Sep 11, 2007

BABELDAOB, Palau –  "Sea crocodile," someone shouts. Are sure enough, one worms along the riverbank – a great, fatbellied grey thing that snaps chicken gizzards.

The deckhands keep heaving entrails off our put-put launch.
This ecotourism enterprise is so new, hacked from the mangrove tangle of Palau's big island. The rooster frescoes are as raw as the croc-snacks: fresh-painted onto the huts, modeled on the ancient bai meeting houses. A spirit lamp flickers in the outhouse.
And it's all done for the love of Palau, which I never, ever could fault.
But. Stop. Baiting. Animals. Please.
Everyone loves charismatic megafauna, sure. Yet not at this price. Who wants to travel around the world for pullet-greedy, perform-on-
demand Predator Love Handle?

For several summers, I worked as a wilderness guide. A gonzo young thing, I carried extra gear with glee and preached the no-impact mantra.
Our clients – weary from the Cascades or the Olympics – would whine sometimes. "Can I see a moose? A bear? A cougar."
And I'd snipe back, "do you really want to be in place where such things are guaranteed? We show you mountains without handrails. Can you ... dig?*"
(*Yes, yes, I realize this was insufferable. But I was a whippersnapper – and much besotted with the Beat poets who retreated into our hills... I mean, c'mon, at least I wasn't throwing snowballs with rocks or gone wild, running with the mechanical bulls...).


  1. Desert Solitaire2:22 PM

    Tell those whiners to go to the zoo and leave the wilderness for the rest of us!

  2. As a crusty elder, I want everyone to experience the rapture of the wild.

    But short of abduction – which gets really old with a backpack and current obesity levels – I can't see this happening.


  3. What's a "whippersnapper?" That must a word from your generation, not mine ... hehehe

    Ok, let's be serious for a moment: that's a nice shot of the croc, but where are the polar bears? I would be impressed if Palau could guarantee me polar bears. Especially ones I could share a Coke with.

  4. My generation tends to greet such impertinence from you anklebiters with a solid beatdown...

    Good thing you're safe in Sweden.

  5. Anklebiter? Beatdown? What is this, 1986?