Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Field Journal - Day Eleven

Sacred Heart Parish - Likati, DRC
N03º22.114’/ E023º53.253’

Portions of this entry have been excised for later re-insertion

We flew the coop --

                                --- for more chimp poop!

It’s only just noon, and I write this entry again from the cathedral in Likati! Quelle surprise!

It rained hard again in the night, but we got together early this morning for a misty, wet pow-wow.

Polycarpe and Seba would head off northeast with a team of 3 local trackers, and Richard and I would send out arrays of local trackers from Difongo (with the promise of primes).

The plan in hand, we walked up the road to a bigger village to find some trackers.

One would imagine that so many idle men would jump at the chance to earn a little money. But our problem was.... they didn’t.

Filled with many more excuses than with enthusiasm, we no longer wondered why they complained about being hungry and poor.

These were some lazy slackers!!

Disgusted, Polycarpe came to me with a new plan -- much more radical, but with a much better potential for success!

We would leave Difongo today, spend the night in Likati, then travel another 40km towards Aketi to Membulu, the town closest to the Mongombo Mine.

It had been among the mines already surveyed and had been a strong contender for research -- disease-ridden and right next to a forest full of chimps!

Even better (for the research AND for our current needs) -- it was home to 400 men, all keen to earn money!

There was barely time to finish our tea and bananas before we were packing again and saying our goodbyes.

This time, I went first on the moto, so that I could arrange dinner and lodging at the cathedral -- something a bit hard for Adam to do alone!

I wasn’t anxious about the trip -- it was road already travelled, after all. But it had been raining a lot and I was concerned that it might be muddy.

It thankfully was not, but a lot of bamboo had fallen across the road in the downpours! At some points, looking down ahead, I felt like Catherine Zeta-Jones, preparing to avoid the red laser trip wires in my black unitard.

Seba is quite a bit taller than me, and would call out Keba (Lingala for “watch out”) everytime we prepared to go under some fallen bamboo.

Probably one of the only times being short has benefitted me, I only had to duck maybe 1 of every 10 times Seba called Keba.

It was a bit dangerous though, because I was less quick to heed warnings and nearly got my head knocked off once or twice, particularly since so much bamboo had fallen lower and further than it had been on our original voyage *out* to Difongo.

We stopped once to pull an enormous log off to the side of the road, and it was afterward that I heard quite a crashing from the underbrush!

Pausing, frozen with the delight of anticipation, I had Seba turn off the moto as I squinted from the leaves.

Could there be chimps here?

The chimps that had eluded me all week, just eating lazily by the side of this rod while I lug big bamboo?

I took several cautious, silent steps forward, holding my breath.

It was then that I saw it...

the huge grey face of a baboon, grimacing at me just before he let out a loud bark of warning.

Booo! Baboon!! (but still exciting!)

We continued on.

The road between Likati and Difongo is especially bad in the 20km closest to Difongo, but getting that out of the way first made the time go by SO much quicker!

We’d already gone 27km before the pain in my backside even inclined me to stop and rest. But time was essential! I’d left poor Adam alone in Difongo, with no food and no French, and if he left there any later than 3pm, he’d risk finishing the trip during the night.

So I didn’t stop! Not even once! The last 10km were killer too -- very bumpy and windy -- so much so that I can’t even count the number of times my tush was airborne!

But I made it and have arranged for evening poondoo already -- and got here in only 2.5 hours! Seba’s already left to fetch Adam - who I’ll still worry about since he’s got another leg infection and a little fever... and a proclivity for worrying and is forbidden to smoke anymore!

I, however, am filled with a new hope (the Star Wars variety) because everyone seems to think we’ll have a much easier time in Membulu and Mongombo.

Plus, it’s on the road back towards Aketi, and once there we’ll literally be on the countdown clock to getting home!

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