On Sunday three brave Animals Asia supporters Sarah Chilvers, Louise Wack and
Teresa Green did a skydive from 10,000 feet strapped to the front of experienced
Skydivers. After a half hour flight the doors were opened and out they jumped, and for
45secs experienced falling to earth until their chutes opened at 2,000 feet for the
leisurely ride to solid ground and all in aid of the moon bears.
A fundraising Glam Rock night was held in Rudi,s wine bar in Swindon with everyone
dressing up in 60s and 70s gear and dancing away to the sounds from that era.
A buffet was served with all those old favourites from the 70s and we had a raffle and
prize for the best costume. A great night was had by all and we raised £500 for the moon
On July the 5th Leon, along with five others volunteers, Dan, Joe, Lizzy,
Lynda and Polly set themselves a huge task to complete the Three Peaks
Challenge, this is to climb the mountains Ben Nevis (in Scotland) Scarfell
Pike (in England) and Snowdon (in Wales), all within a 24 hour period, this
included the driving in between the mountains.
This was a huge mission and on Sunday they set off to climb Ben Nevis at 5pm
wearing T-shirts, by the time they reached the top they were wrapped up in
their fleece jackets as there was snow near the summit. Then out of nowhere
the heavens opened and on went the waterproofs and they experienced hard
rain as they descended from the summit, making the climbing conditions more
dangerous! By the time they reached the bottom they were in light clothes
They quickly changed and bundled into the minibus and off they went
travelling through the night to the next mountain challenge - Scarfell Pike!
It was a long drive, experiencing awful weather, and as they finally arrived
at 4.30am the weather had worsened, it was torrential rain and extreme
This was the hardest climb of all for them due to the extreme conditions, the
rocky mountain surface and very uneven ground, not to mention the odd
stream that they needed to cross. Upon reaching the summit visibility was
extremely poor, only about 4 metres ahead.
The weather improved as they headed into Wales and everyones spirits were
lifted as the end was finally in sight. Snowdon was an enjoyable but painful
climb for them all, not to mention physically tiring due to the lack of sleep they
had all experienced. What a huge relief it was for them to finish and waiting at
the bottom was a few cold beers for them all!!
Between them they hope to raise £2000 so very well done to them all
Blessed by kind weather, over 90 walkers and their canine companions took part in
Swindon’s first Walk for Freedom on Sunday 13thSeptember in aid of Animals Asia
Foundation. Organised by local residents Sarah and David Chilvers, Louise Wack
and Karen Johnson, the walk through local community woodland, near Peatmoor
lagoon,was supported both by Swindon residents and those coming from much
Thanks to the generosity of the Bombay Lounge, walkers were welcomed back to
the finish by the tempting aroma of Indian snacks donated by the restaurant and
were encouraged to part with further money at the Tombola, with gifts donated by
companies and individuals from all over Swindon. Seen off on the walk by Moonie
the bear, they were all prepared to put their best feet forward to raise funds for
Animals Asia and the walk raised nearly £2700 which is going towards our name
a moon bear target, this first walk was an undoubted success and promises to
become an annual event.
Tue29Sep2009Bombay Lounge swindon
Around 40 people attended a Charity Curry evening where Hanif served delicious food
and Helen Richards had her beautiful bags and jewellery for sale.
A raffle and auction, together with the curry cashback of the evening raised £700
towards our target of naming a Moon Bear for Swindon. A good time was had by all
and a special thank you to Hanif Robbani owner of the Bombay Lounge.
Jacob and Karen Johnson Hanif Robbani Sarah Chilvers
Click above link to go to album and
select photos or slide show from there.
Good Morning Vietnam
The Trekkers Diary
We met, most of us relative strangers, at Heathrow Airport on 3rd October. Three days later we were happily sharing loo paper in a paddy field, watched over by a herd of bemused cows. Welcome to our diary – a record of life as a trekker in northern Vietnam.
Before we begin, let’s introduce the trekkers (in no particular order):
Lou – bubbly Lou, the marketing man’s dream who kept the rest of us supplied with everything from Baby Wipes to chocolate bars from her special Tardis;
Sarah and Dave (who head up Swindon Supporters Group) – mishap after mishap involving lost cameras and overflowing toilet cisterns still failed to dampen their spirits
Louise – our lovely Brummie trekker who tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the irrepressible Aga in line;
Agnieszka (better known as Aga) – enthusiasm is her middle name and nothing - not even the loo from hell – could change that. Her obsession with machetes did give our guide Stef a few grey hairs;
Aileen – a lively and very determined lady with a great sense of humour;
Cathy – her fear of spiders was so intense that prior to the trek, Cathy took herself off to Marwell Zoo in Southampton to help overcome her arachnophobia. A giant bird-eating tarantula named Rosiehelped,but not much!
Cheryl – the infamous ‘slipper-nicker’ for whom this trek has been a life-changing experience;
Frances – with nerves of steel, Frances captured for all of us the abiding memory of the loo from hell;
Jane – aka Eddie from AB FAB and our very own wolf lady who kept us entertained with her antics, particularly her novel use of headscarves;
Kate – cool, calm and collected, that’s our Kate - and a dead ringer for Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous and partner in crime with Eddie above;
Linda – aka Irwin Junior’s mum, leader of the Southampton group and AAF’s Fundraiser of the Year 2009. She’s also our birthday girl who took the suspension bridges in her stride;
Bernie – War is War he told us as he battled on through sickness;
Sue – the Scouser who made a petty criminal out of room mate Cheryl;
Oliver –aka Ollie’s daddy… who knows a thing or two about camera angles and ‘bear’ behinds… but that’s another story.
Stef – Our resilient trek guide from Global Adventure Challenges who kept us fed, watered and on the move like a true professional (at the same time kept a motherly eye on the machete-obsessed Aga);
Tuyen – Our local guide - always smiling, even when the going got tough (for us!)
Depart UK for Hanoi, Vietnam via Singapore. Long, long flight with Singapore Airlines and very little, if any sleep. Plenty of food though!
Louise entertains Sue with photos of her Peru trek last year.
Arrive Hanoi Airport. Jane’s journey is nearly over before it’s even started after she’s carted off by unsmiling officers at Passport Control in what we think is a random check. Don’t leave me, she cries. Were those combat trousers really to blame?
We meet our Global guide, Stef, ready to make the 35-minute transfer to Hanoi centre.We’re only in the place a few minutes before panic ensues – Sarah thinks she’s lost her and Dave’s passports. It’s a taste of things to come!!!!
No time to waste. We freshen up in a local hotel before taking a ‘cyclo’ through the Old Quarter of the town. Scary stuff! To survive here, the locals just grit their teeth and go for it – and that applies to cyclists too. With mopeds and every other type of vehicle coming at you from every direction, it’s a case of just aim and go. In the end, we relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of this crazy city. Did we really see two men playing badminton with their feet?
Delicious meal over, we head off to take the overnight train to Sapa.
Oops, we’re at the wrong location – mad dash across the tracks to catch the Victoria Express. A sea of faces, a mass of bodies, obstructs our passage. Heads down, just go for it and use your luggage as a battering ram if you have to (getting the hang of this place already!)
Once on board we settle into our four-berth cabins. No room to swing a cat, but it’s somewhere to grab a bit of shut-eye we hope. Aga, of course, loves it. Sarah generously offers to share her cabin with the men. Lots of snoring and burping and that’s just her! The motion of the train sends a few
trekkers to sleep,but for others there’s a long night ahead.
Day 3: 5k
Arrive in Lao Cai early morning and meet our charismatic guide, Tuyen. It’s bedlam. Don’t people go to sleep here? Sarah entertains the locals when she steps in a pile of dog mess by our support vehicle. Thank God for Lou’s Baby Wipes…
Drive up the mountain and check into our lovely hotel, the Victoria Resort and Spa. We’re given a welcoming cup of cinnamon tea. Can we stay here all week please? After breakfast, it’s the ‘warm up trek’ – a loop trek to Ma Tra and Ta Phin. It’s only 5k, but it’s up, up, up. Very hot today -fortunately there’s a cool breeze.
Trek through beautiful gardens and lush pine forests and meet members of the Black Hmong and Red Dao tribes. Two tribeswomen accompany us on our trek. They tell us that they regularly walk the 12k to Sapa from their village. Our guides place stepping stones down for us to cross the stream – the water is shallow enough but fast-flowing.
We see water buffalo, Vietnamese potbellied pigs (which are actually Chinese pigs we’re told), butterflies the size of small birds, lots of ducks with their young ones, and many skinny cats and dogs. It’s fascinating to see the rice being harvested. We enter the home of a Black Hmong family with countless children watching our every move. The older ones - barely in their teens – care for their siblings while their parents tend to the fields. One of the children carries the mark of a stone on her forehead – a cure for headaches
we’re told. Aga, Aileen and Sue try their hands at the rice grinder, located in one of the rooms – it’s tough getting it going! Oblivious to our presence, a baby swathed in colourful robes rests on a bed nearby.
One house has green leaves over the front door, which signifies that ‘a sadness’ has taken place for the occupants so no one should enter. Nearby, an indigo plant is pointed out to us. It’s used for dyeing materials.
We have lunch in the playground of a local school. It’s all quiet now as the children have left for the afternoon.
More mayhem for the Chilvers. Their camera goes missing. It did eventually turn up, but not before Dave heads back with Tuyen on his motorbike to the spot where the camera was last seen. It’s a costly exercise
– the bike suffered a punctured inner tube. Back in their hotel room to freshen up, a naked Sarah is confronted by an overflowing toilet cistern. DIY Dave attempts to put things right and removes the lid on the cistern. The result – a vertical spray of toilet water everywhere! Help arrives immediately. Lou, where
are you when you’re needed?
Some of us enjoy a swim or massage. En route to the pool we see several caged song birds, hopping aimlessly back and forth in their tiny prisons. A member of the hotel staff mistakes our concern for admiration so we try to explain how sad we are to see them caged.Later, we see more caged birds in the market and consider buying them to set them free, but we’re not sure if we would be encouraging a trade in songbirds or indeed if they could survive in the wild.
Dinner in the hotel is delicious. Mushroom soup, pumpkin risotto, crispy vegetable terrine and a selection of rice and vegetables, followed by mango yoghurt smoothie.
Cheryl and Sue collude to ‘borrow’ the slippers from their room. Aren’t they complementary? They are in Liverpool.
Day 4: 20k
There’s a long day ahead of us. We set off at 9.15 am for a 20k trek from Sapa to Cat Cat village to Tavan. Louise and Jane both stumble and fall – Jane manages to put a hole in her trousers (using her bum as a brake again!). An old lady of 75 passes us. She is without shoes – we discover that she’s never worn them because she simply can’t afford them. (Cheryl notices that the lady had bunions! Now there's one in the eye for chiropodists who blame it all on ill-fitting shoes!)
Sarah entertains the locals again. She confides that she doesn’t have children – that her dogs are her babies. They laugh even louder when she says the dogs each have a name. Crazy English woman! For many Vietnamese, dogs are simply four-legged chickens – a source of protein not companion, sadly.
Stop for a break after crossing a suspension bridge. Cathy spots a large spider overhead. The route is tricky; slippy in parts with some very steep sections. Lou’s feet are really sore so when we stop for lunch by the river, Stef covers her toes in plasters to try to ease the pain.
Local women and children accompany us on the trek. We’re discouraged from giving them money as itencourages begging. But we are able to buy souvenirs from them. Later, Jane wraps boiled eggs in tissue as a thank you gift for her helper. That really goes down a storm!
We have lunch inside a hut. Locals including children watch us through the window. We sneak food to a starving dog and cat hovering nervously under the table, but are told off by Stef as the leftovers are meant for the porters. Forgot about them, sorry! (And they’re not quite as appealing as the animals, are they?)
Interrupted today’s trek with visits to local workshops at Ta Van Village, where many of us purchase beautiful ornaments in marble, handcrafted by members of a Zay Ethnic Group. Visited a local school where the children perform a dance for us. Aileen is mobbed as she distributes stickers, pens and other gifts brought over from England. Inside one of the classrooms, Aga entertains pupils with a song from Poland. Louise, Sue and Sarah follow this with a rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Oliver spends
the time taking photos of the charming Vietnamese teacher. A career in showbiz beckons for her! (She’s obviously not heard about his penchant for film-making...)
Arrive at our first home stay - hot, tired and grubby! Delighted to find that there is both a shower and toilet! We’re greeted with ice cold Tiger Beers and a warm welcome from mine hosts. It’s a wonderful, relaxing evening sat around the tables, getting noisier by the minute. Scarves, made by our hostess Ku, are snapped up by the girls. Jane has us in stitches with her attempts to tie hers. She resembles Looby Loo!
Cheryl becomes increasingly frustrated with her phone – Virgin are about to lose anothercustomer – and Kate emails Mary from her phone with an update of our trek. Meanwhile, Oliver entertains us with stories of his days as an executive producer making adult movies with the sensitively named Hot Rod Productions. They were even nominated for an award! Tell us more….
It’s a night for singing. Memories of our first 45 record evoke such national treasures as Sugar, Sugar, Jailhouse Rock and The Tide is High, among others. This, combined with Aga’s impromptu exercise regime (Stef, you did well) causes quite a stir with the locals. The night just gets noisier and as one by one the trekkers drift off to bed, we’re left with Oliver and co. putting the world to rights while others choose their double beds, which are lined up like carriages on a train. It’s a noisy night of thunderous snoring…some are even in tune! Tonight marks the start of Cathy’s new role as our ‘pill dealer.’ She suddenly has many friends begging for her Sleapeazes for a decent night’s kip.
Highlights of the day: Breathtaking scenery, mist over the mountains, waterfalls, great food, cold beers.
Day 5: Six hours, 13k
Tavan to Seomity. Up at 5.45 am for a shower and breakfast of pancakes bananas, honey and tea. Set off at 9am. Horrendous start to the trek – it’s a steep ascent from the word go, which sets the pattern for the rest of the day. Lou is suffering from the effects of too much rice wine the night before but looks resplendent in her bright blue socks and trekker sandals borrowed from Stef. We cross many rivers today.
Cheryl, Bernie (who’s really poorly today), Aga and Sue opt to take the really steep, shorter route for part of the journey, before meeting up with the others on the main road. It’s a tricky ascent and they have to double over, almost onto all fours to avoid stumbling backwards.
Jane falls a few times – “just resting of course!” The first leech is spotted on Sarah’s boot and another on Kate’s backpack. Trekked mostly through narrow paths and jungle, slipping and sliding our way along. Heard the cicadas chattering away (or were they tree frogs – even our guides cannot agree) in the undergrowth. Saw more water buffalo and a few birds. A young boy with a sling passes by and our guides tell us he is hunting birds.
Lunch is in a clearing – delicious rolls with tuna, cucumber etc. We have an hour to re-charge our batteries and some of us fall asleep. What were those little creatures hopping around us in the grass? Stef tries to talk Aga out of buying one of the porter’s machetes. She doesn’t think the airport security would be too impressed, but Aga’s got other ideas.
Poor Bernie’s still not well. Route improves slightly, but there’s yet more jungle and it’s slimy underfoot causing a few of us to take a nasty tumble.
Arrive at Hoang Lien National Park’s Forestry Protection Office and we’re surprised to see a large poster telling people not to kill moon bears. It’s ironic, really, because there hasn’t been a moon bear sighted in the area for about two years because of the hunting and trapping culture here.
From the road we see the campsite – a large blue tent and a green Wendy-house - located in an ugly quarry. It’s been earmarked for one of five dams being built in the area which are slowly destroying this beautifullandscape. There’s a shortage of 2/3 man tents so the Wendy-house will have to accommodate more bodies than originally planned. Where’s Cathy with the Sleapeazes?
Sort sleeping arrangements and relax with a beer. The toilet (our loo with a view) is an interesting contraption comprising a seat, a lid and a metal frame and is sited at a discreet distance from the campers. It’s a three-sided windbreaker (not sure if that’s the correct term, but seems appropriate) and leaves an opening that brings a smile to the faces of the construction workers spotted overhead when the mist lifts the next morning.
Food is prepared well into the dark by the porters who have borrowed our head torches and laid it all out on a large blue ground sheet. Once again there’s a delicious assortment of veggie dishes to tuck into with chopsticks, and an assortment of sweets for afters (courtesy of Lou’s never-ending supply of tuck-shop goodies). After
dinner we play games, including ‘I’m in the Boat’ and Lou’s scissor game, followed by a sing song around the campfire for some. Oliver and Bernie head for an early night in their two-man tent (please don’t read anything into that as we didn’t at the time). The strains of Bohemian Rhapsody fill the night air.
It’s an early start tomorrow for the longest trekking day of the trip.
Dawn breaks and Sue and Cheryl throw caution and knickers to the wind and freshen up in the river. Fortunately, there’s a low mist so no risk of scaring the locals.
Day 6: Happy Birthday, Linda!
Seomity – Den Thang – Ta Trung Ho – a 24k, 10 hour hike that pushes us all to the limit. It’s supposed to be a 5-hour trek!
We leave at 8.30am, an hour later than planned, which throws the rest of the day out. However, it does give us a bit of time to mark Linda’s birthday and Stef presents her with an adorable soft toy elephant as we all sing to the birthday girl.
Today’s the day Aileen re-invents herself as a mountain goat. We’d taken a wrong turn (no sat navs in the jungle) and reached a dead end. The choice was either to double-back or negotiate a very steep embankment. Aileen does a Lara Croft and takes the short-cut, impressing us all.
It’s a series of steep, slippery stages which have us all cursing at times. Will we meet Dr. Livingstone en route? The guide in front uses a stick to clear a path (has Aga gone off with his machete after all?) We cross more suspension bridges including one with several pieces missing and we’re about 20 feet up!It has everyone worried.
It’s particularly bad for Jane who suffers from vertigo, but she grits her teeth and bravely edges across. Oliver’s convinced the bridge won’t hold firm (“There’s no one in Vietnam as heavy as me” he’s heard muttering to himself).
Linda suffers a nasty fall on a downward path, as does David, Sarah and Oliver. Louise suffers some nasty scratches to her arm and Sarah’s camera lands in the mud when she narrowly avoids falling down the mountain.A domestic ensues as Dave expresses concern ...for the damaged camera. Soggy, mud-covered socks are the order of the day.
Arrive late (2.30pm) for lunch by the river. There’s only one problem – we have to get across it first. The porters cleverly resort to harnessing bamboo poles together so we can cross the river in stages. There are some hairy moments for many of us. Jane falls again. She’s having a bad day and we commiserate with her. And the leeches are back! Aileen finds one on her hand and Cheryl, her tee-shirt. Cathy spots one wriggling from her shoe.
They’re only little, but they’re disgusting! Did anyone notice the little red worm-like creatures wriggling on the rocks before we crossed the water? Not sure if these are related to the leech family and have no desire to investigate further.
Today is the day some of us (inadvertently) destroy a bench on the hillside. Remember this moment
We’re rocking back and forth in unison to show Stef that it’s all become too much; that we’d finally flipped! And then it broke….
The trek continues. It’s hard going all the way and many of us don’t arrive at the home stay until dark, at about 6.15pm. A snake is killed by the porters near to our lodgings – don’t understand why they have to kill something that hasn’t done them any harm. As it is, we’re puzzled by the lack of wildlife in the mountains.
A few tears were shed today – exhaustion combined with disappointment at our home stay. We almost throw up when we see the toilet (Frances took a memorable picture of this). Some of us opt for the paddy field. For Lou and Sarah it’s a call of nature they won’t forget in a hurry – they’re chased, mid-flow, from the field by curious cows.
On arrival, we’re advised to check one another for leeches and so, like monkeys, we set about grooming each other. (On reflection, we were more likely to be leaving with unwanted guests about us. A few of us were bitten during the night). The ‘shower’ in the adjoining room consisted of a plastic bowl beneath a wall tap. When you pulled the plug in the washbasin, the wastewater exited straight through the bottom of the bowl onto your feet. It does make you smile – and so, so grateful for those Baby Wipes!
Oblivious to all of this, the host family is fascinated by photos of themselves taken on our digital cameras.
Everyone sleeps upstairs under mosquito nets on hard floors. With the awful prospect of that loo, Sue finally gets to test her Travel John (a mini mobile urinal in case you hadn’t heard of it before). Not a sound to be heard from her direction – except a sigh of relief - but there are some interesting animal noises coming at us from all sides. Are they actually in the house? We’re woken by cockerels crowing in the early hours. Another day dawns for the intrepid trekkers.
Day 7 Just four hours of trekking today!
From homestay to Ban Ho, setting off at about 9.30am trudging through red, dusty clay made wet and clingy by the rain. It sticks to your boots like globs of red chewing gum, weighing you down as you walk.
Stop to visit a school en route. It’s a particularly poor school with many of the children in tatty, soiled clothing and very few wearing shoes. There’s not even a toilet.
Stopped for lunch, where once again the tribeswomen are out in force selling their wares. Their dogged persistence finally wears the normally patient Frances down. After politely refusing their advances she finally tells them to p…s off! We all sympathise with her. Those immortal words…”You buy from me,” will haunt us forever. Some of the group head off to a nearby waterfall for a swim. We’re looking forward to tonight in the Eco Lodge –
a comfy bed and a proper loo. How easily pleased we are after a few days in the hills!
We say ‘goodbye’ to our trusty team of porters and cooks as we reach the Topas Ecolodge. They leave armed with whatever gifts we are able to give them – from walking boots (well worn in now!) to head torches. With the trekking part of the trip complete – a total distance of 70k - we won’t be needing these accessories again, at
least not until 2011 when the next AAF adventure beckons.
The lodge is in a beautiful setting, on the top of two conical hills in the Sapa Valley. Sadly, the building of the dam in the valley leaves ugly scars etched across the landscape. The mist hides this for a while. After showering,we meet in the bar for a drink and enjoy a fabulous buffet in the restaurant.
Guess who finds a frog in her toilet when she goes to use it at 3am?
Yes, it’s Sarah (think the frog got more of a shock when it looked up though). Frances too has an encounter with a frog when it falls on her head as she steps from the shower.
Cheryl and Sue resist the urge to ‘borrow’ another pair of slippers.
No rushing around today. We have a leisurely breakfast and check out at 11a.m, buy a few souvenirs and look forward to more excellent fare at lunchtime. We make the most of our free time to relax on the terrace with cocktails while we await the bus that’ll take us along narrow, windy road back to Sapa. Though only 7 km away, the journey will take an hour. There we’ll have some free time to shop before transferring down to Lao Cai to take the train back to Hanoi.
There’s a near miss as a car overtakes on a bend. How awful would that have been? We survive the loo from hell; leeches and death-defying mountain passes only to be knocked off the road by a dangerous driver (wasn’t a woman – oh no!!)
Overnight train takes us back to Hanoi – drinks and more drinks. Lou decides to share her experience of childbirth with her roommates. She’s put them all off for life!
Our long-awaited visit to the bear sanctuary is getting closer!!!!!
We wake to the strains of the Vietnamese national anthem … at 4.10 am. Oliver stands to attention! The crew offer us coffee followed by a hasty “you give me money”. It’s time to disembark and deliver our bags to the hotel before heading off for breakfast in a very friendly local restaurant.
Here we’re introduced to the art of serviette folding and the correct way to hold our chopsticks – at 5 in the morning!
It’s a two-hour bus journey to the sanctuary and the tears are already flowing as we talk about the terrible suffering the bears have endured before finding a safe home at the sanctuary.
It’s a day we’ll never forget. We arrive at Tam Dao National Park and meet Jill, Tuan and the rest of the team. After a warm welcome, we’re shown around the hospital and preparation areas. As a special treat, we’re invited to make enrichment gifts for the bears – using honey, raisins, nuts and a host of other goodies.These will be placed in their dens for their enjoyment – and we’ll be there to see them tucking in!
Back in June, after some particularly bad weather and torrential rains, AAF picked up some defects in the new bear houses. Fortunately, they had held back some of the funds owed to the construction company, who agreed to return and make the necessary repairs. The whole exercise meant that it was safer to move the bears back into
the integration dens until the renovation and repairs of the outside enclosures are complete, which is where we saw the bears – happy and contented as we expected.
Our thoughts on seeing the bears
Sue – It was worth every blister, every drop of sweat along the way, to see these gorgeous creatures. An unforgettable experience, and feeding the cubs was the icing on the cake. Thank you Jill and team for making us so welcome!
Sarah – It really touches the heart to see these big black bundles of fur…and know they have been saved from the most horrendous existence they had or would have had on a bear farm. We can’t stop till we save them all.
Dave – Brilliant to be at one of the sanctuaries, which is such a focus for all of our thoughts and fundraising efforts on an almost daily basis. The bears are such gorgeous bundles of fun but it makes you sad that so much time effort and money has to be provided by many people to try and stop their exploitation. You look at the bears close up and quietly vow to do all you can to help all the others.
Cheryl - Very emotional experience to be here at last and seeing the Moon Bears. They are so wonderful. Words fail me. I look in awe at these most magnificent of all creatures and wonder how we got to this. How could anyone wish them harm? It’s made me more determined than ever to continue to support Jill and her efforts. These are the lucky ones – we have to fight for the remainder of the bears out there who need our help so that they too can one day be free.
Oliver - Like Cheryl words fail me in completing this section. My emotions were all over the place - excitement at finally being at the sanctuary; the anticipation of meeting Olly the Moon Bear, whom I had named and sponsored; happiness at meeting Jill’s wonderful team who care for the bears; sadness as we once again listened to the plight of bears in Asia and joy at seeing the bears happier and healthier. It was a roller coaster,but there was a sense of overall accomplishment that our team had trekked and sweated hard, raised money and awareness for the bears and here were the results. Magnificent ! Makes me as determined as ever to help even more!
Kate - The sweat and toil of the trek was soon forgotten for me once we arrived at the Tam Dao National Park – it felt quite spiritual in fact and there was a wonderful sense of peace and calm at the sanctuary. But passing all the empty cages on the way was a stark reminder of all those bears that are still enduring hell. How I wish those cages could be filled…their first step to a new life of freedom. I was overcome with emotion when I saw the bears – the first chap I was fortunate to see was Taurus, who I then discovered arrived at the sanctuary on 12th May this year…my birthday. I knew he was intelligent the moment I laid eyes on him!!!! So for allowing us to visit the bears, and for allowing us to meet all your courageous and tireless staff, and for all your hard work – thanks Jill. It was a day we’ll never forget xxxxxxx
Bernie - To see the bears at the sanctuary was definitely worth all the sweat and all the efforts of the trek. To see these lovely balls of wool was really a great moment. Hats off to Jill and her team for the big efforts they made to enable a happy life to these sweet creatures. But for me it’s also very important not to forget that there are thousands of bears who are still kept on farms and are suffering day after day. To see these lovely FREE bears at the sanctuary was for me the incentive to go on with raising money, to
promote the work of AAF and supporting Jill and her team. Let’s go on with our work, let’s do our best to liberate all the bears and don’t give up until the last bear farm has closed.
Aileen -Feelings in turmoil! Sheer joy watching the bears tumble and play with each other and enjoying the treats we had prepared. Deep sadness at seeing those bears who have lost their limbs in traps. Anger that humans could abuse these beautiful bears. Hope that we can release more and more of the trapped bears to play in the sunshine (when renovation work is complete) at the Tam Dao Rescue Centre. Thankful for the care and love the bears now get from Jill, Tuan and their fantastic team at the Centre – and in China
too. Delighted with the beautiful photo album we receive as a lasting memory of our visit. Longing to stay longer.
Jane - Being with the bears at the sanctuary was awesome. The bears are beautiful and gentle. We fed baby Angus pieces of pear and he was adorable. I met a bear called Jane, she was busy shredding bamboo with her paws. She looked round so I could photograph her, I have a lovely picture of her. I felt honoured to be in the company of these stoic bears and they are always on my mind and in my heart.
Linda - I have never seen a bear before and actually seeing these beautiful Moon Bears at AAF Bear Sanctuary was the best day of my life. I will never forget and will treasure the memory always. It was made special by sharing the experience with such dedicated AAF supporters and meeting Jill again with her fabulous team.My Birthday was amazing and the best I have had or will have I believe.Everyone made it special and I will always be so grateful that the trekkers cared enough to do this for me.
Frances – What a joy to see those beautiful creatures, so happy and carefree. Thank god for their resilience. The work that Jill and her team have put in to help these bears is truly breathtaking and the knowledge that they will continue striving to save the rest inspires us all to support them with our own efforts.
Lou – It was fantastic to actually meet these wonderful animals in the flesh after our challenging journey through the Vietnamese rainforest. And it was great fun making their treats and seeing them enjoying them so much… and of course feeding the cubs too. Thanks to Jill and the Team for letting us gain this experience
– keep up the hard work you ALL do… as you DO make a difference!
Back in Hanoi we boost the local economy when we go shopping for gifts. Our final dinner is at a local restaurant, where Stef presents us all with medals for finishing the trek.
The plumbing here is interesting too – you wash your hands, release the plug and watch as the water disappears down the drain only to re-appear in the corner of the room a few seconds later!
A few beers to round off the night. Say our farewells to Oliver, who has opted to stay for a couple more sightseeing days. Check out from our hotel and start the long journey home, which includes five hours at Singapore Airport – pure luxury (remember those massage chairs and the amazing Butterfly Garden?)
Arrive in Heathrow Airport at 0555 to be met by Nicky and friends who have got up at ‘silly o’clock’ to greet us. It’s lovely to be back, but I’m going to miss you all….
And finally……a little reminder that we should never take home for granted.