Monday, March 2, 2009

Field Journal - Day Seventeen

Membulu Village

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

It seems amazing (and I’m somewhat incredulous) how much we did yesterday - walking 8 miles was only half of it!

I’m not convinced that a few of them may not be wadges, but the bulk of them seem legit.

Yesterday morning flew by in a haze of moist brown and green. We left the mining camp by 7:30am after eating more rice and beans - amidst a storm of calls for money and/or cigarettes.

My anxiety made me winded much faster, and the forest was saturated with two days of rain.

Mud was not as much of a problem, but the low-hanging branches and leaves, heavy with rain, seemed eager to obscure vision and splatter faces with water.

We were in much better spirits, though, laughing and talking and dreaming about the future -- it felt much less like a death march, though the damp conditions certainly made it more taxing!

The impact of the rain was clearly visible when we reached the bridge - the quiet, still clear river below was clouded and furious with the added water, and we ended up needing to cut an alternate route to get onto the tree-bridge, not particualrly keen to slip on the soggy roots and fall into the chasm below them.

The tree too was wet and slippery, and the bottoms of my shoes were caked with mud, so I willingly crawled on my hands and knees until the tree became wider and flatter towards the other end.

Polycarpe says he wished he’d taken photos or video, but I’m glad he didn’t!!

After the bridge, Polycarpe and Olivier went ahead to prepare camp (and food) in Membulu, and we stayed with Seba and Joseph, our tracker.

The mood of the hike felt so much lighter, and the time flew by! Although the rain had made rivers and lakes of nearly every gully on the trail. Soaked and resoaked, some of the trail even felt unfamiliar because it was so unrecognizable after the rain!

We came to one such place, a deep river, maybe 15 feet wide, that we had no memory of ever traversing.

There was a faint shadow of 2 branches, slanted across the water, a sort of pseudo-bridge. Adam slip his feet down them, his arm outstretched, but still very wobbly.

“Shouldn’t you just walk through the water?” I asked, worried. “Those branches look slippery!!”

“It’s okay!” called Adam, “My balance is perffffffffeeeeeccctttt!” and he fell into the river.

It was then that we remembered this river! In its pre-rain state, that is.

Though it had been merely a brook before, as we’d climbed up the slanted branches to get on the opposite shore, Adam had fallen, right after proclaiming his superior balance!

Two falls in the same exact spot!! At least he laughed after this second fall instead of grumping!

And I had his passport, though the electronic translator was irreparably soaked.

The water water was so much deeper this time that it was nearly waist-high at points, and I had to port my bag on my head!

We felt so good we didn’t want to ask how far yet to go, for fear it may be discouragingly many.

By the time we did ask, there were only 2km to go and we were ecstatic! We emerge from the forest in a huge field, cut and open, very sunny and hot!

But there in the wild barren space was wild poondoo and papaya! We even found huge stalks of sugar cane.

The sugar rush was a big pick-me-up, well-needed energy though we could feel our teeth rotting in our mouths.

We picked the poondoo and the papaya, and, using the sugar cane as a walking stick, continued on towards Membulu.

Wet and tired, we arrived and everyone was excited to see us and amazed by what good time we’d made!!

Certainly it wasn’t nearly as tiring as the walk out had been, though our soaking clothes, shoes, and filthy bedraggled water-sodden socks were indicative enough!

Adam left for Aketi this morning, to charge up some stuff and send out more money.

Being alone here, I’m reminded of my solitary tim in Goma -- it’s somehow extra isolating and lonely when you’re the only one “of your kind” and have no buffers whilst subjected to stares.

Plus, Adam gets to bathe today!! And sit on a toilet!! And wear clean clothes!!

I socialized with people after he left, though, and local ladies braided my hair. I have to wait for Seba to return around 3 or 4 before I can do any work, so, until then, lazing around in the hot sun is in order!

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