Red earth and the equivalent thick, sticky mud is a constant. It’s made into bricks, shaped into huts, but it’s a constant, tracked into tents, on to our truck, impossible to remove from jandals and toes.
It’s almost soothing, especially at dawn and dusk, reflecting it’s own light, giving the world warmth and light that’s becoming a comfort.
The rain is still sporadically falling, storms and thunder rolling across. We’ve taken shelter at a giant church to have our lunch one afternoon, playing Frisbee with local kids. I think we had as much fun as they did, they watched us throw, copying our movements and picking up the game quickly.
We communicate through smiles and laughter, clapping as the kids catch and throw with us. All of us a bit shy, not sure of the etiquette, but there were long waves goodbye that day.
I’m writing today from a National Park, in rainforest, watching a butterfly dry its wings in the gentle breeze.
Yesterday was crazy, tracking two types of beautiful creatures.
The first, another early start, warned it was slightly wet I was unprepared for the swamp. Water up to my knees, wet slowly soaking into my wool socks. Eyes out for mosquitoes and rhinos.
I spotted one through the trees, a grey blob in the distance, hardly a shape. There was a mother and baby, a 5 month old playful little one. Splashing and running, sticking close by, head rubbing and snuggling.
They look heavy, walking gracefully by.
We spotted 4 more. 3 young males, their little piggy tails tightly curled, which is a sign of fear. Fear not of us, but their dominant male. Much, much larger, herding them like cats.
Strange to see something so large so skittish, their little tails brought such a smile to my face.
The afternoon was a jungle search, tracking to find chimpanzees, a 3 hour gentle hike.
They called through the trees, announcing our arrival to each other. Hooting across the treetops, the sound both familiar yet unfamiliar.
They’re hard to see up in the canopy. Like the Rhino, dark blobs of colour, squinting my eyes, neck stretched back, seeing arms reach out to nibble at seeds. They’re messy eaters. If you can’t see them up high you can definitely hear them, see the leaves dropping under them.
A loud crack of a giant Jack fruit dropping, scattering amongst themselves.
We came across two on the ground. Placidly eating, but loud. For the first time we could clearly see their faces, seeing ourselves reflected back. Dark eyes looking back at us, ears perfectly formed. Brows jutting forward. Understanding we were no threat. I looked on in wonder.
I feel so lucky to see them in their own habitat, unrestricted, accepting our presence, some swinging through branches to find the next snack.
Hearing how so many of these animals are poached and killed seems insane. How do people looks at such creatures and not see them as we do? A recent article about elephants being chain sawed shocks. It’s sickening. Here where we are staying there are chimpanzee snares, where people have captured them, some are still taken each year.
Visiting these places, seeing these creatures would make most more of an activist. I can’t comprehend the power differential between man with a gun, and an animal with nothing. I can’t comprehend the ideal of Rhino horn being worth 1 million USD.
It seems so aimless and sad to kill these creatures, I feel this is only going to become more prevalent the more animals we see, and further through Africa we go.