Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Notes From My Forest Journal (Entry 4)

Remember, remember, the fifth of November!

It seems remarkable that we’re on an adventure at all. Lying in the pierogi, flat on the placid lazy river, eyes closed, one could just as easily be sunbathing on the French Riviera or on a Caribbean sandy shore.

Eyes open, however, one can not confuse the wild beauty of this place. Trees layered upon trees, and so many shades of green you could squint and have it all blend into one.

The sun may be hot, but the river itself is extremely cool to the touch. I had to keep reminding myself that it might not always be a good idea to dangle my fingers in with potential crocodiles around, but here in the wet season, the rising waters have flooded any signs of danger. Hippos remain fully submerged, and we can only assume that the crocs might be as well.

Truth often comes from a quiet place, and I can’t help but think regularly that I wouldn’t rather be here with anyone else...

I am well aware that Adam really only came here for me, so to see him actually deriving joy from this place and continually immersing himself deeper into the culture has been an utter delight to witness.

Not only am I proud of him, but I only love him more and more.

Today was lazy, mostly because it was not we who were paddling! We were graced with excellent weather, and though we spent most of teh day in the boat, the time really did go by quite fast.

And what a lot to see by the riverside too! Monkeys, birds -- Mathiessen complained about the silence of the forest, but the life by the riverside, coupled with the echo of the water made a veritable din!!

I though, as I peered intensely into the seemingly endless foliage, how proud my grandmother would have been had she known my eventual scientific path. It feels particularly special being here too, because as you go down the river, usually the sole boat in sight, you are reminded that you are among only a handful of white people, and probably the only scientists, ever to peer into these forests.

It’s mind-boggling!!

Colin Groves, an eminent primatologist, believes there to be gorillas somewhere around here -- and it’s humbling to imagine there are gorillas around us that we are unaware of! Quiet and sneaky, they obfuscate themselves superbly for such large-bodied creatures!

I do however, doubt their presence e because the locals would probably have seen them (and eaten them for dinner).

We met with several groups of locals today, quiet riverine people who make their way with fishing. Cleve was disappointed to hear that they believe there are no longer elephants here - the true range and locations of the remaining forest elephants is a mystery indeed!

There are many chimps near here, and come morning, we’ll head out and look for them. We are camped now in a small village (2.5 huts) that lies between the Yoko River, a tributary of the Itimbiri, and a dense and beautiful part of the Yoko Forest.

The Yoko River looks like something out of a fantasy novel, much narrower than its mother, the high waters have swallowed most of the trees so that just their canopies are visible; thick, and green, and leafy, and only made to look greater by sharing a reflection n the still river water. The air feels close here, and even closer once we disembark at our tiny river town - Andé.

The forest has a way of closing you in, too -- the filtered light, the obscured sky, the constant sounds of animals and insects alike - but it’s a safe feeling and very very warm (and humid!!)

GPS COORDS: N02º36.445’, E023º34.986’

I can only hope tonight passes as peacefully and well as last night. There’s something extremely intimate about sharing a tent with someone you love!

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