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Alfred Russell Wallace climbs Mount Ophir, near Malacca


Alfred Russell Wallace, the co discover with Charles Darwin of evolution by means of natural selection, spent many years hacking his way through the jungles and sailing between the far flung islands of what is now modern Indonesia. He visited Singapore and Malacca on the Malay Peninsula only for brief excursions. But his wonderful account of climbing Mount Ophir (Gunung Ledang) in the Malay state of Johor gives us a vivid snap shot of a near pristine Peninsula landscape:
We passed through extensive forests, along paths often up to our knees in mud, and were much annoyed by the leeches for which this district is famous. These little creatures infest the leaves and herbage by the side of the paths, and when a passenger comes along they stretch themselves out at full length, and if they touch any part of his dress or body, quit their leaf and adhere to it. They then creep on to his feet, legs, or other part of his body and suck their fill, the first puncture being rarely felt during the excitement of walking…Early in the afternoon we reached the foot of the mountain, and encamped by the side of a fine stream, whose rocky banks were overgrown with ferns… We ascended steadily up a moderate slope for several miles, having a deep ravine on our left… Here we put down our loads, and in a few minutes more stood on the summit of Mount Ophir, 4,000 feet above the sea. The top is a small rocky platform covered with rhododendrons and other shrubs. The afternoon was clear, and the view fine in its way: ranges of hill and valley everywhere covered with interminable forest, with glistening rivers winding among them.’

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