Friday, July 31, 2015

East of the Sun Trip Part 5 : in which I conclude that the world is in fact magical

East of the Sun Trip Part 5 : in which I conclude that the world is in fact magical and get new bruises on my butt

Our fourth sunrise in Lobéké. We rise, significantly less shinily than the sun, and start for the savanna. Valentin calls after us: “Today, you will see a gorilla!” 

“Promise?” I grump back. 

“You’ll see,” he responds, with his ever-present grin. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

East of the Sun Trip Part 4

East of the Sun Trip Part 4 : In which we continue to take for granted the natural beauty around us to wonder miserably if we will actually leave without seeing any gorillas

One of the "mirador" or observation towers we spend hours in
After a disappointing morning at Petit Savanne, we start the 10k hike to Djangui. On the hike, we see several Colobus monkeys (the originator of moto-engine-revving-noise) and some elephant tracks (I don’t understand how such big animals can pass through the forest so quietly) but not too much else of interest. 

Look at his cute little bearded face! 
Despite the lack of animals, Valentin repeatedly brought wide grins to all of our faces. Valentin is Baka, but at six-foot-something he’s definitely not a pygmie, and he grew up in and out of the forest. He is so obviously at ease here, drinking crystal clear creek water from a folded leaf cup or lounging his large frame on handy vines, roots, or saplings. He makes me feel like a clomping clutz the way he moved with such ease and confidence. When we stop to rest, he drops our bags and goes gleefully traipsing off into the forest, returning with elephant poop or a half-eaten rabbit (he’d scared off the eagle) or a rotted turtle or a bird nest complete with three lil’ babies peeping inside (and yes, he hangs it back up afterwards where the momma bird could find it again). Once he leads us all through thick undergrowth the show us gorilla beds and gleefully—no other adverb does him justice—gleefully recount how a gorilla sleeps with its butt here and its head here and just sleeps like this and it SNORES (giggle) and he knows all this because one time he snuck up on a big male gorilla and scared it out of its nest. Casual, Valentin, messing with 500 pound animals strong enough to rip a man’s arm right off, probably with a ten year old boy’s exuberance and delight. 
Beautiful bird's nest.
"And this is where he puts his butt..."
During our hours in the observation tower at Djangui, we finally see some wildlife! Five water buffalo with their funny birdy friends, a bunch of birds including a teal sun catcher and a great blue Turaco. But, no gorillas. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

East of the Sun Trip Part 3 : In which we remember that excellent travel buddies make all the difference

After a few fleeting hours of sleep, we face a second day of travel much like the first. We were unlucky: we were at the travel agency before it even opened, we didn’t manage to get tickets on the first and only scheduled bus to Maloundoun. We were lucky: they ran a second bus and we were on it. Not that we were feeling particularly lucky to be back on a prison bus only a few hours after escaping the last one. 

Kid selling hard boiled eggs at the travel agency - and rocking an Obama Change shirt.
I won’t bore you with more of the same details about travel, except to note that it was clearly evident that our surroundings were becoming less “developed” and more jungly. We saw more Baka (pygmie tribe) houses, more children with sad distended bellies, and more logging trucks contributing to the stripping of this old-growth forest somewhere just out of sight. It put me in the mindset of Fern Gully, except the scary machines are winning. But for all the sad or heart wrenching views, there were others intriguing or lovely. We saw beautiful blue butterflies, we saw trees so big that Kate, Joe, and I couldn’t hug around the base of their trunks, and FINALLY around 4 pm we saw our destination: Mambele.

In life, stuff goes wrong.
But that only adds to the adventure. 

Beautiful, beautiful Mambele. A tourist attraction in its own right. Wide boulevards, interesting architecture, and welcoming inhabitants.