I was immediately impressed by the beauty of the island, and the gregarious nature of the group. These people were always cracking jokes at each others expense and laughing uproariously. I think this must be how they burned so many calories, because they also ate constantly. Not only durian. In between durian meals and regular meals they snacked on fried breadfruit, fish crackers, forest mangoes, coconuts, and cakes made of tapioca flour and palm sugar. They joked that MNS also stands for “Makan Non-Stop,” – makan meaning to eat in Bahasa Malay.
Rob and I have been traveling alone for so long that going on an outing with a group was a real thrill. And such an outing, too! Everyone at the MNS had great stories to tell about their adventures in the jungle. One man’s legs were dotted with scars from leeches. Mr. Chow told bone-chilling tales of meeting tigers in the forest and haunted bungalows. Communicating was easy because, interestingly, Malaysians use a mixture of English and Bahasa Malay when speaking to each other. This is because there are so many different ethnicities and languages in Malaysia.
|Maryani and her daughter, with Mr. Chow in background
After exciting our taste buds with the durian snack at the hotel, we piled into motorboats and rode around the island to the next jetty to a small durian orchard that the MNS has been visiting for the past six years. Maryani and her family supply the durian, as well as their house, for the durian party. Maryani, who only stands about 5′ tall, carries the 50 kilo (100 pound) baskets of durian down the mountain to feed her durian obsessed visitors. Mr. Chow told me she usually makes the trip barefoot, too. I was very impressed.
The group set out newspaper and set about splitting opening the durian. I think people were being too polite, because the durian kept getting passed to me. How could I say no? Nearly all of the durian were white fleshed, but had an amazing array of flavors and textures. Some were very thick and fibrous, almost chalky, while others were smooth like melted butter. I even had one that made my mouth tingle and smart, just like at Bao Sheng’s farm in Penang!
|Wee and his three children on the hike
Luck was on our side. Within 20 minutes of hiking Wee’s sharp nose caught the maliferous odor of freshly dropped durian. Everyone began scanning the bushes for the fruits. I was beside myself with excitement. Rob and I have visited a lot of durian orchards now, but we had never before come across durian while walking through the jungle. That Wee found it just added to the fairy-tale nature of the event.
Quickly three durians were collected, but no one had brought a knife! I
explained that Rob and I have opened durians by jumping on
them, or by pressing a rock into one end, but was told that these
durians were too fresh and too hard for those methods to work. Only a
knife would do. So Rahman loaded them into his backpack,
including a tiny immature one that I insisted on bringing just so I could see
what it looked like inside.
|Rob is good at finding durians
The group opted to take the boat back to the hotel instead of picking our way back over the hill. While the rest of the group ate lunch, I took the opportunity to use the water-proof function of my camera for the first time on this version of my camera.