“The Wild Boar’s Swimming Pool” – Stories from the South Malaysian Jungle (part 2)

Most days we didn’t leave the farm but there were the occasional adventures our hosts took us on in the nearby city of Pekan Nanas – the Pineapple City. We visited the Sunday market, where we stocked up on fresh unpackaged produce, devoured traditional local foods and were the main attraction for the town locals, who rarely see foreigners.

Christine at the Sunday market

Shortly before we left Johor, Charlie, our friend and local guide took us on a hike up the nearby mountain – that was probably the most adventurous and physically demanding thing we did for the entirety of our stay there. We hiked up using the only path signed “Do Not Enter” and on our ascend encountered various creatures: giant ants on their exploratory quests, monkeys playing with their friends and spiders building homes and traps.

Quite a big ant, indeed.

The only animal we didn’t see, and probably for the better, was the wild boar. We did, however, have the chance to glance at his very own swimming pool, like Charlie called it – a big mud puddle where the boar and his family come to play. Sadly, due to the lack of sufficient rain in Malaysia this summer, the swimming pool was but a mere puddle the size of a lunch box.

The once-delightfully-cooling-now-dry swimming pool

This made me think, how many other animals have lost their swimming pools, jacuzzis, homes even, due to the disaster that the current climate crisis is? Standing there with the doll sized pool before me, I was reminded why I wear the Extinction Rebellion logo on my backpack. The results of years of ignorance on behalf of the human race had led to this poor wild boar overheating and I wasn’t having it no more!

After this internal discussion took place, we moved on to the waterfall, which, just like everything else, had scare water and dozens of people waiting for their turn to stand under the cooling stream for a little bit.If only all of these people enjoying nature’s high pressure shower head were as concerned about the surrounding forest as they were about their own physical comfort…the ground around their laid out blankets and carefully prepared picnic baskets was covered in plastic wrappers, cutlery and water bottles. This hike was a true emotional rollercoaster, switching between appreciating the beauty and magic of mother nature and despising my own species for the disasters they are causing her. Albeit, that’s almost every day in an environmentalist’s life.

Another highlight of our stay in the south for me was getting to see a pineapple plantation. Or “the pineapple trees” like I called them before I was laughed at and corrected. “Pineapples don’t grow on trees, stupid westerner” they said. Well, okay, they didn’t use those exact words but I did feel a little stupid for not knowing this. What I do know, however, is how much I loved the fresh pineapple juice we tried at the plantation. It was the sweetest liquid to ever run down my throat.

Me being mind blown by the actual size of pineapple “trees”

Speaking of plantations, the ones that left the biggest impression were the palm oil plantations. And not due to their beauty, thought oil palms are a beautiful species of tropical trees. Palm oil plantations covered what seemed like 90% of the land in the south.

A tiny fraction of a palm oil plantation

This, of course, was made possible by cutting down thousands of other native species of vegetation, resulting in hundreds of animals loosing their habitat. I was an outspoken protester of palm oil while I lived in another corner of the world, refusing to buy products made with it. But now, being face to face with the “culprit”, I couldn’t help but think – is this issue really as simple as we think? “The palm oil plantations provide income for hundreds of people down here” Charlie all of a sudden said, pulling me out of my reverie. “If demand for palm oil keeps dropping, many people will loose their jobs.” Ouch. Was I contributing to people loosing their livelihood by protesting palm oil? It’s easy for us to blame the evil of deforestation on big, wealthy corporations and forget that the not so fortunate are also part of the equation. So what was I supposed to think now? What was I supposed to do? Would my individual actions even make a difference? Another set of questions that cross an environmentalist’s mind at least several times a week. “We’re here!” Charlie’s voice once again brought me back to earth and the air-conditioned car we were sitting in. We had arrived back to the farm and were greeted by Crazy and Noisy who were demanding attention, forcing me to find the answers to these questions another time.

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