Blog for 2009-07-06

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Saying goodbye to Deramakot Forest Reserve after staying for just two days, we left for Maliau Basin Conservation Area and travelled from 8am+ to 5-6pm+ with rest stops in between (and our first handphone signal where everyone started calling their loved ones!), via 4WD through logging roads, past forests and oil palm areas. There was a store that we stopped at for some time, and everyone kind of went berserk, grabbing sweets and biscuits and marvelling at ice cream mini-tubs that they were selling, after which there was a short everybody-calling-home session when people had bought more prepaid card credits to do so.

And then, there was more driving to do..

and it really kept me thinking about what the past one week had been about. First we scaled Mount Kinabalu to a height of 4095m, witnessing magnificent beauty - and when we left the mountain we were crossing into areas of degraded land, with palm oil plantations dominating the landscape for sometimes as far as the eye could see. Monoculture. We would literally drive for hours through palm oil land. But if you think about it, what makes palm oil worse than any other type of agriculture? Don't they provide for an innumerable range of products that supplies the world? Is it just because they usually clear land that has high levels of biodiversity? Does the world's demand for palm oil in a whole host of products condone such conversion of pristine forest?

Along the way, Shana, Dita, Kristina and I spotted a group of wild boars crossing the road, some gibbons throwing themselves off tree branches with insane precision (that was particularly exciting), and a flock of hornbills flying past! Finally, some wildlife (and finally HORNBILLS for me!). I still want to see a live wild helmeted hornbill flying around though. :D I'm seeing them right here in the flesh, and to think that my first real knowledge of hornbills came just a few months ago at a hornbill conference in Singapore..

As we entered Maliau Basin Studies Centre, we realised that we were all at the last leg of the course - the Maliau Basin component. In about 3 weeks this would all be over, and we would be returning to our homes in our separate countries! There were moments of sadness then because it meant our now BoB09 family would have just 3 weeks more to spend with each other.

Bunk rooms were super cool - all the girls in one big enlarged room, and all boys in one room, with a communal lobby in between - where we watched the movie Slumdog Millionaire that night, a DVD that Jess bought. Crouched comfy and cozy with people beside and in front of me, again I was reminded of how fast time has and would pass now that we're here..