I was DEAD.
My boots were soaked from having to cross river after river, and I had slowly given up on removing the leeches from my skin.
That night we slept in an abandoned church. I had imagined it to be white, and scary and haunted.
But in real life it was just a cute small, blue house.
The guides cooked for us on open fire, and we were all in a mode of pure surviving and staying awake.
At 7.30 pm everyone was in their bed. At 8 we were all sleeping.
Next morning, having to get out of bed was one of the most painful things I have ever done.
All of my clothes were wet, and my backpack had left small blisters on my shoulders.
But forward was the only way to go. So forward we went.
Halfway through the day we stumbled upon a small village in the middle of the jungle. It was such a strange sight.
Children playing in front of their yellow school, people working in the rice fields, dogs running around barking, all in the middle of what otherwise felt like the most dense jungle in this world.
8,5 hours after leaving the church, we finally arrived at our stop for the night: Another village in the middle of the jungle.
We got to stay in a private longhouse, which was situated on beams surprisingly high above the ground.
The kitchen floor was made out of bamboo, and you could peek through it – all the way down to the ground.
That night the host and the guides served freshly caught and freshly grilled wild boars, and we drank their homemade ricewine aaaand went to bed around 8 pm.
Next morning, every single part of my body was hurting. It felt like I had invented new parts just so they could hurt.
And I finally started to wonder why I had chosen to put myself through all of this. But it was the last day and I was so close and so sure that it would all be worth it in the end.
So I kept going.
The first part of the hike was an actual road, however, it was in the burning sun which actually made it feel a lot worse than having to fight your way through dense jungle.
After a few hours the others I had been walking with were starting to fall behind, and I was so determined on it soon being worth it all, that I just kept walking.
Now, when I think of it i want to hit myself in the face. Hard.
What was I thinking strolling of alone in the Bornean jungle? On a trail that wasn’t easy to see and a steep mountainside on my left.
Luckily the signs were easy to follow and they were telling me that I was getting closer and closer to my goal.
I walked alone for 3 hours, and I was so focused on walking that I completely forgot where I was.
At that point it felt like I was completely alone, like the jungle wasn’t even real. Or at least that it wasn’t a danger.
And maybe it wasn’t. Maybe that was the correct way to handle it. And come to think of it. Thats probably what I would do, if I had to do it all again. Walk alone the last few kilometers. It was such a beautiful experience.
When I finally reached the 34 kilometer sign, there was no way of knowing that I had actually completed the trails.
No big “YOU DID IT SIGN.” No big gesture.
Not even another human being.
The jungle just stopped. All of a sudden. Without warning. And spat me out into the real world again.
Onto an actual paved road with big white houses along it’s sides.
It all felt so weirdly wrong, and I kind of just stopped there. Just outside the jungle.
I waited for 15 minutes. Slowly realizing that the others were too far behind me. I started to panic, and called the guides.
They informed me that all I had to do was walk 5 meters down the road and there they were – waiting for me.
I felt kind of stupid walking the last few steps.
They were waiting with food, and we ate it on a terrace overlooking the mountains and the jungle and I felt hollow and tired and overwhelmed.
The others finally came and we drove to our hostel in actual cars.
I spent the next few days in bed. Not because my body was hurting, but because I just couldn’t master doing anything else. I just slept. For hours and hours.
So exhausted from this overwhelming experience.
I hiked the salt trails with Dive Down Below, and I would definitely recommend you do the same if you ever find yourself around Borneo in the search of an extremely extreme adventure. They were incredibly professional and made sure that all of us had the best possible experience!
It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Without a doubt.