Updated: Sep 5, 2022
In her wildest dreams she could not imagine ever seeing Rafflesia, the world's largest flower, in it's natural habitat. Now she was holding one-way ticket to Kuala-Lumpur, where she knew she would have to take a bus to Cameron Highlands, a post-colonial paradise in the north of Malaysia. Once there, she wasted no time to find a local guide: a stocky, balding man from orang asli population, who amused her with his funny English accent. His plain, expressionless face showed no emotion when he silently pointed at the jungle, clutching at his waist bag. "Oh my," thought she. "Am I really doing this?" And rushed fearlessly into the thicket. Her guide followed, providing no explanation. "Are we there yet?" she asked, moving along a barely visible trail for some time. Hearing no answer, she turned back, casually laying her eyes on the tip of a pointy hunting knife, until then neatly concealed in the bag on the man's waist. "Give me your ringgit" he said plainly, stressing the "ringgit". "But I already paid..." "And backpack. Now go. Rafflesia - that way." And he walked away, his silhouette fading between the tangled branches. Unable to give up her dream, she struggled through the thick forest, incidentally hoping to come across someone she could ask for help. Presently she had to fight off the leeches doing somersaults and masterfully landing on the bare skin of her calves. At night she curled up under a tree, ready to spring at the slightest sound. She had never been so close to the edge. After two-days hike and gallons of shed tears she finally reached one of the Boh tea plantations, startling the farmers with her modern-day Robinson Crusoe look. Her ragged clothes and a crazed expression awoke immediate compassion. She was given water. Someone called for plantation manager. "Is this where I can see Rafflesia?" she asked hopefully, after making a few sips, and gasping for breath. "Oh, but Rafflesia doesn't bloom in this time of year."
The cover: Henri Rousseau, "A Lion Devouring its Prey"