The day today begins before the birds, before the morning breeze whistles and long before the sun rains down the first rays of the starters gun. It’s 4:30am when the guides are set to zip into our treehouse to start the early march beyond this new world we find ourselves in and out the other side back to our regular lives. From this height perched so high above the forest canopy the shadowy pre-dawn grants me a small world that exists just a few metres beyond the treehouse edges, beyond the bubble a world of cloudy grey mist as thick as marshmallow is my universal capsule. No movement and no cacophony of slowly rising sound thrums the tree-trunk to signal the arrival of the guides from beyond the marshmallow. The spongey barriers of my world remain impenetrable as I sit alone in the darkness.
A retreat back to bed reduces my world ever further, now bound within the mosquito net of my bed before the humming alarm begins its rise. Nearly vocal is the sound, a vibrating tremor imparted to the tree through the cables is felt before it’s heard rising to a potent audible wail. Time to get up, again. The marshmallow bubble begins to melt as the sun begins to call in the new day, bare silhouettes of trees take shape ghostly at first to more substantial at each passing minute. We zip into the spongy wall of cloud only to feel it melt at our approach, fine mist on our faces the only reminder as we fly within our own bubble of misty off-white. There is no up or down for a time as we rush to land we know is there but cannot see, the marshmallow bubble unbroken for a moment belying our rapid flight. I
To watch on YouTube.
We walk and we fly into a new day as we head for treehouse-7 and the best chance to see gibbons in the treetops. In truth we’ve barely thought about seeing gibbons, the small chance a bonus but not a distraction in this adventure into more than we could ever have imagined on our own. In treehouse-7 now we rest, it’s still before 8am and the day is waking up so rarely later than we have, we wait and we watch but the denseness of the jungle reveals little. There’s no gibbons for us today, just birds and butterflies to add a dash to the colour palate of the jungle. Maybe it’s a lesson from our time in Africa hoping to see lions so long and never realising the hope, or maybe it’s just an experience that needs no more highlights but I am genuinely unconcerned about not seeing the gibbons. For now just tasting this life seems bigger than a sighting, the cup is already full.
Our early start grants us weary eyes as it does time, we have a morning to fly around a complex series of cables, time to play. And play we do. On cables that nearly intersect we fly past and across each other like birds in flight, speed so unfamiliar grips us to accompany mid air greetings so equally foreign. We’ve walked, we’ve flown and all the while we’ve pressed into this new and exciting world in the treetops and greedily we’ve pressed on wanting to saturate ourselves as much as possible. The exit to this world we’ve tasted for such a short time is fast approaching but we deny it for as long as we can drinking up the wondrous existence while the offer remains. Deny as we may, after one final zip it’s time to take off our harnesses that have become so natural to us like animals moulting a skin we no longer need.
And so it goes, we’re back to covering the ground on feet alone. This feels so inadequate. A residual buzz covers us all as the six strangers who entered the jungle emerge now a collective cluster of a single shared experience. A couple of tuk-tuks, a border crossing into Thailand and finding a grounded bed for the night swells to fill the empty corners of our near future while the sun rains down the last chequered flag rays of the day we don’t want to farewell. The day is nearly done as we begin the flavour safari that is Thailand. We’re bodily in a new country but for just a little longer we cling unspoken to Nam Kan national park and Laos, the life we have just left and wish to hold tight to as long as it can be imagined.
The Gibbon Experience, the name of the parallel universe that was our lives for a time, the name to which we clung to without much further idea of what we were really stepping into. What’s in a name they say; we lived like gibbons, we flew like eagles, we listened to the singing cables bellow in the concert halls of tree-trunks, we held out a hand to a genetic link to life high in the jungle and for a time that life held out a hand back to us. What’s in a name; The Gibbon Experience is as good as any other I can conjure but in truth it’s barely a hint, a suggestion. We’re miles away but until sleep takes us once more we’re still there, in the treetops living an experience that is so much more than the limitations of a name that lives beyond itself.