This little-maintained road off Lorong Buangkok tapers off into a dense copse of exotic undergrowth. The large broken-off branch that blocks the way seems to have been placed to ward off nosy visitors to this glen of green shades. On the footpath patrol armies of shiny tiger beetles in black, green and gold. They rush like six-legged cheetahs at every winged insect that settles on the apparent safety of the clear ground, and in turn scoot away with ferocious haste before my duck's lengthening 3 o'clock shadow.
Spiders of all miens lurk by the wayside, clinging to blades of grass and the bark of unpruned trees. Lynxes leap from twig to twig. Between the woody arms hang three-dimensional webs where inconspicuous araneids sit surrounded by debris and the dried bodies of past prey. From the leaf litter to the overhanging shrubbery, busy ant-mimicking jumping spiders wave their forelegs, pretending to be noxious hymenopterans. Some resemble the solitary gatherers of large-mandibled forest ants; others ape the brilliant tinge of stinging velvet ants.
Shunning the cloak-and-dagger approach are their fellow Salticids in garb both gaudy and gory. Large hairy jumpers prowl the rotting turnstiles that guard abandoned homesteads, stalking the large flies that rest to feed on the damp remains of the recent rain. Sunlit leaves serve as thrones for palpating males in search of meals and maybe mates. In a rolled-up corner of a leaf we disturbed a little stripey jumper, who glared at our intrusion into its treehouse. On the mossy trunks the spiderbunny found tiny Portia jumpers, biding their time as they ponder the murder of hunters in broad daylight.
The undergrowth is indeed exotic, being a motley mix of neotropical aroids and African trees that harbour noticably fewer arthropod associates and suffer visibly less damage than their native counterparts. A feral Alocasia with undulated foliage slunk beneath an unruly vine and a mature banyan boasted a garlanded base of goosefoots. What appear to be gigantic ground orchids (judging by the aerial roots) formed a bamboo-like thicket by the trail and beyond, the hard surface of the road sank under a gradual invasion of pioneering creepers.
Over a deep ditch the clearing ends in a hollow of trees and the tarmac is swallowed up entirely by a carpet of herbs and sedges. Our way through was then interrupted by this gentleman of modest proportions, who emerged Gollum-like from the ferns holding a porcelain peach and brandishing a plate of bald grandeur. "You and what army?" my duck demanded of this minuscule gatekeeper. He seemed to chuckle and point to an entourage that peered out from a thicket behind him (cue a faint echo that reverbed through the moist air with the menace of Ming the Merciless). They guarded a gate leading to what vaguely looks like a rather large enshrined structure that is only just discernible on Google Maps.
The crusty crew of cherubic cronies are evidently hardened to the core and were thoroughly unmoved by my duck's attempts to appease them with a sacrificial bunny (perhaps our escort of bloodsuckers had already sucked her too dry for ritual fitness). My duck suddenly felt himself turning into the wrong kind of poultry and it being still the month of interdimensional camaraderie, we beat a tactical retreat, vowing to return next time armed with a sacrificial monkey and a battery of tools to repel those that fly both in our sight and unseen.