TIPS FOR SURVIVAL: It's a Jungle Out There

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Indy Lifestyle Online
A TRIP into the jungle needs rigorous planning. It can be one of the most rewarding environments to trek in, but equally the most uncomfortable if you don't get it right.

The first concern is malaria. All the world's tropical rain forests host the anopheles mosquito, whose saliva carries the parasite that has caused more human deaths than any other disease.

The main protection should be not getting bitten; wear long sleeves and trousers at dusk and dawn, sleep under a mosquito net, and make liberal use of a repellent with a high percentage of deet (the active ingredient). This stuff also deters ticks, fleas and leeches. Put some around the laceholes of your boots to prevent the bloodsuckers getting in. In addition to mosquito repellent, an oral prophylactic regime is recommended. In many areas, resistance to chloroquine-based drugs means that, until immunisation becomes available, Mefloquine-based nasties such as Larium are the prescribed alternative.

The next concern is to look after your feet. Try to keep them dry, and ensure you have a fresh pair of socks to start the day, even if it means scrubbing them in a stream after a full day's hike. Use talc and an anti fungal, particularly between your toes to avoid athlete's and trench foot.

Shaking out your boots before you put them on is essential. Cockroaches and millipedes are more likely occupants than spitting cobras, but one brush with a scorpion and you will become super-vigilant. Unless you have a serious phobia, bugs are also some of the jungle's most fascinating sights; regimented and eternal lines of leaf cutter ants coursing across a fallen tree, each carrying comparatively huge swaying sails of luminous green leaf, or the early morning shimmering of a hundred thousand spider's web, in the forest canopy.

Heat and humidity are also a concern for hikers, particularly at sea level. Your core body temperature rises far more quickly in humid conditions, and you'll sweat like the proverbial pig. Take on loads of fluids, laced with rehydration salts such as are used for treating diarrhoea.

However, the jungle is also an environmental paradise. At altitude in virgin primary or secondary rainforest, you are as close to Eden as you can get. Apart from perhaps the coral reef, there is no ecosystem on earth with such a diversity of creatures and plants.Standing beneath the canopy of these giants is like being in an eerie verdant cavern. Birds of paradise clear holes in the forest canopy to create spotlights for them to dance in when attracting a mate.

I am prepared to suffer the attentions of a few midges, and even a scorpion or two, to see miracles like that.

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