It’s Sunday lunchtime and we are sitting on the bus driving back into Chengdu after three wonderful hours at Animals Asia’s Moon Bear Rescue Sanctuary. The trip to China was long but mostly uneventful, (always good when planes are involved..). Nine of the party of eighteen departed from Sydney, with Melbourne, Perth, London, Hong Kong and Washington DC being the starting points for the remainder.
Trekkers from Sydney arriving tired but happy at Chengdu Airport
Ten hours to Hong Kong, a brief stopover of two hours and then Dragon Air to Chengdu, China’s fourth largest city and a sprawling metropolis of twelve million. We arrived at 10pm and were immediately hit by 28 degrees and close to 100% humidity. A short drive and we were at the Garden City Hotel, a western style building in the heart of the city centre.
By just after midnight the whole gang had arrived, some heading straight to bed and others having a quick beer and a catch up in the hotel bar. From 18 to over 60, it is a disparate group with a shared passion for bears. It is wonderful to see how well everyone is getting on. Helping each other, sharing items that have been forgotten, getting to know where we are all from, the sound of laughter is commonplace, good times are being had.
Today started with a breakfast of kings, western style continental or delicious Chinese fare. Fried rice, kang kung, steamed buns, chilli ommlette and many more dishes that I have never seen before. Delicious. If this is a taste of things to come in the food department, I cannot wait.
Trekkers on tour at the sanctuary with Lisa the wonderful tour guide
Then it was off to the sanctuary. The first sighting of bears was a special moment for us all. A surge to the front of the bus, oohs and ahhs, cameras clicking away like cicadas at sunset. Once off the bus the excitement grew and our anticipation was rewarded with a fantastic two and a half hour tour given by Lisa, one of the sanctuary staff.
A beautiful Moon Bear, having a quick stretch
There are about 170 bears at the sanctuary, spread over 10 acres and in various enclosures. The first enclosure we visit is for bears relatively new to the sanctuary, recently released from quarantine and getting used to hanging out with each other. The noises are amazing. The bears are talking away to each other, debating who is where in the pecking order of the den.
Moving along through the enclosures and we come to Benji, a huge brown bear who seems to love humans, even after all that he has been through. A slow plod over to the fence and he sits down to see what we are up to.
Benji, checking out the trekkers
The Aussie enclosure is down by the river and houses Jasper, Banjo, Woodley and many others. Telling which one is which is pretty difficult and we will definitely be picking Jill’s brains when in 10 days time we get our own personal behind the scenes tour with her.
This afternoon we are off to shop for trekking supplies and then to the Peoples Park to watch some Mahjong action and hopefully some Lion Dancing. It is hot and sweaty and looks like rain but for all of us, the sun is shinin