NEWS & HIGHLIGHTS
Lecture at RGS Hong Kong "The Salween River – Source to Mouth: From Tibet via Yunnan to Myanmar/Burma"
Lecture at RGS Hong Kong "Wild Yaks: Protecting the Endangered Giants of the Tibetan Plateau"
With a traditional house of Inle Lake turning into a Burmese Cat Café, the cats finally grace the land of their origin again.
TAIWAN’S EARLY HEAD HUNTERS, THE TSOU PEOPLE
Wong How Man
Ali Shan, Taiwan – 9 December 2011
An Da-ming’s face has a shiny copper-tone to it, just like his cousin An Xiao-ming, whom we called by his nickname Anmo. Whether such tan skin came from long exposure of working under the sun or was their natural complexion I could not tell. Strangely, both men’s wives have much fairer skin though they too share their load of chores in the field. For Shu-yun, wife of the former, it is their tea farm, whereas for Hui-ling, Anmo’s wife, their field of crops and vegetable. The men’s features are more robust, with eyes sunken below the brows, high nose lines and cheek bones.
Both are of the Tsou minority of Ali Shan, deep inside the mountains of Taiwan. The Tsou has a population of barely 5000 individuals and are indigenous to the island. Under the Japanese rule from 1895 to 1945, followed by over half a century of the Nationalist rule, many of the traditions and customs of the Tsou people were eclipsed. First to go was the old tradition of head hunting by the Tsou, once a proud occupation of the Tsou warriors against intruders or when faced with outside threats. Dutch and Portuguese explorers and early settlers described such “barbaric” and horrifying behaviors in their encounters with the Tsou. Today while recounting such acts by his ancestors, Anmor spoke with no sign of inhibition or regrets. Instead I could almost sense an air of pride in his tone.
TO THE SOURCE OF THE SALWEEN RIVER, BARELY
Wong How Man
Dunhuang, Gansu - 21 June 2011
It all seems it happened only yesterday. But it has taken me exactly one week to recuperate enough to begin writing about it.
Reality check with nature, a most punishing experience
“This will cause loss of life!” exclaimed Song while shaking. He had just stumbled into the house, a nomad’s camp, almost in shock. His shivering was contagious as I too was in the house only minutes ahead, frozen from shoulder to foot, though mainly on the left side of my body, as the blizzard hit us from the east as we were riding south. Song could not stop the shaking in his face, his hands, his knees, and his feet. This was an obvious sign of borderline hyperthermia. Once that sets in, it would take a long time to get his body back to warmth, if at all. But the stove was burning hot, with yak dung being refilled every few minutes.
SALWEEN – SURVIVING, THE SOURCE
Singapore, 15 August 2011
Expeditions tend to be journeys of extremes – from hot to cold, from flat open planes to craggy mountain peaks, from comfortable hotels to wet and windy campsites. The Salween expedition would turn out to be no different, but in one detail it would stand out from the rest of the expeditions I’ve been a part of, because unbeknownst to me the Fates hadn’t quite determined whether or not I’d survive the trip.
Our journey from the Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel was largely uneventful until we got to the last few kilometers before base camp where we got stuck in mud! Thick, unforgiving mud that stubbornly wouldn’t give up the Land Rovers without a 6 hour fight! Once the vehicles were freed and camp was set up, we had another problem - altitude sickness. A number of our team was hit bad. It’s a lesson to us all, that despite the beauty of our surroundings – the blues skies, snow-capped mountains and beautiful river coursing past our campsite, one has to keep in mind that this landscape can kill – at 5000+ meters, if you are severely hit by altitude sickness, you can die. Such is the harsh, unforgiving beauty of Mother Nature.
WITH THE CERS TEAM TO THE SOURCE OF THE SALWEEN:
NOTES FROM THE TRAIL
Dr William Bleisch
Chengdu - June 2011
June 10th: After a tough but productive CERS Board Meeting, Howman, Berry Sin, Wang Zhihong, Chris (with all his gear for film-making), Sharon and I travel by car from Hong Kong across the border at the giant highway side border-crossing to Shenzhen and then on by plane to Dunhuang, with a stop in Xi’an. There, we meet the rest of the CERS team with the five CERS Land Rovers, already equipped for the harsh conditions of the Tibetan Plateau. Fresh from the office, my head is still full of donor visits, budgets and reports. No wonder I never have a thought worth writing anymore! Still, it is good to be back in the open spaces again.
June 11th, 11:00: At the Kunlun Mountain pass, there are several monuments, including one that is very meaningful to me; the monument to Suonandajie, the county leader who was martyred in the struggle to stop poaching of the Tibetan Antelope in Kekexili. He was killed by poachers near this spot. Clear skies and cumulus clouds.