Cars vs. Elephants (Pt 1 in the East Coast Malaysia series)


Yeeey! Hadie and I had our anniversary on the 27th of April! That was another year of a very good life together, on distance at first but now, comfortably together at our little spot called home.

Slowly but surely I discover more and more about Malaysia and that’s terrifyingly amazing! To celebrate our anniversary we made a 3 day trip to the East Coast of Malaysia and the next few blog posts will be about that. It’s not like a diary style of writing, but more taking you with me through the most memorable experiences. This starting episode is about humans vs nature and the transition to a new comfort zone.

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The night before we kind of were completely packed already and the next morning we had an early rise as we wanted to see the coming over the edge of the hills, with its fog, clouds and unique early morning views.

 

Packed and ready to go in our good mood!

We left in our best mood, celebrating our anniversary, Hadie taking that day off so we had plenty of time to get the most out of it.

The first part was still on familiar roads, the same palm oil fields, the same hills, the same turns, but, with a superb street stall, selling amazingly good nasi lemak and the best snacks I have had in a long time! We hit the spot! Marked it on Google Maps and surely we will go there again!

 

Familiar views and a super breakfast!

Slowly but surely we left civilization. We entered the jungles! No more industry, no more kampongs (villages), no more food stalls and very bad luck if you run out of gas. It’s a couple of hours walking to reach a gas station! Monkeys are running over the road and a casual snake passes by heating up on the asphalt road.

This jungle wasn’t the famous forests with endlessly high trees, where canopies are fighting for the light leaving little space at the bottom for new trees to grow on. This jungle was less dense, smaller trees, open spaces, but, driving with the windows down it was actually amazing! We didn’t drive fast – smooth and easy going swinging over the hills and through the jungle listening to the sound of all the different birds, bugs and other animals. That’s so relaxing and energizing at the same time!

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Road going through the jungle

On family visits I heard about other people making road trips to the east coast like that and also about stories cars hitting accidents. It sounded a little bit funny for me as I, matsaleh (white person), never had to worry about a tapir, wild boar, monkeys or other animals crossing the road. In the Netherlands there are only some wild swines, deers and toads.

Speaking of tapirs, I never realized they are 250kg animals! They are huge! Bumping into one of them seriously damages the car (and animal).

We were all excited when we saw a sign of ‘be careful of the elephants’ passing by. Really? Could we see those too? Nah…. no lah. They only come out at night when they don’t get disturbed by cars.

But then, just around the very next swing, there was one! A real wild elephant! Yeey! How exiting!! I grabbed the camera, we stopped the car next to the road on some grass, and I clicked away. How cool is that? An elephant in it’s own natural environment, right next to the road so we can admire such a great animal! Look! Indeed! Its ears are small! As only the African elephants have big ears!

 

A real f*cking elephant!

After a second look, though, the excitement drained… The poor thing was looking left and right.. as if it is lost, no other elephants around, cars passing by within a meter distance or so, driving down hill at least 90km/h (55mph)..

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Tell me, where’s the ‘cool’ in this?

Now tell me, where is the ‘cool’ in that? Where is the ‘cool’ in seeing a seemingly lost elephant at the side of the road, just not in a drain, that cannot cross the road as at the other side is a too steep slope for an elephant to climb on.

Roads connect through division

For a road to connect people, towns, countries, it does need to divide them too. Look at the big interstates in the USA, the toll roads in Malaysia, those large surfaces dividing neighborhoods and bypassing local life. Here and now this road is bringing us from the west to the east of Malaysia through the jungle and divides it too. It divides the natural habitat of wildlife. There are electrical fences, which are a necessity as they prevent wildlife going on the roads being massacred by passing cars. Luckily there are some places for the animals to pass the road, but not as many as there should be. Basically, only 1 wildlife crossing on a stretch of 200 km.

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The only wildlife crossing over a 200km stretch

The elephant started to walk in the high grass, we followed it a bit, our way of making sure its fine, but, that provoked the elephant big time!

It jumped out of the grass, made itself big, showing signs of charging us! OMG NO! We hit the gas, rushed away, saw the elephant relaxing again, and now all we could do is hoping that the elephant is fine.

We took a break at a resting place, had some well deserved ice coffee, mood to fun again to continue the trip to the east coast! Only 3 hours more and we’d be there, diving in the ocean!

 

Mood back to fun!

However, this left a big impression on me, particularly because of the cover picture. Never in my life I ever had to consider that adapting to a new country involves the risk of hitting elephant sized animals. Next time I see a ‘look out elephants’ sign, I do wish not to see them.

 

 

 

 

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