Sunday, June 20, 2010
Plastic Bottles, Moonlight Cruises and Indiana Jones
Mincho so desparately wanted us to see the elephants but everytime the "crew" who tracked them would spot some, by the time we got there, they were gone. We told him that he could come to the lodge ANYTIME and get us if some were spotted. The next day after we saw the shrimper with the red lights, Mincho pulls up in the boat and says the shrimper had seen the elephants crossing the river about 20 minutes after we had left. Oh, poop on a stick. So, he was going to take us to that location and see what we could find. We're almost at the spot where they had entered the river the night before when Mincho gets an urgent call that 2 male elephants had been spotted in a palm oil plantation and that if we hurried, we could finally see the elusive pygmy elephants. We zipped down the river as if head hunters were chasing us, jumped to land and hurriedly got in a van and zoomed lickety split down the road zig zagging around pot holes and an occasional cobra (Ok I made that part up. We did see one dead one though). Got to the plantation and began walking in to find the elephants. We were not really prepared for this. Wrong shoes, wrong clothes but we didn't care. And there they were eating from the palm oil trees. Which the owners of the palm oil plantations don't really care for. And I doubt very seriously they would have been happy to find us there. But hot damn, we finally found them. See the picture at the left. Why such a big deal to see these? Well, in the state of Sabah, where we were, the WWF says that there are only 1000-1500 of the animals left in the world. They are smaller than other Asian elephants, and the Borneo Pygmy has a longer tail that reaches almost to the ground and straighter tusks. Their babyish faces and more rotund shape lend them appeal. Well, we finally found them. It would have been a real shame if we had not. But, Mincho and his team came to our rescue. It took a boat, a van and stumbling through a plantation to see them but we did. Success!
We left the Proboscis Lodge the next day to go climb Mt. Kinabalu and then back to Kota Kinabalu to stay at the 5 star Shangri-la Hotel. We stayed there for two nights to decompress and actually take some nice hot showers and get wonderful massages. My sister then headed back to Houston via Hong Kong and San Francisco and I had to overnight in Singapore and then head back to Atlanta via Tokyo. This is definitely not a trip for everyone. I saw an article the other day in the WSJ about the difference between a traveler and a tourist. We saw very few Americans on this trip. Mostly Europeans, Brits, Aussies etc. My hypothesis is that most, not all, Americans are "tourists". We like comfort and the familiar therefore, we take cruises (albeit some can be to exotic locations but only for a day or night then on to the next port)or we travel to Mexico, the Caribbean and certainly Europe. But the Europeans and Brits are travelers. You find them in some of the most remote places with not a care in the world. My sister and I felt like travelers and we really, really enjoyed the experience...