Expedition Everest stood before me as my own Everest.
A challenge the likes of which I wasn’t one to usually face.
Did I want to go on it?
I watched another train accelerate down and around at a high rate of speed, the people onboard screaming in a mixture of delight and terror, no doubt.
I drew a deep breath and admitted, “I’m not sure I’m up for it.”
I waited for Jack and Gwil’s disappointment, but neither of them showed any.
“Another time.” Jack smiled.
It was a strange admission really, because in truth, before the incident, I would have said absolutely not. I wasn’t a thrill seeker in any way. Now, I was wondering if I didn’t want to be more adventurous in this new life. Take on things that had always scared me before.
Maybe it was the whole back from the dead thing. There was a part of me that was acutely aware now that life was finite, and we absolutely spend too much of it playing it safe, being responsible, missing the magic.
“Fair enough. The lady says another time.” Jack took the chair and turned it away from the mountain and we continued our journey through Asia.
We passed a few souvenir carts and Jack bought me a stuffed yeti to remember my close brush with Everest. He bought us all some soft serve and soon he pushed me up to the water’s edge and pointed to a small island ahead.
“Howler monkeys. There’s a baby on that one right there.” He held his hand steady and I followed the site line until I saw it.
“Awwwwwwwwwwww” I squealed.
~ 1 ~
I’m not usually a squealer.
“Oh my god!” I gasped and started to cry, again!
We sat and watched them for a little bit as they played and carried out impressive acrobatics. It was the simplest thing, but I could have sat there and watched them all day. Their enclosure looked like an old shrine or temple, and there were ropes strung high across the path at one point, putting them on two sides of the people at the same time. I was guessing the fact that it was an island is what kept them from being able to run wild in the whole park. It was ingenious.
As we arrived at the entrance to the Maharajah Jungle Trek, Jack came around to stand in front of me.
He stood straight and tall and cleared his throat in an overly dramatic fashion. I assumed this cued an encore performance of his dramatic recitation talents.
“For centuries, the rajahs of Anandapur hunted tigers in this mystical forest.” Jack motioned behind him at the Trek.
I was right.
“In 1544, King Bhima Disampati decreed the forest a royal preserve and built a hunting lodge for himself and invited guests. In an effort to make his so called sport easier, he had his subjects enclose much of this area, effectively trapping his prey.”
I was once again charmed by the dorkiness.
“Befittingly, he was later killed in a hunting accident.” Gwil interjected.
“Subsequent maharajahs—” Jack continued ” –seeing the error of this endeavor, transformed this enclosure into a nature preserve where the animals and the local people could live in harmony.”
“Oh, that’s lovely.” Gwil spoke as if he were just hearing this story for the first time.
I just shook my head and awaited the rest, which I knew was coming. “For many years, British colonization oversaw much of Southeast Asia. When their rule ended in 1948, the villagers of Anandapur opened this
~ 2 ~
sanctuary—” Jack turned to fully gesture to the entrance. “—to the outside world. They take great pride in their forest and share their love of animals with visitors as they explore this refuge.”
Jack took a bow.
“That was wonderful!” A lady came over and touched Jack on the shoulder. “Is that true?”
It was strange how you could be in amongst so many people, and yet forget anyone outside your own group existed. This woman’s reminder actually startled me.
Jack blushed as he turned to her.
“It’s on the sign.” He pointed towards the entrance and smiled, then looked at me like he didn’t know what else to say.
It was rare for Jack to be made speechless. I wished I could let that woman know how impressed I was.
As we entered the Trek, Jack pointed at the ceiling plastered with old newspapers.
“Anadapur newspapers.” He explained. “In Disney, the cardinal rule is to look up and look down. The Imagineers put so much into this place, but I think the most magical surprises await those willing to stop and look for them, often on the ceiling.”
It really was spectacular when you stopped and thought about it. All day that day I’d been noticing things like weathered statues, tribal masks, and explorer gear just sort of seemingly stuffed in the bushes. It all added to the experience if you let it.
Again, it’s what I was realizing earlier, the magic is unique to each person. It just depended on how much you were willing to put into it.
First stop was a Komodo dragon basking in the sun. The cast member busy educating us all told us that these were the largest of all lizards, and could be found around Anandapur as well as on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Montang.
No clue where any of those places are, but these were dang big lizards and I’d be just as happy to never meet one in the wild.
~ 3 ~
She went on to explain that they grow to an average length of six and a half to almost ten feet, and that can be attributed to the fact that there are no larger carnivorous predators on the islands where they live.
“It’s good to be king.” Jack did a tip of the hat motion towards the lizard before we moved on.
The trail itself was lushly overgrown. It was hard to remember we were in civilization at all, let alone at Disney World.
We came to a grouping of monkeys next, and a cast member with a mic educating people on the type and their habits. These were lion-tailed macaques, I learned. Which was an Old World monkey native to the Western Ghats of South India.
“Only one male.” Jack sounded impressed. “He’s got a harem.”
I turned to him with a glare.
“Or maybe the ladies take turns using him as a sex slave in between ruling the kingdom.” I could be just as smug as Jack when I wanted to be.
Next, we moved into the fruit bat enclosure and were greeted with an extremely pungent odor.
“Okay, I’m good. Let’s go.” I covered my nose with my hand.
“No you’re not. You have to see these guys.” Jack parked the wheelchair by the wall and gestured for me to get up.
I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to stretch my legs and be up on my own power, so I took him up on the offer and we moved over to the viewing area that looked into an open garden area heavy with trees.
“I don’t see anything.” I was back to being difficult.
“There.” Gwil pointed into a tree.
I obliged them both by looking, but bats weren’t my… “Oh my God!” I gasped and held my breath as if they might disappear if I breathed.
~ 4 ~
“Look at their faces!”
They were adorable!
“Oh my God, Jack, look!” I slapped him on the arm, kind of hard, and pointed to another set of bats hanging upside down from a tree when just then, one flew past us.
I inhaled suddenly, startled and in awe.
“That’s the giant flying fox species. There are two species of bat here, this is the largest bat in the world and can have a wingspan of more than six feet.” A cast member came up behind us to explain what we’d just seen.
I grabbed my phone and started taking pictures. I didn’t really get any good ones, though. I wanted to show Charlotte and Nora how cute their little faces were.
“The other species here is the Rodrigues Fruit Bat. They have a wingspan of about three feet.” She continued to engage us in conversation about the bats.
“That’s incredible! Thank you!” It was fascinating how informative all the people on the trail had been. I would not have expected that and I was honestly impressed by how much they shared and how much I’d accidentally learned.
I could have stayed there all day, but eventually, Jack started pulling me away.
“Come on. There’s more to see.” He put his arm around me and started walking me towards the exit.
“What about the chair?” I pointed back at it, thinking he had forgotten.
“Gwil’s going to bring it.” He assured me.
I narrowed my gaze on him.
“What are you up to?” I loved him, but I didn’t have to trust him.
“Nothing. I swear, you’re so suspicious.” He shamed me playfully. We left the enclosure, and there was immediately a window on the left that looked inside.
~ 5 ~
I went up to it to get one last look at my little bat friends.
I literally had my nose pressed against the glass when I felt Jack’s hands slide around my waist.
“We’re about to enter the old hunting grounds of King Bhima Disampati.” Jack explained. “I’m going to carry you up these steps and I do not want you arguing with me because I don’t promise not to drop you if you do.”
“What?” I started to protest, but he scooped me up so fast. “Jack!”
There wasn’t anything I could do but acquiesce, but I so wasn’t happy.
“This is like a duck-blind. It’s said that this lookout is where the king and his guests would position themselves and wait for the tigers. They’d come to drink at the fountain and play in the water, making them easy prey to the hunters’ arrows.”
“That’s terrible!” I got lost in Jack’s story and for a second forgot it was just that, a story.
He set me on my feet at the wooden fence separating us from the very fountain in his story. It truly looked ancient, the stone was discolored from age and the constant flow of water. The energy even felt old. I swear I could have felt old king Disampati himself.
~ 6 ~
Additional chapters can be found below.
The Memory of Magic ~ Samantha Lucas
The first time I was in Animal Kingdom, the most memorable things were the fruit bats and the aviary on the Maharaja Jungle Trek.
I remember being in awe, and to this day, they are still two of my very favorite things and a part of why I wanted to take Jack, Gwil, and Sabrina down the trail with you.
I think the next two chapters are my favorites, so enjoy!
Come with me on a year long journey with Sabrina and her friends as they reevaluate the meaning of life, discover true friendship, and soul deep love.
This story is my gift to the world, to remind us all of hope and love and that even crazy dreams come true… if we have the courage to pursue them.
If you love the story, please share it with your friends and give me a like on social. And before you leave, visit our Artisan and Shop’s Page to see the latest from our beloved friends and creators.
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Happy trails, and don’t forget to look up! You never know what you’re missing. ~ Samantha