Head to the hinterland of Malaysian Borneo and Gunung Mulu presents itself. Suitably obscure – at least in terms of access – and stretching high and long into the environs beyond, the national park is a muggy, cloying expanse of something.
Away from the river and the bats and the tribes and the inaccessible peaks await magic and mystery, seeking a discerning passer-by to absorb their lore. The same remains true for the rest of Borneo, of course, but it’s here that the jungle spirits are at their most joyful, most playful, most present. The sounds and vibrations – cicadas on the edge of darkness – paint the locale in a sultry, unknowable hue. A message constantly thrums on barely perceptible vibrations, but only the most receptive tune into its frequency.
The traveller walks down a dark street at night. They are alone, and they have no lights to guide them. Behind them, the park seems to change shape as the flora adjusts to the rapidly receding light. The eyes have become sterner, the unseen gaze more dominant. All are blind in the jungle kingdom, and the humans know when to stay away.
Read more: Need a breather in Borneo? Meet Mukah, a prime jumping-off point.
Still, the traveller feels safe and warm. The lack of light is a blessing, not a hindrance, as, unwittingly, they follow a firefly down the street. Darkness abounds only for an instant; the single fly stops and multiplies. First to two, then to four then to countlessness; lost in an unthinking gaze, the traveller barely comprehends the undulating luminescence unfolding before them.
Two giant fields have come alive with light, the creatures floating as one; they share the same rhythm, the same concentric paths. No sound exists within this alien tableau; even the incessant cicadas have fallen silent in the face of this tiny winged tableau. Most likely the traveller finds themselves been lulled into insensibility, locked in communion with the fireflies and the knowledge they impart.
For a split second, what lies beyond come forth and envelops the traveller. They understand the gesture and thank the jungle for sharing so intimate a moment.