The next day the river became more difficult still: an unending series of rapids and snags and boulders. The dugout seemed to increase its weight with every mile; the 125-degree heat was not easy to struggle through, and there were less laughs at lunchtime. The river was too low, said Dana, the going too tough. Only Leon, immensely strong, cheerful and affectionate, was undaunted. He was obviously a champion river-hunter, too: while we lay, exhausted, in the shade of a jungle-chestnut tree, he disappeared, swimming underwater up an adjacent creek. Half an hour later he returned, towing a fresh trophy. It was much longer than he was: a big water monitor, a black and yellow prehistoric dragon with a long forked tongue which it protruded like a snake. Dana and Leon pulled it up the bank, the harpoon stuck through its side. It stood foursquare, hissing, and lashing its long tail. Dana drew his parang and killed it with a blow to the head.

The lizard lashed into the dugout, we set off again. It was too arduous to notice much. But then, hours later, the country began to open out, and the big trees stepped back from the bank. Rolling hills stretched away to a forest horizon. The Iban looked about them, uneasily. There was no mark of all this on our secret government maps.

A little further on, four men, in two small canoes, were setting nets.


Human Moments in World War III
The Night Shift