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  • Writer's pictureHannah

Stranded in Penang- Part 6

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Our second weekend in Penang included an initiation into Penang National Park, on the North East stretch of the Isle. We slurped down fresh coconut milk to hydrate our undulating hike the through forested park land. The rustic path was shaded the whole way and it was a relief that Gideon and Emily took so cheerfully to the steep trail with nothing but sprawls of exposed tree roots for steps. Actually, I couldn't keep up with Gideon, the Altra-shoe-wearing mountain goat.

Monkey Beach was closed due to a recent landslide, so without having to decide, we proceeded to Turtle Beach. Our destination far exceeded my expectations. I thought that the beach that "Malaysian Mike' had mentioned was one that we would visit further down the coast on our way back, so I hadn't brought swimming things thinking that this one would be a small, unswimmable strip of coastline. But my forgetting the swimming things may have been a blessing because although it was lovely and deserted, this beach was known for jellyfish gatherings.

Wading our aching feet in the cool ocean water was a welcome suggestion before the Mikes took off for round 2 of trail running, with the plan to meet back at the park entrance. The children and I would hitch a ride with one of the tourist sail boats rather than walk it. One of the skinny boat captains, (who looked disconcertedly 14 years of age), agreed to take the 3 non-runners back to the entrance. The beach was deserted apart from an endangered hawksbill turtle dozing in her rescue tank, so we popped in to greet her before embarking.

I felt a bit nervous as we boarded the boat, not being.a water baby at the best of times. My nerves weren't eased by the fact that the only English our captain could speak was a perfectly pronounced "please, please". In due course, we learned that this phrase held remarkable communicative power, (of course thanks is also due to tone, gesture, facial expression and environmental cues for adding meaning). This little phrase came to mean a number of different things, such as "thank you". "look over there - I want to show you something", "would you like...?", "put your life jacket on" and "can you move over to the left to balance out the weight?" As our boat was only half-filled, it means the weight was not as equally distributed as it ideally could be and so the front would invariably lift quite high whenever we hit a wave before crashing back down again and again. I was glad to be seated in front of Gideon and Emily because my white knuckles and graven face weren't apparent to them. However, despite my fear and the sensation of having been reduced to the flimsiness of a jellyfish, I was pleasantly surprised to hear phrases such as; 'how are you doing, enjoying it?' 'can you see the eagles nest?' march out of, presumably, my mouth, in quite a calm, if a little flat, orderly fashion in the direction of Gideon and Emily. Funny how the mother goose can sweep into a situation and find a voice of its own that can feel quite separate from itself.

We finally moored at the furthest point possible from the land on a haphazard, patchwork type jetty. I accidentally dropped Emily's trainers in the sea as I shakily disembarked, perhaps the boat ride-induced jellyfish in me beat the mum in me that time. The wobbly jetty with planks half-screwed on, half falling off into the sea, didn't really help my return to a less flimsy version of myself but we cautiously tip-toed along onto dry land, where we then unintentionally scared of a metre-long lizard, (an Asian water monitor) before reconvening with the Mikes.

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